Strengthening competencies in green and digital key technologies
"The new EU industrial strategy must now create a framework that strengthens the competitiveness of companies," explains Wolfgang Weber, Chairman of the ZVEI Executive Board, on the EU Competitiveness Council's debate on European industrial policy. One of Europe's greatest strengths, he says, was its industry, which is needed more than ever to soften the impact of the Corona crisis in the best possible way – and, at the same time, to tackle urgent challenges such as climate protection and the digital transformation. "Future global markets must continue to be served by European leading-edge technology".
This would require the EU to be able to build on a globally active and resilient industry. "The approach to technological sovereignty and 'open strategic autonomy' discussed in Europe must under no circumstances lead to a compartmentalisation of the European economy," emphasises Weber. "A resilient and successful industry needs close ties with its global business partners – and an open policy stance on digitisation and industrial innovation". Strict regulation, as in the development of a B2B data economy or industrial AI, is counterproductive and weakens the international competitiveness of European companies. An evident example as regards to the right answers to current challenges is the new free trade zone between 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Investing in key skills in digital technologies, services and platforms – such as AI and 5G – and in digital skills for all European citizens is therefore an absolute prerequisite for a successful green and digital transformation. This approach needs to be embedded in the new EU industrial strategy. To this end, Weber says, the EU must quickly open further markets through new trade agreements and take forward global issues such as e-commerce and a reform of the Subsidies Agreement at multilateral WTO level. In addition, a rapid agreement on the next EU budget and the financing of the next generation EU instrument was necessary – further delays would set Europe back in international competition and deprive companies of urgently needed planning security.
In order to meet the EU's medium and long-term climate targets, the ZVEI also sees an enormous need for private and public investment in the area of the Green Deal – including industry, the building sector and transport. "At the same time, we need a set of indicators to quantitatively measure industrial development in Europe in a global comparison in order to make the successes of industry more visible. This is the only way to reconcile policy objectives in environmental, climate and social policy with the prospect of strengthening the industrial base and Europe's competitiveness.
In its position paper "Technological sovereignty, resilience of industry and European competences", the ZVEI presents the electrical industry's view of Europe's economic recovery after Covid-19 and the future industrial strategy. You can find the paper here.