Towards a responsible recovery
The COVID-19 society is a strange new world, and something we are all still coming to terms with. When we look around at the Europe of today, it is not recognisable to the Europe we know and love. Travel is extremely restricted, we have to suppress our innate friendliness and stay at home, and the hospitality sector, where many of our fondest memories have been made, is effectively shut down. While our fight against COVID-19 is not over, it’s important that we look to the future and face what many are calling “the new normal”. spiritsEUROPE is working hard to ensure that our sector will recover as Europe’s societies gradually re-open post-coronavirus.
As part of our work, we will strengthen our focus on advocating for the responsible consumption of alcohol. A number of recent media stories claimed (albeit without empirical evidence) that there are noted increases in the consumption of alcohol now that people are largely in lockdown. Yet despite these media stories of temporary increases in (stockpiling) sales in the “off-trade” sector, the bleak reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have been extremely damaging for our members, for the many millions who work with us or whose jobs our sector supports. This sacrifice is necessary, but difficult, nonetheless. The data we’ve collected so far does not paint a rosy picture, and we don’t expect that to change quickly. At the same time, it’s important that those who choose to enjoy our high-quality product do so sensibly. This is a message we’ve long promoted, and our work in this regard will intensify in the coming weeks.
In order for our sector to recover and bounce back to pre-crisis levels, we and our value chain partners need dedicated support from governments and policymakers, at national and at EU level. As part of the broad package of support measures that are being discussed, temporary tax reductions and the full elimination of EU-US tariffs are among the most important. Some Member States, such as Germany, have already taken the lead on this and decided a temporary reduction of VAT rates for food served in restaurants – an important measure to help our friends and partners in the HORECA sector. In a similar way, temporary reductions – or at least long-term stability – of excise rates on our products will be an essential tool to help our sector recover and secure sound tax revenues in times of a heavy economic downturn. The need for a quick resolution of the ongoing EU-US trade dispute is now more urgent than ever. We trust the European Commission and our MEP representatives will do their utmost to allow Europe’s economy to sensibly recover, and we remain available to engage and share our expertise with them at this time.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an emergency, but that said, there have been some positive points to note. It has heartened us to see so many of our members, from SMEs to large multinationals, do their part to help in this time of crisis. Many converted factory productions of alcohol to hand sanitizer and many contributed much-needed funds for HoReCa employees who are out of work as a result of the crisis. We speak often of the “spirit of responsibility”, and our sector has embodied this across the Member States.
*In his capacity as permanent representative of SPRL ADLOR Consulting