Video message by Commissioner Breton on “The Industrial Strategy in times of COVID-19” – Launch event of the CEPS Task Force on Industrial Policy

“Check against delivery”

Cher Monsieur Almunia, cher Joaquín,

Mesdames, messieurs,

Je vous remercie pour votre invitation à cet événement qui porte sur un sujet essentiel au futur de l’Europe.

The crisis we are going through, now in its second wave, is unlike any other in our recent history.

It is also a major accelerator of trends in the transformation of our society, our economy and our industry. Indeed, the crisis has confirmed the importance of being more resilient collectively, leading the green and digital transition, and reducing our geopolitical and economic dependencies.

Because rebuilding tomorrow’s industry is not just about subsidising sectors in difficulty.

It is also – and above all – about investing in the future to emerge from the crisis as a stronger, more resilient Europe. We want to be the world’s leading industrial continent and generate the highest added value and quality jobs.

In this context, I welcome the agreement reached on 10 November between the European Parliament and the Council on Europe’s next long-term budget and NextGenerationEU, the temporary recovery instrument.

What do I see as the main pillars of our action?

The Single Market has always been our best asset and a springboard for our companies. Suffice to look at Brexit to understand the attractiveness of our Single Market.

Now, with the crisis, we also need to recognise the Single Market as the ultimate engine for economic recovery.

The first wave of the pandemic made clear that when one country closes its borders, there are immediate knock-on effects for everyone in the value chain.

When the Single Market does not work, we all pay the price – North and South; East and West; small and big companies; manufacturing industries and economies that are more dependent on services; countries that rely more on exports and those that are import-heavy.

So let’s learn the lessons and unleash the full potential of our Single Market. Let’s tap into the largest domestic market in the world and create robust EU value chains across our industrial ecosystems.

Now let me turn to the twin green and digital transition.

In September, we increased our decarbonisation ambition and proposed a 55% target of emission reductions by 2030 in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

This will require a profound transformation of our industry, significant investments, and the creation of new markets.

We are committed to supporting this transformation. Let me mention some of our key actions.

Investments in decarbonisation and emission reductions from energy-intensive industries will be a priority, as well as the deployment of innovative low-emission technologies.

To ensure that EU companies can compete on a level playing field, we will propose a carbon border adjustment mechanism by the summer 2021.

And we will support the creation of demand and markets for clean, low-carbon, energy-efficient and circular products with a new product policy that introduces sustainability criteria for goods sold in Europe.

The twin of the Green Deal – the Digital Decade – will be a key pillar of our industrial strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the need to accelerate the digital transition in Europe:

  • It triggered unprecedented demand for digital technologies and infrastructures.
  • And it exposed the EU’s vulnerabilities and dependencies on other regions for its key digital capacities.

What should we conclude from this?

We need to invest in the digital technologies that will underpin our sovereignty and our industrial future. In the global race for technological power, Europe will lead if we seize the opportunities of data, microelectronics and connectivity.

They will act as enablers for the investment of the industry of tomorrow in fields, such as artificial intelligence, supercomputers and microprocessors. And of course they will be crucial pillars for building an effective European cyber shield.

To achieve this ambition, we need a smart combination of public and private investments.

And we need clear rules. Those who know me are well aware that I am not a fan of regulating for the sake of it. But our industry and businesses need clarity and predictability, starting with clear rules on data and on digital services and markets.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In our March Industry Strategy, we adopted a new and innovative industrial ecosystem approach.

Because when we talk about industry, we are not only talking about large manufacturing companies. We are talking about real ecosystems of researchers, manufacturers, SMEs and also a set of suppliers and service providers – increasingly interlinked, increasingly European.

In the context of the update of our industrial policy announced by President von der Leyen, we are working on a mapping for each ecosystem (tourism, mobility, retail, etc.) to establish a complete diagnosis of the entire value and supply chain to identify needs and mobilise tools where they are most needed.

This mapping (or “matrix”) will enable us to target our collective efforts where they are needed most with our full toolbox: financing, regulatory framework, trade and competition policies, partnerships and transversal initiatives such as Alliances which each benefit several industrial ecosystems at the same time.

I am firmly convinced that such inclusive approach that places our industry and our single market at the centre will be key to our recovery.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I often hear voices calling for making Europe more resilient, increasing our industrial leadership, and creating quality jobs.

But do we have the courage to do what it takes? To learn all the lessons from the crisis? To react to the geopolitical and economic trends around us? To show audacity and assertiveness in looking after our citizens’ interests?

The task ahead of us may seem daunting:

We need to ensure our competitiveness, our technological advantage in fields such as data, processors, connectivity and batteries.

We need to reskill our workforce and facilitate labour mobility, coupled with upward wage convergence.

We need to ensure our security of supply of essential commodities such as raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients and many other strategic areas.

We need to remain the main destination for foreign direct investment, but with increased controls, so that foreign companies that want to access our market do so on an equal footing with our European companies.

And we need to be better prepared for the next crisis which, whatever its nature, will require swift decisions being taken in the common European interest.

All of this was true before the COVID crisis, and it is truer now than ever – regardless of changes in leadership of this or that country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Making this all happen will require a collective effort by the EU institutions, Member States, regions, industry, social partners, researchers, and all relevant stakeholders.

The reflections stemming from your Task Force will be a very welcome input to our work.

Je vous remercie.