CDE News – Strasbourg
The violent developments in Ukraine have dominated discussions during the Conference on the Future of Europe’s plenary session which kicked off in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg on Friday.
Stakeholders from across the continent debated some 90 recommendations drafted by Citizens’ Panels earlier this year.
Reflecting the wider general discussions of achieving EU strategic autonomy in areas such as defence and energy supply, participants pushed for similar European independence for other key assets such as agricultural products, semiconductors, medical products, innovative digital and environmental technologies.
These products “should be better promoted and financially supported to keep them available and affordable to European consumers and reduce dependencies from outside Europe to the largest possible extent”, one of the recommendations said.
Recommendations pushed for support to keep industries and supply chains within the EU, tax breaks, subsidies, an active SME policy as well as education programs to keep related qualifications and jobs in Europe.
A report drawn up by stakeholders working on proposals related to the EU’s role in the world said that Europe has too many dependencies from outside the continent in key areas that have potential for diplomatic conflicts and could result in shortcomings of basic or strategically relevant products or services.
“As production costs in the EU are often higher than in other parts of the world, more active promotion and support of these products will enable and incentivise Europeans to buy competitive European products”, it adds.
Speakers backing this recommendation noted how it will also strengthen European competitiveness and keep future-oriented industries and jobs in Europe. Stronger regionalisation of production will also reduce transport costs and environmental damages.
At the same time, speakers noted that complete independence on specific resources was not realistic.
Janika Ylikarjula from the European Economic and Social Committee said that while European Union needed to spend more on research and innovation activities to enhance its technological readiness, cooperation with third countries was essential with specific resources.
Ylikarjula, who hails from the Confederation of Finnish Industries, remarked that it would an illusion to believe that there could be complete independence on resources such as semiconductors.
In this context, it was imperative for the EU to strengthen its relationship with third countries, such as through trade agreements, to reduce existing dependencies. “New trade agreements would allow the EU to address the current supply-side challenges”, she declared.