This article is part of our special report Raw materials in the EU economy.
Cristian Bușoi, the chair of the European Parliament’s industry and energy committee, says MEPs are eager for a far-reaching strategy from the European Commission.
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, spoke with members of the European Parliament’s industry and energy committee on Tuesday (28 January). There, he gave them a further idea of what will be in the Commission’s industrial policy strategy, due later this year.
Among other things, Breton said the strategy will look at the issue of resource scarcity.
“Industry is going to need critical materials, and it’s going to become more crucial in supply,” the French EU commissioner said.
“We’ve defined this list, we’ve updated it, but in our geopolitical risk assessment, we need to see what we have available in Europe. We have a lot of critical materials in Europe that we haven’t found, and with the new generation of Copernicus [satellites] we’ll be able to develop these technologies which will enable us to get a better idea of what we have”.
After Breton’s appearance, EURACTIV spoke with centre-right Romanian MEP Cristian Bușoi, the committee’s chairman.
What did members of the industry committee hear from Commissioner Breton about the upcoming industrial policy strategy?
First of all, I hope that they understood that there is a vision from this Commission and Commissioner Breton. Of course, the final vision should take into account their comments and the position of our colleagues.
We’re in direct contact with the Commission and hopefully we’ll see something that’s very ambitious and give us a clear pathway for the future, something that will be in total accordance with the Green Deal objectives and enhance our digital strategy.
There are a lot of voices telling the Commission what to prioritise. What do you think are the most important elements that should be included in the strategy?
The strategy should be aligned with the Green Deal, and we have to use this to make an advantage for global competition. Europe is already very advanced and we have to use that to give ourselves an advantage. Europe could enhance its capacity in research and clean technology to be the most important player in the world.
And of course, digitalisation and the management of data should be a priority. We understood today the necessity of this. For industrial data, we should not lag behind like we did for private data.
Commissioner Breton spoke about scarcity of critical materials and how to enhance knowledge of what the EU has within its own borders. Are you confident that the industrial strategy can tackle this issue?
This issue is not easy to tackle. We have some scarcity also regarding the funds available under the EU budget.
What the EU is putting together in terms of budget is not much, at just 1% of European GDP. We’re having a lot of discussions and it’s not easy to increase European funds overall. So here we have to organise as best as possible to maximise efficiency in how we invest and how we use our funds in order to achieve industrial targets.
Also, member states should align their political and industrial policies with the European strategy and pull together their resources
The other area today that came up a lot in the committee meeting was competition with other areas of the globe. There was some concern among some MEPs about how seriously the Commission is taking that. Were you satisfied with Commissioner Breton’s answers on that competitiveness question?
I think he’s very much aware. In his opening statement he mentioned competition with the big players on management of data – players like the US and China but also others. It’s not the only area we are in competition with them, and of course the competition is very difficult.
I think the European Commission is aware of this, and this is why sometimes when you talk about the Green Deal, you have to take into account Europe’s competitiveness and make sure jobs aren’t lost. It’s important to be the leaders, to show the way for the future, and I hope the other [global players] will align, because up till now it’s not very clear when it comes to reducing the emissions of the planet’s economies. That’s why you have to take this into account and that’s why you have to be smart and do the transition as well as possible.
On that note, Commissioner Breton also fully defended President Von der Leyen’s idea for a carbon border tax. Do you support this idea?
Yes I think this is a good mechanism, let’s discuss the details.