At the beginning of 2014, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani unveiled his plan for a ‘European Industrial Renaissance’. In an interview with Enterprise & Industry Magazine, Vice-President Tajani explains why the Commission is pushing for this Renaissance, and what Member States need to do to keep European industry on the road to recovery.
What has happened so far this year with your ‘European Industrial Renaissance’ initiative?
VP Tajani: In March, the European Council endorsed our plan, ‘For a European Industrial Renaissance’, as a way to promote investment, stimulate innovation and, above all, restore manufacturing jobs throughout Europe. This marked the first time that the EU Summit had ever discussed industrial competitiveness issues, so the support for our plan shows that Member States are ready for decisive, joint action to address the EU’s weaknesses in the industrial sector.
What needs to be done for industry to achieve the sort of growth envisioned by the Commission?
VP Tajani: To help lift the EU out of recession, the Commission plan calls for the adoption of proposals on energy, transport, space and digital communications networks, as well as the implementation and enforcement of legislation to complete the internal market.
Our plan also includes proposals to enable easier access to international markets by integrating European companies into global value chains and promoting free, fair and open trade. To do this, we will promote European standards and regulations, and continue to fight against counterfeiting. This will help enhance the EU’s industrial competitiveness globally, and create a level playing field in third markets.
Why is industry so important?
VP Tajani: We are emerging from the longest recession in the EU's history, and this turmoil has highlighted the importance of having a strong industrial sector. If there is one lesson we can learn from this crisis, it is that countries with strong industry have suffered less than countries with weak industry.
We need to remember that industry's importance is much greater than suggested simply by its share of GDP. It accounts for more than 80 % of Europe's exports, as well as a large chunk of private research and innovation. Moreover, nearly one in four private sector jobs are in industry, and each additional job in manufacturing creates up to two jobs in other sectors.
A lack of investment has been identified as a major issue for EU industry. How can investment be increased?
VP Tajani: There is no doubt that our plan requires massive investment. We can catalyse this investment through the efficient use of EU resources such as regional funds and EU funding programmes.
For example, €100 billion in regional funding will be available by 2020 for investment in innovation, including areas such as key enabling technologies, clean vehicles and transport, bio-based products, raw materials and smart grids.
These regional funds will be complemented by resources from Horizon 2020, an €80 billion research funding programme designed to support industrial projects that are close to reaching the market. COSME, the European Commission’s new funding instrument targeted at SMEs, will inject another €2.5 billion.
These resources, supplemented by loans from the European Investment Bank, will drive private investment and facilitate access to credit and venture capital.
Reducing administrative burden is a key aspect of the Renaissance. What measures will be taken?
VP Tajani: We are proposing a new Small Business Act, including specific goals for cutting red tape. For instance, it should take no more than three days and €100 to set up a business, and it should take no longer than 30 days to obtain a trading permit.
We are also committed to reducing administrative burden by executing total cost analyses and fitness checks before and after regulatory measures are adopted. A great deal of red tape is created by Member States and local bodies, so we are therefore calling for the Commission’s measures to be replicated at national and regional level.
Can the internal market for products contribute to reindustrialisation?
VP Tajani: Absolutely. Nearly one-quarter of our GDP is linked to the free movement of products. However, there are still too many differences in legislation at national level, making it difficult for companies to operate in the internal market.
It is not enough for the Commission alone to focus on industrial competitiveness. Member States must quickly adopt and implement the measures proposed by the Commission to create a true internal market for goods and services – one without technical barriers and with a modern system of interconnecting infrastructures. We are determined to play our part to the fullest, and we call on Member States to do the same.
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