2020 has been an exceptional year for many reasons – both good and bad. This September, la rentrée may feel a little different from other years – after a summer with closed borders and additional restrictions in our everyday lives.
Brussels, too, has changed. The work of the European Commission and European Parliament continues, of course, but access is restricted and many meetings are being held virtually. Our committee meetings this month will be held online; we will have to wait a little bit longer before welcoming our colleagues and friends from around Europe to Brussels.
Our sector is especially convivial, so the lack of conviviality in our social and professional lives is especially difficult for us.
The agenda of the months ahead is busy, however. As the hospitality and tourism sectors slowly and cautiously reopen, we at spiritsEUROPE continue to advocate for sensible government policies, including harmonised travel restrictions, and their swift implementation which will help our sector recover. In several countries, we stand with our partners promoting sensible consumption of alcohol and full respect of COVID-19 guidance and safety rules. Our engagement on the Farm2Fork file also continues – and working towards a Green Recovery will be an important focal point of our sector – building on the work spirits producers have already done across Europe in recent years.
Trade remains top of our agenda – and the past few months have been a whirlwind, to say the least. The departure of Phil Hogan from the College of Commissioners is a disappointing development for our sector – former Commissioner Hogan was an advocate for the promotion of high-quality agricultural products from Europe, and a strong voice for EU business in negotiations with our international partners.
That said, we have every confidence in the new Trade Commissioner, Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, and we are sure he will be an impassioned representative for EU business at home and abroad. He will be busy - EU-US negotiations are ongoing and need to be a priority for the Commission; the pain caused by tariffs on unrelated sectors is too great to be ignored. Other priorities will include the new EU trade strategy, with the need to fight protectionism and keep defending free trade in the multilateral system in the wake of Covid-19 of particular importance, the need for reform of the WTO and swift ratification of the EU-Mercosur agreement. We stand ready to work closely with the new Commissioner, so that the spirits sector may continue to be a European export success story.
We are very happy to be back, and we look forward to working with you all in the months ahead!
*In his capacity as permanent representative of SPRL ADLOR Consulting