Today, Europe finds itself at an important point in time. The geopolitical changes in recent years have led to shifting global powers, and these trends have only been accelerated by the current coronavirus pandemic. To withstand these strong winds of change, we are determined to build a stronger, more resilient future for Europe, starting today.
To do this, Europe needs to strengthen its core values and foundations. During the coronavirus outbreak, we have shown again that, in an increasingly divided world, our strength lies in our solidarity and our unity. On the other hand, the crisis has also high- lighted how our overreliance on others in critical areas can hamper our ability to react in in times of urgency. To counter this, we need to strengthen our strategic autonomy and ensure that Europe has the resources, capacity and key technologies to respond to future challenges and remain globally competitive. Because when we speak of strategic autonomy – or what is sometimes referred to as sovereignty or resilience – we are not talking about isolating ourselves from the world, but having choice, alternatives, competition. Avoiding unwanted dependencies, both economically and geopolitically..
All of this requires a profound transformation of our industry and our economy. Today, Europe is the world’s number one industrial continent. To maintain this global edge, we need to support the transition towards a green future and enhance our leadership in digital technologies.
Our new Industrial Strategy for Europe, published in March this year, lays down the blue print to support Europe’s path towards these twin transitions. As the foundation of Europe’s resilience, supporting the greening and digitalisation of industry will help strengthen Europe’s global competitiveness, create new, quality jobs, and develop new solutions to societal challenges that help to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Industrial Strategy identifies several key technological areas for common action.
Firstly, we need to improve Europe’s digital sovereignty. This involves securing Europe’s computational power, control of data and secure connectivity. For example, we are already working hard to improve Europe’s capacity for the production of microelectronics, which are key to many industrial products from cars to connected objects, to space and defence projects. In addition, our aim is to further develop Europe’s own cloud capacity and data storage in line with EU privacy rules – the importance of which was recently highlighted by the popular social platform dispute over access to users’ data between the US and China.
Secondly, we’re developing Europe’s Green Tech to support the industry’s decarbonisation and circular economy. One of the building blocks to achieve this is developing Europe’s hydrogen capacity as a transitional path to decarbonisation. In addition, we have recently presented an Action Plan on critical raw materials, to help us ensure access to the raw materials needed for the deployment of new green technologies. The plan proposes actions to reduce Europe’s dependency for critical materials on third countries, diversify supplies and improve resource circularity while promoting responsible sourcing worldwide. For the first time, we have added lithium, which is essential for batteries and e-mobility, to the list of critical raw materials published alongside this action plan.
Thirdly, we also need to strengthen Europe’s technological capacities in the areas of security and defence. With the new European Defence Fund, we will join forces with industries to cooperate on key technological projects such as drones, combat planes, cybersecurity and space capacities.
Developing these strategic technological areas requires us to work with all relevant stakeholders along strategic value chains and industrial ecosystems. This is why we are setting up Industrial Alliances in key areas, such as batteries, hydrogen or critical raw materials.
These Alliances bring together industrial actors and SMEs, public authorities at national and regional levels, and other stakeholders including NGOs, trade unions and research institutions. Their key aim is to identify investment projects to support the development of key technologies and areas for our industry to remain a global leader and our economy to prosper.
The political will for such large-scale projects and investments is there. Here, Important Projects of Common European Interest can be an important tool for flagship projects across Member States, as demonstrated in the case of microelectronics and batteries.
Last but not least, the success of our green and digital transitions; as well as improving our resilience and economic sovereignty, largely depends on the strength of an integrated and modernised European Single Market. The Single Market provides businesses with domestic opportunities and gives them leverage on the global stage. That’s why it’s important that we ensure a level playing field and prevent distortions of competition on the Single Market, for instance by protecting our companies from predatory foreign acquisitions and preventing potential distortions caused by foreign subsidies.
All this shows that Europe is working hard to respond to the changing demands of our times. We are improving our resilience, while remaining true to our values and open to the world. With this, we’re setting a global example and meeting the expectations of the next generation to build a better future, starting today.