A post-pandemic industrial strategy to ensure a strong recovery must include civil society, stresses the EESC in a recent report on the draft new EU industrial strategy. It must focus on sustainability and wellbeing, measure social impacts and promote an efficient, accessible healthcare system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in Europe’s economic landscape, notably regional inequalities, skills gaps and risks to the single market and supplies of strategic goods. In the light of these lessons, the European Commission has updated its blueprint for a greener, more digital and competitive industrial landscape, the New Industrial Strategy for Europe.

The EESC has drawn up a report on the updates and a supplementary opinion highlighting the conditions for an inclusive and innovative healthcare ecosystem that can underpin industry in the EU.

In the report, the EESC calls for all groups involved in Europe’s economy to shape its future, from trade unions, industry and SMEs to other civil society organisations and public authorities. The current strategy focuses on business, but it is imperative to include the insights of social partners in designing the goals, targets and indicators needed for successful change, the EESC argues. It adds that competitiveness cannot be the only indicator of a viable long-term strategy. A broader set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is needed than in the proposed Strategy. Competitiveness and investment are not enough, the EESC believes. KPIs must also promote social wellbeing and sustainable growth if Europe’s industries are to be truly sustainable.

Important areas to measure are the impacts of working and production conditions on both society and the environment, as well as the quality of jobs.

Another set of indictors should assess the shift to a “no-waste” circular economy. Finally, factors that cut across all industries, like R&D investment, should also be monitored to ensure that companies and jobs have long lifespans.

Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs) are EU-wide projects that support the development of innovations crucial to the green and digital transitions. The EESC argues that first, the know-how of workers’ organisations is needed to implement these projects well. Second, IPCEIs must be assessed for the value and jobs they create and for the skills workers and businesses need for the modernised industries.

Standards are another important instrument to re-establish European leadership in industrial production. The Committee insists that the standards developed by European companies should not just be spread by companies themselves: the Commission should be behind them and help disseminate them too.

The supplementary opinion looks at how to the strategy could improve access to fairer and better coordinated healthcare in Europe.

The EESC recommends a focus on governance, diversification of supply and digital healthcare, which are all connected. Better-run businesses would allow the single market to operate more smoothly, fostering new businesses. In turn, an increased number of producers would make access to healthcare goods and services more reliable, as would incentives to bring manufacturing of essential materials and products back to Europe.

Measures to enable digital healthcare systems that work between organisations and across borders would further strengthen the single market for the industry and improve care. For the same reasons, the EESC calls for action to boost synergies between public and private sectors, large companies and SMEs and investments in R&D and training of all workers connected to healthcare. (dm)