Nalle Johansson introduced the European leather industry stressing the importance of its value chain in terms of jobs and value added production. He indicated that about one million jobs depend in Europe on the sector and that the EU market for leather and leather products is worth some 60 billion euro. European tanners are at the root of this wealth and are industry leaders on a global level with some 15-17% of all leather sales worldwide coming from Europe. President Johansson commented that the tough business situation in the current economic crisis has eroded the sector’s turnover by 20-30% but clearly stated also that Cotance was not asking for subsidies. He said that the sector is demonstrating its resilience in times of adversity. He indicated that the type of support for Europe’s leather industry required from the EU for further developing the sector.

Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, summarised four main points where the EU could be more incisive for boosting the European leather industry’s competitiveness; firstly by compensating the sectoral bias in access to credit in the banking system, second by supporting the industry in setting up a task force in the Commission for addressing specifically the trade barriers the leather industry faces in third party countries for access to markets and raw materials, thirdly, by better guidance on funding opportunities for R&D and innovation in the leather sector, and finally, by developing a regulatory framework identifying leather and avoiding misdescriptions as exists in the textile sector. He also added the need make sure that the REACh regulations do not result in a distortion of competition between EU domestic and imported products.

Commission vice president Verheugen welcomed the sector’s approach to the issues it is facing and indicated what the EU had already done to alleviate the adverse effects of the crisis on business and the economy in general. He took note of the points raised by Cotance and assured the sector that he would take a personal interest in a swift launch of measures along those lines. Vice-President Verheugen invited Cotance for a follow-up meeting after the summer break to evaluate developments.

The Cotance delegation led by Johansson was formed by past president and current vice president Jean-Claude Ricomard (Tanneries Roux, France), vice-president Jaume Alvira (Colomer Group, Spain), vice president Salvatore Mercogliano (UNIC Group, Italy), Peter Crack (Charles F. Stead & Co, UK) as well as Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, secretary general of Cotance and Fulvia Bacchi (UNIC Group).