Publikováno: 1. 3. 2006
In this issue:
External Relations: US events - EuroCommerce image survey
Internal Market: Adoption of the Services Directive in first reading
Taxation: EU Council extends validity of reduced VAT rates for labour-intensive services until 2010
Food Policy: Debating the future of food labelling
International Trade: Against antidumping measures on shoe imports from China and Vietnam
Social Affairs: Project on safer shopping and working environment cancelled
Payment Systems: Directive on Payment Services in the Internal Market - Single Euro Payments Area
Environment: Transport Issues - REACH - Batteries - WEEE
SMEs: Home State Taxation & SME Statute
EUROCOMMERCE EXTERNAL RELATIONS
US events – 13-16 January
The Secretary General Xavier Durieu went to New York City in January to participate in the NRF, FMI and FIRAE meetings. EuroCommerce has been elected to the presidency of FIRAE and has put on the agenda the obesity, payment systems and international trade subjects. This allows us to have a strong international network on these items and to exchange experiences and best practices.
EuroCommerce image survey An independent survey of our image and communication has been commissioned to a consultant and presented to the Steering Committee. The results of this study will be communicated to the Board Members during the meeting on 22 March.
Xavier R. Durieu, Tel: 0032 2 737 05 91, email@example.com
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INTERNAL MARKET AND CONSUMERS
Adoption of the Services Directive in first reading
On Thursday, 16 February, the European Parliament adopted in first reading its report on the proposal for a Directive on Services in the Internal Market. As far as the provisions on the establishment of services providers are concerned, the commerce sector welcomes the result of the vote as it preserves or improves most of the positive aspects contained in the original Commission’s proposal. In particular, EuroCommerce considers that companies, whatever their sizes, will benefit from those provisions that improve and bring transparency into national procedures.
EuroCommerce would have preferred that some other provisions contained in the original Commission’s proposal – and more particularly those regarding administrative simplification – were maintained. But taking into account the overall context in which this text was adopted, it would have been difficult to obtain more at this stage.
In view of the modified proposal by the Commission, EuroCommerce will still advocate to maintain the most positive aspects this Directive will bring to the commerce sector. Moreover, EuroCommerce will give input at a later stage about the provisions that could be further improved in the course of the legislative process.
Patrice Pellegrino, tel: +32 2 737 05 85, firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxation - EU Council extends validity of reduced VAT rates for labour-intensive services until 2010
The EU Council of Ministers on 14 February adopted a directive enabling EU Member States to (continue to) apply reduced VAT rates for certain labour-intensive services until 31 December 2010.
All Member States may opt for this possibility, on condition that they apply for authorisation to do so by 31 March 2006.
Supplies of district heating are added to the list of services concerned, which include small repair services, the renovation of private dwellings, window cleaning and private household cleaning, domestic care services and hairdressing.
The Council invites the Commission to present, by the end of June 2007, a report providing an assessment of the impact of reduced rates in terms of job creation, economic growth and the internal market.
Christianna Papazahariou, tel: + 32 2 737 05 96, email@example.com
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FOOD POLICY AND CONSUMERS
Debating the future of food labelling
Experts from Member States, the European Commission as well as representatives of the whole food chain came together to debate the future of food labelling at a major conference held in Rotterdam on 15 and 16 February.
The event, organised by the UK Food Standards Agency and the Dutch Ministry for Health, Welfare and Sport, allowed EuroCommerce to share its views on food labelling with policy makers from the whole of Europe. Other presentations were given by representatives from the EU Food and Drink Industry (CIAA), consumer organisation (BEUC) and small businesses.
EuroCommerce stressed the importance to address labelling policy in a global and comprehensive way, with the need to conduct independent consumer research and have more scientific basis to develop evidence-based new legislation. Consumer education was once again pointed out as the prerequisite to understand and correctly use the information given by the retailers.
The European Commission is due to issue a discussion document on the review of labelling legislation this year, with proposals expected in 2007.
Meeting with Commissioner Kyprianou on obesity
EuroCommerce had the opportunity to reiterate together with other key stakeholders its position on the obesity issue in a meeting chaired by Commissioner Kyprianou and the General Director of Sanco. The Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection gave his assessment of the Platform’s work one year after its launch. The Commissioner believes the Platform is going in the right direction, but he insisted on the importance to have a monitoring system in place and said the Commission would assess which commitments are likely to bring success. He wants facts and figures regarding actions put in place.
EuroCommerce committed to increase the number of member federations putting in place a nutrition action plan on national level, which has proved to be the case: 8 federations had a nutrition policy in place in March 2005, 14 in February2006.
Noëlle Vonthron, tel: + 32 2 737 05 84, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Against antidumping measures on shoe imports from China and Vietnam
The European Commission is examining the imposition of provisional antidumping duties against footwear imports from China and Vietnam. In early January, EuroCommerce and some of its member and allied associations met with Mr GAO Hucheng, Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce, and his delegation to discuss China’s concerns about threats of new protectionist measures imposed on traders.
In a joint press release with BEUC, EuroCommerce underscored that antidumping duties on footwear will not help European producers enhance competitiveness, but they will harm European importers, retailers and consumers. EuroCommerce urges the European Commission to resist any protectionist behaviour from some member states as this would be detrimental in the long term.
Ralph Kamphöner, tel: +32 2 737 05 88, email@example.com
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Project on Safer Shopping and Working Environment cancelled. UNI-Europa Commerce confirmed officially to our committee chairman, Mr. Ian Hutchins that they are cancelling the project on safer shopping and working environment. They are currently drafting a formal letter to be sent to the European Commission.
In their letter, they will stress the following points:
1. UNI has not had sufficient interest from consultants to fulfil the Commission`s own criteria for the management of projects; The right thing to do therefore is to cancel the project funding request.
2. UNI has done this as quickly as they could, given the need to put the project out for tender.
3. The issue remains important for our SSDC. We will continue to work on this on a smaller scale as part of our sectoral social dialogue.
The sectoral social dialogue agenda for 2006 is focused on core employment and labour related issues in European commerce, taking into account the necessity for Europe to meet the Lisbon objectives.
Ann Vervondel, tel: +32 2 737 05 81, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Directive on Payment Services in the Internal Market
Previously known as the New Legal Framework for Payments in the Internal Market (NLF), the proposal for a Directive on Payment Services, adopted by the Commission in December 2005, was presented to the European Parliament in January 2006. It is referred to the ECON committee (responsible) and to the IMCO and JURI committees (for opinion). Mr Jean-Paul Gauzès, a French MEP from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, was appointed rapporteur. Mr Gauzès is member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and substitute of the Committee on Legal Affairs.
The Directive had been warmly welcomed by EuroCommerce, who had actively participated in the debates on the successive versions. The text aims at harmonizing legislation in the payment systems market in the EU. European retailers expect the Directive to bring more competition (as legal barriers for new entrants are removed), more transparency (notably in the fees they pay to card schemes) and removal of current cross-border inefficiencies.
Lobbying at the European Parliament level has started.
Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)<br> The SEPA is an initiative from the banking industry to create euro/european-wide payments infrastructures: within the SEPA, there will be no difference between a `domestic` and a `cross-border` euro payment. It complements the legislative actions from the European Commission: the Directive on Payment Services in the Internal Market guarantees (removal of legal barriers) and the Regulation 2560/2001 (equality of transaction fees between cross-border and domestic transactions in euro).
EuroCommerce has widely complained about the lack of transparency of the banking industry (which has mandated the European Payments Council -EPC- to realize the project): the EPC has not shared yet its SEPA Cards Framework with users, while this text was adopted in September 2005; the European Central Bank has not finalized the document on Users`expectations (started in April 2005!).
Some progress may be expected from the incentive project, started by the European Commission in February 2006. The consultation, running till 21 March, asks important questions on the SEPA governance, the role of the ECB and the national central banks, as well as recommendations for incentives; to the industry to realize the SEPA. EuroCommerce welcomes this initiative and will provide the Commission with the retail sector views on SEPA.
Cécile Grégoire, tel: + 32 2 737 05 86, email@example.com
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Transport Issues – EuroCommerce met the following Commission representatives:
• Mrs. Kerstin Jorna – deputy head of cabinet of Mr. Jacques Barrot
• Mrs. Koskimaki – head of unit - sectoral economies - DG TREN
After the vote in Parliament in November, the Regulation on REACH was finally adopted in the extraordinary Competitiveness Council of 13 December 2005.
The provisional timetable for second reading is:
• July: European Parliament to announce that it has officially received the common position
• October: vote in Environment Committee
• November: vote in plenary
Meanwhile, EuroCommerce is already starting to work on its position for second reading;
Christel Davidson, tel: + 32 2 737 05 90, firstname.lastname@example.org
Batteries - Beginning of informal conciliation between EU institutions on the Batteries Directive
The European Parliament has finished the second reading of the proposal for a new Batteries Directive. An informal conciliation procedure has started between the three institutions (European Parliament, Council, European Commission) in order to reach an agreement on a certain number of issues. The commerce sector has repeatedly expressed its position against a mandatory in-store take back of batteries as decided by the MEPs and thus fully supports the Austrian presidency’s proposal to install a optional system of take back by retail outlets.
Weee Directive (waste of electrical and electronic equipment) - Parliamentary question on the implementation status of the WEEE/RoHS Directives
Karl-Heinz Florenz, Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Environment committee, asked (23 January) a parliamentary question to the Commission, represented by Klaus Koegler (DG Environment). Florenz requested the Commission to outline its actions to address issues arising from diverging transpositions of the WEEE and also the RoHS Directive, with a particular focus on the definition of “producer”. EuroCommerce sent (24th January) a letter to MEP Florenz expressing our support for his initiative and stressing the distorting impact on the EU internal market caused by certain Member States’ implementing measures of the Directive.
Christianna Papazahariou, tel: +32 2 737 05 96, email@example.com
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Home State Taxation SME Statute
The European Commission has adopted a Communication (COM/05/702) that presents a possible solution to the compliance costs and other company tax difficulties that SMEs face when doing business across borders. The Commission suggests that Member States allow SMEs to compute their company tax profits according to the tax rules of the home state of the parent company or head office. An SME wishing to establish a subsidiary or branch in another Member State would as a result be able to use the familiar tax rules of its home state when calculating its taxable profits.
As this suggestion is only a voluntary concept, national lobbying within all Member States will be needed.
DG Internal Market has launched a consultation about the possible introduction of a new legal form, facilitating business for SMEs who are active in more than one Member State.
The EPC (or European SME Statute) could provide SMEs with an adequate structure to establish joint ventures leaving enough organisational flexibility. Costs linked to the setting up and operation of subsidiaries of different forms in other Member States would be significantly reduced.
Michael Grosse, tel: + 32 2 737 05 89, firstname.lastname@example.org
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PUBLIC AFFAIRS – PARLIAMENT
I. Service Directive
Major lobby activities in January and February have been carried out on this dossier. EuroCommerce met almost on a daily basis the key MEPs responsible for the Service Directive as well as officials and followed closely every step taken in the various political groups in the European Parliament.
Additionally, EuroCommerce organised a press breakfast ahead of the plenary vote which resulted in good press coverage.
Altogether EuroCommerce arranged more that 40 appointments in the European Parliament during January and February, including:
MEP Malcolm Harbour, PPE-ED
MEP Malgorzata Handzlik, PPE-ED
MEP Edit Herczog, SPE
MEP Janelly Fourtou, ALDE
MEP Graf Lambsdorff, ALDE
MEP Kurt Lechner, PPE-ED
MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne, PPE-ED
MEP Toine Manders, ALDE
MEP Andreas Schwab, PPE-ED
MEP Othmar Karas, PPE-ED
MEP Alexander Stubb, PPE-ED
MEP Erika Mann, SPE
MEP Dariusz Rosati, SPE
II. European Internet Foundation
EuroCommerce participated in an exceptional event of the European Internet Foundation together with the Transatlantic Policy Network.
The meeting was attended by Members of the US Congress, MEPs and various business federations.
The Transatlantic Digital Economy and
General policy network issues related to the transatlantic business relations;
Mario Müller, tel: +32 2 737 05 99, email@example.com