The Committee of the Regions (CoR) yesterday evening welcomed EU plans to keep industry jobs in Europe while reducing the sector's carbon emissions.
Regaining European leadership on the world stage will require concrete improvements to the regulatory framework, Patxi López (ES/PES), President of the Basque country, said before a debate with EU industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani at the CoR plenary session in Brussels.
In October 2010, the European Commission set out a strategy for boosting growth and jobs by maintaining a competitive industrial base in Europe offering well-paid jobs while becoming less carbon intensive. Presenting his proposals at the Committee of the Regions plenary session, European Commission Vice-President responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, underlined the key role of regional and local authorities in this process: "We urgently need a new industrial policy in a broader – and truly integrated – sense, to keep improving EU competitiveness. Our constructive co-operation with the Committee of the Regions is essential to ensure delivery, as many of the key decisions on issues such as infrastructure, skills, and regulations are taken at regional level."
The CoR opinion on the issue was drafted by Patxi López (ES/PES), President of the Basque country, and was adopted unanimously by elected representatives of local and regional authorities from across the EU. The CoR rapporteur built on the experience of his own region, which underwent a radical transformation after the decline of the traditional steel and shipbuilding industry in the 1970s. With a focus on new technologies, renewable energy and innovation, the Basque country today is more prosperous than ever.
The President of the Basque government emphasised the key role of industry in getting Europe's economy back on track: "We need to make sure that Europe does not fall behind in the globalisation era. Boosting industry to make it competitive at global level must be compatible with economic and social development, and respect for the environment."
Following the presentation of the European Commission plans, President López urged concrete measures that would give businesses greater flexibility in their employment strategies, in return for adequate protection providing income security for workers in sectors that are likely to be affected by the changes. In addition, he calls for access to credit to be improved and for stronger links between the financial markets and the real economy.
The CoR rapporteur stresses that it is particularly important to protect the intellectual property rights of businesses. It is essential to simplify the procedure for obtaining patents, make it less expensive, and ensure that patents are automatically valid in all Member States, in line with the single European patent proposal.
The CoR opinion also underlines that local and regional authorities are key players in economic development as they are closest to the reality on the ground for businesses. This is especially important for supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, which provide two thirds of Europe's industry jobs. EU policy should follow the "think small first" principle to deal specifically with the needs of SMEs, and should give a more prominent role to regional and local authorities which provide essential support services to SMEs.
The CoR on the internet: www.cor.europa.eu