Retail co-ops call for level playing field ahead of EU elections

Euro Coop wants legislators to take account of the barriers co-operatives often face compared to traditional businesses

Europe’s consumer co-ops have reiterated their key policy asks around consumer protection and sustainability ahead of next month’s European elections.

Euro Coop, the European community of consumer co-operatives, unveiled its EU Elections Manifesto on 15 May, calling for a “shared vision of a stronger, fairer, and more sustainable Europe”.

The apex represents 20 national-level co-ops that operate 94,000 points of sale and e-commerce platforms, serving over 30 million consumer members across Europe. Some of the current socio-economic challenges have daunted the EU’s sustainability ambitions, which, argues the manifesto, risks putting sustainability frontrunners at a competitive disadvantage.

To address this, Euro Coop suggests a range of agri-food policies – including a legislative framework for a sustainable food system, based on the three pillars of sustainability; preserving consumer choice and protecting organic products by ensuring appropriate traceability and labelling of food products, including all products derived from GM technology; and the highest level of animal welfare standards by adapting legislation to the latest scientific evidence. 

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It also wants the EU to acknowledge the plurality of business models when developing supporting mechanisms, making allowance for the barrier to private investment facing co-op and independent retailers. The EU should ensure channel neutrality, it adds, by enforcing equal responsibility between offline and online. At the same time, the manifesto asks that the EU avoid holding retailers accountable for undertakings outside their authority.

As to consumers, the manifesto calls on the EU Commission to ensure that member states reinforce control and compliance of food safety at production level to guarantee consumer protection, increase consumer awareness by funding EU-wide public campaigns to support actions taken by the retail sector; and ensure that data regulation is uniform for all operators across member states.

Co-ops should be given a level-playing field, the manifesto adds, that takes into account their barriers to capital and their distinct audit and reporting mechanism. Euro Coop also suggests making space for co-operatives within the EU Parliament Social Economy Intergroup and the EU Commission Social Economy and Social Enterprises Sector.

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“As we navigate the complex socio-economic landscape, we recognise the myriad challenges that lie ahead. From the looming threat of food poverty to the pressing need for sustainable food production, the stakes have never been higher,” the apex said. 

“Our manifesto outlines key policy recommendations aimed at achieving our shared vision of a stronger, fairer, and more sustainable Europe. From advocating for a systemic approach to sustainable food systems to championing consumer choice and protection, our recommendations serve as a roadmap for transformative change.

“As the voice of consumer co-operatives in Europe, Euro Coop is dedicated to championing the interests and rights of consumers at the EU level. Alongside our partners, we strive to create a sustainable and inclusive future for generations to come.”