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Bütikofer says China has miscalculated

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In response to the decision by EU foreign ministers this morning (22 March) to sanctions imposed on four Chinese nationals and one entity linked to the persecution of the Uyghur minority in Xiangjiang province, China has announced retaliatory sanctions for ten individuals and four entities. One of those listed is Reinhard Bütikofer MEP, chairman of European Parliament’s China Delegation. EU Reporter spoke with Bütikofer about the sanctions and what they would mean for Europe. 

“Well, it did come as a surprise that China went this far in their reaction to our human rights sanctions,” said Bütikofer. “[The EU] sanctioned four individuals and one entity over atrocious human rights violations and they retaliated with sanctions on ten individuals and four entities because the EU criticized human-rights violations. When you look at the people they attack, it is five members of the European Parliament from the four major political groups, national parliamentarians, esteemed think tanks, the whole human-rights subcommittee of the European Parliament, and the political and security committee of the European Council. So they are signaling that if you criticize human-rights violations in China, we will go against your very institutions.” Rather than intimidating the European Union, Bütikofer says that China has miscalculated and that they have probably galvanized public support for the EU’s measures. 

The European Union has said that it wants a strategic partnership with China, while recognizing that it is a systemic rival. We asked Bütikofer if this approach should still apply.  

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“No, I don't think so. The strategic partnership, that was ten years ago, that has fallen by the wayside. Today, we say that China is a systemic rival. It's also a competitor. While we want to co-operate with China, China refuses to co-operate.”

Asked about the recently agreed China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI)

Bütikofer says it is too early to assess, but that it was unlikely to receive the approval of the European Parliament without the removal of sanctions. 

On further co-operation, he said that there is still a lot the Parliament can do - without waiting for the National People's Congress: “Look, we're not saying we don't want to talk to China. We're not saying we want to rupture the relationship. We're not saying we want to avoid co-operating. It's just the opposite, but what we're not going to accept are Chinese rules, that they don't accept freedom of speech in their own country is bad enough, that they now want the suppression of freedom of speech of other countries is just utterly unacceptable. And it will not happen in this European Union.”

Health

PEPSICO Europe expands healthier snacks and beverage portfolio across Europe

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1 July 2021 - PepsiCo Europe is today (1 July) announcing an ambitious new plan to add more choice to its food and beverage portfolio in the member states of the European Union. The plan involves a series of commitments based on rigorous science-based nutrition guidelines. This voluntary commitment will be submitted to the European Commission as a part of its Code of Conduct for Responsible Business and Marketing Practices.

These commitments build on progress PepsiCo has already made globally over the past decade to reduce added sugars in beverages and sodium and saturated fat in foods, introduce smaller portion sizes and create alternatives of existing brands with improved nutritional profiles, like Pepsi MAX, 7UP Free and Lay’s Oven Baked. [1]

For its beverage portfolio in Europe, which includes Pepsi-Cola, Lipton Ice Tea and 7UP, PepsiCo’s new pledge will reduce the average level of added sugars across its entire soft drinks range by 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030[2].  Across Europe, PepsiCo has already established a strong sugar-free portfolio in beverages, including Pepsi MAX and 7UP Free.  The sugar reduction also has a positive climate impact.  The company estimates that moving from full sugar to sugar-free formulations reduces up to a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions from a beverage.

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PepsiCo Europe wants to also further its journey to diversify its snack portfolio to include healthier options, learning from its success in growing sugar-free beverages.  It aims to increase sales of snacks rated a B or better in the widely used Nutri-Score nutrition labelling system[3] by more than 10X by 2025.  This will make healthier snacks its fastest growing food category over the next four years with an ambition to expand this to a $1 billion portfolio by 2030.   

The new goals will be achieved through reformulation of existing products, expanding the company’s existing brands, including Lay’s Oven Baked, to more markets, and introducing new snacking ranges such as PopWorks, its newly launched popped corn crisps range.

PepsiCo’s grains portfolio, which includes Quaker Oats, already offers a range of nutritious products to EU consumers with 70% of the product[4] rated at either Nutri-Score A or B.

PepsiCo Europe Chief Executive Officer Silviu Popovici said: “Consumers want healthier and more sustainable brands, and they want products that taste great.  Over the past decade, we’ve reformulated and launched new products to bring more options to consumers. As a result, in Europe today, almost one in three beverages we sell is sugar-free and we believe this trend will continue to grow over time.  With this pledge, we can use our experience with sugar reduction to accelerate our shift to a healthier snacks portfolio.”

PepsiCo understands that it is vital to market its products responsibly.  The company has also aligned to UNESDA (the European soft drinks industry association) and the World Federation of Advertisers (EU Pledge) commitments around no marketing or advertising to children under 13. Since 2006, PepsiCo has not advertised its soft drinks to under 12s across Europe and it has applied science-based nutrition criteria to determine which food products it can advertise to under 12s.

This new plan is part of PepsiCo’s efforts to create a more sustainable food system and support the EU’s ambitious Green Deal.  At the end of 2020, the company announced its plans to reduce virgin plastic use by moving to 100% recycled plastic bottles for brand Pepsi across nine EU markets by 2022.  PepsiCo has also stepped up its goals to tackle climate change, committing to net zero by 2040 and a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2030, while also scaling regenerative agriculture across its entire agricultural footprint, reducing GHGs by 3 million tons by 2030.

About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $70 billion in net revenue in 2020, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker, Tropicana and SodaStream. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 23 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales. 


[1] Calculated by Retail Sales Value

[2] Compared to a baseline of 2019

[3] Nutri-Score is a nutritional label which evaluates the overall nutritional quality of food based on a five-colour coded scale going from A to E.

[4] Calculated by Quaker product volume.

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Italy's 5-Star in turmoil as founder lambasts former PM Conte

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Italy's co-ruling 5-Star Movement was thrown into turmoil on Tuesday after its founder Beppe Grillo said the man primed to become its next leader, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (pictured), was not up to the job, writes Crispian Balmer, Reuters.

"Conte...has neither political vision nor managerial skills. He has no experience of organisations and no capacity for innovation," Grillo wrote in a blog that looked certain to doom the ex-premier's efforts to revive the divided group.

Conte agreed to take the reins of 5-Star after his coalition government collapsed in February, but his plans to relaunch the struggling party have been delayed by internal disputes, triggered in part by his demand that Grillo relinquish control.

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An increasingly exasperated Conte set out his conditions for taking charge on Monday, saying Grillo had to decide whether to be a "generous father who lets his child grow up or a bullying father who prevents his child's emancipation".

Within 24 hours Grillo hit back, saying Conte wanted to subvert the maverick, anti-system nature of the 5-Star.

"We cannot let a movement born to spread direct and participatory democracy turn into a one-man party governed by a seventeenth-century statute," he wrote.

There was no immediate response from Conte, who was a little known lawyer with no party affiliation when he was plucked from obscurity to become head of a coalition government following inconclusive elections in 2018.

He remained in charge when 5-Star switched coalition partners the following year, becoming one of Italy's most popular leaders as his confidence grew.

Many 5-Star parliamentarians had hoped that this popularity would help their own party bounce back in the polls.

The group defeated all its rivals in 2018, taking 32% of the vote, but since then its image has been undermined by policy U-turns and internal feuding and it is now polling at around 16%, making it Italy's fourth largest party.

Conte had said he wanted to give the formerly anti-establishment protest movement a more traditional, moderate face as part of his efforts to form a stable alliance with the centre-left Democratic Party. Read more.

Grillo, an outspoken comic, worried that Conte wanted to transform his group into a traditional party, peopled by slick, professional politicians.

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Brexit

EU accepts UK request for a three-month extension to chilled meat grace period

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EU co-chair of the Joint Committee, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič

This afternoon (30 June), the European Commission announced that it would grant the UK a further three-month grace period it requested to implement the provisions on chilled meats in the Northern Ireland Protocol. Vice President Maroš Šefčovič also announced that the EU would adjust its law to facilitate the trade in medicines along with other concessions.

The Commission said its package of measures would address some of the most pressing issues related to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The EU's co-chair of the Joint Committee, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, said: “Our work is about ensuring that the hard-earned gains of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement – peace and stability in Northern Ireland – are protected, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU Single Market. Therefore, we have spared no effort in trying to mitigate some of the challenges that have arisen in the implementation of the Protocol.”

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The Commission has put forward solutions in a number of areas, including for the continued supply of medicines, provisions on guide dogs, as well as a decision waiving the need to show an insurance green card, which is of particular benefit for motorists crossing the border in Northern Ireland.

The UK negotiator Lord Frost said: “We are pleased we have been able to agree a sensible extension on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland - one that does not require rules in the rest of the UK to align with future changes in EU agrifood rules.

 “This is a positive first step but we still need to agree a permanent solution. The chilled meats issue is only one of a very large number of problems with the way the Protocol is currently operating, and solutions need to be found with the EU to ensure it delivers on its original aims: to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, and protect the EU's single market for goods.”

The EU said that the temporary solution on chilled meats is subject to strict conditions. For example, the meat products that are subject to the channelling procedure referred to in the United Kingdom's unilateral declaration must remain under the control of the Northern Ireland competent authorities at all stages of that procedure. These meat products must be accompanied by official health certificates issued by the UK competent authorities, can exclusively be sold to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland, and must be packed and labelled accordingly. The EU also underlined the importance of ensuring that Border Control Posts in Northern Ireland have the necessary infrastructure and resources to be able to perform all the controls required by the EU's Official Controls Regulation.

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