A skilled workforce central to a competitive and forward-thinking Europe

Europe in 2029 has so much potential says MEP Josianne Cutajar, and this future will be based on what we make of it

By Josianne Cutajar

Josianne Cutajar (MT, S&D) is a member of Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee

04 Apr 2024

Europe 2029 is what we make of it. While much of the march of scientific and technological progress is indeed beyond the realm of the policy makers’ control, the laws we make, the standards we choose to uphold, the principles we protect more dearly than others in a given trilogue, equally impact the direction in which scientific breakthroughs are translated into technological applicability for industry and the consumer.

Let us take the recent paradigm shifting developments in AI, where massive strides forward can be expected through more autonomous vehicles, improved logistics systems for freight, or more intelligent traffic management systems. From my point of view as Rapporteur for the Transport and Tourism Committee’s opinion on the AI Act, what matters the most is how the political choices made today will guide AI development in a human centric manner tomorrow. It is moreover crucial to remember that advancements in AI applicability should always be accompanied by strong cybersecurity measures. More importantly, in the transportation sector, where inadequate cybersecurity can indeed impact the safety of passengers and workers.

Whatever the Industry 4.0 applicability of AI may prove to be, it will be shaped by our fundamental values, and it will better serve the common good. In all likelihood, AI by the end of the 2020s will itself be supercharged by the revolutionary capacity of a yet to mature quantum computing industry. Experts have already estimated that the widespread commercial application of quantum is a mere five to ten years away. This is why the Digital Decade programme, which I worked on as the Socialist negotiator, aims for the EU to possess the first supercomputer with quantum acceleration by 2025.

Our Union’s industrial prowess in 2029 will undoubtedly be tied to the success of Europe’s emerging Industrial Policy built on the notions of resilience and open strategic autonomy. When speaking directly on files related to the Green Transition such as the Net Zero Industrial Act, but even STEP, their success and impact on the realities of 2029 will not solely depend on the quality of implementation in a vacuum. Equally, our industrial prowess will be measured vis-à-vis the Inflation Reduction Acts’ implementation in the United States, a maturing Chinese economy, and a globe that seems to be losing its appetite to laissez faire globalisation.

What we do have the power to do as law makers is to ensure that the transport sector works for people

One tangible industry change will be in changing trends towards more sustainable connectivity. While I can only commend strides forward towards better use of our railways to make EU connectivity greener, hailing from an island community, I cannot emphasise the importance of equitable connectivity for disadvantaged regions of our Union that are simply unreachable by road or rail. This is why I have advocated for more sustainable and affordable aviation and maritime transport, which thanks to legislation such as ReFuelEU aviation and FuelEU maritime will incentivise an industry shift towards market ready sustainable transport fuels. In the Net Zero Industry Act, I in fact advocated for successful legislative amendments promoting their availability and affordability. I look with confidence in the hope that the industry, thanks in part to the EU’s legislation, will allow for significantly more climate-friendly mobility. Be it thanks to sustainable fuel, the rise of electric aviation, or indeed the rise of green hydrogen, my hope is that Europe will continue to uphold freedom of movement for all Europeans.

Europe 2029 is what we make of it. This also means that none of the above will be possible without a skilled workforce who are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges today. What we do have the power to do as law makers is to ensure that the transport sector works for people, and that we continue to fight for freedom of movement not only irrespective of geographic reality, but also irrespective of visible or invisible disability. A competitive European industry means little if we do not fight to see the fruits of this laborious task facilitating a better quality of life for all citizens irrespective of socio-economic circumstance, ability, age, sex, or identity.

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