Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Europe needs more factories and fewer dependencies

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The writer is president of France

In a few days, more than 200 international chief executives will arrive in Versailles to take part in an event entitled “Choose France”. Many of them will unveil investments in strategic areas. Since the first of these events in 2018, thousands of jobs and hundreds of factories have been set up, with more than 200 new plants established in France in the past two years alone.

We are committed to building back French industry and fostering our economic power. This will allow us to strengthen our public services and invest in our future. We are acting with unwavering determination at the national level, with the result that in 2022, according to a survey by EY, we were the most attractive country in Europe for foreign investment for a fourth year running.

However, this battle for re-industrialisation must obviously be fought on a European scale, as well.

Since becoming president of France in 2017, I have consistently argued for the idea of European sovereignty. At first this was seen as wishful thinking, and at times perceived as too French. However, during the past few years the EU has had to face two pivotal crises. And, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war Russia decided to inflict on Ukraine, we have acknowledged our strategic dependencies and decided to act to reduce them.

We Europeans reached this defining consensus at a summit in March 2022, also at Versailles. We agreed on the importance of remaining in control of our own destiny and we paved the way for a more sovereign Europe, with tangible decisions taken on defence, energy and economic security.

We are no longer naive. Without compromising our openness, we are acting to protect our interests, our independence and our values, and to assert our European economic and social model.

What we need now is a comprehensive framework to implement this European consensus on sovereignty. I propose a doctrine based on five pillars.

The first pillar is the most obvious: a commitment to competitiveness, greater integration and the deepening of the EU single market, which is the first condition for creating European champions in the areas of clean tech and artificial intelligence.

By contrast, industrial policy, the second pillar, has long been taboo. But in the past few months we have revamped this old concept and turned it into a powerful lever to meet the challenges of the ecological and digital transitions, as well as to match the ambition of our partners and rivals.

The European Chips Act will boost research and development and the production of European semiconductors. The Net Zero Industry Act will simplify existing rules and drive more investment and skills to green and clean technology.

In March, the European Commission announced amendments to state aid rules in order to better support Europe’s strategic industries. This has been accompanied by decisive progress on the reform of the electricity market.

The third pillar is the protection of vital European interests and strategic assets. The EU has, for the first time, created a tool to block foreign acquisitions of strategic European companies. And we have to be bold when it comes to the question of technological decoupling and the strengthening of export controls.

Next is reciprocity, the fourth pillar. It means that our trade agenda should be both ambitious and consistent with our broader political objectives. It must therefore be sustainable, fair and balanced, and pursue clear European strategic interests.

The final pillar in the framework is multilateral solidarity. Sovereignty does not mean self-reliance and the EU can thrive only in the context of global development. I have invited the countries of the global south to come to Paris in June to lay the groundwork for a new international financial framework.

We have to implement this doctrine without delay. We have to take back control of our supply chains, energy and innovation. We need more factories and fewer dependencies. “Made in Europe” should be our motto. We have no choice, as sovereignty is intertwined with the strength of our democracies.

For decades, the backbone of Europe’s economy was a middle class with well-paid industrial jobs confident that the next generation would be more prosperous than the last. In Versailles next week, and in the coming months, we Europeans can prove that our continent, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, can once again be the home of flourishing industry and shared progress.



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