CEPE’s Managing Director for 15 years says farewell

Jan van der Meulen answers a few questions from his home office while about his time at CEPE. Since April he is succeeded by Christel Davidson as Managing director of CEPE. We talked about his time in this position, which he held for 15 years.

Jan van der Meulen CEPE

What were milestones during your period?

Jan van der Meulen: When I joined CEPE a process had just started to change the membership structure. Being before an Association of associations, CEPE had to turn into a body with direct company membership all across Europe. Managing that change and finding with the National Associations a new way of co-operating was a milestone we achieved after some three years of hard work together. The set up and effectiveness improvement of the working groups that CEPE hosts would be another one. With our relatively small staff we curently run some 40 CEPE/EuPIA working groups. And over 250 delegates from companies find it useful to be involved in these groups. Our ‘CEPE workplace’ is a great support for this. The expertise in these groups facilitated CEPE and EuPIA to lobby at the EU institutions for conditions our industry needs.

Setting up the annual CEPE conference with Vincentz Network as organizer I also consider a milestone. The leaders of our industry have therewith a platform to be updated on developments and I believe it has created a society with even some family characteristics. The annual CEPE report that is always first presented at these conferences goes with that milestone. And if I may mention a last one, then I would say the establishment of the communication directly to the members and the set-up of industry statistics. 

What was most challenging during your tenure?

van der Meulen: It was and still is: to get authorities to listen to our opinions and ideas when they come with new legislative proposals. When I joined CEPE we were in the midst of the political discussions on a new chemicals management regulation called REACH. Defending our position as downstream user and ensuring that it would be workable and that business intellectual property was not violated were keeping us busy in monthly meetings.

During these meetings we evaluated some 4000 amendments that different political parties brought forward. And now REACH is part of our daily business, but we still have to be on the alert that the EU Commission is not using this legislative instrument for issues it was not meant for. Challenges from the more recent years were for sure the classification of TiO2 and the administrative burdens that come from the reporting to the Health Response Centres – known as poison centres by the public. With all the topics including the ones of today, such as biocides and microplastics, we have to educate the legislator and be convincing in our arguments.

What will you miss most regarding the coatings industry?

van der Meulen: Before I answer let me also include the printing ink industry. It was my colleague Martin Kanert, from the German Paint and Printing Inks Industry VdL, his first responsibility to look after EuPIA, but I was often also participating in several of the EuPIA working groups. But including my time before CEPE I spend 40 years in the coating industry. After my degree in chemistry, I entered via a research lab into this world of formulations that bring colour and protection. If at the end of my career I know have to answer such question, I believe it will be the people. Especially the years with CEPE have brought me to know a lot of people with whom it was a pleasure to work. Both professionally and socially.

Good meetings and fine dinners in Brussels. I always have loved interaction with people. Both with the CEPE staff and with all the delegates from companies that attended the meetings. I will miss their professionalism and their humor, the ingredients that I have come to known as critical for success throughout my career. That’s why I find it so sad at this moment that under the Corona conditions we have to cancel in-person meetings and conferences and have to fall back on webinar meetings. The paint and printing industry overall is a community where the players have proven to be able to find a positive way of co-operating when it comes to matters that benefits the whole sector. So yes, missing the people of this industry is my answer. 

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