Jean-Claude Juncker on the future of European industrial policy

An image of an industry worker to illustrate European industrial policy in action

At EU Industry Days 2019, SciTech Europa listened to the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, discuss the future of European industrial policy.

In February, SciTech Europa attended the Industry Days 2018 event in Brussels,
Belgium, and event, which gathered around 1,500 participants from across Europe and
beyond, focused on key industrial challenges such as sustainability, digitalisation,
investment and globalisation and attempted to demonstrate how European industrial policy
benefits European citizens and provide input for future policy making.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered a keynote
speech at the very beginning of the event to a full auditorium, as he delivered his vision for
the future of European industrial policy.

He began his address by stating: “Our economy is transforming before our eyes and the
world around us is changing faster than ever. And if Europe is to succeed, it cannot afford to fight that transformation. Rather, it must be the first to adapt to it, the first to shape it. And I believe our industry can lead the way.”

More than 239 million people in work

Junker went on to mention how some of the world’s best innovators and entrepreneurs
originate from Europe and that “Europe’s industry provides a livelihood for millions and is
the driving force of Europe’s continued economic recovery.” He then went on to mention that “more than 239 million people are now in work, more than ever before .”

And 12 million of those jobs have been created since the start of this Commission's mandate. He then went on to explain that the EU’s investment in industry has gone some way to creating these jobs. He said: “the Juncker Plan alone helps to trigger more than €375bn, helping 856,000 small businesses in the process.”

More than 32 million people have become employed directly in industry, with many more being employed indirectly – for every manufacturing job, another 2.5 are created across the value chain, Juncker said. For the EC President, this demonstrates that industry and European industrial policy truly drives the European economy.

But more than that, it helps us “punch above our weight on the global stage. It accounts for more than two-thirds of our exports and is one of the main reasons we have partners lining up at our door to secure free trade agreements.” Here, he drew on the recent agreement with Japan, which he called “a game-changer for our industry,” adding: “It will open a new marketplace home to 635 million people and a third of the world's GDP. It will save European companies €1bn in duties every year.”

We are not naïve free traders

“But let me be very clear,” President Juncker went on. “We are not naïve free traders. We
will not trade for the sake of it or compromise on our principles for a quick deal. I cannot
accept that those who work hard to make ends meet suffer at the hands of those who
dump, de-regulate or distort the market. This is why we have shown our teeth by raising
tariffs on cheap steel coming from China or taken a no tolerance approach on the forced
transfer of technology. It is why we have modernised our trade defence instruments and
have just recently agreed new rules on screening foreign investment in areas that may
affect security or public order.”

European Industrial Policy

Junker expanded on this by stating that: “just as a level playing field in the global market is essential for our industry, so is a level playing field essential at home, in our Single Market. We will always allow competition that is fair for business and ultimately fair for the consumer. We have shown that time and again. We want strong European companies that can compete on the global scene.

“In nearly 30 years since the first European merger rules came into place, we have approved more than 6,000 deals….This shows that we believe in competition – as long as it is fair for all. We will never play politics or play favourites when it comes to ensuring a level playing field. This is what allows our entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive. There is no lack of talent, no lack of ideas in Europe – you see this for yourselves with the 23 Young Leaders who have joined us today. Our job is to make sure that we use all the tools we can
to make sure they fulfil their potential.”

Funding for research and innovation to reach €100bn

Junker went on to say that this is why we must also “get on with deepening the Single
Market” which, he believes, is “our best asset in this increasingly competitive world.
Countless European Councils have called for the completion of the Single Market. It is time
we match that rhetoric with delivery on the ground. The Single Market allows businesses all
over Europe to work together to create and market new products free from customs and
technical barriers. It helps bring down costs, improve the quality of materials and give
customers wider choice. But there are still far too many barriers to fulfilling its full potential. We can do better.”

“In particular, we need to complete the Capital Markets Union as a priority to ensure that
industry has access to the finance it needs to innovate and to grow. Overall, we have made
67 proposals to help complete the Single Market, 31 of them still need to be agreed by the
co-legislators – the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. This should be our focus
for the weeks and months ahead.”

However, Junker also suggested that at the same time we must also look further ahead, and so he highlighted that the Commission is “in the process of discussing our new long-term budget for 2021-2027. This is about choosing what we want our Union to achieve. This is why the Commission’s proposals focused on the areas that matter the most – and where investment can really add value.”

“The future of Europe’s industry will depend on its ability to adapt by investing in new
technologies and embracing the digital and ecological transitions. This is why when it comes to industry, we have put our money where our mouth is – right across the board.

Funding for research and innovation will be increased by 50% to reach €100bn. A Digital Europe Programme worth €9bn will support Europe’s digital transformation. A quarter of our budget will support our clean energy, climate and sustainable development targets. And we will take our successful Investment Plan for Europe to the next level with the new InvestEU programme. This shows how industry will be central to the future of our economy.”

The European Pillar of Social Rights

To the end of Junker’s keynote speech, the tone got more personal with him providing a
personal perspective on European industry, as he explained that his father was a
steelworker. “The steel plant was the heart and soul of our local community in the deep
south of Luxembourg,” he said. “What I saw growing up still shapes the way I see the world
today. I saw honest, hard-working people developing their skills, contributing to society and earning a fair wage. I saw how industry was firstly about people and I saw the stability that industry gave to my family.

“Of course, industry today looks very, very different. Technologies have changed, ways of
working are different. Climate change poses as many major challenges as it does
opportunities for European companies to take the lead globally. But ultimately, Europe is still an industrial society – both at heart and in practice. And we should still always think
about what our economy can do for people – rather than what people can do for the
economy. This is why I have made the European Pillar of Social Rights a personal priority. It
is about ensuring things like equal pay for equal work in the same place. It is about providing a work-life balance so that everyone can have stability at home and stability at work. It is about equipping people with the right skills in the changing world of work.”

New Skills Agenda

Junker closed his speech by mentioning that “around a third of European employers say
they cannot find people with the right skills to grow and innovate. 44% of Europeans still
lack basic digital skills. And yet we have still have many high qualified young people in jobs
that do not match their profiles. Our New Skills Agenda for Europe is helping to plug the
skills gap and support workers young and old to develop new skills for today's job market.

When it comes to adapting to the modern world, skills and jobs should be our number one
priority. “You will hear today a lot about how globalisation will shape the future of our industry. But I believe that if we are ambitious and can make the most of our potential, Europe and its industry can help to shape the future of fair globalisation. Yes, there will be challenges. But Europe’s industry has always shown its willingness and ability to adapt. And this is what it must continue to do.”

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