The 2013/01/09 at 07:52
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
Ever since the start of the crisis in 2008, Europe has lost three million jobs. This alarming observation is only one of many lows on the European Union’s economic chart. Industrial production has not ceased to decline in most countries. Between 2010 and 2011, such activity dropped, according to Thomson Reuters, by 2.2 % in Portugal, by 1.8 % in Spain, and by 0.7 % in Italy. Still according to the same source, progression notched only 1.7 % in France.
Although a consolidated assessment has yet to be released for the past year, the situation is preoccupying enough to drive the Ministers for the Economy and Industry from five European countries to undertake an unprecedented step. Prior to the European Summit in Brussels in December last year, the ministers launched an appeal to stop the process of deindustrialisation, thus overstepping the respective positions held by each in their country in terms of industrial policy. “Europe’s industrial production is 10 % below pre-crisis levels,” exclaimed the Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and German Ministers of Industry and Economy. They also insisted on the key role of businesses in economic recovery, growth and job creation. In their opinion, this industrial renewal depends on improved competitiveness for European businesses and a widening of domains of activity to face the challenges of globalisation. They also call on businesses, scientists and students to rally together to advance innovation in Europe.
Repositioning industrial enterprises
In return, the ministers pronounce themselves in favour of a “constructive review of European horizontal policies that have an impact on industrial competitiveness”. They recognise that institutions also have a part to play in reinforcing the economic context of businesses. The appeal of the five ministers refers to a strategic note published by the European Commission in October last year. Geared at the reindustrialisation of Europe, the note established a main objective of raising the share held by industry in the European GDP, from the current 16 % to 20 % in 2020. “Our future success depends on having a strong, diversified and sustainable growth model, one in which industry plays a key role role,” confirmed the five European Ministers for Industry. While the ministers are enthusiastic about the Commission’s awareness of this need, they also formulate the need for a consolidation of “single-market rules, competition, trade, environmental, cohesion, innovation and research policies, as well as the state aid framework”. In their opinion, Europe has a pivotal role to play in European employment.
Energy a priority
The pursuit of these targets is nevertheless dependent on other measures, namely policies in other sectors such as energy. Echoing Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy, and Antonio Tajani, the European Commissioner for Industry, the authors of these recommendations, the five Ministers for the Economy and Industry underline, in their appeal, the crucial role of energy policy. Energy is one of the key pillars for European competitiveness, along with qualified labour, the protection of intellectual property, and raw material prices. Energy prices have nonetheless become, in all European countries, the second highest cost factor for industrial businesses following labour costs. As noted by the two Commissioners, “no improvement is in sight today”, and they expect that prices are set to climb. Causing concern for the economic world, this issue is expected to be one of the European Union’s key files to tackle in coming months.