1 July marked the handover of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) from Sweden to Spain. In the current context, it is more important than ever that there is a common approach to driving European resilience and prosperity. The countries holding the EU Presidency have an important role to play here.
The EU stands to benefit from the two Presidencies’ continuing focus in three areas in particular: bringing the Single Market to its full potential, accelerating the green transition, and recognising that Europe must remain open to trade with other parts of the world. At Amazon we welcome this continuity as we believe a truly seamless, outward-looking and sustainable Single Market will deliver for our customers and the more than 275,000 European SMEs that sell on our stores.
Bringing the Single Market to full potential
SMEs dominate both the Swedish and Spanish economies. Across Europe, SMEs are the economic backbone, representing 99% of all businesses in the EU. They employ around 100 million people, account for more than half of Europe’s GDP, and are value creators across all sectors. The Single Market has played a fundamental role in helping these SMEs to grow and internationalise, but it is not operating to its full potential.
At Amazon, we are proud of our contribution to the Single Market, by connecting customers and business partners across Europe. Our eight European stores provide products to millions of customers and facilitated more than €17 billion in export sales in 2022. However, internal trade barriers still hinder the movement of goods and services within the EU. Simplified and streamlined policies are needed across all EU Member States to fully unlock the potential of the Single Market, especially for resource-limited businesses.
The Spanish Presidency has committed to continuing Sweden’s emphasis on enhancing Europe’s competitiveness through a stronger Single Market, including moving forward with measures that remove obstacles for SMEs and startups to operate in the rest of the EU. One such measure is the European Commission proposal to create a Single VAT ID. This would allow companies selling to consumers and holding inventory in another EU country to register VAT only once, and fulfill their tax obligations in all EU countries through a single online portal. This measure is crucial for SMEs because it removes administrative obstacles related to VAT payments and enables the expansion of their businesses throughout the EU. Another measure is to advocate for the recognition of digital labeling as a complement to physical labeling to improve the quality and durability of information, while helping SMEs reduce expenses such as translation costs. These were among 11 recommendations outlined in a study commissioned by Amazon aiming to inspire the Swedish Government to push for an ambitious reboot of the Single Market during its Presidency. We were delighted to see that EU leaders marked the conclusion of the Swedish Presidency with a call for an independent High-Level Report on the future of the Single Market, to be presented at the March 2024 European Council meeting. EU leaders also invited the incoming Presidencies of Spain, and later Belgium, to take this work forward with the European Commission and other EU countries.
"We have different regulations for the food industry [in each EU country], so for SMEs it's expensive and not easy to be aware of every regulation"
More ambition for the Green Transition
The holder of the Presidency can also provide much needed leadership and drive to help the EU deliver ambitious environmental policies. The Swedish Presidency made significant progress in delivering key components of the Fit for 55 Package, the European Commission's plan to set the EU on course to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. This includes reaching an agreement on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, which aims to ensure the transition to renewable and low-carbon fuels is supported by the right infrastructure. Amazon welcomes these achievements as it will help us as a company to meet the sustainability ambitions enshrined in The Climate Pledge, our commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, ten years before the Paris Agreement. More than 400 companies, representing 35 countries and 55 sectors, have already joined this commitment, including Swedish companies like Klarna and Scania, and Spanish companies such as Mahou San Miguel and Telefónica.
Building on the groundwork laid by Sweden, we are pleased to see in Spain’s priorities the acceleration of legislative files within the Fit for 55 Package to speed up the ecological transition. The Spanish Presidency is also an opportunity to take an ambitious approach on new emissions standards for trucks legislation to help signal demand to investors like Amazon. Additionally, there’s the opportunity to advance circular economy and packaging waste legislation to both incentivise companies operating in e-commerce to use "packaging designed for e-commerce" to reduce waste, and to drive harmonisation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems.
We are doing our part in sustainable transport through our commitment to invest more than €1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonise our transportation network across Europe. We are also supporting European SMEs selling on our stores in their green transition through programmes that help sellers to give a second life to returned products, and developed mechanisms to help customers discover and purchase sustainable products. For example, the "Climate Pledge Friendly" label, which has recently received recognition from the European Commission.
An open approach to strategic autonomy
Actions to deepen the Single Market and advance the digital and green transitions need an openness to trade and a recognition that global economies and value chains are interdependent. Sweden as a liberal economy championed policies during its Presidency of openness to doing business with other parts of the world. Spain, owing to its Atlantic character and its relationship with Latin America and cultural links to the Hispanic population in the US, brings a unique opportunity to further strengthen transatlantic relations, as it works to define a vision at EU level for open strategic autonomy during its Presidency.
We wish Spain every success in rolling out this vision and delivering a strong, sustainable single market, especially for SMEs.
Tack Sverige! ¡Bienvenido España!