The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how resilience is properly built only by securing a fully functioning Single Market. This was the main message pronounced by EU Commissioner for the Internal market, Thierry Breton, who joined the Extraordinary Employers' Group meeting (1 March) to discuss a wide range of topics from the vaccine rollout, to the revised EU Industrial Strategy and Europe's sustainable recovery.
"We should always remember that we are the largest market in the world. When dealing with countries like China and the US, we need to make it clear that we are a force to be reckoned with and a part of it will be to put money towards key technologies," Breton added, stressing that the right level to deliver on our industrial ambition is the European one. "Investing together will be crucial to ensure our technological advantage and meet our climate ambition."
A wide range of pandemic restrictions will be lifted at different times throughout the EU and this distortion of the Single Market cannot be fully prevented. However, Commissioner Breton added, the means and the level of support that is made available need to be the same for all.
Commissioner Breton drew attention to the fact that COVID19 has highlighted a certain number of needs for our economy, for example that Europe has to strengthen its industrial autonomy. Europe has to form strategic synergies that will enable us to be more industrially sustainable. Also in this context, the revised Industrial Strategy must help businesses to make progress, even in these difficult times. Furthermore, Next Generation EU has unprecedented amounts of funding that can be deployed to build the Industrial Europe of tomorrow. The twin transitions, resilience and a sound value chain are some of the important areas for reconstruction.
"Europe is the most important industrial player and we have everything in favour to fulfil our ambitions – if we can keep our SMEs in good health," emphasized Commissioner Breton. Restrictions had to be taken in the last months, but with e.g. SURE and other tools the impact was decreased. The European Commission tries to act very swiftly together with Member States to continue to support SMEs in this difficult time.
Members of the Employers' Group voiced their concern that during the past months, new legislation was approved that will boost the bureaucratic burden for companies, particularly for SMEs. Businesses need less not more red tape. Commissioner Breton explained that "One-in-one-out" principle of the better regulation agenda is a start to limit bureaucratic burden, but the goal is to develop an approach based on effectiveness and which will focus on one-stop shops and platforms.
Employers' Group President Mallia focused his intervention on the vaccine rollout: "It is clear that only through a massive and timely delivery of vaccines to our citizens we can start to regain stability and confidence, both ingredients which are extremely important for a speedy and strong economic recovery. We have won the science battle and now we have to win the industrial production battle. We are confident that industry is reacting in the right manner, production capacities are being pooled together and that the right policy decisions will be taken. Vaccination passports could also play a crucial role in bringing further confidence to the market." Commissioner Breton agreed to the points raised and added that he was working to boost production capacity of EU pharma.
In conclusion, the EESC Employers' Group and Commissioner Breton were in vast agreement on the topics discussed and the same business-oriented language was spoken to constructively forge the right legislative environment allowing companies to operate with certainty, flexibility and security. The EESC Employers' Group firmly believes that business and enterprises are is the indispensable partner to adapt our societies to the future and should be given the room to play a constructive role.