Thank you to President von der Leyen and to President Sassoli for two inspiring speeches.

I share your confidence that Europe will recover from this crisis stronger and well poised for our digital and industrial leadership.

An industrial ambition

At a time of accelerating technological race and aggressive global competition, I have said it before and will say it again: yes, Europe has an industrial ambition - and we have all it takes to succeed!

Let’s not forget Europe is the world’s number 1 industrial continent.

We have unique assets :

First, a genuine culture of technological excellence, at all levels of governance and in many sectors, be it robotisation, batteries, space, or microprocessors.

And the pandemic also reaffirmed the importance of our greatest asset: our Single Market. It is the backbone and real driving force behind our industrial policy and our global competitiveness. It allows:

  • our European and global supply chains to function;
  • our engineers, service providers and other professionals to work anywhere in Europe;

The Single Market will be the engine for Europe’s recovery and resilience, and a stepping-stone to rebalance power on the global stage.

A new economic context

Clearly, the economic and geopolitical context is different than a year ago.

Europe remains in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Several  ecosystems have been severely affected by the measures taken to contain the coronavirus.

And these restrictions came on top of already stubbornly high barriers to the functioning of the Single Market.

All businesses suffered, but smaller ones most of all. Preliminary estimates show that the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fell by 1.3% with over 90% of SMEs reporting a fall in turnover.

The EU – both the Commission and Member States – have taken and are taking swift action to address these negative impacts and to put our businesses and wider economy on a more stable and sustainable footing.

This includes most notably investments and reforms under the Recovery and Resilience Facility and Next Generation EU.

These measures suggest there might be light at the end of the tunnel. The European Winter 2021 Economic Forecast projects that the EU economy will grow by 3.7% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022. But this of course needs to be seen from the pre-COVID levels perspective.

A new green ambition

We have witnessed changes in the global context in many areas lately, but maybe none more striking than green aspects.

The results of the American presidential elections means that the US will re-enter the global green race.

Other global players are also using the momentum to shift their economies towards green horizons.

And of course Europe is also moving fast, with its new climate ambition for 2030.

But changes do not only happen in politics: take last month’s announcement by China's largest steel producer that it would peak emissions in two years and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

It is thus my role, as Internal Market Commissioner, to accompany our European industry in its transformation.  

The technology pathways are largely known.

But several factors need to come together in order to create the business case for investment:

  • We need to ensure market confidence in the long-term stability of the EU regulatory and policy framework
  • We need to secure the availability of EU funding along the path towards market deployment;
  • And we need robust protection against unfair trade practices.

The ambition

Our ambition is simple yet inclusive and far-reaching. We want to have an industry that creates value-added jobs in all regions across Europe. An industry that is driven by innovation, quality and the respect for the environment.

The method

This crisis has shown how interrelated our industries are.

And this has, naturally, reinforced our policy approach based on the 14 identified industrial ecosystems.

These cover not only large manufacturing companies but to focus on real ecosystems of researchers, manufacturers, SMEs and also a set of suppliers and service providers.

EU industry must be confident that the EU will accompany its ecosystems in this transition; that we will work to guarantee a level playing field, that we will support innovation; and that we will provide the right framework for the massive investments required (EUR 350 billion more annually until 2030 than for the previous decade)

The cooperative approach

That is why we need to mobilise the full EU policy toolbox.

The best example might be batteries: The European batteries alliance clearly shows how the industry policy toolkit can be consistently deployed to advance the competitiveness of a full value chain, from raw materials and battery chemicals via electric mobility all the way to recycling

It is a symbol for the green and digital transformation. In a situation where Asian players are dominating the EU market, there is a lot to gain. It could create up to 800,000 new direct jobs in by 2025 all along the value chain.

The dependencies

Our global values chains provide us with diversified sourcing and export destinations, playing a key role in Europe’s resilience.

But the crisis has also revealed vulnerabilities when the EU is dependent on only a few external suppliers in sensitive sectors.

This does not mean that we need to produce everything in Europe, but rather that we should diversify our sources of supply and create a European capacity in strategic areas.

This is the objectives we are pursuing for instance with our work on hydrogen, but also on processors or on the cloud.

Innovation and twin transition

We need to be imaginative to reduce our carbon footprint.  And many of our solutions can be found in the digital field. For instance:

  • AI can improve the energy efficiency of buildings
  • Blockchain allows information to travel with a product
  • Copernicus data enables applications on forest and water management.

At the same time, I am aware that the ICT sector also faces its own challenge

But the balance sheet shows that the potential positive contribution of digital technologies outweighs their negative impacts. Some say 7 or 10 times more.

Now we have to scale up digital solutions to make sure that we maximise the power of data to accelerate the green transition, underpin sustainable business models and provide information to consumers.

Conclusion

Europe’s recovery provides us with huge opportunities to build a greener, more digital and more resilient economy.

The big question of course is how to do it. And that is the answer I will try to find during the first plenary debate of the EU Industry Days 2021, focusing on the challenge of the green transition of the European industry.