The Commission launched the 2022 European Semester cycle with its Semester Autumn Package including the Annual Sustainable Growth Survey (ASGS). This will be followed up in May with its country-specific recommendations (CSRs) based on an overall analysis of how to make Europe as a whole more competitive and resilient. Every time the Commission makes recommendations to improve national markets for retail, showing there is still a lot to gain. We are strong supporters of the Semester process as a way of highlighting where national economic and policy decisions are not in line with that objective, and even counterproductive to their own overall interests.
All countries, and our retail and wholesale ecosystem operating across Europe, face a dual challenge – the sustainability and digital transformation we will all need to make to remain globally competitive. The ASGS points clearly to the need for member states to fully embrace that transformation. We are pleased to see the Commission’s commitment to linking national reform under the Semester to the resources being provided under the New Generation EU recovery programme. This is vital to make the best use of these funds and removing barriers to the single market. A European Parliament study estimated a properly-functioning single market could add another 700 billion euros annually to the EU economy. It can be a powerful driver of recovery now.
Retail faces major challenges – low and declining margins (1-3% net) while having to find substantial investment in sustainability and digital, and meet growing regulatory costs. National barriers to investment and restrictions on retail only serve to raise retailers’ and wholesalers’ costs. You can find more information here from our non-exhaustive single market barriers mapping from earlier this year. The European Semester can help make rules applying to retail proportionate, non-discriminatory and fit for purpose. In Central and Eastern Europe, but not only there, we see protectionist and discriminatory policies against European food retailers and imported products, and the pandemic led to others doing so.
This is not what Europe should be about. That is why we want the European Commission to ensure proper implementation of the country-specific recommendations under the Semester, and set realistic plans and deadlines for full implementations. Analysis shows, that at the moment, the implementation rate of the CSRs by member states is extremely low. Retailers and wholesalers experience every day the consequences of the single market not working, and member states making it more difficult to do business.
Applying the European Semester and making the single market a driver of recovery will benefit everyone, and help us deliver the service we want to be able to offer our customers – providing quality, choice and affordable prices.