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The Basque Country plots the course of the European Union’s new industrial policy

2011 October 9

In Brussels on Tuesday the Lehendakari, Patxi López, will present the report drawn up by the Committee of the Regions on the direction the sector should take over the coming years

The report, wherein the Basque Government took a leading role and which was unanimously approved after a year of hard work, sets out 90 recommendations for areas such as R&D and innovation, company-related matters and the necessity of overcoming the current difficulties with financing. The Lehendakari will also participate in the plenary session at the Berlaymont building, along with Vice-President of the European Commission, Antonio Tajani. In its previous proposal, the European Commission concluded that "now more than ever, Europe needs industry and industry needs Europe".

A year ago, the European Commission asked the Committee of the Regions to draw up a report that would be used to guide future EU policy on industrial matters. The Committee, which is made up of 344 representatives from regional and local bodies within the EU, selected the Lehendakari, Patxi López, to present the report, owing to his extensive experience in industrial matters within Europe.

The Basque Government was chosen to lead the group as a result of its solid reputation within Europe as an industrial powerhouse. In fact, over the course of the last year, the Basque Government was asked by the European Commission to set up two seminars focusing on the metal-processing industry in Europe.

After almost a year of hard work and meetings with the European Economic and Social Committee, the Lehendakari will present the final report this Tuesday during the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions at the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Antonio Tajani, the Vice-President of the European Commission, will also attend.

Over the course of the past year, the Basque Country has collaborated with other European regions to produce a document that was unanimously approved during a Committee meeting on the 5th of July. However, the work was not begun entirely from scratch: on the 28th of October 2010, the European Commission sent a proposal to organisations within the EU in which it laid out the basis of its ideas.

The proposal stated the following: "Now more than ever, Europe needs industry and industry needs Europe. The Single Market, with 500 million consumers, 220 million workers and 20 million entrepreneurs, is a key instrument in achieving a competitive industrial Europe. One out of four jobs within the private sector in the European Union is in manufacturing industry, and at least another one out of four lies within associated services that depend on industry as a supplier or as a client. 80% of all private sector research and development efforts are undertaken in industry - it is a driver of innovation and a provider of solutions to the challenges our societies face."

Amongst the conclusions reached by the European Commission was the affirmation that "it is essential to increase productivity in manufacturing industry and associated services to underpin the recovery of growth and jobs". Given that small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's) account for two-thirds of jobs in the EU, the Commission also stated that "promoting the creation, growth and internationalisation of SME's has to be at the core of the new EU integrated industrial policy".

Ninety Recommendations in the Report

With the European Commission's proposal as a foundation, a year of hard work and collaboration went into preparing the final report, which is to be presented on Tuesday by the Lehendakari, entitled "An Integrated Industrial Policy for the Era of Globalisation: Focusing on Competitiveness and Sustainability". The report draws together a total of 90 recommendations for plotting the course of the European Union's new industrial policy, and bears the clear imprint of current Basque industrial policy.

The areas prioritised in the report include the development of effective framework conditions, economic governance, competitiveness, investing in and structuring the financial sector, innovation and research, energy and resources and the digital agenda.

One of the conclusions reached in the report is that the new parameters for competitiveness have cast doubt over the role of the EU economy for the rest of the world and that the European Commission should make efforts to correct "the imbalances that still remain within the EU"; a task for which industrial policy is one of the most useful tools.

The report, which was fully approved by the Committee of the Regions, recognises that the very concept of "industry" has evolved since the arrival of the so-called "diffuse industry" or "new industry", which includes services of high added value. It advocates a "competitiveness policy" and a stronger focus on "the intelligent development of an EU economy that is based on knowledge, strategic investment in R&D and training that is orientated towards science and technology, amongst other measures".

The Committee highlights the urgent need to "carry out structural reforms in the face of the radical changes that are affecting the business world", such as the growing influence of emerging countries, and also calls for the removal of "the shackles that limit business growth". In its conclusions it also extols the importance of "creating opportunities for companies to achieve efficiency in specific niches, thus enabling the EU to nurture multinational SME's in niche industries".

The report goes on to state that internationalisation is a "challenge faced by society as a whole, not merely companies", and is therefore an issue affecting "individuals, universities, training centres and science- and technology-based systems".

During the presentation of the report, Patxi López will also request effective measures "to adequately reform the financial markets and thus fight against speculation", in addition to the implementation of a Competitiveness Plan for the EU as a whole. Moreover, the report commits itself to cluster and intercluster projects and to the principle of "first think small", i.e. supporting SME's from their inception.

The Committee acknowledges the necessity of maintaining a commitment to "strategic projects within the EU, such as developing environmentally friendly vehicles, energy-efficient buildings and the "factories of the future", in addition to innovative public procurement and the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture", whilst also advocating the embracing of R&D and innovation; namely, the linking of internationalisation to the fields of innovation and technology. It also affirms the need to "seek public-private financing" for strategic infrastructures and major investments in production, in addition to the development of industrial policy. Additionally, the report calls for "greater coordination between research and industry" and for a simplification of the procedures for obtaining patents.

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