New EU strategy: competitiveness, single market and critical raw materials

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European long-term strategy addresses such issues as competitiveness, 30 years of the Single Market and Critical Raw Materials Act. The EU member states have been recovering from past major shocks; but they still need to look ahead and confront long-standing challenges around productivity and competitiveness.  

The future of Europe’s economic growth and prosperity is based on the EU-wide growth strategy anchored around two key transformations: i.e. climate-neutral and green growth with urgent efforts to embrace the digital age aspects. Since the mid-1990s, the average productivity growth in the EU has been weaker than in other major economies. So while we are dealing with the immediate impact of the crisis, we also need to take a longer-term horizon – beyond 2030 – to create predictable and competitive conditions for businesses to flourish within the European social model.
New EU strategy addresses such areas as the availability of private funding, public investments, energy (including energy prices), open trade, research and development, digitalisation, skills and circularity. In order to carry out annual monitoring, these key areas will be supported by key performance indicators.

The Commission will also screen EU regulations to assess if they remain fit for purpose in these challenging times, and work towards a more business and innovation-friendly approach to regulation. This part of the strategy also applies to the EU’s commitment to green and digital transitions: the member states shall be the global leaders in the future green industrial growth.

Critical raw materials, CRMs
The European region needs critical raw materials, CRMs; this demand will grow dramatically during the next decade. For example, in order to proceed with the perspective direction in renewables (i.e. using wind power), the states need modern wind turbine production; demand for rare earth metals in this area is expected to be 5 to 6 times higher by 2030 and 6 to 7 times higher by 2050. The same is in the production of the electric vehicle batteries: demand for lithium is expected to be 12 times greater by 2030 and 21 times higher by 2050.

    For many of the CRMs, the EU-27 depend heavily on a small pool of external partners; sometimes, just one partner. The situation is neither stable nor reliable to create perspective industrial development; hence the EU urgently needs to diversify the chain of supplies and maximise states’ ability to access, process, refine, recycle and deploy critical raw materials.
The EU’s goal is that by 2030 to reach the states’ capacity of domestic demand for mining and extraction by at least 10%; by at least 40% for processing and refining, and at least 15% for recycling. For example at mining extraction, 10% domestic capacity means that 90% will somehow need to be sourced outside the EU…
But the sources of supply of critical minerals are highly concentrated in a few countries. Almost all CRMs used for wind turbines, permanent magnets or semiconductors are coming from Turkey; almost all magnesium ̶ essential for the manufacture of telephones, computers or even satellites ̶ comes from China. These strategic projects will benefit from accelerated permit procedures and easier access to financing.
Developing these new strategic CRM directions need quick and massive investment: just to meet the states’ needs in raw materials for batteries (lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and natural graphite), more than €20 billion will have to be invested by 2030; however, today the EU accounts for less than 3% of global spending on mineral exploration. And because the permit procedures are too long: 5 years for a mining permit today, it has to be reduced by more than half.
The EU recently concluded already some agreements, e.g. with New Zealand and Chile; several trade agreement will be completed with Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Ukraine.
The Commission is working to expand CRMs network partnerships in the Nordic region, i.e. with Norway and Greenland, as well as in other parts of the world: in Africa with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, in Latin America with Argentina, etc. Besides, the EU is going to create a Critical Raw Materials Club, for all interested countries to strengthen global supply chains – bringing together consuming and resource-rich countries for mutually beneficial cooperation.

EU’s Single Market: 30th anniversary
The Commission has identified nine key areas where the EU institutions will concentrate their efforts to maintain the EU’s long-term competitiveness. Above all, it’s about the most valuable asset in the EU’s integration, the single market which is now celebrating its 30-year anniversary. Further integration of the single market requires bringing down barriers and concentrating on a number of key sectors. The level of integration for trade in both goods and services has doubled in the last 30 years. However, integration in services – which account for around 70% of the EU’s GDP – remains well below that for goods.
There have been some achievements: beyond the elimination of customs duties, the elimination of roaming charges, freedom of establishment, etc. the Single Market is much more than a single free trade area: it is an environment of freedom, prosperity and resilience for about 450 million European citizens.
There are as well challenges: first, the EU has to continue to fight fragmentation by ensuring the proper implementation of the EU-wide rules and by more active cooperation with the member states, as most of the barriers to the single market come from the national own regulations and administrative practices.
Second, the single market needs modernization: most vivid are recent legal issues, like the EU DSA and DMA on data initiatives (Data Act, Digital Governance Act); besides, presently is launched public procurement legislation on data space.
Finally, strategic value chains within the EU single market but also with the current and future partners shall be secured: hence the importance of recent Commission’s proposals on semiconductors, Clean Tech and critical raw materials…
The Single Market’s successes are real: it is competitive, competitive and prosperous; “we are putting everything in place so that this will still be the case for at least the next 30 years”, concluded Commissioner Th. Breton at the press conference on 16th of March.



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