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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Closing speech by Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska at the High-level Conference on Energy-Intensive Industries

Brussels, 15 February 2016

"Energy-intensive industries: in it together, in it to win"


Ladies and gentlemen, I want to begin by echoing the remarks of Jyrki Katainen earlier today.

We understand the difficulties that you are facing.

We sympathise with your concerns.

And we feel for the many in the industry who fear for their livelihoods.

Those in this room.

And those outside.

We hear you!

 

And we stand with you.

We stand with those who work in your companies.

And we stand with those who depend on you.

That is why we are all here today.

 

As Jyrki said, the steel industry is not alone on this.

The issues run across all energy-intensive industries.

And the solutions also run across all of them.

 

I want to talk to you today about the main challenges that energy-intensive industries face.

I will say a few words about the tools available at EU level to help the industry respond to those challenges.

And finally, I want to highlight what the industry itself can do to adapt.

I firmly believe governments can help to create a better business and investment environment that can enable companies to grow.

They can enable job creation.

They can enable opportunity and success.

But only the industry itself can adapt, expand and succeed.

And I strongly believe that the industries represented here today can and will succeed.


The challenges faced by the EIIs

Ladies and gentlemen, Jyrki talked about the specific challenges faced by the steel sector.

He talked about the issues from foreign competitors and how we can respond.

Let me underline some important elements.

We do not and will not tolerate dumping.

We will not stand for subsidies that tip the scales against those who are competing on their merits.

We will push for a world based on private firms out-competing and out-innovating.

Not authorities out-subsidising and out-manipulating.

In global markets, it is essential to ensure a level playing field. We are already applying the instruments at our disposal to ensure this.

We have a record level of trade defence measures in place on imports of steel products.

We will continue to conduct anti-dumping investigations as fast as possible.

The modernisation of the Trade Defence Instrument would help improving their effectiveness.

The Commission made a proposal in 2013 which is in the hands of the EU Council.

I urge Member States to reach swift agreement.

 

As you know, the Commission is conducting an in depth impact assessment and has launched a public consultation on how to respond to the upcoming expiry of certain provisions in China's Protocol of Accession to the WTO.

We will carefully assess the economic effects of any potential step.

And we remain committed to maintaining a strong anti-dumping instrument to protect European industry from unfair trade.

 

But energy-intensive industries as a whole face longer term challenges beyond trade..

And they are formidable.

 

These challenges are climate change, innovation and skills.

 

First, climate change.

Energy-intensive industries account for a quarter of CO2 emissions in the EU.

So naturally, the industries will have to play their role in meeting the new targets that we agreed.

But at the same time, I know how important energy costs are for your competitiveness.

I know that the European industry is faced with higher energy prices than most of its competitors. Some of these concerns pertain to Member States' responsibilities like the level of taxation that energy is subject to .

And I hear your concerns that this will get worse.

So a key challenge is to meet our targets without hurting our competitiveness.

And part of that is ensuring competitive energy prices and secure energy supplies.

And I know that you want them as stable and predictable as possible.

 

A second challenge is innovation.

This is linked to the first challenge.

Our industry will struggle to remain competitive and achieve further significant CO2 emission reduction without the introduction of breakthrough technologies.

Let me recall some numbers.

The United States invests 2.8 % of its GDP in research and development.

In Europe, that figure is around 2%.

European enterprises are not investing as much as their American counterparts.

Even if new technologies are available, they need to be available at competitive production costs.

For example, let me illustrate the case of technologies that encourage the transition to a low-carbon economy.

For this scope, promising breakthrough abatement technologies are available for European energy-intensive industries.

However, large scale deployment requires an integrated EU approach.

These technologies will also require much research and development before they can be proven and implemented commercially.

We must make sure that in all cases we have not only technological but economic feasibility.

The Commission is fully committed to investment and innovation. This is the cornerstone to our investment plan for Europe. EU instruments like the European Fund for Strategic Investments can help bringing new competitive innovations to our industry.

Furthermore, under Horizon 2020 we will invest over 650 million Euros in innovative industrial demonstration projects.

 

A third challenge is skills.

Again this is linked.

Technology, innovative products and business models create new opportunities.

But the industry needs the people who will drive these changes and ensure their success.

We have to ensure the supply of highly-skilled scientists, technologists, innovators and managers.

And we have to have the skilled workers to use those technologies, make those products or implement those business models.

 

The tools at our disposal

Ladies and gentlemen, these are daunting challenges.

You need not face them alone.

As I said, we in the Commission cannot create the jobs, but we can help provide the conditions in which you can create the jobs.

Jyrki has already talked about some of the tools at our disposal.

 

On climate change, we have set up a number of Public Private Partnerships with a very significant focus on reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions.

As you know, we have set up the High Level Group on Energy-Intensive Industries.

Its aim is to help the energy intensive sectors to speak with one voice on their major common challenges.

It will also advise the Commission in the preparation of policy initiatives affecting energy intensive industries by identifying challenges and strategic priorities.

The first meeting of the group took place on 18 December.

 

We are also acting under the Energy Union initiative.

This aims at improving the functioning of the internal electricity and gas markets and reducing costs for users.

 

In December, we adopted the Circular Economy package.

It will create opportunities for the Energy-Intensive Industries, including for those of you in the steel sector.

We have put forward a wide range of initiatives.

Harmonising EU rules on by-products, developing recycling standards, and facilitating waste shipments between Member States to name a few.

All these measures should result in more energy and resource-efficient production.

And they will help you respond to the challenge of climate change.

 

On the challenge of innovation, we also have tools at our disposal.

Further involvement of our industries is also welcomed through various European Technology Platforms.

These platforms help to drive innovation, knowledge transfer and European competitiveness by involving several industry stakeholders.

Their function is to mobilise stakeholders and develop research and innovation agendas.

These platforms represent an excellent networking opportunity.

 

And on skills, there are a number of funds and policy instruments that can help.

I hope that Member States will make full use of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and European Social Fund.

These instruments can help with re-skilling of redundant workers and facilitate their re-integration into the labour market.

Both funds aim to help dismissed workers to improve their employability and find new job opportunities.

This is key in mitigating the effects of restructuring.

And in May, we will be launching a New Skills Agenda for Europe.

 

What can the industry do?

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what we can do on these challenges.

But in the end, you and only you can fully respond.

The industry itself needs to be the master of its own destiny, by adapting, innovating and modernising to make itself a winner.

 

And many of you already are.

And you are doing so by finding new solutions.

Not just new industrial processes.

Not just new products.

But new ways of doing business.

Large companies can no longer do everything alone.

All of you are increasingly outsourcing development and engineering to strategic suppliers in the high-tech manufacturing industry.

This requires collaboration between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier suppliers in the chain.

 

Many of you are innovating by becoming more flexible and resource efficient.

Today in most cases the customer is just offered a product or service.

But in energy-intensive sectors, the existing excellent value chains already allow active participation in design and production.

It is already a reality in metals, chemicals, refining, construction or paper value chains.

For example, input from the automotive customers to make adjustments during steel production already allow for flexible production.

This is the case of Arcelor Mittal in Gent.

Metallo Chimique is a recycling champion in the non-ferrous metals sector.

They can treat the most complex secondary raw materials and refine them into new metal products to supply the metal consuming industry.

In the paper sector, we have the example of Mondi who is using roughly one third of the total pulp in production from recovered paper.

Using recycled fibres reduces waste to landfill, benefiting the climate and the environment.

 

And many of you are innovating by moving closer to the customer.

That means greater transparency for the customer because it allows a quick response to customer needs.

This requires value chain management, but it only makes sense if the companies trust each other.

When one industrial company relocates outside Europe, it has knock-on effects.

Sooner or later, other parts of the value chain will follow.

Research and development, part suppliers and business services.

Only well performing value chains can enable us to recover what we have lost to producers in low-wage countries.

 

Conclusion

So ladies and gentlemen, we can look at the sky overhead and see only dark clouds and rain.

Or we can look at the earth beneath our feet and see the quiet growth and change going on that will soon yield great results.

 

And that means a more competitive industry with more jobs and more growth.

The European business community – large and small – has everything it needs to respond.

And the public sector can use the tools at its disposal.

There is no time to lose.

Thank you.

 


SPEECH/16/314

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