Mari Kiviniemi
Perspective 18.12.2023

Mari Kiviniemi: The EU must support the sustainable development of commerce

It seems that the presidential election in January will have a much smaller impact on companies and circular economy than the European Parliament election to be held in June, writes Mari Kiviniemi, the Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

Many of us are thinking about who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. Now that Finland is a member of NATO, the president is a powerful head of state, so it is not a decision that should be made lightly. However, it seems that the election in January will have a much smaller impact on citizens and companies than the European Parliament election to be held in June.

The result of the European Parliament election will lay the foundation for the agenda of the next European Commission, which will underpin the EU’s objectives and legislative actions for the next five years. As such, lobbying activities surrounding the key themes of the European Parliament election and the Commission programme are in full swing. The Finnish Commerce Federation has published its EU objectives, and we have communicated the content of these objectives to decision-makers and officials in both Finland and Brussels this autumn.

This election cycle, we devised our objectives and statements in partnership with our Nordic sister federations, lending further support to our position. While the objectives of the commerce sector are often country specific, our main messages are echoed at both the Nordic and pan-European levels.

For the commerce sector, there are three key themes surrounding the European Parliament election: fair rules of trade, conditions for sustainable commerce and the role of commerce sector companies as the builders of tomorrow. We have devised a number of development proposals under each theme, which, if implemented, will improve the vitality of the entire European economy.

With regard to the fair rules of trade, it is of utmost importance that the regulations observed in the EU, and the implementation of these regulations, are the same for all companies operating within and outside the internal market. Equal conditions for competition and market conformity should apply to both brick-and-mortar and digital commerce. It is also important to lessen the administrative burden on companies, which have been overwhelmed by the extensive regulations imposed by the EU in recent years.

In terms of sustainable commerce, the commerce sector has to play its part to urge consumers and B2B customers to make more sustainable purchases, use products in a more sustainable manner and adopt the principles of circular economy. However, for circular economy to work, the EU should promote the development and utilisation of new inter-company ecosystems. Both competition and consumer protection legislation should be defined so as to bring business operations in line with the principles of circular economy.

As the largest private sector employer in the EU, the views of the commerce sector are inherently important. Up to 26 million Europeans, or one in seven working-aged people, work in the commerce sector. Commerce also ranks first in terms of numbers of companies, with one in three European companies operating in the retail and wholesale sector. Moreover, the sector accounts for 10% of the GDP of the entire EU.

Against this backdrop, it is important that the development of the sector is ensured in the future. In particular, more research, development and innovation funding should be targeted at the commerce industry, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.