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EU Policy. Exclusive: European industrial strategy needed to compete with US, Letta to tell leaders

Enrico Letta berates the lack of European high-speed rail
Enrico Letta berates the lack of European high-speed rail Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jack Schickler
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The former Italian PM’s report, part of which has been seen by Euronews, calls for stronger rules to unify telecoms, energy and financial markets and a new European business code.

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Europe needs its own industrial strategy to face up to aggressive support from the US, EU leaders are set to be told on Thursday (18 April) in a report by former Italian premier Enrico Letta, a recent draft of which was seen by Euronews.

EU countries could be forced to contribute to fund pan-European initiatives as the bloc faces up to sluggish growth, in a move that may provoke fears of a global subsidy war.

“The EU must step up its efforts to develop a competitive industrial strategy capable of counteracting instruments recently adopted by other global powers, such as the US Inflation Reduction Act,” said a draft introduction to the report by Letta, with many European companies tempted by Washington’s green subsidies.

After years in which the EU’s competition rules were weakened to respond to the pandemic, the bloc needs to get tougher, Letta said, with stronger national enforcement coupled with a “state aid contribution mechanism” requiring EU members to finance “pan-European initiatives and investments”.

Letta also calls to unify markets such as finance, energy and telecoms that have until now been considered too sensitive to be governed from Brussels, alongside extra transport funding.

“The coming years must prioritise the planning, funding, and implementation of a major plan to connect the European capitals with high-speed rail,” he said, after visits to 65 European cities left him fuming at the lack of green travel options.

The report also proposes a "European Code of Business Law", offering an extra option alongside 27 national legal regimes for companies seeking to operate across the bloc. 

Letta is due to present his findings at a meeting of national leaders in Brussels, whose chair, Charles Michel, seems likely to be receptive.

“The Single Market has been neglected for the past four years,” Michel told reporters last week, casting economic regulation as the source of Europe’s “prosperity, power and autonomy”.

That might be taken as criticism of his rival Ursula von der Leyen, who took office as European Commission President in late 2019, though some will be quick to point out that many proposed reforms to taxation and capital markets have been blocked by EU national ministers.

UPDATE (15 April, 2:00 CET): Adds paragraph on Code of Business Law.

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