This year is rather a special one as we commemorate both 30 years of EuroCommerce and 30 years of the Single Market. I am looking forward to an interesting year, marking these anniversaries at celebrations together with policymakers, stakeholders and members, while reflecting on the essential role that the Single Market plays in maintaining competitiveness of our sector, for citizens, and for the EU economy as a whole.
On 29 January 1993 three associations merged to form EuroCommerce: CECD (the European Retail Confederation), GEDIS (Groupement Européen des Distributeurs Intégrés or European group of integrated distributors) and Fewita (Federation of Wholesale and International Trade association), which means our joint history goes back even further than this. In the same year, the EU Single Market was established, uniting Europe as never before by opening borders and establishing the ‘Four Freedoms’ enabling the free moment of goods, services, capital and people across the continent and paving the way towards establishing the euro as a single currency.
30 years ago, Europe faced the devastating conflict of the Yugoslav wars, but also witnessed hope in the signing of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Moscow between US President George H. W. Bush and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace prize, and while the Pet Shop Boys urged us all to ‘Go West’ while Phil Collins implored us to hear ‘Both Sides of the Story’. Jacques Delors was well into his second mandate as the European Commission’s 8th President and, over the following 30 years, EuroCommerce would engage with seven more.
EuroCommerce now represents associations across 27 European countries, representing 5 million (1 in 4) companies, providing jobs for 26 million people in and contributing 10% of the EU’s GDP.
We are at the beating heart of lively local communities everywhere in the EU and we are proud and grateful to all those in the sector who played a vital role in helping consumers weather the COVID-19 pandemic, uniting in unprecedented circumstances. We are a force to be reckoned with and we intend to keep highlight the essential services that our sector provides in meeting customer needs and delivering innovative solutions to the EU’s objectives.
Our focus this year will be engaging with policymakers on the issues of soaring inflation, high energy prices, a severe cost-of-living crisis, a disrupted global environment and the increasingly weighty cumulative regulatory burden faced by our members. We look forward to working with the European Commission to find ways to help our sector through post COVID-19 recovery and the energy crisis, while calling for enabling policies and support mechanisms to boost longer-term competitiveness.
Put simply, a robust Single Market is the most critical element for ensuring Europe’s longer-term competitiveness and its ability to innovate and to compete with other global regions. We are therefore seeking a renewed partnership with EU and national policy makers and stakeholders together with an alliance of European business associations, in collectively pushing for a stronger Single Market.
As we look forward to the next 30 years, our sector is in the midst of a significant transformation, creating, innovating and adapting to deliver on the EU’s digital, sustainability and skills needs. Our recent joint study with McKinsey shows that between now and 2030, retail and wholesale will need to invest over €600 billion in this triple challenge. We will not be able to do this alone, and will need the support of EU, national and local authorities. If we can secure the support needed for this transformation our sector has huge potential to help deliver on the EU’s own digital, sustainability, competitiveness and resilience objectives.
Our 30th-anniversary events will provide us with ample opportunities to illustrate this potential throughout 2023 not least at our Annual Dinner and special 30th-anniversary exhibition in June and through our first-ever EuroCommerce awards in November this year.
Together, with team EuroCommerce, we look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of the past the achievements of the present and to shaping the successes of the future retail and wholesale sector for the next 30 years!