EU Policy. Industry chiefs warn of over regulation, demand change of tack

Charlie Riedel Source:	AP
Charlie Riedel Source: AP Copyright Charlie Riedel/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Charlie Riedel/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Marta Pacheco
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Corporate leaders are calling on the EU executive to revive European industry while green groups reproach the EU Belgium Presidency for standing by them.


European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo were among EU leaders who joined corporate leaders at chemicals multinational BASF’s huge complex near Antwerp as they set out their demands for a more business-friendly EU industrial policy.

In the so-called Antwerp Declaration issued on Tuesday (20 February), some 70 companies from sectors as diverse as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper, steel, mining, and aluminium urged the EU executive to put industry at the core of the next commission's strategic agenda to secure investment within the bloc and to keep up with cleantech production from China and the US.

Led by the trade lobby European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), corporate leaders launched the declaration stressing “urgent industry needs” for “clarity and predictability” in the bloc’s industrial policy.

“The action plan needs to include actions to eliminate regulatory incoherence, conflicting objectives, unnecessary complexity in legislation and over reporting. We ask to develop an Omnibus proposal to take corrective measures on all relevant existing EU regulations as the first piece of legislation to be presented in the next EU institutional cycle,” the document ran.

The declaration also called for "strong public funding” for cleantech deployment, the prioritisation of “abundant and affordable” low carbon renewables and nuclear energy. Corporate chiefs also called for targeted financing for carbon and capture storage and utilisation projects and recycling infrastructures, to increase domestic mining and processing of raw materials. The declaration touted the need for a future commissioner responsible for the delivery of a 'European Industrial Deal'.

Martin Brudermüller, Cefic’s president, described the struggle faced by “basic industries”, saying demand is declining, investments in Europe are stalling and production has dropped significantly, threatening the existence of manufacturing sites.

“We urgently need decisive action to create the conditions for a stronger business case in Europe. ‘The Antwerp Declaration’ outlines a pathway ahead […] This is the only way to show the rest of the world that the Green Deal works for all,” said Brudermüller.

“We need to tweak the debt brake to allow for vital future investments. To make this happen, we need a robust European climate fund that can hold its own against the US Inflation Reduction Act,” said MEP Michael Bloss (Germany/Greens).

Reacting to the gathering of corporate and EU leaders in Antwerp, Green groups accused the Belgian presidency of adopting low-key approach to the EU green deal.

An open letter signed by more than 70 European NGOs blamed the Belgian Presidency for “failure to recognise the culpability of the corporate interests” as major contributors of toxic pollution and biodiversity crisis. The event is an “insult” to communities in Flanders, the letter said, evoking those allegedly living with PFAS pollution around the 3M plant in Antwerp.

Doreen Fedrigo, industrial transformation policy coordinator at the NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe voiced concern over civil society's alleged exclusion from the discussions, which he said set a poor precedent.

“We continue to call out against such an undemocratic approach as well as to the ever-growing sums of money being asked by, and provided to, large corporations. We cannot subsidise our way into global competitiveness, not unless political leaders are ready to completely run down support of social services and climate resilience,” added Fedrigo.

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