A stronger European industry requires consistent and integrated policymaking, according to Cembureau, the European Cement Association, which also pointed out that better regulation remained at the heart of all European policymaking.
Cembureau pointed to a Communication from the European Commission in October which said, “Public intervention should create the right market environment and come up with remedies to market failures. Industry must itself develop its competitive advantages and strengths.”
The Communication continued, “The objective of industrial policy is to foster competitiveness, but businesses themselves will always be ultimately responsible for determining their success or failure in the global market.”
Cembureau said the document, entitled A Stronger European Industry for Growth & Economic Recovery, further emphasised the need for a partnership between the EU, its Member States and industry, as well as for a comprehensive vision where the different EU policies (trade, competition, environmental and research) were developed in favour of European companies’ competitiveness.
The association said that three core elements that resulted from these messages formed the essence of what the industry has been calling for. These are the facilitating role of regulation without overburdening industry; strong co-ordination between government levels; and coherence and consistency in legislation.
Cembureau said that a disconnect between national and EU government levels has often meant that the constraints and hardship gone through by companies and their employees in restructuring has landed on the desk of national or regional governments. The intervention of the European Union has remained limited to offering, albeit valuable and necessary, support from the Globalisation Fund.
Cembureau said the EU, from its side, requested Member States to implement legislation that often did not assess the full consequences of the economic feasibility pillar of sustainability, and how it could affect the viability of companies.
Cembureau felt a stronger co-ordination between government levels should allow the three pillars of sustainability – environment, economic and social – to be considered jointly and thoroughly when drafting and implementing new legislation.
It added that throughout years of European policymaking, there has been one issue that remained at the heart of all initiatives to improve competitiveness – better regulation, which Cembureau described as a term that was probably underestimated as to its contribution, and wrongly labelled as too academic.
It said, “The Communication rightly emphasises that public intervention should create the right market environment for businesses to thrive, to operate and innovate in a legal framework which promotes a level playing field, is technology neutral and ensures consistency in compliance.”
The Communication was welcomed by Cembureau as offering a wide range of interesting initiatives along six priority action lines, with a strong attention on the sustainable business models where highly energy- and material-efficient processes are key.
“The Commission’s spotlight on a sustainable industrial policy, construction and raw materials, with a reference to energy efficiency in buildings and the international uptake of the Eurocodes construction standards, is essential for the development of a competitive cement and concrete industry,” said the association.
Cembureau said, however, that based on this, the proposed policies and initiatives could only be launched and developed successfully in an overall clear vision which acknowledged the importance of integrated and consistent policymaking.
The European Commission said that regulatory “fitness checks” were underway in specific policy areas, but “the ambition to take an overview of the main policies affecting a single economic sector has not yet been put into effect.”
The petroleum refining and aluminium sectors have been selected to be the first to undergo such checks as “both sectors are critical for the EUs industrial value chain, but urgently require new investment to be made in the face of strong international competition”, according to the Commission.
Cembureau pointed out that as these characteristics were equally valid for the cement industry, it would insist on a fitness check being carried out on the cement industry as this would help with focusing on a long-term appropriate legal framework for its industry.