An honour and a pleasure!
spiritsEUROPE represents an iconic sector with a global reputation for quality and innovation. It is therefore a great honour and pleasure for me to join the sector and lead the Secretariat. Together with our dedicated team I look forward to working with the members, the EU institutions and our partners to work on the opportunities and challenges we face in 2018. What we want and need is clear: a set of EU policies which helps our distillers to deliver on their commitment to provide sustained economic growth and jobs to Europe’s regions – where our production is deeply and firmly rooted.
Looking ahead, the growing appetite of consumers all over the world for our famed European spirits – whether they be liqueurs, brandies, gin, or rum – presents a tremendous opportunity. Over the past decade, exports of European spirits have doubled – a growth underpinned by the global fame of renowned GIs such as Polish Vodka, Cognac, Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky. And over the next decade, our ambition shall not falter: we want to make this a double once again! To do so, the EU’s continued leadership in negotiating sustainable and ambitious FTAs with our trading partners and to fight for market access will be of fundamental importance. On this, Commissioners Malmström and Hogan can count on our full and unwavering support. In our endeavor to promote the “Tastes of Europe”, we look forward to a successful Trade Promotion mission to China in May.
2018 holds a number of important challenges for our sector which will need to be addressed: 10 years after its original adoption, the Regulation which defines every category of spirit drink made in Europe (110/2008) is up for revision. While the new draft is generally progressing well, it still needs some further important adjustments. Also this year, we gladly join the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the EU’s Single Market – but we cannot do so without drawing urgent attention to the growing risk of infringements by Member States. In this context, we call on Member States to stop any further form of tax discrimination against spirits.
Based on our long-standing knowledge and experience, we will continue our actions numerous actions to reduce alcohol-related harm in Europe. In addition, we will explore how to contribute positively towards reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The most immediate challenge ahead of us is to achieve the best possible conclusion of Brexit for citizens and the economies on both sides of the Channel. This afternoon, the General Affairs Council is set to adopt a new set of directives for the negotiations, which will provide further details on the EU27 position on the transition period. On Brexit, our core demands relate to four major areas of concern: firstly, we want the length of the transition period to be flexible enough so that companies will not have to to adapt several times to changing rules. Secondly, we need to make sure that all EU legislation and international obligations deriving from the EU’s current FTAs and bilateral spirits agreements will apply in full and in a reciprocal manner to the EU-27 and the UK until the end of the transition period. Thirdly, we need dynamic regulatory continuity during the transition: EU legislation initiated and finalised during the transition period must also apply to the UK during that time. Finally, we need further clarity on the particular situation of Ireland. The Irish whisky and spirits industry operates on an All-Island basis with seamless cross-border supply chains. It is therefore vitally important that these are protected from diverging rules or disruptive excise or tax requirements.
We will closely monitor, and actively engage on, all of the above issues as the years unfolds.
*In his capacity as permanent representative of SPRL ADLOR Consulting