Henrike Hahn, member of the European Parliament (The Greens/EFA), industrial policy speaker and deputy speaker for the German Greens in the European Parliament comments on today’s State of the European Union speech by Ursula von der Leyen:
Green industrial policy, sectoral dialogues, Raw Materials Club
Green industrial policy was the primary focal point of Ursula von der Leyen's speech, which extends more or less throughout two-thirds of her address including the questions of energy security and a just transition. She outlined a package of measures from the Net-Zero Industry Act to the Critical Raw Materials Act. While the sovereignty fund appears to have completely vanished, at least STEP gets a short mention. We need massive investments in renewable energies and batteries and a strong counter financed STEP via own resources.
I appreciate her dedication to finalizing these reforms and her commitment to crafting tailored strategies for various industrial ecosystems. Ursula von der Leyen's announcement of the Clean Transition Dialogues with the industry and the proposal for the inaugural meeting of the Critical Raw Materials Club this year represent positive steps toward a robust European green industrial policy.
Ursula von der Leyen views China as a strong yet partly unfair competitor, particularly in the realm of green technology and the associated raw materials.
The announcement of the Commission launching an anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles originating from China doesn't come as a surprise. It underscores the need to protect our interests from unfair practices. Our European approach aims to mitigate risks rather than completely severing ties, which will be a guiding principle in our interactions with Chinese leadership during the upcoming EU-China Summit later this year.
SMEs as the backbone of Europe’s economy, appointment of an SME envoy
SMEs are the backbone of Europe’s economy and its green transition. I therefore highly welcome the attention given to SMEs in the speech, notably the commitment to finally appoint an SME envoy by the end of the year. We need to reduce bureaucracy and regulatory burden for SMEs without compromising on high ecological and social ambitions - but we have to put very concrete Commission proposals on the way as soon as possible, following up on yesterday's Communication on the SME Relief package.
CCfDs as a key to decarbonising our European industries
The Commission President was right to point out the successes in building up a European Green industry, such as going from zero green steel plants a few years ago to 38 today. This is notably due to the use of Carbon Contracts for Difference (CCfDs), an instrument that we as a Green group were pushing for a lot in recent years on European level. This is a clear demonstration that Green Industrial Policy works and has real effects on the ground. We should not listen to fear mongering about deindustrialisation through the Green Deal, but embrace the opportunities of the transition.
A future-proof EU budget
I welcome that the Commission will launch a series of pre-enlargement policy reviews to prepare for a bigger Union. The EU budget has to be central to this review. We will need to close the investment gap in combating climate change, make important investments in green infrastructure and ensure a truly competitive green European industry. For these challenges we need a bigger, more reliable EU budget counter-financed by new EU own resources.
Economic governance and European competitiveness
I welcome von der Leyen’s announcement to task Mario Draghi with the preparation of a report on the future of European competitiveness. Mario Draghi can provide an important impetus towards the completion of the capital markets union, the creation of a fiscal union and the strengthening of our single market. Deeper European integration is crucial to the future of European competitiveness.
Will Ursula von der Leyen seek re-election?
It is very surprising that the Commission President does not address adequately, extensively and detailed the increasing shift to the right in the European Union, including the challenges to democracy and the rule of law, especially the situations in Poland and Hungary. The fundamental values of the EU are being seriously undermined here, and it is unacceptable for a Commission President to not be loud enough on this matter during the State of the Union address.
It remains to be seen whether Manfred Weber intends to lead the EPP from the centre to the right in light of the European elections, while at the same time, Manfred Weber's home party in Bavaria is currently rocked by an antisemitism scandal within the Bavarian state government.
If Ursula von der Leyen runs for re-election, her stance on right-wing populist and extremist views will play a significant role. As Greens, we expect her, as Commission President, to take a clear and decisive stance on this matter.”
I would be happy to answer any further questions.