Towards a green, globally competitive and digital European industry

Submitted by Political Commission 2: Internal European Affairs

Adopted by the online Federal Committee on 26 June 2021

European industries are facing a rapidly changing environment. Digitalisation, globalisation and climate change are key challenges to which the industrial sectors will need to adapt. Digitization and Decarbonization on the one hand, European industries need to ensure competitiveness on the global but currently partly distorted market on the other hand. This transformation process will fundamentally change the way our industry works and will have a lasting impact on European citizens in the way they live and work. Therefore, a common vision of an industrial strategy of the future is needed taking into account diverse situations in countries and specific sectors.

JEF Europe, therefore, proposes a common vision for this transition where it is crucial to work together, from the local to European level, to respond to new industrial challenges. We need to achieve European industry that is fit for the 21st century, proposing green and highly sophisticated products and services on our European markets, but also worldwide, while ensuring Europe’s strategic autonomy.

JEF Europe,

  • Underlining that industry is our economic and social backbone and essential for sustainable long-term progress and welfare, from energy and mobility, to security and defence industry onto the sophisticated production of pharmaceuticals.
  • Recalling that European industries provide 35 million jobs, account for 80% of goods exports, 24% of GDP and are key drivers for the EU’s position as top global provider of high quality products and materials; highlighting the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often acting as key local suppliers.
  • Welcoming the EU Commission update of the 2020 Industrial Strategy: Building a stronger Single Market for Europe’s recovery (05.05.2021), where digitalization, sustainability and the circular economy are at the heart of the industrial transformation.
  • While at the same time criticizing the lack of binding targets on pollution reduction, on energy efficiency standards and on due diligence for the mining of critical raw materials, such as lithium, that are extracted to the cost of social and environmental damages within and outside of the EU.
  • Highlighting that the industrial activities are also a strong driver of environmental pollution and anthropogenic emissions, representing 40% of EU total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Deeply convinced that Europe’s industry can be transformed to meet the Paris Agreement, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Green Deal.
  • Deeply concerned about the amount of plastic in the ocean, and especially microplastics, whose effects on humankind and environment are not yet sufficiently explored.
  • Yet, strongly encouraging the European Commission and Council declarations to move towards a “Wellbeing Economy” where measurements “Beyond the GDP” are explored.
  • Acknowledging the EU’s normative power, where EU’s trade agreements should not only have an economic objective, but also contribute to global development and to promote human rights and environmental justice in the world.
  • Applauding the EU Commission’s announcement to propose a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and to expand the scope of the Emission Trading system (ETS), as well as encouraging the European Commission to propose a due diligence regulation for our supply chains (beyond industry), ensuring that products traded and imported to the EU are respecting human rights and environmental standards, to mitigate exploitation of workers, children and the environment in third countries.
  • Recognizing that value chains are increasingly global and complex, leading to interdependence, reduced resilience of the European economy against external shocks – as seen during the coronavirus pandemic – and to distorted markets, where it is difficult to enforce fair trading practices.
  • Welcoming the European Commission’s declaration to enhance the bloc’s strategic autonomy in six key areas (“Important Projects of Common European Interest” or IPCEI) and to diversify the supply chain in order to reduce dependencies on one single foreign supplier.
  • While, also noting with concern that increasing globalisation and delocalisation contributed to a loss of jobs and to diminishing the status and identity of the industrial workers, whilst a growing part of youth are working under new globalized business models, such as of the gig economy that leads to precarity.
  • Welcoming the European Commission’s European Youth Guarantee, that shall ensure employment and career opportunities for young Europeans within the future European industry.
  • Recognizing that a diverse workforce brings new perspectives to work, increases the drive for innovation and enhances the wellbeing of workers themselves.
  • Emphasizing that Europe’s future industry depends on sufficient investment in new innovations, technology, Research and Development (R&D) as well as skill training, which should be a joint European endeavour to boost competitiveness, specialisation and sustainability.
  • Reaffirming JEF Europe’s resolutions that are interconnected, complement the need for an industrial transition and propose concrete solutions : ‘A European Transition to a Circular Economy’ (March 2019), ‘Environment does not stop at borders: Towards a Sustainable Europe and a Sustainable Global Climate Policy’ (October 2019), ‘Better integrated and more sustainable mobility infrastructure for an Ever Closer Union’ (April 2020), ‘A federal strategy for sustainable, safe and healthy food for all Europeans (October 2020)’; Advancing the European Union’s Social Dimension (March 2018) and “EU Foreign Policy towards Russia” (August 2019)

JEF Europe therefore:

  1. Calls on European industries to take concrete steps to become more coordinated, resilient, environmentally sustainable and globally competitive by 2030.
  2. Envisions a green industrial revolution of the global economy, taking advantage of green technologies and advanced manufacturing methods (often referred to as Industry 4.0.) that also contribute to safeguarding access to critical infrastructures for all Europeans.
  3. Calls for the European Commission and the Member States to guarantee fair competition inside the EU to complete the internal market through astringent enforcement of EU competition law and by reducing existing barriers, as well as ensuring a level playing field on the global market.
  4. Calls the EU institutions to propose a strong Non-Financial Reporting Directive that includes smaller companies. This shall enable the shift from a purely economic competition to a competition between socially responsible industries. Nevertheless, to include as many companies as possible, this directive shall be supported by funds.
  5. Encourages to seize the recent momentum of the G7 finance ministers’ agreement to battle tax avoidance and create a global minimum corporate tax rate.
  6. Making the case for a European relocalization of vital industrial activities to provide for more of Europe’s own consumption, ensuring shorter and more resilient supply chains and creating long-term, well-paid jobs for European workers.
  7. Urges the EU Member States and industries to end the use of zero-hour contracts, underpaid jobs and to take social welfare of workers (adequate remuneration and respect of working rights), especially for women and young workers, as key priorities when addressing industrial recovery and future industrial strategy.
  8. Encourages the EU and European industries to take concrete steps that lead to a Decarbonised Energy Union and to serve as the engine of the Green Deal and for the transformation of resource- and energy intensive industries towards a zero emission industry, while ensuring accessibility and affordability of new sustainable energy sources.
  9. Calls on the EU, Member States and industries for a more decisive move towards a circular economy through the implementation of a cascading use and cradle-to-cradle principles in our production chains, waste management and through a life-cycle assessment of critical components and raw materials.
  10. Urges the European Commission to prepare concrete steps and strategies to reduce the use of critical metals, batteries and plastic, where alternatives exist, and to enhance recycling of them (i.e. chemical degradation; substitution by circular materials).
  11. Calls the European Commission to propose a legislative framework that would regulate and minimize the industrial exploitation of natural resources in light of environmental preservation, following the “Do-no-harm-principle”, to protect the rights of the local communities and indigenous peoples within and outside the EU as well as to ensure their participation in the production and decision-making processes. This would contribute to the creation of new jobs in the long term and to a level playing field, where all companies comply with the same principles.
  12. Expects the EU’s’ and Member States’ industrial strategies to support the fight against in-work poverty, poverty and inequality, as well as to ensure strong and equitable workers’ rights. Furthermore, equal access and opportunities should be guaranteed for, but not limited to, women, minority workers, and young people.
  13. Demands the EU to consequently implement the targets set out in the European Skills Agenda, especially by providing targeted training to workers from declining sectors and to ensure new opportunities and jobs within good working conditions.
  14. Calls for EU funds aimed at industrial transition, such as the Just Transition Fund, to become real funds of solidarity, that ensure fair distribution across society, between regions and countries, underlining the importance of European territorial cohesion.
  15. Further encourages the EU and the Member States to support already existing and emerging networks of SMEs across Europe, to share their knowledge and best practices regarding sustainable digitalization.
  16. Demands, especially, the European and national recovery funds to support this industrial transition and to ensure that it excludes all kinds of loopholes to benefit the “old” and polluting industries, but instead strengthens future-oriented industries.
  17. Encourages the EU and Member States to support SMEs in their potential to grow and to compete on global markets and to become global champions.
  18. Further encourages the EU and the Member States to support already existing and emerging networks of SMEs across Europe, to share their knowledge and best practices regarding sustainable digitalization.