During the energy transition towards the low-emission economy, the EU energy system faces a period of profound technological, economic and social change that will affect many of the energy sectors, including the coal industry and hence the coal-mining regions of the EU.
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits. The opinion on the Commission's circular economy package includes a number of key recommendations, in particular addressing the Action Plan and upcoming legislative initiatives; among these recommendations, the EESC suggests the creation of a European platform of stakeholders involved in the circular economy to address strategic issues associated with the resource-efficiency transition and keep the political momentum high.
The steel industry is confronted to serious short-term and long-term challenges basically fuelled by global overcapacity, a dramatic increase of exports and an unprecedented wave of unfair trading practices. These challenges require a forceful response at the European level. The Commission proposal focuses on new short-term measures to strengthen the EU's defence against unfair trade practices, as well as on international negotiations to tackle the causes of global overcapacity. Longer-term actions are also put forward to guarantee the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of steel industry such as: Investing in future solutions and technologies to develop technology and quality; investing in people (skilled and well-trained workforce); and focusing policies in key areas like competition, energy, emissions trading and the circular economy.
The EESC reiterates its firm commitment to an Energy Union and a European energy dialogue. It supports optimal implementation of the SET Plan, which can be achieved through a joint, consistent approach involving the cooperation of energy policy stakeholders, cooperation between States, an efficient internal energy market and the consolidation and better coordination of energy research and innovation programmes. The added value of the SET Plan will derive from better coordination and a new system of governance for the European energy system. The most important task is the technical and scientific development of technologies and innovation, and the promotion of factors that encourage new ideas and concepts.
Most ships that reach their economical end-of-life are scrapped in an irresponsible way in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh using the "beaching-method". That involves grounding them on a sandy beach where they are scrapped by unskilled workers, including many children, without appropriate equipment, without any health and safety provisions protecting them against the large quantities of hazardous substances released and without paying them a liveable wage. In the EU there are only some facilities that are primarily specialised in recycling military vessels for safety reasons. They most often can’t compete in the market for recycling commercial vessels as the price offered in the countries that use the beaching method is much higher than in Europe.
Europe has always played a key role in the innovation and development of personal care, body hygiene and beauty products. However its leading position has progressively been eroded in the process of global competition. While the innovative capacity of Europe’s specialised enterprises is very impressive, the production and commercialisation of European inventions have shifted to other parts of the world with serious economic and social consequences for Europe in terms of benefits, labour opportunities and incentives for research and development. To strengthen this particular branch of industry by appropriate strategies will lead to a major contribution to industrial reshoring and industrial development.
The new ongoing EU framework programme for R&I, Horizon 2020, introduced a substantial innovation in how it is structured compared with previous EU framework programmes, giving more room for the influence of both industry and Member States by establishing partnerships.
In October 2014, the EESC adopted an own-initiative opinion on business services in industry. In addition to a description of the processes involved with Industry 4.0 and digitalisation in the European economy and in various Members States, it presented a number of recommendations to the European institutions regarding desirable approaches at EU level. The importance of Industry 4.0 and its huge impact on industrial change lie in its crosscutting development across society and business, affecting all sectors and value chains. While industrial processes are intensifying, better coordination between governments and businesses is emerging, universities and research centres are becoming increasingly involved, and social partners are also active at various levels. After some hesitation, Commissioner Oettinger at the Juncker Commission has been given a mandate to coordinate EU measures relating to 4.0 and digitisation.
There is an urgent need to reindustrialise Europe. In order to achieve this the engineering and technical professions should be focused. These professions are indispensable in developing innovative production methods and products. However, without appropriate human resources and their potential, experience and knowledge, this goal is not to be achieved. Industry and companies should introduce communication policy to emphasise the attractiveness of the industrial sector; the crucial role belongs to industry associations. Better dialogue between companies and organisations in charge of vocational training might be an important step in facing the employment creation issue. What is more it could reduce differences between demand and supply.
Studies point to new dynamics in the world economy with substantial consequences for the competitiveness of national economies. The theme of the information report is inspired by a recent study of the Boston Consulting Group. In analysing in-depth the cost-related aspects in manufacturing among a great many countries the study proves that traditional views about the relationship between the developed and underdeveloped/emerging economies is becoming obsolete. In all groupings there are frontrunners and slow developers...