On 5 May, the European Commission unveiled the long-awaited revision to its Industrial Strategy. The original was published just before Europe plunged into the worst crisis of the 21st century.
A new strategy was therefore essential; one that reflects on what we have learnt about our industry during this crisis, and one that addresses how we can rebuild our economy, which fell by 6.3 percent.
This is why, while the previous strategy offered a rather optimistic vision of a European future focused solely on its own internal transition, the motto of the new strategy is far less naïve: resilience. The COVID-19 crisis was a wake-up call for Europe.
“In just a few months, the EU took giant steps, including the first coordinated response to a pandemic and the first large-scale EU bonds to finance the first Resilience and Recovery Plan”
It took the financial crisis of the late 2000s to understand that our Union is our best shield against economic shocks. Now, we are coming to the realisation that the EU will have to face much more, but at the same time that it can do much more.
This is how we usually do it in Europe: when faced with unexpected - or long-ignored - challenges, we come together and find common solutions.
A great deal of the work that this new communication brings forward has already been done or is well underway. In just a few months, the EU took giant steps, including the first coordinated response to a pandemic and the first large-scale EU bonds to finance the first Resilience and Recovery Plan.
We reached many milestones, and we did not pause to appreciate them; it was therefore important to take stock of these achievements. Yet many were expecting more from this strategy and wanted to ask, “What next?”.
Credit should be given to the incredible effort in assessing our strategic dependencies, building on the Commission’s work on strategic foresight. This was evidently a turning point; the original goal was to achieve the most fluid single market, whereas now it is also to make it stronger in global competition and more protective of citizens.
The Commission knowingly chose to present its Regulation on distortive foreign subsidies on the same day. This is a welcome first step, as it is finally addressing the serious threat posed by unfair global competition.
The strategy also recognises that our economy is vulnerable, because it is inherently dependent on products and services it currently cannot provide for itself.
Despite this, the Commission seems to be oblivious to the fact that decades of strict competition policies to break down any potential monopolies and seek perfect competition in the internal market have had a major downside. These have rendered European companies weaker in the world economic race and often unable to compete with fast-paced innovation. Thus, our dependencies persist.
Our twin transition will put massive strains on our industry, and we need to act now to bolster innovation capacity. Building alliances is a good start, but this sort of cooperation should be made practical in a more organic manner. Only by enabling and encouraging cooperation can we find the answers to our foreign dependencies and start building strategic autonomy.
This Industrial Strategy shows we still have a long way to go before we dare talk about a ‘Buy European’ Act, or about European champions. However, as an MEP, I will continue to keep the debate alive and shed a light on what Europe can become next.