26.03.2019

From Mining Union to Digital Union

Dr. Blank, the turbulences on the international political scene are currently increasing. So where does Europe stand?

Today, the European Union is at a historic turning point: we must combine the challenges of globalisation and digitalisation with the vision of a 2030 Europe. And this with an increasingly weakened multilateral world order: on the one hand, this is driven by the policy of the US government under President Trump - on the other hand, by China's ever stronger economic and geopolitical role. The ZVEI members are deeply rooted in their regions and active worldwide, whilst retaining a European outlook.

What do you expect to happen in view of the next European elections in May 2019?

People in Europe need to better understand what the EU has to offer them in terms of security, prosperity and sustainability. ZVEI therefore places the "Digital Union" at the heart of its political agenda, because we must take Europe's digital future into our own hands. The construction of the European Digital Union is the core task of a future-oriented Europe. Europe's digital transformation must be a promise of success to the people. Only the EU can ensure the digital protection of its citizens and cyber security in an interconnected world.

But how can we accomplish that? What do we have to do now?

Europe also needs a new industrial policy strategy that guarantees effective competition in the internal market, makes investment in Europe attractive, creates jobs and empowers our companies in international competition. In addition to a few major players, the many small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of work and prosperity in Europe. With the help of data and platform economics, we need to create a new ecosystem around strategic value creation networks, which combines the strengths we already have. Our European umbrella organisations Orgalim and Digitaleurope have also presented their proposals. The hopes of the electrical and electronic industry are now focused on the work of a number of EU High Level Groups with industry participation - for example, the High Level Industrial Roundtable, which will draw up concrete proposals by summer 2019. In other words, we have many good ideas on the table - now it is important to work together with politicians to develop a uniform European understanding of an industrial policy vision that really moves Europe forward.

What exactly does this mean from the perspective of the electrical and electronic industry and the ZVEI? What measures do you propose?

The ZVEI believes that a new EU industrial policy strategy with a view to 2030 must keep an eye on the following developments:

  • With their products and technologies, European companies are world market leaders in many areas. Orgalim, our European association, calls it "Technology for the World - Manufactured in Europe."
  • We need an industrial policy and regulatory framework that reinforces our companies' international competitiveness and turns Europe into an attractive location for investment.
  • We need a common understanding in Europe - not country-specific solutions. Germany should cooperate closely with France and other industrialised nations in Europe such as Italy and Poland.
  • We need a modern industrial policy strategy for the future of the EU that provides the right framework conditions for digital transformation - also with a view to other parts of the world such as China with its top-down approach "Made in China 2025" or its "BRI - Belt- and Road Initiative".
  • It is important that we always bear in mind the industrial policy implications of other policy areas. For example, the prioritisation of future investments in the multiannual financial framework, the design of the next EU research framework programme Horizon Europe and the definition and project financing of key technologies.
  • We are concerned that protectionism is on the rise worldwide. We must also work together in the EU to counter this. We advocate free and fair trade and open markets. We have to avoid our own protectionist measures at EU level.
  • Multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) must be reformed and strengthened so that we can continue to have a basis for global cooperation in the future. No country or region is capable of mastering the massive challenges of the 21st century on its own.

We need a European industrial policy that harnesses the opportunities offered by digitalisation and our strengths in the Internet of Things, Industrial AI  and Industrie 4.0. The construction of the Digital Union as the completion of the internal market is the central prerequisite for a modern, sustainable and competitive Europe.

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