European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani and European Commissioner Laszlo Andor met the CEOs of the European steel industry and the trade unions
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, Laszlo Andor, met the leaders of the major European steel companies including: Arcelor Mittal, ThyssenKrupp, Slazgitter, Tata Steel Europe, Duferco, Ruukki, Tenaris, RIVA and the General Director of Eurofer. Chairman of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Amalia Sartori was present and represented the European Parliament.
The meeting with the industry was followed by a second meeting with the trade unions which has been attended by Vice President Tajani and the representative of the European Parliament. The European steel industry has to face several challenges. It suffers the consequences of the economic crisis and it is increasingly exposed to international competition, which often benefits from lower energy and labor costs as well as more flexible social and environmental rules. A sharp drop in demand has caused overcapacity with likely need for restructuring.
The meeting marks the starting point of a European action plan for the steel industry that the Commission intends to adopt by June 2013. In the agenda there is the intention to support the competitiveness of steel industry on the global markets in a long-term perspective through several European initiatives.
In particular, it has been discussed the need to boost the downstream markets, starting with the car and construction sectors, which are responsible for 40% of the demand for steel. In July, Tajani launched a strategy for the construction sector and today he announced the car action plan to be presented in October.
Access to raw materials has been another important issue in the discussion. The European Commission is pursuing a diplomatic plan to provide the European industry with access to strategic raw materials. The steel industry has to face challenges in global markets competition with energy costs which are almost twice as the ones in the USA and in Japan, and which account for 15% of production costs. For this reason, it is necessary that the Commission keeps pushing for a more secure and competitive access to energy via the networks modernization and the improved functioning of the European energy market. It is essential to promote energy efficiency to stimulate innovation.
The industry representatives raised concerns about the burdensome rules on greenhouse gas emissions recognizing, however, the need for a balance between industrial needs and environmental sustainability.
Antonio Tajani said: "The steel industry is an essential part of the European industrial base. We must support its efforts towards modernization, basing on more environmentally sustainability and efficient use of resources. My goal is to launch a European action plan to be approved by the middle of next year to increase the competitiveness of the steel sector."