From the DG's desk: Celebrating 65 years of European collaboration

8 November 2019

Orgalim was founded on 8 November 195...

Orgalim was founded on 8 November 1954 – meaning today marks our 65th birthday. Cutting the cake in the secretariat lobby this morning we celebrated 65 years of bringing together technology industry associations from across Europe; 65 years working with policymakers to enable growth, prosperity and innovation in our sectors and across society as a whole.

The roots of this collaboration go back even further, to the first post-war European engineering congress in Paris in 1948. It’s almost impossible to imagine today the task facing these Europeans just a few generations ago. They had experienced the catastrophic effects of extreme nationalism first-hand – the horrific cost to human life, and the economic destruction that left infrastructure in ruins, the workforce decimated, and cross-border trade practically non-existent. There was only one way forward: working together. In the technology industries – as in so many arenas of European economy, society and political life at that time – collaboration was a way not only to re-build, but to build a new Europe.

Orgalim is proud to have played our part in facilitating this collaboration over the last six and a half decades. As the EU has evolved, we have made it our mission to shape a European framework that unlocks the potential of technology to boost Europe’s economy, address societal challenges and strengthen the EU’s leadership on the world stage. And in the pursuit of these goals we have established ourselves as the leading voice of our sectors in Brussels, keeping industrial strategy high on the EU policy agenda – certainly worth raising a glass to!

There’s plenty to celebrate across our industries, too. Today, the technology industries remain the backbone of the European economy: 130,000 companies generating annual turnover of around €2,000 billion, directly employing over 11 million people and accounting for millions of more jobs indirectly , and producing one-third of the EU’s manufactured exports. Beyond the numbers, they are driving innovation to address Europe’s most urgent challenges: delivering the systems to lower carbon emissions, the infrastructure for tomorrow’s smart cities, the healthcare solutions to improve quality of life. 

Of course it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Indeed, today Europe is facing some of its greatest challenges in the post-war period: from the climate emergency to the digital transformation; from increasingly fierce global competition to rising protectionism and trade conflicts. Geopolitical instability is amplified by an ever more fragmented political landscape within the EU, making decision-making and compromise more difficult than ever. Brexit is the most immediate example of public disillusionment with European politics, but anti-EU rhetoric remains potent in many countries. For the new Commission, there can be no time to waste in injecting fresh momentum into the European project; yet already it is delayed in taking office.

Of course it hasn’t all been smooth s...

So while looking back is important – particularly on landmarks like a 65th anniversary – looking forward is even more so. As we head into a new legislative period, we need a renewed understanding of the value of European collaboration in a changing world, both across national borders and between policymakers and industry stakeholders. Because just as a vibrant industry was instrumental in building the prosperous EU we know today, innovation and technology will be at the heart of shaping a future that’s good for all Europeans.

A lot has changed at Orgalim since our founding 65 years ago. We have expanded from the original 12 to 47 members, broadened the scope of our membership to include sector associations, and grown our secretariat to a team of over 30 today. Yet one thing has stayed the same: we are as convinced as ever that cooperation is the only way to rise to Europe’s challenges and turn them into the opportunities of the future. By collaborating within the Orgalim network, our members and the companies they represent are making an important statement: the future of the EU is in all of our hands – as industry representatives, of course, but also as citizens of a Europe that we are proud to build together. If the last 65 years are anything to go by, we know that no challenge is so great it cannot be overcome by engagement and cooperation in pursuit of a shared goal. 

From where I stand, therefore, today is not just a time to celebrate a successful 65 years gone past but is an occasion to look forward to the decades ahead. In my role as Director General, my personal ambition and challenge is to build on Orgalim’s proud history: to ensure that policymakers fully recognise the central role our industries will continue to play in the Europe of 2030 and beyond, and to continue promoting to our industry the value of European collaboration to in a changing world. With this in mind, I am looking forward to discussing what the future holds at our event ‘Reinventing Europe’s industrial leadership’ on 12 November – hope to see you there!