The relevance of a new industrial policy which can face the challenges of the 21st century was recently debated extensively, during a joint European Policy Centre and European Economic and Social Committee Conference titled: ‘A New Industrial Policy for Europe’.
The event, held on the 12th of November in Brussels, brought together the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska, and other stakeholders and experts.
[Tweet "Tajani stressed that a modern industrial policy has to be combined with environmental policy"]Time to renew commitment towards an industrial policy
President Tajani stressed that a modern industrial policy has to be combined with environmental policy, and it has to be a policy that gives industry the chance to develop. European industrial policy should be targeted towards growth in all possible areas. At the same time, Europe constantly faces the threat of investment leakage and relocation, due to high energy prices in Europe, a steady decrease in manufacturing accelerated by the crisis, significant competition disadvantages, and a lack of alignment between industrial and competition policy.
Accelerate and integrate
During her closing speech, Elżbieta Bieńkowska highlighted the point that an industrial policy fit for the challenges of the 21st century is at the focus of the European Commission’s policy to boost growth, jobs and investment. Her motto on the path to creating a modern, pragmatic and focused industrial policy is to “accelerate and integrate”: to accelerate implementation of concrete actions to support a competitive industrial economy, whilst integrating competitiveness in all policy areas.
Industrial strategy priorities
Bieńkowska identified four basic priorities of her industrial strategy to be included in her early-2015 road-map for industry:
- better access to markets, both in the EU and beyond
Improvement of industrial competitiveness depends largely on the completion of the single market, but future success is also dependent on international markets.
- access to resources: finance, energy, raw materials and skills
The prices of energy in Europe are some of the highest energy prices in the world with high dependence on imports, resulting in high costs, particularly for energy-intensive industries. Hence, there is an urgent need for energy efficiency improvements, both for society and industry. An Energy Union should be quickly established in order to create a competitive and integrated internal energy market.
- ability to invest in innovation and modernisation
An innovation-friendly environment for industry needs to be created, using all tools, including the Horizon 2020 Programme, and industry needs to be modernised to be able to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
- favourable business environment
Companies need a business-friendly, regulatory environment committed to simplicity and predictability. The regulatory and administrative burden should be reduced, whilst, at the same time, protecting intellectual property rights. The time and cost of setting up new businesses should be cut.
The Commissioner focused on the competitiveness and sustainability of industry, enumerating also the main challenges – one of them being investment: “The biggest problem facing Europe’s industry is the dramatic fall in investment, which is 20% below the pre-crisis levels.” At the event, Bieńkowska referred to her well-known catchphrase from the EP hearing: “Let’s get Europe back to work” and responded to the oft-quoted remark that “Industry is not a problem for Europe!” “On the contrary,” she retorted, “it is the biggest chance, and it is our biggest chance, to build a competitive and innovative economy of the future!”