On 1 July 2020, Germany inaugurated its semester of Presidency at the Council of the European Union. Germany’s Government released its programme, “Together for Europe’s recovery”, wherein it identifies six priorities, of which the main one is to help the European economy get back on track.
Supporting Europe’s economic recovery
The German Presidency’s work programme emphasises the necessity to improve the resilience and the competitiveness of European enterprises, especially SMEs. The Presidency intends to achieve this by enforcing the single market rules, eliminating unjustifiable barriers, strengthen entrepreneurship and boosting digital transformation and innovation.
One of its immediate challenges will be to secure an agreement on the revised EU budget and the recovery proposal, Next Generation EU, as a centre piece of its economic response to the coronavirus crisis.
What does it mean for Human Rights Due Diligence?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the German Presidency was expected to put the corporate due diligence dossier very high on their agenda. Not surprisingly, the economic crisis has somewhat impacted their initial plans and altered the level of ambition on that topic.
However, the topic has not disappeared from their agenda. As the current situation has put the spotlight on the fragilities of supply chains, Germany intends to make them more resilient by strengthening corporate social responsibility to promote human rights, social and environmental standards and increasing corporate transparency, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
amfori is also encouraged to see that the Federal Foreign Office has maintained its support for a one-year series of regional conferences in cooperation with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The first virtual conference took place on 7 July to mark the start of an initiative to improve implementation of the UNGPs.
There has been a growing momentum on a future EU legislative framework on Human Rights Diligence in the past months. We believe that this initiative will contribute to feed into these discussions and highlight the necessity of putting existing international frameworks like the UNGPs and the OECD guidelines at the centre of future policy initiatives on the matter.
amfori believes that economic and sustainability priorities are not mutually exclusive and stands ready to collaborate with the German Presidency in its efforts to progress discussion on an EU-harmonized framework for corporate due diligence.
Germany has been implementing the UN Guiding Principles since 2016 through the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP). A key element of this plan is a large-scale company survey on human rights engagement.
Germany’s Foreign Office is now about to release the results of its second business survey on 14 July. Depending on the results, the German Government may soon resume the national discussions on the Due Diligence law. Our experts from the Advocacy team are monitoring legislative developments to help our members stay informed. Keep an eye on our website for further updates.
If you want to know more about amfori’s advocacy work, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, Social & Environmental Policy Advisor.