EU retailers pressure MEPs to kill unfair trade practices proposals

EURACTIV was informed that EuroCommerce has contacted a number of NGOs pointing out specific amendments in order to mobilise them and eventually ask for the postponement of the vote. [Shutterstock]

Retailers are putting pressure on EU lawmakers to postpone a much-awaited vote next week on the European Commission’s proposed directive on unfair trade practices, has learnt.

EuroCommerce, which represents the retail and wholesale sectors in Europe, has sent a letter, seen by EURACTIV, to the presidents of the EU Parliament groups’ leaders asking for the postponement of the vote.

EURACTIV was also informed that EuroCommerce has contacted a number of NGOs pointing out specific amendments in order to mobilise them and eventually ask for the postponement of the vote.

The European Commission presented its much-awaited proposals for a directive to tackle UTPs in the food supply chain last April. EU farmers say they receive on average 21% of the share of the value of agricultural products while 28% goes to processors and s much as 51% to retailers.

The Parliament’s agriculture committee recently approved draft proposals on UTPs with 38 votes in favour, 4 votes against and 2 abstentions. The draft bill will now be voted in the plenary, aiming to get EU lawmakers’ approval for negotiations with EU ministers.

Paolo De Castro, a socialist MEP and rapporteur for the file, told EURACTIV earlier this week that next week’s vote is the last chance. He explained that many stakeholders are asking for amendments that go beyond the spirit of the directive and that’s a strategy to stop the legislation.

The Italian MEP explained that if the bill fails in Parliament next week, the next session will be in November, meaning that trilogues could only start in December, in the final days of the Austrian EU Presidency.

“We will, therefore, have to start from scratch with the new Romanian EU Presidency and the last EU Parliament plenary will be in March.”

Unfair trade practices bill faces last chance next week, warns De Castro

Next week’s European Parliament vote on the proposed unfair trade practices (UTPs) directive is crucial as there will be no time to pass the bill in this legislature in the event of a non-approval, the MEP piloting the file has warned.

EuroCommerce said De Castro’s report was adopted in a “rushed procedure” in the AGRI committee and added a large number of provisions to the Commission’s initial proposal, whose impact or basic legality “have not been assessed, as is required under the Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Regulation”.

“On this basis, we would ask you to call for time to be given for members of parliament who have not been involved in these discussions to consider the impact of these amendments. We would therefore ask you to consider seeking a vote pursuant to rule 69c of the Parliament rules of procedure before the mandate for the trilogue is approved in plenary session starting on 22 October 2018,” EuroCommerce wrote in the letter.

In a separate development, seven NGOs sent a letter to EU lawmakers to voice concerns about an amendment related to animal welfare and environmental protection.

Particularly, the NGOs referred to an amendment that was pushed by 4 MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP), which would seek to prohibit “provisions laid down by the buyer regarding environmental protection and animal welfare standards which are more stringent than the relevant legal provisions in force.”

“This amendment would effectively prevent retailers from refining their sourcing requirements for products that are raised with higher animal welfare and developed with stronger environmental standards than is required by EU legislation,” the NGOs said.

“If ever adopted in the proposed legislation, the amendment would significantly undermine established and accepted animal welfare and environmental protection business standards in the EU, which were intentionally set above the legally required minimum.”

The NGOs called on MEPs to ensure the rapporteur will preserve animal welfare and environmental protection standards that go beyond the minimum legal standards and which have been voluntarily achieved in the EU through retailers and suppliers response to consumer demand during the inter-institutional negotiations”.

Contacted by EURACTIV, Ariel Brunner from BirdLife confirmed that the letter to EU lawmakers only aimed to urge them to drop the specific amendment.

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