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close this bookThe Courier N 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)
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View the documentThe future shape of the European Union
View the documentPreparing Europe for the 21st Century
View the documentThe European market for pet products

The future shape of the European Union

Initial thoughts of the Commission in the run-up to the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference

When Commission President Jacques Santer and his colleague Manuel Oreja addressed a packed press conference in Brussels on 10 May, it is likely that some of the journalists present had mixed emotions. Following a relative lull in the 'greet debase' over where the EU is heading, thoughts are now fuming to 1996 and the next intergovernmental Conference (IGC). The subject should provide rich pickings for the media as the various interested parties set up their stalls and strive to 'sell' their vision of the KU. Heated arguments are the bread and butter of journalism and there will be no shortage of these in the coming two years. At the same time, memories of Maastricht are still fresh. Seemingly interminable debates, which saw significant additions to the lexicon of EU jargon, presented the news gatherers with a formidable challenge- which they didn't always succeed in overcoming. The people of Europe could hardly be unaware that big issues affecting their future were being decided in the Dutch city. They were bombarded with reports about it for many months, three countries had full-scale referendum campaigns and others had lengthy Parliamentary debates which were exhaustively reported. But too often it seemed like the Tower of Babel. Politicians and pressure groups, 'sceptics' end 'federalists', constitutional experts and monetary specialists appeared in procession on the television screens to offer varying, and often contradictory interpretations of such things as 'subsidiarity' and 'federalism'. They spoke of the two new 'pillars', EMU, convergence targets, co decision and qualified majorities. And many Europeans 'switched off', either literally or metaphorically. Those who persevered and sought elucidation in the text of the Maastricht Treaty itself (helpfully supplied by the Commission) found no succour there. Without a copy of the pre-existing treaties for cross-reference, the text was almost impossible to understand.

It was this unhappy situation which saw the Maastricht Treaty teeter on the precipice before finally being pulled back on to firm ground. The Danes voted. No but accomodatingly decided to have a rerun of the poll. The French almost voted 'No' but as it fumed out, a miss was as good as a mile. The British Parliament came close to halting the whole process just as the finishing line seemed to be in sight.

For Jacques Santer, one of the key imperatives will be to avoid a similar situation developing in 1995-96. That was why he warned of the risk of alienating Europe's citizens when he spoke to reporters on 10 May. There was a need, he said, to involve them in the debate and to take measures to make the whole system more democratic and transparent. In fact, Mr Santer and Mr Oreja were ostensibly presenting a report on the functioning of the Maastricht Treaty. But while emphasising that the Commission had no proposals on the table at the moment, Mr Oreja acknowledged that, in highlighting the successes and shortcomings of the Treaty, they were clearly identifying areas that required action.

So what will the 1996 IGC be about ? According to the Commission President, it will not be about extending the substantive competences of the EU (whose components parts are the European Community and the two pillars of intergovernmental cooperating covering foreign and security policy, and justice and home affairs). In other words, it is not about what the Union does but about bow it does it.

There seems to be a general consensus that the EU's decision-making procedures have become too complex and unwieldy. The power of any country to block proposals in the Council of Ministers has already been reduced but the national veto remains in a number of areas and many see this as a threat to further progress in an enlarged Union of 15 members. With several Mediterranean and Eastern European countries knocking at the door, the EU is expected to grow further. Enlargement is one of the few ideas which seems to unite all the member states, but there are fears that unless the veto is curtailed, the result will be paralysis. The Commission did, however, stress that it did not envisage removal of the veto altogether-it should still be retained for 'constitutional' issues.

A further question relates to the system's democratic legitimacy. Those who argue that democracy has lost out in the EU's structure may have a point. Laws are proposed by an unelected Commission while national ministers, who are the 'legislators', do deals behind closed doors -although it should be recognised that the latter have a 'democratic' mandate (more or less) from their country's electorates. In fact, the powers of the European Parliament have increased significantly with successive treaty changes but it is still far from being the sovereign body in the system. Complexity is another problem that has resulted from the piecemeal granting of new powers to the Parliament.

As the Commission observes in the preamble to its report (reprinted below), the result is that there are now about 20 different procedures being used. The Commission would like to see this reduced to just three. In addition, the report talks of bringing national parliaments more fully into the process.

The Commission is also concerned about the way in which the two 'inter-governmental' pillars of the Union are operating-or, in many cases, failing to operate. Those who favoured closer integration at Maastricht were keen to see foreign policy/defence and justice/home affairs brought in to the system. Those who opposed moves towards a more 'federal' Europe were determined that this should not result in a loss of sovereignty. The result was a classic compromise. The Union would have responsibility for coordinating action in these areas but the 'supranational' Community would not- hence the two new pillars. The result, of course, is even more administrative complication and, as events have subsequently shown, the Union does not always act decisively or indeed speak with one voice.

Against an a la carte Europe

Finally, given the increasingly heterogeneous nature of the Union, the issue arises of how far one or a group of member states can choose to opt out of particular policy areas. For Jacques Santer, the idea of 'Union solidarity' is paramount and he therefore expressed opposition to permanent opt-outs. Recognising the political realities, however, he acknowledged that the system should be flexible enough to allow countries to move towards the Union's common goals at different speeds. Denmark and the UK already have opt-outs under the Maastricht Treaty but there is an understandable concern that too much fragmentation could put the whole edifice in danger.

In the coming months, the Commission's initial thoughts will be crystallised into more formal position papers and ultimately into a set of proposals which will be presented to the national governments. Although Jacques Santer, with his stress on 'no new competences', was keen to downplay the possibility of conflict between the key actors at the IGC, it is difficult to see how this can be avoided.

Measures to curtail national vetos, improve the democratic credentials of the Union (which must surely favour the Parliament) and strengthen the 'intergovernmental pillars', can hardly fail to alter the current institutional balance which heavily favours the Council of Ministers. For the Commission and, it would appear, the majority of member states, construction work on the EU should continue, even if the dreaded 'F' word (federal) is eschewed for diplomatic reasons. In some member states, the approach appears to be very different- the talk is of 'drawing a line in the sand' or perhaps even reverting to more inter-governmentalism with the 'repatriation' of certain common policies. Few of the leading actors are prepared to voice the opinion that these visions are directly in conflict with each other. At the moment, it is difficult to see how the conflict can be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. But then, the EU seems to have a knack of reconciling the irreconcilable.

Simon Homer

Preparing Europe for the 21st Century

We reprint here, the preamble of the Commission's report on the functioning of the Treaty on European Union which was published on May 10.

This report by the Commission is its response to the mandate of the Corfu European Council that the Community institutions review the operation of the Treaty on European Union. It is the first stage in a long and delicate process. It takes stock of the operation of an instrument that has been in force for only eighteen months. The fact that, in the run-up to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, the institutions are each reviewing their collective modus operandi is a welcome step. Practical proposals on amendments to the Union Treaty will follow in due course.

The 1996 deadline was set in 1991. At that time the Union Treaty was a bold response to a novel situation. Objective analysis shows that it is better than its reputation would suggest. It has the merit of setting out a comprehensive approach to European integration, rather than a purely economic one. It has enhanced the European Parliament's powers, consolidated the Commission's legitimacy, launched Economic and Monetary Union, and generally reinforced the Union's capacities. It has mapped out the path to a stronger Union presence on the world political scene.

Acknowledging the Treaty's strengths, however, also allows us to identify its weak points and the shortcomings in its implementation. Through its critical analysis, the Commission will outline the path which it believes should be followed during the Intergovernmental Conference in terms of both form and content. Institutional questionss are obviously very important in a Community governed by the rule of law, but they should not blind us to the fundamental issues.

Two major challenges for Europe

The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference will be a key encounter for Europe and its future. The outcome will determine the shape of things European as the 21st century dawns. Two factors are especially decisive.

First, the Union's internal context has changed. The Maastricht Treaty ratification debate revealed that there was still a degree of scepticism about European integration. Europe is not easy for people to understand; many do not see what it is about. The same problem can also arise within an individual country, where the citizen may not always realise what policies are being followed in his or her name, or why. The distance between the citizen and the place where decisions are made, means that the problem is more acute in the Union, however.

So the first challenge is immediately obvious-to make Europe the business of every citizen. The emergence of open debate, covering all points of view on Europe, is in fact a happy opportunity: Europe is no longer deciding on its future behind closed doors.

The Commission does not regard the Union Treaty's objective of a Community closer to the citizen as merely an empty formula, but as a categorical imperative which guides its actions. The Commission will be listening to the views of ordinary men and women, and looking for common European ways of combatting unemployment, safeguarding the environment and promoting solidarity. Here, as elsewhere, the Commission will try to speak for the general interest.

The Commission is convinced that the solution to today's problems needs firm action at European level. None of our Member States can truly tackle the problems of unemployment and pollution on its own. Organised crime cannot be resisted by forces which are dispersed. Above all, there can be no effective foreign policy without the existence of joint action at the Union level. This does not mean that everything should be centralised. Subsidiarity means working out the right level for most effective action on whatever question is conceived. That level may be local, regional, national, European or, in some cases, even world-wide.

The context has altered not only within the Union. The international context has changed even more radically. The historic shock waves that began in 1989- on the Union's very doorstep-have not come to a halt. The changes following the fall of the Berlin Wall have borne fruit. The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe have made tremendous efforts, and they have confirmed their attachment to the values that are at the very basis of the Union. The Union, for its part, has committed itself to the integration of these countries.

Herein lies the second challenge. How are these countries to be welcomed into the Union without striking at the foundations of all that has been achieved in forty years of European integration? How, in other words, can we ensure that enlargement will not multiply our weaknesses but unite our forces ? How can we enhance our capacity to take decisions and act when our diversity becomes more pronounced ? Enlargement must represent a new arrangement worked out with our eyes open. We have to be aware of its implications for the institutions and policies of the Union. The Commission is convinced that there is an answer to these questions. There is no compelling reason why an endeavour based on a spirit of openness and solidarity should mean weakness and dilution: enlargement and deepening are perfectly compatible.

If these two challenges - making Europe the business of the citizen and making a success of future enlargement-are to be taken up, we must begin by reminding ourselves of the values and successes of European integration in the past.

The achievements of four decades of European integration

In the 1950s, as the principles which were to lead eventually to the signing of the Treaty of Rome were starting to take shape, the war was still in everyone's mind. The deep psychological scars which it left behind helped to create a consensus as to the basic objectives of European integration: the future would have to be different from the past. And the future has indeed turned out to be very different from the past. Europe has been at peace. Despite the tragedy of unemployment, and the social exclusion which is tearing at the fabric of our societies today, we must not forget that since the 1950s, Europe has been through a wholly unprecedented period of development.

In setting up a Community designed to last indefinitely, equipped with its own institutions, enjoying legal personality and internationally represented in its own name, the Member States have given their allegiance to an 'organisation of states' which is governed by legal provisions particular to the treaties under which it was set up, a fact which makes it fundamentally different from the organisations established by traditional international treaties. They have pooled their sovereign rights and created a new legal order, involving not just the Member States but also their citizens, in the specific fields concerned.

Thus there has sprung up a Community based on law. The states of which it is composed, whether big or small, enjoy equal rights and dignity. The Union which brings them together respects their different identities and cultures; but those differences do not stand in the way of their ability to take decisions and act. This is the fruit of an institutional system with many strengths. Thanks to the principle of subsidiarily, it strikes the proper balance between the Union, the Member States and the regions, it adds a new source of legitimacy common to the people of Europe and it guarantees the effective application of Community law under the review of the Court of Justice. Within this system the Commission plays an indispensable role, acting as the driving force through its right of initiative and its position as guardian of the Treaty. This right of initiative must be preserved intact, if the inevitable confusion and lack of overall direction which would result if there were multiple competing source of initiative, is to be avoided.

This Community is also a Community based on solidarity: solidarity between Member States, solidarity between regions, solidarity between different parts of society, and solidarity with future generations. The European model forges a fundamental link between the social dimension, human rights and civic rights.

This process of integration and the particular approach which it has followed have been keenly watched all over the world. Often, they have served as models for the regional groupings now coming into being in every corner of the globe. It can be said that Europe, the stage for the two greatest conflicts of the century, has-in creating the Community -invented a new form of government in the service of peace.

That is the Community's real achievement. Safeguarding it is vital for the states which form the European Union today and those which aspire to join it. But the progress we have seen since the 1950s has been made only by dint of constant effort; and the lesson of history is that it takes less effort to demolish than to construct and that no achievement is ever final. Merely pointing to past achievements, then, is not enough.

As always in the successive stages of building Europe, what will be needed is determination from the Member States and-more and more-determination on the part of Europe's citizens. They must make their voices heard in the ongoing task of European integration which concerns them so directly.

A twofold objective: democracy and effectiveness

As we look at the analysis in the Commission's report, two main elements emerge which will have to serve as guiding lines for the work of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference:

-the Union must act democratically, transparently and in a way people can understand;
-the Union must act effectively, consistently and in solidarity. This is obvious when we are talking about its internal workings, but it must also be true in its external dealings, where it will have to bring a genuine, European identity to bear.

These, of course, were the objectives before the original drafters of the Treaty of Maastricht, but a look at the way the Treaty works in practice will show that a great deal remains to be done. The prospect of a Union expanded to include 20 Member States further underlines that necessity.

Democracy forms part of the very essence of the Union, while effectiveness is the precondition for its future. That is why those are the two criteria for assessing how the Treaty is working at the moment: and that assessment, in its turn, will produce the major guidelines the Commission will follow at the coming Intergovernmental Conference.

One of the Treaty's basic innovations in terms of democracy is the concept of European citizenship. The object of this is not to replace national citizenship, but to give Europe's citizens an added benefit and strengthen their sense of belonging to the Union. The Treaty makes citizenship an evolving concept, and the Commission recommends developing it to the full. Moreover, although the task of building Europe is centred on democracy and human rights, citizens of the Union have at this stage no fundamental text which they can invoke as a summary of their rights and duties. The Commission thinks this gap should be filled, more especially since such an instrument would constitute a powerful means of promoting equal opportunities and combating racism and xenophobia.

The Commission is delighted that the Union's democratic legitimacy has been strengthened. Making the Commission's appointment subject to Parliament's approval has been an important step in the right direction. The increase in Parliament's legislative powers is another welcome development.

But as decision-making has become more democratic, it has also become complex to an almost unacceptable degree. The 20 or so procedures in use at present should be reduced to three - the assent procedure, a simplified codecision procedure, and consultation. We must put an end to the inconsistencies and ambiguities which have so often sparked conflicts over procedural matters.

In addition to democratic control at the level of the Union, we need to find a way to involve national parliaments more directly and visibly in controlling and guiding the national choices that apply to the Union.

More generally, we need to dispel the obscurity which has descended on the Treaties as a result of successive additions being superimposed one on another. The time has come to simplify matters, drafting the whole text anew to make it more comprehensible. This need for transparency is both a practical and a political necessity.

In the same spirit of openness, the principle of subsidiarity, which took pride of place in the Union Treaty, has begun to change the attitudes of the institutions. Debate on the distribution of powers and the grounds for introducing each new proposal is becoming more regular. But we must go even further. All too often the concept of subsidiarity is put forward for specific or short-term ends as a way of diluting the Union. Yet subsidiarity can also be applied positively, to justify measures which are better taken collectively than in isolation. The full political significance of subsidiarity, as a commitment by the Member States and the institutions to find the best way of serving the citizens of the Union, needs to be underlined. The legitimacy of the institutions also needs to be strengthened. In this context, the Commission believes that Parliament should have the right to give its assent to any amendment to the Treaties.

Lastly, a particular effort should be focused on making our institutional machinery more effective. In the Commission's view, this means paying special attention to the common foreign and security policy and to justice and home affairs. Security at home and abroad are indeed legitimate priorities for every citizen.

The very fact that two different working methods - the Community approach and the intergovernmental approach-coexist in the same Treaty is a source of incoherence. Experience has confirmed the fears previously expressed on this subject. The single institutional framework which was supposed to ensure harmony between the various 'pillars' of the Treaty has not functioned satisfactorily. The proper lessons have to be drawn.

The experience of the common foreign and security policy has been disappointing so far, although we should be wary of making final judgments after only 18 months of its existence. However, the fact is that the possibilities have not been used to best effect, owing to the weaknesses of the Treaty as well as over-restrictive interpretation of its provisions. The Treaty sought to establish greater consistency between political and economic objectives of the Union, but this has not been fully achieved. Adjustments will have to be made so that overlap between different instruments does not lead to paralysis. The Union must develop a genuine common foreign policy commensurate with its economic influence and equipped with effective decision-making machinery; this cannot be achieved through systematic recourse to unanimity. The Treaty laid the foundation for such a policy, and the forthcoming conference should be used to erect an adequate framework for a genuine common security and defence policy, by building up the capabilities of the Western European Union and linking it to the existing common institutions.

Cooperation in justice and home affairs has been ineffectual, and not only because of the lack of coherence in the institutional framework. The instruments available are inappropriate, and the problem is compounded by the cumbersome decision-making process and a complete lack of openness. The Intergovernmental Conference will offer an opportunity to undertake a radical overhaul of these arrangements.

Conclusions

The reflections set out above show that the main issue during the conference will not be an increase in the Union's powers. The Treaty of Maastricht added a number of powers which make the Union a much more ambitious undertaking than it was in the past. One example is economic and monetary union. Here the path has been mapped out and there should be no renewed discussion on the provisions agreed. The recent turbulence on the currency markets merely serves to underline how vital this is.

The main focus will have to be on ways of improving decision-making mechanisms. The increase in the number of states and practical considerations ought naturally to lead to wider use of the majority rule. This will be even more necessary for future enlargements. However, it is absolutely vital that we preserve the nature of the Union as a true community of states and peoples where there is no inbuilt majority or minority.

Further enlargement will not only require the Union to strengthen its decision-making capacity, but will also force us to look more closely at the possibility of different speeds of integration. This concept already exists both in the context of economic and monetary union and in the system set up under the Schengen Agreement - although the latter regrettably still remains outside the Community framework. There is nothing unusual in allowing some Member States a longer period to adjust to certain policies. But it must, in the Commission's view, be done within a single institutional framework and must centre on a common objective. Those states must play their part by not blocking any of their partners who wish to move ahead more quickly.

Permanent exemptions such as that now applying to social policy, which in the last analysis have had the regrettable effect of excluding the Social Charter from the Treaty, create a problem, as they raise the prospect of an a /a carte Europe, to which the Commission is utterly opposed. Allowing each country the freedom to pick and choose the policies it takes part in would inevitably lead to a negation of Europe.

These, then, are the Commission's first thoughts on the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference. The Commission is proposing a Europe in which the different tiers of authority cooperate democratically and effectively to help solve the problems affecting ordinary Europeans. We want to see a strong and independent Europe, taking up its rightful place in the world. Strength requires internal cohesion. Europe must be much more than the sum of its parts. In the new international situation, Europe's role as a pole of stability is more important than ever. That is what is expected of us, but for the moment-as war continues to claim more victims on our continent-we are unable to provide it. Europe must speak with one voice, if major challenges are to be tackled effectively. We want to see a Europe whose people recognise themselves and each other, precisely because of their conviction that an active community with shared values is the key to a peaceful and prosperous future, and to a juster society for all. The Commission will make every effort to fulfil this ambition. It has set itself the task of demonstrating the importance and the potential of this goat for ordinary Europeans and ensuring that the Member States and the institutions are guided by a common interest. In doing so, it will be fulfilling its duty as 'guardian of the Treaty'.

The European market for pet products

by Frederick O. Marshth

The idea that 'trade is better than aid' in achieving long-term and sustainable development is widely accepted. One of the big disappointments of the past three decades has been the declining sham of world trade accounted for by developing countries outside Asia. Today, with liberal economics in the ascendant and trade barriers coming down, the issue is even more pressing. Many studies have been undertaken as to why so many developing countries have become marginalised in the global system of commerce, and what might be done to reverse this trend. Problems include identifying market opportunities (and the related issue of acquiring the necessary information! obtaining finance, acquiring entrepreneurial skills, having access to a skilled labour force and ensuring product quality. This article deals with the first of these-spotting export opportunities and finding out more about them. The focus is on the European market for pet accessories-just one example of a huge number of 'niche' markets in the developed world which developing country entrepreneurs might find worthy of investigation. And for those who think that the term 'niche market 'equals ' too small to be of interest' the author, who is a consultantin the field of pet products, provides some striking statistics. Pet products are surprisingly 'big' business' and the sector offers a range of business opportunities covering raw materials, semi-processed materials and finished products.

Not many people realise that 49% of the 132 million households in the EU (the figure prior to the latest enlargement) keep at least one pet. The pet population, excluding fish, totals 136m and includes 35m dogs, 35m cats and 45m cage birds. There are around 20m 'other small animals', a term which encompasses everything from guinea pigs and hamsters to spiders and exotic snakes. Lastly, there are ornamental fish which are kept in aquaria, bowls and garden ponds. These are to be found in at least 9.5 million European households and although it is difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate of the total number of fish kept as pets, the figure is thought to be around 141m.

The amount of money spent by European owners on their pets is well in excess of ECU 9 billion a year. Most of this goes towards food or health care products but 18% of the total (ECU 1.6bn) is spent on pet accessories. In real terms, this market is forecast to grow by more than 3% per year. This article will focus only on accessories for pets, since many of these can be and are sourced in developing countries.

One should be aware that the EU represents around one third of the total world market for pet products. The North American market is roughly the same size while the remaining third is accounted for by countries in the rest of the world, notably Australia, Japan, South America, South Africa, the Middle East and, increasingly, Russia and Eastern Europe.

The range of products defined as pet accessories is very wide-in excess of 5000 individual articles. Pet accessory manufacturers are, therefore, operating in a highly fragmented market and it is not surprising to find that there are many thousands of enterprises involved. The majority of these are quite small-often 'cottage industries'.

Dogs and cats

Collars available in a large range of materials, and in many colour combinations, fall under this heading. For dogs, there are also leads made of leather, chain, rope, nylon or a combination of these materials. Other canine products include car harnesses, muzzles, training equipment, 'chews' (made of knotted rope or buffalo hide) and scoops (for clearing up dog mess!), kennels and wicker baskets. There is even a 'fashion' market for dog coats. Many of these articles could be produced in ACP countries.

For cats, the largest single item is cat litter, around 1 million tonnes of which is sold in Europe every year. The raw materials are either minerals such as attapulgite, sepiolite, gypsum and bentonite or vegetable-based materials such as maize by-products or wood shavings. Other cat accessories include cat beds, litter trays and cat scratchers or scratching poles.

There are also more than one hundred different articles marketed under the heading of grooming accessories- brushes, combs, clippers, grooming tables etc. Again, many of these could offer production opportunities for ACP countries.

Birds and ornamental poultry

In addition to bird cages and aviaries, made from a variety of materials, and available in many different shapes and sizes, there are also fittings such as perches, swings and ladders, usually made of wood. Other accessories include toys, mirrors and feeding and drinking bowls. Further market opportunities exist in the field of accessories for racing doves and pigeons of which there are several million. Pigeon fanciers, who keep the birds for racing, view their activity as a sport and accordingly, these are not usually included under the heading of pets.

In environmentally-conscious Europe, there is considerable interest in wild birds and many people buy nesting boxes and feeding tables for their gardens. Most are made of wood but other materials, including coconut by-products are also used. Another popular accessory in this category is bird baths.

Other small animals and fish

Accessories for the former include cages and 'homes', exercise and play wheels, tunnels, drinking bottles for rodents and bedding material or litter. In the more specialised market for reptile accessories, terrariums and vivariums will usually contain sand and ground bark from particular trees as well as a range of other natural products used in crafted woodscapes and florascapes.

For fish, the market, other than tanks and bowls, ranges from very 'hightech' electrical equipment to basic materials such as gravel, sand, rock and tree roots. The latter are natural products which only require collecting, washing, sorting or grading. Aquarium gravel, for example, is available in many different colours, sizes and grades and the size of the European market for this product is somewhere in the region of 35 000 tonnes a year. Annual sales of marine salt for aquariums exceeds 1500t. A number of firms specialise in the production of crafted replicas of natural fossil. Aquarium plants are another specialised accessory. These are grown on farms in many countries. Singapore exports plants to the value of ECU 8.5 million each year. There is a related niche market for artificial aquarium plants while ornaments, including statuary for ponds (whether or not they contain fish), should not be overlooked.

Finally there are a number of accessories that are adaptable for different pets-toys, beds, feeding and drinking bowls and carriers made out of wicker, wood, metal and plastic.

Diverse product range

Manufacturers in ACP countries should be aware that the pet accessories market covers a diverse range of articles from simple raw materials such as rough rock for aquariums, through semi-processed articles to the finished product such as collars and leads. In short, there is a market for everything in this trade with market niches available in the low, medium and high price ranges.

In Europe, the distribution chain for pet accessories includes a specialist retail sector (pet shops, garden centres, seed merchants etc) as well as the general grocery sector whose outlets in some countries have a significant share of the accessory market. Specialist mail order businesses provide yet another distribution channel. One German firm, for example, publishes a 200 page mail order catalogue containing articles only for dogs. Almost every country has a pet trade press which published monthly magazines read by people working in the trade. In most countries, there is a national pet trade association which brings together manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Some of these also organise trade fairs. Trade fairs and exhibitions specialising in pet products including accessories are held in most European countries. The largest and most important of these is 'Interzoo' which is held biannually in Germany. Almost 600 firms from all over the world exhibit at this event, which attracts more than 18000 trade visitors.

Currently, most of the pet accessories from developing countries marketed in Europe come from Asia. This raises several questions.. Why only from this region? Is it because their producers and exporters are more innovative? After all, many of the raw materials are available in ACP countries. There are clearly manufacturing opportunities here for the ACPs -as long as exporters provide the right product in the right place, at the right time and at the right price. Could it be that nobody, as yet, has recognised the potential of the sector. Many ACPs have the requisite raw materials and labour force. If the necessary finance, management initiative and market information could be added to this, there is no reason why entrepreneurial firms in ACP countries should not succeed in carving out profitable niches in this growing market.

F.M.