This article is part of our special report Critical raw materials.
There is no doubt that 2020 has been and for the time being will continue to be an enormous testing period for Europe, its industry and especially its citizens.
Roman Stiftner is the Secretary General of EUMICON.
As one reflects on these times and considers the wide-spread fears and the associated pressure under current circumstances, surely many of us can relate to the words of Alan Shearer, one of the best strikers and penalty takers in the history of football, when providing insights on his special ability, taking penalties in decisive moments of the game.
“I always practise penalties, but what people don’t understand is that you can never recreate that pressure situation that you’re under”
Currently, Europe envisions a recovery that aims to help its economy get back on its feet and make its value chains more resilient. The fulfilment of this endeavour resembles a tightrope act which, due to the fragility of our time and the complexity of numerous interrelated mammoth tasks, creates unprecedented pressure on the decision-makers in charge. Amid alarming infection rates and staggering investment sums, another challenging task at decision-making level is to somehow grasp the everyday pressures and fears of those suffering from the ongoing COVID-pandemic. As the severely affected industry has always been the backbone of European prosperity, its recovery will certainly be crucial to all citizens of our continent.
Not so long ago, especially young people confronted the public with their fears with regards to the future of our planet. They successfully managed to be heard by politicians and they are right in their demand for concrete actions. In this quest, highlighting the actual effects of global warming, carrying ordinary people along by reflecting their down to earth perceptions made all the difference. Right now, this approach might be something that the value-added industry in Europe can implement to ensure that key-decisions of today lead to the hoped-for unfolding of tomorrow. For example, what if we started to speak vividly and in a close-to-life manner about the actual consequences for the everyday life of entrepreneurs, employees and our next generation if Europe were to fall behind in global competition?
Achieving a truly level playing field
Looking ahead, China will remain an important trading partner. However, there is the widespread and fast-growing industrial sentiment that ‘one does not have to put up with everything’. Currently, China is leading the global recovery underscored by recent forecasts which suggest that by the end of 2021 the Chinese economy will be 10% larger than by the end of 2019. Vast excess capacities and dumping-products pose an imminent threat to European value chains and contribute substantially to this current outlook, while future prospects for a level playing field become increasingly sobering. Given our core believe in fair and free global trade, contrasting dull protectionism a coherent and robust anti-dumping framework is more urgent than ever.
While specific trade policies can be effective, they must be carefully considered in view of their impact along entire value chains. In this context, it is vital to underline that Europe’s industrial strength has always been linked to the quality of its products and the associated focus on exports. Proposed and much discussed measures such as the carbon border tax or the carbon border mechanism are equipped with the good intention of countering unfair global competitive conditions, but must not lead to a risk for export-oriented industries by potentially causing a spiral of new tariffs and trade barriers in global trade.
Sticks and carrots – Another level playing field
EUMICON is firmly convinced that more ambitious CO2 reduction targets and the associated regulations must go hand in hand with targeted innovation funding in order to enable the long-term success of the economic transformation. In this light, the concept of ‘Strategic Autonomy’ is a significant first step to reduce import independencies for raw materials and rare earth elements which are essential to future technologies, such as batteries, wind generators or solar panels. In a nutshell, sovereign and comprehensive access to raw materials is the foundation on which the ‘green economy’ will be built upon.
In addition to this, the European Raw Material Alliance was launched as an enabling platform for investments in future key-innovations. This initiative underscores the overarching principle that new environmental regulations must be matched by equal funding and innovation support.
Green as the driving force of recovery
In light of rising site costs and energy prices numerous companies may wonder whether they will be able to even survive in the upcoming years. Taking these concerns seriously, we encourage leading policy makers to considerably foster the access to clean and at the same time affordable energy. This includes electricity as well as hydrogen since these sources are of utmost significance to the mobility-automotive, the renewable energy and the low carbon energy intensive industrial ecosystems. The open approach of ensuring energy diversification and technology neutrality provides a major steppingstone for European corporates to become not only sustainability forerunners but once again also potential future market leaders on a global scale.
We as EUMICON are committed to do our part in significantly reducing industrial CO2 emissions and in achieving climate neutrality in Europe. Therefore, we welcome the path taken by the European Commission, to initiate the transformation to a ‘green’ and digitalized economy. Given this enormous undertaking in its nature and the additional quest of overcoming the economic consequences of the COVID-crisis, promoting European industrial ecosystems must generally be at the heart of present European policy making.
Against the background of seemingly innumerable challenges, the European industrial location is facing, we firmly believe in contributing to the European Commission’s ambition, to shape an ‘Economy that works for people’. Just as Alan Shearer excelled under immense pressure, we believe in the opportunity presented by the challenges of our times to elevate Europe’s industry to higher levels. Therefore, EUMICON will expand its role as a proactive player by fostering cross-sectoral cooperation, drafting future-oriented policy solutions, and passionately underscoring the potential of Europe’s ‘Sunrise Industries’.