From the DG's desk: Industry's role in protecting Europe's citizens and freedoms

1 August 2019

This is part of a series looking at t...

This is part of a series looking at the priorities of the European Council and President-Elect of the European Commission ahead of the start of a new legislative term in the autumn. Orgalim Director General Malte Lohan discusses the role of Europe’s technology industries in supporting the EU policy objectives that matter most to European citizens.

Feeling free and safe in Europe is something most of us have been lucky enough to take for granted in our lifetimes. But recent years have seen a sense of ill-ease emerge as global turbulence has sent shockwaves reverberating within the EU. Add to that a worrying trend of populist opportunists who hope to roll back fundamental civic liberties by exploiting public fears, and it is not surprising that protecting Europe’s citizens, freedoms and values is high on the list of priorities for the EU’s Heads of State and incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

What does industry have to do with any of this – surely ensuring citizens’ security and upholding the rule of law is a core task of government? On the face of it, of course this is the case. But in practice, EU governments and policymakers will not be able to deliver on these goals working in isolation. Europe will need a pooling of resources to strengthen security at home and an active daily commitment to uphold the freedoms we enjoy and the values we share. Here, industry has an important part to play as a key stakeholder in the EU’s future.

On a very practical level, industry contributes to greater security in the physical and digital worlds. They are so effective we barely notice them, but the products and systems developed by the technology industries make Europe a safer place to live: from the airport security systems that safeguard our skies, to the in-car tech that prevents crashes, to the fire protection or home security systems that protect us where we live and work. And with the ever-growing integration of digital tech and data into industrial processes and outputs, robust cybersecurity is also a top priority for technology companies – making us a key partner for policymakers in shaping an effective EU cybersecurity framework for the future. 

At a more fundamental level, the protection and freedoms Europe can provide to its citizens will depend on maintaining growth in our economy. This will be the only way to effectively fund our social and medical safety net and give people the freedom to choose where they work, how they balance career and family, how they will finance their retirement. Without a functioning economy these choices don’t exist – and that in turn requires a healthy industry as the economy’s backbone (the technology industries represented by Orgalim, for example, have been growing ahead of the wider economy for a number of years now).

Lastly, industry can and must play a role in supporting all efforts to defend the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the EU treaties. It may sound abstract but the consequences are very real, as our industries are well aware. After all, we have benefited enormously from the ‘four freedoms’ to expand operations and supply chains across the Single Market. The rule of law, too, is absolutely essential for investment and innovation in our sectors and beyond.

Lastly, industry can and must play a ...

The most important lesson of recent years is that we can no longer take these freedoms for granted. Industry must be vocal at EU level but also in our own home countries in standing up for these fundamental rights. Awareness raising ahead of the European elections was one recent opportunity to do this, with many of our member associations as well as Orgalim itself engaged to ‘bring out the vote’ among employees – working through our vast network of companies across Europe to take a clear stance on the value of a strong and united Europe. Together with policymakers and societal stakeholders, we in industry must contribute to the active work of maintaining the freedoms and values that are the foundation of our prosperity and wellbeing as Europeans.

Join me back here next week when I’ll be looking at our industries’ role in developing the European economic model for the future – and if you want to weigh in on how industry and policy can shape a future that’s good for Europe, we would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter or LinkedIn.