EC vice-president Verheugen supports Cotance3 November 2009
A Cotance delegation, led by president Nalle Johansson (Elmo, Sweden), met in Brussels on October 30 with the European Commission vice-president Günter Verheugen for a de-briefing session following the previous meeting of July 3 where the current economic trading climate for Europe’s tanners was discussed. Three key points were agreed at the latest meeting with the Commission by the Cotance delegation.
Johansson along with Cotance vice-presidents Ricomard (Tanneries Roux, France) and Mercogliano (UNIC & Lineapelle, Italy) as well as Cotance secretary general, Gonzalez-Quijano, reviewed with 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 since the summer of 2009, with orders and exports picking up. Improved supplies to the automotive sector thanks to the support of the car industry by EU governments and improved trading conditions for industrial cluster of Arzignano, Italy which is regaining momentum notably in exports of high quality leather for the fashion industry were mentioned. Verheugen was pleased to note the resilience and reactivity of European tanners despite the adverse economic situation and encouraged the sector to continue on a positive path.
Progress of Commission initiatives requested by the European leather industry for strengthening the sector’s competitiveness were also discussed. Progress was identified in three particular areas:
1. Addressing the credit crunch
Verheugen referred 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 through intermediaries at national level targeting the financing of their working capital requirements, visit (http://www.eib.org/projects/topics/sme/funds/index.htm?lang=-en) for more detail. Cotance welcomed the initiative but pointed out that this was not necessarily solving the sector wide problem of access to credit and that a solution to the discriminatory treatment by banks that is affecting traditional industrial sectors, such as leather or textiles, is still continuing.
2. Addressing the issue of misdescriptions of leather and labelling of leather products
Progress was acknowledged particularly in the sector’s request for regulation targeting misdescriptions of leather and harmonising at EU level the labelling requirements for finished leather products. A recent 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 initiative will now continue to the next step of legislative procedure involving member states on a final 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 specifically the barriers that European leather sector operators find in their access to markets in developing countries. He also indicated that he would follow-up the matter with the EU 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 meeting (notably REACH and IPPC), Verheugen recommended that Cotance raise them with the European parliament where he states there is a ‘strong sympathy’ for the leather industry.
Verheugen explained the various possible scenarios for the new Commission structure were being set in place and indicated that, although his function was now theoretically coming to an end, a further meeting with Cotance could still be possible.