The European Commission yesterday (10 October) put forward a plan to boost industrial activity in a ‘re-industrialisation' of Europe.
“We've made mistakes in the past, we've let industry and SMEs fend for themselves for too long,” admitted Antonio Tajani, European commissioner for industry, as he presented a mid-term review of the Commission's ‘Integrated Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era' launched in 2010. The Commission's declared aim is to raise industrial activity so that it accounts for 20% of EU gross domestic product by 2020, compared to 16% today, taking it back up to pre-crisis levels.
The strategy sets out six priorities for short-term action: advanced manufacturing technologies, key enabling technologies, bio-based products, construction and raw materials, clean vehicles, and smart grids. Within the Commission, dedicated task-forces will be created this year to define specific plans.
The Commission's plan factors in a rise in labour costs in the developing world, which could, it argues, make EU manufacturing more competitive. Citing annual wage increases of 20% in industrialised regions in China, the Commission concludes that investing in Europe “is becoming more interesting again as the advantages of cheap labour are gradually diminishing”.
German Liberal MEP Holger Krahmer expressed disappointment that the strategy does not contain more specific action to help industry. “Twenty per cent of industrial value-added in 2020 – that sounds good, but the implementation proposals are too timid,” he said.
The Commission also published an industrial competitiveness scoreboard for 2012, which divides member states into high performers including Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK; uneven performers such as Greece, Italy and Spain; and poor performers, such as Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary.
Tajani pointed out that several member states already have industrial activity that exceeds 20% of their GDP. But some of these countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania – are also in the poor performers group.