Albert Concepción, director of Foro Industria y Energía

Since the European Commission raised the need to implement a European industrial policy in October 2020, the world’s political situation has experienced several strong upheavals. Far from contradicting this need, all of them have reaffirmed it.

This initial statement was made in the midst of a pandemic, with Europe and the world immersed in an unprecedented economic lockdown. The situation clearly demonstrated the need for European industrial sovereignty, in which energy plays a fundamental role, a role further heightened by the war in Ukraine and the pressure of climate change.

The European industrial policy, as outlined by the European Commission, is fundamentally based on three pillars: strengthening the resilience of the single market, responding to strategic dependencies, and accelerating ecological and digital transitions. In all these pillars, energy plays a prominent role: as an essential resource for the functioning of European industry, as an industrial sector in itself, and as a vector of sustainability. Not in vain, ecological transition and energy transition are terms that go hand in hand to the extent that they are sometimes confused.

Increasingly, voices support the need for a robust European industrial policy supported by a clear and favorable regulatory framework, ensuring the EU’s sovereignty in matters such as basic raw materials or energy. An example of this is the Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal, signed this week by 73 leaders from almost 20 industrial sectors, proposing “a European Industrial Pact at the same level as the European Green Deal, not in opposition, but reinforcing each other.”

The EU’s drive for industry runs parallel to the ecological transition process, with the aim of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. In this sense, the environmental goal is clear and unanimous, but not so the means to achieve it.

The speed at which the ecological transition process must be applied for the industry to remain competitive, as well as the “ingredients” to be used to complete it—including so-called “transition” energies such as natural gas or nuclear energy—are the subject of debate, both from the involved industrial sectors and from civil society and European politicians themselves.

In fact, the European elections in June of this year could potentially modify the schedule of this transition if the predictions of a greater representation of the conservative bloc in the European Parliament are confirmed. The objective probably wouldn’t be modified, especially considering that Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed her aspiration for a second term. However, it’s not ruled out that there may be changes in the manner and pace of the process.

Europe needs a strong, competitive, and sustainable industry that provides quality employment in an environmentally healthy environment. How to articulate energy management to achieve this remains a subject of debate, to which Foro Industria y Energía aims to contribute.