Europe’s industrial value chains: The road to prosperity and growth

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This article is part of our special report Raw materials: Aiming for sovereignty.

This year marks a major transition period in Brussels: the newly elected European Parliament took office in July, the next College of Commissioners will start its work at the end of the year, and the European Council has a new leadership.

New policy priorities are set along with the institutional changes, with the digital transformation and the European clean energy transition topping the institutions’ agenda. Commission President elect Ursula von der Leyen announced a firm commitment to establish a European Green Deal in the first 100 days of office to enshrine the proposed European 2050 climate-neutrality target into law.

Roman Stiftner is Secretary General of EUMICON, the European Mineral Resources Confederation.

In light of increasing global competition and the threat of the European industry falling behind, urgent questions arise: what is the five-year outlook of the EU’s industrial agenda? Which priorities and measures will be central to the strengthening and continuous improvement of the European industry’s competitiveness and furthermore, to the establishment of a European Green Deal?

In recent years, economic uncertainty is constantly growing: the current economic downturn coupled with rising distortions in global competition and imbalances in the functioning of the world market pose a serious threat to European industries. In light of asymmetrical conditions of competition and anti-competitive behaviour, such as increasing imports at dumped prices from the Chinese market and corresponding excess capacities distorting the global market, it is crucial to establish a level playing field for the entire industrial value chain in Europe and the involved companies.

In the immense challenge of deploying green technologies and expanding the use of renewable energy, strengthening the technological revolution, and further developing artificial intelligence and the internet of things, raw materials will become indispensable given their crucial function to nearly all technologies which are required for Europe’s digital transformation and climate transition.

Therefore, it is essential for Europe to considerably foster and preserve the competitiveness of its own industrial value chains. This is necessary not only from an economic perspective in order to strengthen European companies’ competitiveness and secure and further create jobs, but also from an environmental perspective. Promoting European industrial value chains plays a crucial role in the achievement of EU-wide and global climate and sustainability goals given that the production and processing of raw materials within Europe leads to a reduction in CO2equ-emissions, as compared to third countries. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, 1 ton of additional emissions in Europe resulting from increasingly processed intermediate products leads to average global savings of 1.24 tons of CO2equ in all material sectors.

It is vital to develop and deploy green technologies and innovations, such as to reduce overall energy consumption, while at the same time ensuring secure, sustainable and – in particular -competitively priced energy for industries. Therefore, EU energy policymakers need to develop green regulatory measures which go hand in hand with the European industry to avoid jeopardising the latter’s global competitiveness.

Our lately developed Common Vision, drafted through the contributions of stakeholders along the entire industrial value chain, is a remarkable example demonstrating EUMICON’s role as a proactive player in the promotion of European industrial value chains that is well aware of the importance of cross-sectoral and overall cooperation with policymakers. This set of positions contains a wide range of policy recommendations, like e.g the introduction of specific policy key performance indicators in order to monitor the implementation of policies and their impact on sustainability and efficiency from a holistic perspective; or the establishment of an ambitious research, development and innovation (RD&I) programme that addresses the main challenges facing the shift towards competitive, low-CO2 processes in energy-intensive industries.

We consider the multitude of current challenges that affect the European industrial location as a unique opportunity to create a new mindset of ensuring prosperity and societal progress. As a proactive representative of the raw material and mineral value chain, we firmly believe in promoting and symbolising the harnessing of European excellence, thereby effectively contributing to the incoming Commission President von der Leyen’s ambition to “promote the European way of life”.

EUMICON commits itself to the European Commission’s approach to sustainability and the development of a circular economy and believes that a comprehensive EU industrial agenda is essential for the future of the European industry. With innovate industrial policies at EU-level, EUMICON can be an indispensable player in successfully tackling the clean energy transition and the digitalisation by contributing to a far-reaching and forward-looking European industrial agenda.

The European Mineral resources Confederation EUMICON is a platform for strategic discussion processes and technology transfer focused on mineral resources. The platform creates links between public entities and institutions, domestic and international interest groups, the mineral resources industry, and science and research. EUMICON addresses topics along the entire mineral resources value chain, from extraction, to treatment and refinement, to use in processing and production, all the way to recycling. EUMICON regards sustainable life-cycle management and the responsible use of resources and energy as key priorities.

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