2019 Q&A: Todor Ivanov on Europe

Secretary general of Euro Coop

 How was 2019 for Euro Coop? What were the main issues you have campaigned for in 2019?

 It was an EU election year, and thus an occasion to review our advocacy efforts towards the institutions and draft an in-depth strategy on what we want to achieve within their next 5-year mandate. Our elections manifesto features policy recommendations in four key areas of significance: food, sustainability, retail, and co-operative growth. The overarching objective is to strengthen consumer co-operatives’ position as operators with valuable input, but also as pioneers with a vital contribution to an alternative food system, which is desperately needed across the EU. A system which reconciles economic growth with environmental sustainability and social justice, while engaging consumers towards responsible consumption. 

In the food domain, obviously the concept of sustainable food systems has gained increasing traction. As part of that, Euro Coop and a growing coalition of stakeholders have been campaigning for a grand EU policy objective – namely, a Common Food Policy. 

What were the main highlights for your sector?

Climate change and circular economy have been the main topics of action. It has been a big year for issues such as plastics optimisation, food waste reduction, consumer protection with a focus on chemicals. 

Most recently, the most important development has been the recent announcement of an EU Farm to Fork Strategy to be shaped by the new Commission together with civil society organisations and other stakeholders. The year 2019 saw also the expansion of the Nutri score labels which has been so far recommended by the ministries of five member states.

 What are the challenges ahead?

Primarily, engaging EU leaders about the co-op distinctiveness, in general, and the added value of consumer co-operatives, in particular, in empowering consumers and transforming the retail sector in order for circular economy and the fight against climate change to be translated into reality. Yes, our members are retailers, but their responsibility does not end at the cash register; so our mission in Brussels is to represent their wide plethora of novelty and success within the EU policy process. 61% of all MEPs are new to Brussels, so there is a huge potential in establishing relations.  

We see potential challenges in several policy dossiers, too. Firstly, the newly introduced F2F Strategy is yet to go through the long EU legislative process, making it impossible to predict its final shape or form. At this stage, it is open season, so Euro Coop will act quick and swift in presenting our members’ know-how. 

 Could you give us any details of upcoming projects?

We are completing a master report on the contribution of consumer co-operatives to a stronger Europe. It will be a major instrument for our advocacy efforts. With that, our organisation is gearing up for the Social Economy Summit on 26-27 November 2020, where we will look to have consumer co-operatives featured. 

The  inaugural Coop event QIII 2020, a collective effort of the six European co-op sectoral organisations and Cooperatives Europe, will showcase the contribution of the co-ops, across economic sectors, towards the realisation of a major EU policy theme. The Green Deal represents a wonderful opportunity to showcase our movement’s innovation in sustainability and digitisation.