On the 10th of March, the European Commission released a new EU Industrial Strategy with the objective of maintaining the bloc’s industry’s global competitiveness whilst at the same time helping deliver on its ambitious environmental goals.
Whilst the strategy impacts nearly every industrial sector in Europe, there are key highlights in three areas.
Firstly, the greening of Europe’s economy is center-stage. By supporting the Green Deal’s focus on decarbonisation and clean and affordable energy sources, the strategy aims for a transition at an acceptable cost for both businesses and consumers.
Secondly, regarding sustainable mobility, the strategy includes initiatives to aid the deployment of recharging stations for zero emission vehicles and the uptake of sustainable fuels for sectors like aviation – known as the ReCharge and RefuelEU initiatives respectively.
Thirdly, there are a number of measures on digital transformation, notably on next-generation mobile technologies, and services beyond 5G and towards 6G.
The far-reaching strategy covers everything from internet of things and robotics through to digital infrastructure and cybersecurity.
A controversial theme running across the new Industrial Strategy is the future of state aid and competition policy.
Big member states like France, Germany, Italy and Poland are keen for the strategy to help foster European industrial ‘champions’ through the loosening of EU state aid rules.
This obviously comes in the face of global competition from China and the US, but also questions about how much state support is needed for the green transition to become a reality.
However, changes in state aid rules may not be to the liking of every EU member state, nor indeed the Commission itself. Clearly, the EU will need to carefully balance its role as a driver of sustainable industrial growth on the one hand and as Europe’s competition enforcer on the other.
To conclude, the new Industrial Strategy has intrinsically tied Europe’s industrial future to its green ambitions. The success of this strategy will depend on how it galvanizes European industry to meet the high ambitions of the Green Deal and remain globally competitive.