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IP/09/294

Brussels, 19th February 2009

Strategy for a strong and competitive EU chemicals industry

The European Chemicals industry employs around 1,2 million people and is a world trade leader. Today the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals industry has met for the last time and adopted its report The report analyses the key challenges this sector is facing in the medium to long term  and makes recommendations on how they can be successfully addressed. The Group has looked into a number of areas, which are strategically relevant for the future of this important industrial sector such as innovation, energy, climate change and trade. It developed some forty recommendations which aim at fostering the competitiveness of the European chemicals industry while contributing to sustainable development. They confirm the need for setting stable and foreseeable framework conditions and orientations, notwithstanding the   current economic crisis which has also hit the chemicals sector.

European Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “The European Union has a strong interest to have a world class chemicals industry which is innovative and contributes to sustainable growth and employment. The innovations in this important sector are indispensable to tackle pressing global issues related to energy and climate change, water, food and health. It is of utmost importance that the potential of this sector is freed and that our societies understand that the European chemical industry is not backward looking but belongs to the dynamic drivers of innovative solutions, which are good for people and for the climate. The chemical industry is a true asset of the European Union.”

The Chemicals Industry significantly shapes other economic activities and has a vital importance for Europe’s economy. The High Level Group identified three key challenges for the European chemicals industry:

·        The increasingly difficult energy and feedstock situation with a high impact on costs.

·        Climate change, and global environmental challenges more generally

·        Strong competition from industry in emerging countries and barriers to market access in  these countries

In its conclusions the High Level Group highlighted three key factors for the continuing success of the chemical industry:

I.       More innovation and research and strengthening networks and clusters are keys to securing competitiveness and sustainability. More innovation needs greater private commitment and a favourable policy framework.


II.       Responsible use of natural resources and a level playing field for sourcing energy and feedstock are success factors. Constant efforts to improve efficiency and to provide innovative solutions to contribute to Europe’s energy saving targets are needed.

III.       IA competitive chemicals industry needs open world markets with fair competition to fully unlock its potential to ensure a successful future of this industry in Europe.

The High Level Group had 27 members which comprised Ministers and high-level representatives of Member States, representatives from the EU chemicals industry and its downstream industries, the chemical regions network, academia, trade unions, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGO's) and consumer organisations. It was chaired by Vice-President Günter Verheugen. Commissioners Janez Potočnik and Andris Piebalgs played a key role in the discussions on research, innovation and energy.

These key messages are elaborated in the Conclusions and the Final Report of the High Level Group which are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/chemicals/hlg/hlg2/hlg_index.htm


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