Šefčovič’s plan to bring EU industry and green policies together

Šefčovič’s plan to bring EU industry and green policies together | INFBusiness.com

The hot topic of the month in Brussels is industrial competitiveness and how it can be connected more closely to the European Green Deal. European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, appointed to lead the Green Deal portfolio last year, has a plan.

The Slovak EU commissioner addressed on Wednesday (21 February) a crowd of business associations, think-tankers, trade unions, and green philanthropists to prepare for the next phase of the European Green Deal, focused on industrial policy.

In a single day, he could be found meeting representatives of the European Climate Foundation, a philanthropic group backed by US financiers, the EU employers’ association BusinessEurope, and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and participating in a round-table discussion with the biggest oil and gas companies in Europe.

For Šefčovič, the EU’s future Green Deal Industrial Plan, outlined by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech last September, will rest on “four pillars, which I believe are absolutely necessary”, he told the audience.

Those include a “predictable and simplified regulatory environment”, “speedy and efficient access to funds”, a focus on skills and education in new technologies through vocational training and universities, and “open trade for resilient supply chains”.

This also means Europe has to be “much more assertive in tackling unfair trade practices, dumping or large subsidies, because we need to ensure that competition is fair,” he stressed.

The need for action is urgent, especially when it comes to China’s dominance in mineral markets, he added, pointing to the bloc’s critical raw materials act, due to be formally adopted in the coming weeks.

The call for more “predictable” regulation echoes the Antwerp declaration made on Tuesday by some 70 energy intensive industry companies and some 30 associations.

Šefčovič, who made the trip to Antwerp earlier this week with von der Leyen, also underlined the need for funding to support the green transition. 

“The Commission has already pledged to mobilise €1 trillion via its seven-year budget … but of course much more will be needed,” he said, pointing to the potential extra funding available from fossil fuels. Just last year, Europe spent €600 billion on oil and gas imports and €400 billion on subsidies to support households, he pointed out. 

Fourth term?

It remains to be seen if Šefčovič will get the chance to implement his plan as part of the next Commission that will be appointed after the June European elections. 

Šefčovič already served three mandates in Brussels and is seen as the frontrunner for a potential fourth term – provided he is nominated by the government in his home country.

Asked about this, the Slovak commissioner only told Euractiv that “there is a long time to go” until the election on 6-9 June.

While the socialist commissioner enjoys support from the European Parliament’s socialists and Democrats (S&D), his association at home with the pro-Kremlin populist Prime Minister Robert Fico is seen as an obstacle.

Fico won the Slovak elections in October last year and succeeded in forming a government. His party, Smer, was suspended from the S&D group shortly after.

Whether Fico will nominate Šefčovič for another term at the Commission is unclear. The S&D’s backing is also in the balance, despite Šefčovič’s widely recognised track record during his 15 years in Brussels.

Industry representatives, meanwhile, are clearly supportive. One lobbyist called him “Implementovič” and lauded his dedication to dialogue with the clean tech industry. Others welcomed his ability to bring both sides of the aisle to the table. 

Slovak politics may prove the biggest obstacle in the end. The government in Bratislava is currently trying to pass a fast-tracked judicial reform that would abolish the country’s special anti-graft prosecutor, a move that might put it on collision course with Brussels.

Critics say the reform is aimed at shielding Smer lawmakers from prosecution. The Slovak president vowed to fight the bill, and people have taken to the streets in protest. 

[Edited by Frédéric Simon/Zoran Radosavljevic]

Read more with Euractiv

Šefčovič’s plan to bring EU industry and green policies together | INFBusiness.com

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Source: euractiv.com

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