From the DG’s desk: 2019 in review
17 December 2019
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Brussels, and as we hurtle towards the end of another year it’s the perfect moment to reflect on the past twelve months.
For the EU, 2019 was truly a landmark year. The European Parliament elections in May saw turnout scale heights not seen for decades. And while the results attested to growing political fragmentation across the continent, the right-wing nationalist tide appears to have ebbed – for now, at least.
Ursula von der Leyen was appointed the next President of the European Commission, taking office with her team on 1 December just in time to see out the year-end in the Berlaymont. I don’t think I’m alone in noticing a sense of energy in the air around the new Commission’s ambitious programme: from the freshly announced European Green Deal to the proposals on digital transformation expected in 2020, they have set the bar high. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating of course, and public support for the EU lies in the balance – although it is encouraging to see the latest Eurobarometer survey putting this support at among its highest rate in years.
2019 also saw a completely new conversation emerge around industry at the highest political level. The Commission’s decision to block the Siemens-Alstom merger back in February revived a debate long dormant, with some politicians calling for a revision to EU competition law to support future ‘European champions’. As competitive pressure rises from China in particular, it’s a question not likely to be put to rest any time soon.
Yet the last twelve months also witnessed the rise of a more positive narrative around EU industry’s strengths. It seems policymakers increasingly recognise that Europe’s innovative technology companies will not only contribute to a more prosperous economy, but will be instrumental in addressing many of the broader challenges facing our society – from climate change, to the digital transformation, to meeting the needs of an ageing population. This was recognised in the report of the ‘Industry 2030’ High-Level Roundtable, where Orgalim was represented by our then-President Tomas Hedenborg. Published this summer, the report is intended to set the direction for EU industrial strategy in the coming years. Seen in this light, the fact that ‘industry’ is not a priority unto itself in the new Commission’s programme could be seen as a sign of how far we have come: rather, industry is an integral element across priorities ranging from the European Green Deal to making Europe fit for the digital age, a partner in delivering the solutions EU citizens are calling for.
Needless to say it has been a whirlwind year for us at Orgalim, too. With the ‘future of Europe’ debate reaching fever pitch in the opening weeks of 2019, we planted our flag firmly in the ground with the release of ‘2030: an industry vision for a renewed Europe’. Throughout the year, our policy teams got to work on the concrete actions that can translate this vision into a reality by shaping an enabling framework at EU level, from energy and climate policy to the circular economy, AI, cybersecurity, data, innovation, the Internal Market, and trade.
Needless to say it was a challenge to evolve our political priorities as we prepared for the new Commission – as it is never possible to cover all angles, choices must sometimes be made. Yet I am certain that ultimately the groundwork we laid over the past 12 months has set us on the right path for successful engagement, with clear and deep synergies between our priorities and the priorities set out by President von der Leyen: from the digital and climate transformations, to enabling European leadership in a new competitive landscape, to putting the needs of citizens at the heart of EU policy.
2019 also saw the launch of the updated Orgalim brand identity and communications channels, designed to reflect the dynamic and forward-looking spirit of our industries. And we were present at all key debates in Brussels and beyond – whether organising sessions at EU Industry Days and EU Sustainable Energy Week, playing an active role in the High-Level Expert Group on AI, or bringing together key stakeholders at our own flagship conference ‘Reinventing Europe’s Industrial Leadership’ in November. Closing out the year, we welcomed our new President Rada Rodriguez in November, who comes to the role with an exciting list of priorities for the coming months.
On a personal note, it has been great to experience the positive energy around the evolution of Orgalim over this past year. We have come a long way in a short time, and it is all down to the engagement and expert input of our member associations and the dedication and enthusiasm of our Secretariat team. So I am really looking forward to what 2020 will bring. Working together with our President, our members across Europe and our partners in industry and policy here in Brussels, we are ready to build on the successes of 2019 in the new year and beyond. Our goal for 2020 is to work with policymakers and partners to leverage all the tools at Europe’s disposal to enable our industries’ future global success and leadership – maximising the contribution technology and innovation can make to the EU and its citizens. Now more than 65 years since our founding, Orgalim remains as committed as ever to working to shape a future that’s good for Europe.
Wishing you a very happy festive season and all the best for 2020 – from all of us at Orgalim!