The news of the layoff upset the news conference that Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt gave alongside European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Copenhagen.
Despite the festive mood, all questions from Danish journalists referred to the fresh news that Vestas would cut 2,335 jobs this year in a cost-cutting effort announced earlier.
Creating green jobs features high among the objectives of the Danish presidency. Green growth, green technology and green standards were among the keywords repeated by various Danish representatives with whom a group of 66 Brussels-based journalists met during the last few days.
Pressed to comment on the Vestas layoffs, Thorning-Schmidt said she had heard the previous day the “very, very sad news”. “This is one of the businesses that we thought will be the new way of doing things,” she said.
But she said she still believed investments were needed in green technologies and energy efficiency. Denmark and Europe should remain world leaders in energy efficiency, new technologies and green technologies, “not only because we think it’s good for the environment, but because it’s a good business for Europe,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
“That is why we are so focused on moving this dossier forward in our presidency. It must be the way forward, and I’m sure that despite this setback, this is and will be the right approach.”
Barroso said he didn’t know the exact economic circumstances for the layoffs, but added that he knew Vestas well, having visited the company.
“Let’s be frank – most likely, this is the reflection of the overall crisis we are having, not only in Europe,” he said.
Barroso said that if Europe were “serious” with its energy efficiency agenda, regulatory means could help open new markets in this field.
“It’s a setback, let’s be honest,” Barroso said, adding that nevertheless, it should not divert the Union from the goals it had set on energy efficiency and diversification.
Reacting to reports that some of the jobs lost would go to China, Barroso said that the positive side of the story was that Beijing was making more investments in renewables and cleaner technologies.
“If you want to save the planet and fight climate change, you should be happy that others are also giving attention that they were not giving before to this common goal,” he said.
Commission to announce position on Hungary on Tuesday
Asked about the apparent authoritarian drift in Hungary, where the government has recently adopted a controversial constitution an laws seen as restricting key freedoms, Barroso avoided political considerations. On this matter, he said, the Commission was taking a legalist approach.
He said the EU executive was completing its analysis of laws adopted recently by the Hungarian government and would announce on 17 January whether they are compatible with European law.
The Commission, he said, was prepared to use all its powers to make sure that Hungary complies with the rules, values and principles of the EU.