Ready to build back better
3 September 2020
This ‘rentrée’, for obvious reasons, has a greater air of urgency and importance about it than any I can remember. We have been experiencing a crisis of a magnitude unmatched since the one that brought the European project into being. The next 12 months are going to shape our continent for decades to come. What is being demanded of us now is to have learned from the past, to adapt, and to seize this transformational moment in front of us. I am excited about the potential for Europe to build back better and about the central role that Europe’s technology industries have to play.
Needless to say, the human cost of the pandemic will remain at the forefront. But the consequences are touching every part of our lives. Here at Orgalim, I have to say that the crisis hit us at a difficult time, right in the middle of a complex internal reorganisation. It felt like a perfect storm for a while. My first concern was, and remains, the wellbeing of Orgalim staff and how they would cope. Throughout the chaotic first phase of the pandemic, not only did they cope but they rose to the challenge brilliantly. I couldn’t be more proud of our team for the resilience they have shown and how they have stepped up, switching to remote working literally overnight, building new processes and taking on additional work streams to support our crisis response, all while delivering ongoing programmes. Although we would love to get back to meeting in person, our virtual workplace is running smoothly, our reorganisation is on track, and our teams are buzzing at all levels. For this, much credit is also due to our members who have kept the important work of the various working groups going as well as contributing valuable input on new crisis-related work. I would like to thank all my colleagues and our members for your commitment, professionalism, solidarity and sheer hard work – it is truly appreciated.
As an organisation, what we were able to deliver during these past few months has been remarkable. To support the EU institutions as they focused on the pandemic response, one of the first things we did was to coordinate input from across our members and countries on how to best provide support to industry. The result included our timely recommendations on the EU exit and recovery strategy and our suggestions for prioritising the Commission’s 2020 Work Programme - an extraordinary collective effort at an extremely challenging time for our industries.
What is being demanded of us now is to have learned from the past, to adapt, and to seize this transformational moment in front of us.
We also launched a new online roundtable series, European Industrial Strategy in Focus, to provide an online forum for timely discussion on key industrial policy issues that will determine Europe’s ability to recover from the pandemic. The session on ‘globalisation, ecosystems and the EU’s industrial strategy after the COVID-19 crisis', which I hosted with DG Grow Director General Kerstin Jorna, leaders from the EP and other high-level participants, was attended live by more than 150 people. The series continues to attract broad interest. Meanwhile, throughout the twists and turns of the crisis and the EU’s response, we have not skipped a beat in continuing to represent our industries’ priorities on the ongoing policy agenda: we have published 19 position papers since March.
This health crisis has exposed fault lines in the European project, but it has also reinforced our core values. Everything we took for granted about the Single Market fell apart almost overnight as different member states closed borders (with a devastating impact on our industries), and political decisions were made in haste that were often conflicting and sometimes counterproductive. But solidarity has won out over isolationism, as the unprecedented EU recovery plan has so momentously demonstrated. Populist messages today are finding less receptive ground, and the case for a shared and positive approach to strengthening European resilience and leadership in this uncertain geopolitical landscape seems clearer than ever.
Building a more resilient Europe has everything to do with our technology leadership
So I find myself energised and optimistic as we head into this rentrée. From advanced manufacturing transforming Europe’s competitive edge, to AI and cybersecurity, to the green technologies that enable our transition to a climate-neutral society, Europe’s technology industries are even more central, since Covid-19, to the overarching EU political priorities. Building a more resilient Europe that can deliver sustainable wellbeing for its citizens, at its core, has everything to do with supporting, protecting and promoting our technology leadership.
The money that is now being unlocked can and must be truly transformative – for our industries, for the economy, for European society and for the health of our planet. Easy to say, but very hard to do. Nonetheless I am confident that, with the right choices, Europe will come out of this crisis stronger. And, having had our own resilience tested to the limit during these challenging past months, Orgalim could not be better equipped to work with policy makers in making those choices that will truly shape a future that’s good.