Co-ops respond to French government agenda for Council of the EU

France will hold the presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 January to 30 June 2022

Co-operatives have responded to the French government’s agenda for its six-month presidency of the Council of the EU.

France holds the presidency, which rotates among member states every six months, from 1 January to 30 June, and will focus on building “recovery, strength and a sense of belonging”. Pledges include giving priority to work on a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and pressing for “a better way of doing business” – an announcement welcomed by Cooperatives Europe.

The European apex also views favourably the “French ambitions to strengthen the European Pillar for Social Rights when initiating discussions on improving the working conditions of platform workers”. And it said it was encouraging that the French presidency intends to consider the needs of SMEs within policies on competitiveness.

But the co-op body was disappointed that the programme fails to mention the European Commission’s Social Economy Action Plan, revealed last December.

“With its ambitious programme, expectations for the French presidency are high,” it added. “Cooperatives Europe hopes to see follow-up actions of similar vigour, but what it will mean exactly is to be seen in the coming months.”

Cooperatives Europe’s full statement on the French presidency is available here.

Co-operatives in the agricultural sector were also quick to respond to the programme. La Coopération Agricole, an apex for the country’s 2,200 agricultural co-ops, recently presented a series of proposals for the French presidency. These touch on three key issues: balancing competitiveness and transition management, making food a pillar of the EU’s strategic autonomy, and working to promote European food under market conditions.

“European strategic autonomy, called for by the president [of France], must necessarily include agriculture and food, central pillars of the social pact of Europe”, said Dominique Chargé, president of La Coopération Agricole and Bernard Ader, president of the Europe Commission of La Coopération Agricole.

“Only coherent, pragmatic and fair community public policies will make it possible to meet the essential challenge of food sovereignty, while ensuring the competitiveness of businesses and the implementation of transitions. This is the sine qua non for a sovereign, inclusive and responsible Europe.”

Copa-Cogeca, the European voice of farmers and agricultural co-operatives, said that the French presidency’s pledge to ensure fair competition in the context of “strengthening the strategic autonomy of the Union” was very relevant for the sector. Copa-Cogeca added that imports into the EU should mirror the requirements that EU farmers have to implement.

“Copa-Cogeca supports trade within the EU and with third countries, but trade must be based on balanced, fair and transparent rules to avoid distortion of competition,” said Copa president Christiane Lambert.

The French presidency’s agenda also mentions the development of ‘carbon farming’. “This initiative will be positive if it enables agriculture to be more sustainable, delivers on climate benefits and ensures an additional income for farmers,” said Ms Lambert.

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