Forum to discuss future of industry launches

29 October 2020

More than 500 people attended this we...

More than 500 people attended this week the launch event of the 'Sustainable, Long-term Investments & Competitive European Industry' Intergroup. Chaired by Maria da Graça Carvalho (EPP), Simona Bonafè (S&D) and Dominique Riquet (RE), the Intergroup will serve as a forum to promote dialogue on the future of industry and investment in Europe.

A unique horizontal platform

For this inaugural event, Orgalim President Rada Rodriguez joined European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the three MEP co-chairs of the Intergroup, Laurent Zylberberg, president of the European Long Term Investors Association, and other high-level stakeholders for a lively discussion on what is needed to make the green and digital transformation a reality. Orgalim is actively involved in the Intergroup as part of the secretariat together with CECE (the Committee for European Construction Equipment) and organisations on the investment side. 

Opening the discussion, Mr Timmermans stressed the historic importance of the collective decision in July on the NextGenerationEU recovery plan and both the opportunity and the obligation now to make transformative choices. "We need to make sure that when we invest, we invest in a way that is sustainable, that will lead us to the new economy in this industrial revolution, that will make us independent of fossil fuels so that we reduce emissions but also create resilience, and that will allow us to take the advantages of the digital era," he said. The Commission, he assured, "will offer the predictability of the climate neutrality [target] with a roadmap combining policies and instruments." 

In turn, the three co-chairs each asserted the intent of the Intergroup to contribute meaningfully to making those choices, as a unique horizontal platform for open and targeted discussions among key players for the green and digital transformation. Maria da Graça Carvalho invited Mr Timmermans to consider it as "the perfect partner for discussions for the work programme 2021."

  We need to make sure that we invest in a way that is sustainable, and that will lead us to the new economy in this industrial revolution. 

Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive Vice-President

Industry priorities and opportunities

Speaking on behalf of industry, Ms Rodriguez praised the initiative and thanked the MEP co-chairs for their leadership. "Global competitiveness and long-term sustainable investment go hand in hand, and this is even more true now, with the unprecedented investments that will be unlocked as part of the recovery plans." This Intergroup, she said, "is an excellent platform to reflect the industrial point of view in a coordinated way across multiple committees."

Highlighting the key priorities and opportunities from an industry point of view, Ms Rodriguez welcomed Mr Timmermans’ acknowledgement of the importance of legal clarity for industry to achieve the 2050 climate neutrality goal and unlock the necessary public and private investments to support the transition. She emphasised that European industry has a deep domain expertise and track record in digitalisation that is a huge asset for the digital transition. And on resilience, she pointed to the global competitiveness of industry as key and stressed that "measures we take now to strengthen resilience should not undermine our long-term success."

Less burden, more skills

Zooming-in on those measures, there was consensus among the participants that efficiency and effectiveness will be paramount. Ms Carvalho called for a simplification of rules and procedures for enterprises and Mr Timmermans acknowledged that "we indeed need to have a focus on administrative burden, not just because it creates a burden where it’s not needed, but also because we cannot afford to lose much time." He cited the example of how it can take longer to obtain a permit for a renewable energy installation than to actually build it.  

Mr Timmermans also flagged the urgent need to invest in skills and re-skilling of Europeans. "My biggest nightmare would be that we are here in a transformed economy with our industrial potential leaving Europe because they don’t have the people to fill the jobs and at the same time millions of Europeans unemployed."

  Essentially it's about investing, not only spending, and about using the single market and the whole toolbox around the single market to help our companies do the transformation and leave nobody behind. 

Kerstin Jorna, DG GROW Director General

A matrix and toolbox

In the second part of the event, DG GROW Director General Kerstin Jorna and European Trade Union Confederation President Luca Visentini joined for a panel discussion, moderated by European Policy Centre Chief Executive and Chief Economist Fabian Zuleeg, that dived in deeper on how to move from aspiration to making the transformation happen.

"Essentially it's about investing, not only spending, and about using the single market and the whole toolbox around the single market to help our companies do the transformation and leave nobody behind," Ms Jorna summarised. To do that right, she said the Commission is proposing to use a matrix of the 14 industrial ecosystems previously identified together with a toolbox comprising four main elements: the funding, the supporting regulatory regime, global value chain security, and alliances and network governance. She acknowledged Ms Rodriguez’ suggestion to add the transversal, horizontal technologies to this matrix.  

In closing, Ms Carvalho declared the new Intergroup active and operational, noting that over 100 MEPs and partner organisations have already registered. She invited all stakeholders to visit the Intergroup website and to participate in future events.