Industry

The Lisbon Strategy, adopted in March 2000, regards industrial policy as a key factor facilitating further economic growth, creating new good-quality jobs and strengthening competitiveness.

Over the more than 50 years that the European Community has been in existence, the concept of industrial policy has evolved tremendously. In the 1957 Treaty of Rome, industrial policy was not explicitly mentioned, which was consistent with the belief of European governments at the time that economic prosperity was contingent on the effectively executed protection of domestic manufacturers and sufficient market development.

This approach persisted until the mid-1980s, when the European Union’s industrial policy started coming boldly to the fore in response to globalisation. In 1990, the European Commission submitted a report to the EU Council entitled ‘Industrial Policy in an Open and Competitive Environment’. According to this document, the prime objective of industrial policy was meant to be non-selective horizontal support for European industry to adapt to the process of globalisation of the world markets.

Since the mid-1990s, the European Commission has regularly guided the industrial policy in Member States in numerous documents. However, core competences and activities remain in the hands of the individual Member States. EU institutions coordinate them in order to achieve the maximum combined effect.

Industry and the environment

Lately, the EU’s industrial policy has increasingly emphasised environmental aspects and sustainability. Sustainable industrial policy consists in the principle of creating a dynamic internal market for better products, on leaner and cleaner production to limit the environmental impact of production, on changing consumer behaviour, and on the principle of sustainable consumption and production. The core of the principle of creating a dynamic internal market for better products is the promotion of ecodesign – more than eighty per cent of a product’s environmental impact is predetermined by its design. The principle of leaner and cleaner production consists in the promotion of appropriate technological processes reducing the environmental impact of production and reducing the required energy and material consumption, thus contributing to increased competitiveness. It also entails the support of new ecotechnologies and the roll-out of information and communication technologies that will smooth the way for enhanced energy efficiency in various production sectors. Consumer behaviour can be changed by encouraging demand for products that are less energy and material consuming.

Sustainable consumption and production

The principle of sustainable consumption and production needs to be promoted internationally, including markets outside the EU. This perspective is reflected primarily in the draft Community Lisbon Programme for 2008-2010.

From mid-2007 on, the European Commission worked on the preparation of the sustainability package, the end product of which was published in July 2008. This package has been conceived as the Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy and the related reviews of, and new proposals for, directives and regulations. The aim is to put basic principles of sustainable industrial policy into practice, and in particular to change consumer behaviour and expand the range of low-energy products imposing less of a burden on the environment.

The industrial policy is also reflected in the European Commission’s legislative proposals such as the REACH regulation and the directive stipulating the maximum quantity of carbon dioxide that vehicles are allowed to produce.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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