Bie?kowska: We can make a tangible difference

Elz?bieta Bien?kowska [European Parliament/Flickr]

Her remit is broad. “Europe has to be competitive by setting and keeping to its really high environmental standards,” said Internal Market Commissioner El?bieta Bie?kowska. “We have to lead to the situation when industrialisation and environmentally friendly development aren’t contrary.”

El?bieta Bie?kowska is Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. She was interviewed by ?Editor-in-Chief & Managing Director of EURACTIV Poland, Karolina Zbytniewska.

 

You have already coined a phrase “Let’s put Europe back to work!” How are you planning to do it?

First we have to organize ourselves.  I received two different Commission portfolios merged, so we have to make their operations “natural” and coherent. We have to do it really quickly, in a few weeks.

It sounds really technical

First things first. By this reorganization, we will acquire an effective tool that will enable responding to the very real challenges facing the Juncker Commission. Very technical, but needed.

Currently, a whole Commission is preoccupied (with) the 300 bn euro growth, jobs and investment package for Europe. Parallel to this my team, and I (are) involved in several other vital projects, like digital agenda, and energy union.

Quite diverse issues.

The portfolio I am responsible for is very broad and touches almost every area of the Commission’s activity.  So, although the first week in place was a little slower, starting this Monday we are accelerating. And what I see already scares me, as I will definitely have more work than on a national level.

But do you think Europe can be put to work in this top-down manner,  from the EC level? I suppose Europeans need to believe in Europe to cooperate.

It must go both ways. Of course, the EU level is rather far from the reality of individual citizens or the workings of SMEs. But it is important – also to me personally – to maintain direct contact with the real life, with the real SMEs, with associations of SMEs, with local governments.

I really believe that throughout these five years, we can make a tangible difference, as SMEs and, more generally, industry, may realistically shake the crisis off Europe. Focusing on these areas will put Europe on the right track.

And the right track is…

Growth, jobs, competitiveness.

But those are slogans everyone is repeating while Europe doesn’t grow. It is uncompetitive and the unemployment rates are rather high.

Of course those are only words, but they reflect real needs. Europe has 24.5 million unemployed, but simultaneously also 2 million vacancies and cannot find the right employees. Europe has the highest energy prices in the world, which prevents competitiveness. So the goals of the new commission reflect the needs, but also address the emotions of European citizens.

In Poland, spirits are quite high as Europe is associated with tremendous funds that in the end translate into everyday reality.

In Poland, we are in quite a different situation, as people feel Europe by regional policy and funds. In other countries, people don’t see the reason to consider that Europe is for them. And we have to change this – those emotions and this attitude.

It won’t be easy when Europeans hear seemingly contrary messages from EU politicians. You are responsible for reindustrialization. How can this strategy be integrated with an ambitious environmental agenda?

Europe has to be competitive by setting and keeping to its really high environmental standards.

Simultaneously, we have to do something to decrease the prices of energy, because it’s impossible to go on like this with energy intensive industries. I will not give you the complete recipe now, but certainly solutions will encompass increasing energy efficiency and investment in clean energy technologies. We shouldn’t also forget about any of the indigenous energy sources possessed by the EU states.

Lower energy prices and less emissions will automatically increase European competitiveness and also make us live more healthily in a clean environment.

So, we have to lead to the situation when industrialization and environmentally friendly development aren’t contrary.

We just need to “Accelerate and integrate”. You say it’s your motto. What exactly do you mean?

Integrate – by this I mean that works on every part of my portfolio – industry, SMEs, single market – have to be integrated and not treated separately. All those areas overlap.

Accelerate – by this I mean simplification. There will be no new legislation until we find out why the old one doesn’t work and what is going wrong.

So, finally cutting the stereotypically European red tape.

Everybody says we have to cut the red tape. But first I want to see for myself what the red tape really means in the EU context. And then we’ll do it.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.