Jan Woźniak: an Energy Union could strengthen our bargaining power

Jan Woźniak: an Energy Union could strengthen our bargaining power

“Imposing further restrictions on industry, without parallel moves in other parts of the world, will lead to the ultimate slow death of the EU’s industry.”

Jarosław Adamowski (JA): Impexmetal is active in the non-iron metals industry, with more than 30 subsidiaries in Poland and abroad. What has been the impact of the EU regulations on the emissions of CO2, on the sector in which Impexmetal operates?

Jan Woźniak (JW): The EU regulations related to the emissions of CO2 have a major importance for all industrial sectors, not just Impexmetal. On the one hand, given the high dependency of Poland’s energy sector (and energy is one of the key costs incurred by the metals industry) on coal, these regulations are a major handicap to our competitiveness, and yet, on the other one, they foster innovativeness. So, in this sense, they are both a barrier and an incentive for development. In the long-term, the regulations which limit CO2 emissions will positively impact on economic development, but they are currently limiting the possibilities of competing against companies from outside of the EU, which are not bound by such restrictive regulations.

JA: The ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by Brussels and Washington could have a significant impact on the competitiveness of the EU’s industry. Is Impexmetal hoping that this will lead to a facilitation of Europe’s access to the US market? Would such a development be beneficial to the non-iron metals sector?

JW: Impexmetal has been present on the US market for many years. With regards to our volume of sales there, it is not an important market for us. However, we support all activities which can lead to increasing competitiveness and reducing the artificial barriers imposed by governments. Naturally, we will do our best to benefit from the arising TTIP opportunity to expand our sales to the US, so this does present an opening to further develop our group. I am convinced we will make the most of it.

JA: A number of developed countries, such as the US, emit more CO2 per capita than numerous EU Member States, such as Poland. Despite this, the EU regulations are imposing increasingly tight limits on companies. Is the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) enabling European companies to successfully compete at global level in its current shape?

JW: As I already mentioned, the EU’s policy regarding CO2 emissions is forcing all companies active in the production sector to seek innovativeness. In the long-term, it seems that it is the right thing to do. The question is: what percentage of European industry will remain active in the distant future? There are increasingly strong tendencies to shift production outside of the EU, i.e. to Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, or some of the Balkan states. Imposing further restrictions on industry, without parallel moves in other parts of the world, will lead to the ultimate slow death of the EU’s industry.

JA: Bearing this in mind, how important is it for the metals industry to secure a place on the EU’s carbon leakage list?

JW: Impexmetal Group mostly consists of production facilities which have low CO2 emissions. We do, however, understand the risks related to the pushing of the energy-intensive industries from outside of the EU, which is caused by rising operational costs. This will surely translate into a permanent decrease in the available jobs in Europe.

JA: What are the potential benefits, which could be provided for the EU’s industry, as a result of stronger solidarity between its Member States, regarding deliveries of energy, as expressed in the Energy Union package developed by the European Commission?

JW: The principal benefit would consist of an enormous bargaining power held by those Member States wanting to jointly purchase energy sources. Taking into consideration the diversified prices paid by those countries, i.e. for natural gas, the potential benefits would total hundreds of millions, if not billions of euros. However, this would require respective countries and companies to give up on their individual, particular interests, and it seems the time is not right for this yet.

JA: How important is it for Impexmetal to co-operate with companies from other Central European countries? Should companies from the energy sector and energy-intensive industries work together to further develop European industry and increase its competitiveness?

JW: This is a very interesting initiative. It allows an increase in the effectiveness of the activities, which aim to obtain a certain balance between those who are in favour of a maximum decrease in industry’s impact on the environment, and businessmen, for whom it is of the utmost importance to rationalise the implemented “green” solutions. Through such a rationalisation, I am referring to a policy which enables us to carry out business activities, without fearing the influence of politics, or, more precisely, the influence of regulations which have the power to drive a business to bankruptcy almost overnight, and, at the same time, a policy that fosters pro-environmental innovations. In my opinion, this is the only way forward – joint actions by numerous players can help us to find shortcuts, and also make the road to success easier.

JA: What are the means through which your group’s companies can increase their competitiveness in compliance with the rules of the World Trade Organisation?

JW: Fair and equal rules for all the players are all we need to successfully compete against other producers. So, let me repeat, the point that we should aim to scrap all the artificial barriers which hamper trade.

Interview with Jan Woźniak, Director of Development, Member of the Board at Impexmetal, conducted by Jarosław Adamowski, Specialist, Grupa LOTOS S.A.