They underlined once again that industrial policy is a crucial part of the EU recovery. They are striving for a competitive, sovereign and resilient EU industry by investing on future-oriented technologies “made in the EU” and by putting an enabling policy framework in place. Both Ministers call on the acceleration of pan-European collaboration on innovative technologies, in particular Industrial Alliances and Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs).
In this context, Altmaier and Le Maire are actively engaging in the launch of three IPCEIs on hydrogen, cloud computing and microelectronics, which shall be financed in part by the European Recovery and Resilience Facility. The global shortage of electronic components for the car industry illustrates once more the need for an ambitious IPCEI to strengthen Europe's capabilities. Both Ministers also reaffirm their objective of defining common priorities for the European space policy (ESA and EU), including a common position on the future approach for European launchers and on the New Space economy by mid-2021.
Finally, Altmaier and Le Maire agreed on a joint position paper which provides input for the upcoming update from the European Commission of the European Industry Strategy. They both share the view that the EU’s industrial strategy should accelerate and support the transition towards a digital and carbon-neutral economy, while addressing the weaknesses and strategic dependencies that the pandemic has unveiled.
Altmaier: “Now is the moment to switch all industrial policy buttons to “power on”: the ones for engaging actively in the green and digital transition, the ones for implementing the lessons learnt from COVID-19, the ones for pan-European cooperation in innovative technologies and the ones for triggering private investment on a very large scale. We welcome the announced update of the Industrial Strategy and propose important measures.”
Le Maire: “The pandemic has confirmed that new European industrial value chains are an absolute necessity to guarantee our strategic independence. To do so, it is essential to strengthen the European industrial strategy by relying on cooperation between countries, in particular through important projects of common European interest (IPCEI). These are times to invest heavily in new technologies such as electronic components and systems, hydrogen, the cloud, space and even artificial intelligence. Now is the time. That is what we are doing at national level within France Relance; we must do it at European level too. There is no political sovereignty without technological independence.”
A summary of the Franco-German position paper on the European industrial policy strategy and its Spring 2021 update can be found below.
The Franco-German position paper on the European industrial policy strategy and its Spring 2021 update make it very clear that the EU industrial policy strategy of March 2020 has done highly valuable groundwork for the envisaged update: it should not be altered but rather built upon.
The overall industrial policy goal of securing and strengthening competitiveness in the long term holds true, just as ad-hoc industrial policy measures are needed to cushion the crisis. The non-paper focuses on concrete industrial policy measures for successfully mastering the green and digital transition, enhancing the level of resilience, putting emphasis on an enabling policy framework, and achieving the right governance set-up.
The green transition of the industrial sector requires a strengthened EU emissions trading system in order to achieve cost-effective emission reductions in industry. The non-paper further recognises that more ambitious climate action initiatives are required to achieve the 2030 emissions reduction target on EU level. Ambitious climate action must go hand in hand with the development of a coherent package of proposals for engaging industry in the green transition, including the implementation of a carbon border adjustment mechanism in order to limit the risk of carbon leakage in a way that is compatible with WTO rules.
The non-paper places a particular emphasis on building new industrial alliances and Important Projects of Common European Interest as a promising way of advancing technological leadership and gaining competitive advantages. Whilst giving a fresh boost to existing projects (e.g. hydrogen, electronics and connectivity, or Cloud infrastructure and services), France and Germany are pursuing ideas for cooperation in the areas of aviation biofuels and low-carbon industry. France and Germany place great expectations in the planned revision of the Communication on IPCEIs that is expected to clarify the rules and facilitate participation by SMEs. In this regard, the paper calls for the EU to also explore positive synergies between European funds and national funding and to further modernise state-aid rules to increase investment, notably in climate-friendly technologies.
Other proposals aim at improving Europe’s assets either in the global context or as guiding general principles: working towards a stronger and deeper Single Market, enhancing market-driven responses, and, in particular, reinforcing industrial and digital sovereignty. Concrete initiatives towards reducing the Union’s strategic dependencies must be tabled on ecosystems essential to our security. Citizens’ health is in particular a strong priority: we are committed to explore how innovative projects such as an IPCEI in this field could be supported.
The non-paper by France and Germany stresses a very important point: recovery will require massive investments. Beyond public investments triggered by national and European stimulus plans, it is key that financial institutions should be able to increase their funding capacity for long-term industrial projects. The need to mobilise private investments and channel them towards green and digital objectives is a central message of this paper. To that extent, the Capital Market Union Action Plan of 24 September 2020 should be urgently implemented, as the certainty created by this is needed by investors, innovators and industry alike.
Finally, the paper argues strongly in favour of developing key indicators. They not only allow political objectives to be translated into measurable milestones and targets, but also support transparent monitoring, evaluation and possible adjustments in industrial policy.