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High-level meeting at the Commission

COTANCE meets European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen

On Friday 3rd July 2009 a delegation of the EU Leather Industry led by COTANCE President Nalle Johansson (Elmo, Sweden) met in Brussels Mr Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Enterprise policy for an open and frank exchange on the current economic situation and the outlook for the future.

The COTANCE delegation led by Mr Johansson was formed by past President and current Vice-President Jean-Claude Ricomard (Tanneries Roux, France), Vice-President Jaume Alvira (Colomer Group, Spain), Vice-President Salvatore Mercogliano (UNIC Group, Italy), Mr Peter Crack (Charles F. Stead & Co, UK) as well as Mr Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, Secretary General of COTANCE and Mrs Fulvia Bacchi (UNIC Group).

 
Verheugen

From left to right: Peter Crack, Jean-Claude Ricomard, Günter Verheugen, Nalle Johansson, Jaume Alvira and Salvatore Mercogliano

COTANCE President Johansson introduced the European leather industry stressing the importance of its value chain in terms of jobs and value added. He indicated that about 1 million jobs depend in Europe on the sector and that the EU market for leather and leather products is worth some 60 billion Euro. European Tanners are at the root of this wealth and industry leaders at global level with some 15-17% of leather sales world-wide. President Johansson commented that the tough business situation in the current economic crisis has eroded the sector’s turnover by 20-30% but clearly stated also that COTANCE was not asking for subsidies. He said that the sector is demonstrating its resilience in times of adversity and that it is not refraining efforts for issuing stronger from the current crisis. President Johansson indicated the type of support Europe’s leather industry requires from the EU for further developing the sector.

COTANCE Secretary General, Mr Gonzalez-Quijano, summarised in 4 points where the EU could be more incisive for boosting the European leather industry’s competitiveness; First by compensating the sectoral bias in access to credit in the banking system, second by supporting the industry in setting up a task force in the Commission for addressing specifically the trade barriers the leather industry faces in third countries for access to markets and access to raw materials, third by better guidance on funding opportunities for R&D and innovation in the leather sector, and forth, by developing a regulatory framework identifying leather and avoiding misdescriptions as it exists in the textile sector. He also added the need to seek that REACh does not result in a distortion of competition between domestic and imported products, and to avoid that the concomitance of the review of the IPPC Directive and the sector’s BREF does not prejudice the industry.

Commission Vice-President Verheugen welcomed the sector’s approach to the issues it is facing and indicated what the EU has already done to alleviate the adverse effects of the crisis on business and the economy in general. He took note of the points raised by COTANCE and assured the sector that he would take a personal interest in a swift launch of measures along those lines. Vice-President Verheugen convoked COTANCE for a follow-up meeting after the summer break for evaluating the developments.