The Confederation of the Food and Drink Industry of the EU (CIAA) is urging EU governments to implement the right reforms that will support company investments and enhance growth ahead of the summit on 22 March.
The body argues that only private enterprise can increase long-term growth potential and create viable jobs. As a result, the CIAA is calling for the removal of obstacles to increased participation in research and development activities and to better performances in innovation.
In particular, the organisation wants industry-driven research and technology platforms to be promoted. Industry access to EU framework programmes must be also facilitated, especially for SMEs.
The CIAA's comments come a week before EU ministers meet to finalise new rules for the EU's stability and growth pact. The organisation wants the European Summit to reconfirm the exact measures that need to be taken to support the Lisbon Agenda and to clarify the responsibilities of the Commission and of Members States.
The Lisbon Strategy is a commitment by EU governments to concentrate their efforts on a single overarching goal to bring about economic, social and environmental renewal in the EU, created on an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable basis. The CIAA has emphasised that for the EU food and drink industries to improve market access and compete with third country products, these goals must be realised.
EU food and drink companies face strong international competition from countries with comparative advantages in basic food production. Against this background, it is essential to ensure the sustainable and competitive supply of EU agricultural products.
As a result the CIAA is lobbying for specific improvements in a number of different regulatory areas. For example it wants the proposed nutrition and health claims regulation to be more supportive of innovation, in particular product development, and the cost of pre-market approval of novel foods needs to be reduced.
In addition, the body argues that the numerous provisions on food labelling need to bemodernised, simplified and consolidated, and voluntary initiatives should be encouraged, as is the case on Integrated Product Policy, instead of developing new regulations.
The EU food and drink industry sector, represented by CIAA, is the leading manufacturing sector in Europe with a production value of around €800 billion euros (EU25). It employs over 4 million people in Europe.
The sector is dominated by SMEs that employ 61.3 per cent of the total food and drink industry workforce. The food and drink industry is an important pillar of the economy in many EU countries.
In March 2000, the European Council in Lisbon set out a ten-year strategy to make the Union "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". The process also includes an annual Spring European council meeting every March in order to monitor implementation and formulate the various guidelines for future policy coordination.