Making the most of recovery: A more dynamic, resilient and competitive European industry through investments in the green transformation #CleanIndustry
Ministers held via video conference an informal policy debate on how to make the most of the EU’s recovery plan to achieve a more dynamic, resilient and competitive European industry through investments in the green transition. The discussions followed up on the conclusions on ‘A recovery advancing the transition towards a more dynamic, resilient and competitive European industry’, which were adopted by the Council on 16 November through a written procedure. They should serve as the Council’s input to the Commission’s preparatory work for updating its ‘New Industrial Strategy for Europe’.
A competitive and resilient EU industry in a more integrated and fully functioning single market will be the backbone of our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. It is our duty to provide guidance on our plan for industrial policy in the years and the decade ahead. This entails working for – and ensuring – the most adequate legal framework for a swift, just and sustainable transition towards a green and digital economy as well as setting the right incentives, also in financial terms, for taking the technological route towards a competitive future.
Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
The Commission confirmed its intention to update the New Industrial Strategy for Europe in order to take into account lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis, such as the need to reduce the EU’s dependence on external supply and demand in strategic sectors and materials, as well as to increase investment in the green and digital transition with regard to technological and digital innovation.
Ministers broadly shared the view that that the green transition of EU industry is a precondition for achieving climate neutrality and other climate targets. The announced update of the New Industrial Strategy for Europe should therefore encourage more investments in sustainable, green and digital innovation, as well as more pan-European cooperation in key sustainable and green technologies in order to make this a success story.
Many ministers underlined the need to find the most suitable and efficient way to progress with the green transition while strengthening the competitiveness of EU industry, in particular its energy-intensive sectors.
Several voices stressed that industry needs clarity and predictability and questioned the appropriateness of modifying agreed intermediate targets.
Many ministers emphasised the relevance of a fully functioning single market, especially in the field of services, and a stable regulatory environment, notably for investments.
While several ministers spoke in favour of launching new Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs) in various sectors and strategic value chains, others pointed out that IPCEIs were just one of the relevant tools available and should be limited to situations of market failure. Several pleaded in favour of increasing the inclusiveness of IPCEIs, be it in terms of geographical coverage or the size of the participating enterprises.
A number of ministers underlined the relevance of an open economy for a competitive, prosperous and resilient EU industry.
Other key aspects mentioned included the need to promote the circular economy and industrial alliances, as well as the important role played by research and innovation in securing the successful implementation of the main objectives of the EU industrial policy strategy in a cost-effective manner.
In response to repeated calls by the European Council, the Commission published its communication on the New Industrial Strategy for Europe in March 2020.
The COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the European economy reinforced the need for a swift, ambitious and comprehensive industrial policy response at EU and national level, covering all industrial ecosystems.
The Commission recently announced an update of the New Industrial Strategy for Europe, which would be presented in the first half of 2021 and would take into account the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, the global competitive context and the need to accelerate the twin green and digital transitions. Ministers’ discussions on 19 November (together with the Council conclusions mentioned above) will be the Council’s input to the Commission’s preparations in this regard
Any other business
a) 2020 annual report of the SME Envoy Network
The Commission presented the 2020 annual report of the SME Envoy Network. The report provides an overview of the latest trends in the performance of SMEs in Europe and summarises the work done by the SME envoys in 2020. It also presents the activities planned by the network in 2021 as well as recommendations for action.
b) New Consumer Agenda
The Commission presented its communication on the new European Consumer Agenda, which was adopted on 13 November.
As the current European Consumer Agenda will expire at the end of 2020, the Commission considers it necessary to take a fresh look at priorities for the coming years, especially in the light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission’s objective is to reinforce synergies between the EU and national consumer policies around several priorities, in particular the green and digital transitions and effective enforcement of consumer rights online.
c) Work programme of the incoming presidency
The Portuguese delegation presented the main priorities of its upcoming presidency in the field of the internal market and industry. It was noted that it intends to focus on:
- reinforcing the EU single market,
- updating the New Industrial Strategy,
- the external dimension of competitiveness,
- strategic value chains and the role of SMEs,
- fostering sustainable tourism,
- the digital empowerment of citizens and businesses,
- the data economy and connectivity,
- a future-proof digital framework (Digital Services Act and Digital Market Act),
- the New Consumer Agenda,
- data science innovating better regulation.