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Making Europe's industry more future-proof  

Heinz Lehmann, rapporteur on the CoR draft opinion on "A European strategy for industry" , addressed the Ministers of the 28 Member States at an informal meeting on 1 February in Sofia. During the meeting focused on the future of Industry in Europe the CoR rapporteur emphasised the importance of a digital transformation, a well-functioning single market and a close cooperation with cities and regions as success factors of a renewed EU industrial policy strategy.

The Bulgarian Presidency, which took over in January, wants to build on the Council's former work on industrial policy ( Council conclusions of 30 November ). It invited ministers and key stakeholders to examine key salient issues with a view to ensuring an ambitious and forward-looking EU strategy for a strong and competitive industry in Europe.

" We need to upgrade European industry for the digital age to ensure its competitiveness in a rapidly changing global world. All regions – including rural areas – need to participate in value creation and in generating and retaining skilled jobs. A well-functioning single market that provides a free and fair access to the European market will help to better integrate local and regional companies in global value chains, making them an essential success factor for European industry ", said Heinz Lehmann (DE/EPP), member of Saxony regional parliament, in his opening statement.

The CoR welcomes the European Commission's proposal for an annual Industry Day and the a high level industrial round table but calls for regional and local authorities but also for other regional stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, social partners and the civil society to be actively involved in the debate about key enabling technologies (KETs).

" As healthy regional economies are central to industrial modernisation we need to support industrial innovation on the ground. Local and regional authorities are strong partners in this endeavour as they have important powers and competences in policy areas such as research and innovation, education and skills, export support, infrastructure and the support for SMEs ", Mr Lehmann added.

During the meeting additional keynote speakers were Elżbieta Bieńkowska; Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Markus J. Beyrer, Director General of Business Europe, Goncalo Lobo Xavier, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee, and Marco Mensink, Director General of the European Chemical Industry Council.


In 2010, against the backdrop of the financial and economic crisis, the European Commission called for "an integrated industrial policy for the globalisation era putting competitiveness and sustainability at centre stage" and set the goal of raising the share of industry in GDP to 20%; since then, rapid technological developments, especially as a result of digitalisation, have confronted European industry with fresh challenges. Therefore the Council and the European Parliament called on the European Commission to draw up a "holistic EU industrial policy strategy for the future" by 2018.

In response the European Commission presented a renewed EU industrial policy strategy on 13 September 2017. The Council conclusions on 30 November welcome the Commission Communication but urge them to go further and develop a comprehensive EU industrial strategy with a focus on 2030 and beyond.

The CoR has collected the proposals by local and regional authorities in the draft opinion drawn up by Heinz Lehmann. It was adopted by the CoR commission for economic policy (ECON) on 23 January 2018, with final adoption planned during the CoR plenary session on 22-23 March 2018.


Carmen Schmidle

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