MILAN — The European Commission stalled in Brussels on Thursday as country representatives were unable to agree on so-called “Made In” legislation that would make product-origin labels mandatory for goods sold in the EU, rather than optional.
Italy has been among the most vociferous advocates for country-of-origin labeling, as leaders from its fashion, textiles, footwear, home design, jewelry and ceramics industries have joined forces to push for change. An April 2014 vote found that 76 percent of European parliamentarians, especially those from the south, support more stringent labeling legislation — but a vocal minority of northern European MEPs continues to form a powerful barricade against it.
Following last year’s vote, Italy’s vice minister for economic development Carlo Calenda was optimistic that five sectors could meet approval across the 28-country board for mandatory labels: ceramics, footwear, jewelry, textiles and home furnishings.
But despite ongoing discussions and a watered-down “Made In” compromise advanced by Latvia, which is currently presiding over the EU as part of a six-month rotation, the commerce meeting on Thursday yielded no progress. Italy, Cyprus, France, Bulgaria, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal, Poland, Greece, Malta, Romania and Croatia all expressed support for mandatory labeling, while the U.K., Germany, Austria, Belgium, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and Estonia all rejected the notion.
The lack of progress has left Italian industry leaders fuming.
“It’s disheartening that from February 2013 to today, that part of Europe led by Germany remains unconvinced of the fact that ‘Made In’ represents a momentous turning point for the entire European economy, not just the Italian economy,” said Claudio Marenzi, president of Sistema Moda Italia, the Italian fashion and textile trade association.
Northern European resistance, he added, “is a purely political obstacle that has no foundation,” given the EU studies on costs associated with labeling, and “it only damages the interests of all consumers, who have the right to be informed of the origin and the quality standards behind products.”
“On this issue, some countries, such as Germany, are revealing an ‘omertà-like’ attitude that they usually attribute to Mediterranean countries. At the moment, Italy does not at all feel represented by this way of being [a unified] Europe,” Marenzi said.