European Commission Vice-President Verheugen supports COTANCE in 3 key areas
The COTANCE Presidency led by President Nalle Johansson (ELMO, Sweden) met in Brussels on Friday 30 October 2009 European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen for a de-briefing session following the previous encounter of July 3.
President Johansson, Vice-Presidents Ricomard (Tanneries Roux, France) and Mercogliano (UNIC & Lineapelle, Italy) as well as COTANCE Secretary General, Mr Gonzalez-Quijano, reviewed with Mr Verheugen the development of the sector since the start of the economic crisis and the initiatives that were taken at EU level in response to the COTANCE requests for supporting the competitiveness of the European Leather Industry.
COTANCE reported an improvement in the European Leather trade & industry since the summer 2009, with orders and exports picking up again. The General Press has notably highlighted business progress in supplies to the automotive sector thanks to the support to the car industry consented by EU Governments and in the industrial cluster of Arzignano that is regaining momentum notably in exports of high quality leather for the fashion industry. Commission Vice-president Verheugen was pleased to note the resilience and reactivity of European tanners in front of the adverse economic situation and encouraged the sector to continue on the positive path.
Attendants assessed then the progress of Commission initiatives requested by the European Leather Industry for strengthening the sector’s competitiveness. Good progress could be identified in particular in three areas :
1. Addressing the credit crunch
Vice-President Verheugen refererred to the facility set up recently at the European Investment Bank (EIB) in response to the liquidity needs of SMEs. SMEs in the Leather industry can now have access to EIB loans for SMEs through intermediaries at national level targetting the financing of their working capital requirements (http://www.eib.org/projects/topics/sme/funds/index.htm?lang=-en). COTANCE welcomed the initiative but pointed out that this was not necessarily solving the sectoral biais in the access to credit and that a solution to the discriminatory treatment by Banks that is affecting notably traditional industrial sectors, such as leather or textiles, is still to be furthered. A concrete proposal was aired by COTANCE on this occasion.
2. Addressing the issue of misdescriptions of leather and labelling of leather products
Progress could be acknowledged particularly in the sector’s request for a Regulation targetting the avoidance of misdescriptions of leather and harmonising at EU level the labelling requirements for leather products. The Stakeholder Meeting organised by DG Enterprise on the issue garnered significant support from European textiles and clothing industry representatives (Euratex), European Leathergoods producers (ELGA), European Furniture Industry representatives (UEA) as well as from European Fashion retailers and European Trade Unions (ETUF :TCL). This will allow the initiative to continue to the next step of the legislative procedure involving Member States on a concrete proposal.
3. Addressing the trade issues of the European leather industry
Vice-President Verheugen was pleased to note that DG Trade was considering « positively » the setting up of a working group on leather for addressing comprehensively and specifically the barriers that European Leather sector operators find in their access to markets in third countries. He also indicated that he would follow-up the matter with Trade Commissioner, Baroness Ashton, including the sector’s trade dispute with Morocco that « should not become a precedent ».
On other issues identified during the previous encounter (notably REACH and IPPC), Commission Vice-President Verheugen recommended COTANCE to raise them notably with the European Parliament where he notes « strong sympathy » for the leather industry.
Mr Verheugen explained the various possible scenarios for the new Commission being set in place and indicated that, although his function was now theoretically coming to an end, a further encounter with COTANCE could still be possible.