A Plea by Vice-President Tajani to the European Council of 20-21 March
The current European Commission has placed the real economy, employment and SMEs at the heart of the political agenda, as Greece's Prime Minister Samaras recently recognised.
It wasn't a foregone conclusion. Only a few years ago the predominant vision was that a post-industrial Europe would focus on services and finance. The crisis has shown the kind of damage that a self-serving, lawless financial sector can do, and the intrinsic weakness of economies that lack a solid industrial base.
We have opened our eyes. Without industry there can be no growth and no job creation. Much of our exports, employment and wealth depend on industry. A service economy that is not deeply rooted in manufacturing is bound to dry up. Most innovations have their source in the industrial process.
This new European vision in which industry is the centrepiece is future-oriented. The old polluting smokestacks belong to the past. They are being replaced by modern production techniques rooted in quality, sustainability and top technologies. Services, finance and manufacturing, far from being at odds with one another, will be tightly intertwined in this new system.
The crisis accelerated our industrial decline. We lost 4 million jobs and 350 billion euro in investments. Industry's share of GDP fell to a historic low of just 15%. That's why the Commission adopted the strategy "For a European Industrial Renaissance", which aims to bring manufacturing back to 20% of GDP by 2020, by building on innovation and training – the heart and soul of the new industrial revolution. It is only through more investment in industrial innovation that Europe can find real answers to the challenges we face, such as growth, employment, scarcity of resources and global warming.
We must continue our work to complete the internal market by building modern network infrastructures and by eliminating the remaining technical and legislative barriers. This is especially important in areas such as financing and energy, in which a true European market could reduce costs.
For the first time industry has a budget. Almost one sixth of EU funds available from now to 2020 are allocated to industrial competitiveness and access to financing. With private and public co-financing and loans from the European Investment Bank we can mobilise up to 1 000 billion euro.
Europe's strength lies first and foremost in its millions of entrepreneurs driven by a dream, by an idea. They are the lifeblood of our society. We cannot afford to put obstacles in their way. This is why we've started a process of legislative and bureaucratic simplification and are subjecting every new proposal to a competitiveness test.
But Member States must do their part. Similarly to what we did with late payments, we will urge governments to deliver licenses in 30 days, provide for new business starts in three days at 100 euro, and speed up judicial procedures.
We must also seek realistic free trade agreements to give our companies effective access to foreign markets on an equal footing, starting with the United States.
We are the first economic, industrial and commercial power in the world. Together with our know-how and the quality of our products this is a fundamental strength we must bring to bear by conducting an economic diplomacy as a needed complement to our political diplomacy. No single European country has the wealth or the demographic weight to deal on an equal footing with new global players such as China, India and Brazil. We must speak with one voice in order to defend our industrial interests, including secure, affordable access to raw materials and energy. This is why, starting in 2011, I have led several Missions for Growth with European companies to pursue economic opportunities and cooperation agreements in many parts of the world.
No less than 17 EU governments are lending support to the Commission's efforts through the "Friends of Industry" initiative in favour of an ambitious agenda at the Summit of 20-21 March – the first such meeting in over thirty years in which industry has such a prominent place on the agenda.
Another positive development is the message addressed to the European Council by the Italian and German industry confederations, calling for a resurgence of industry. They propose to put industrial competitiveness at the heart of the new energy and climate package for 2030.
This summit is an opportunity we cannot afford to squander. European leaders must go beyond abstract statements and guarantee that policies on internal market, competition, trade, research, infrastructure, energy, environment and education are truly consistent with the goal of reindustrialisation.
Alongside with the fiscal compact we also need to draw up an industrial compact, with a Competitiveness Council as strong as the Ecofin Council.