As always, the interesting dialogue that EBS often introduces to the public starts directly with a stimulus from the industry. The Russian energy giant that sponsored the EBS launch event had obviously a lot to say last week from the industry’s perspective. Represented by its President, Mr Alekperov, Lukoil, Russia’s second oil company and one of the biggest in the world, came to express its worries for the European energy landscape. Emphasizing on the extensive European activities of the company, Mr Alekperov referred to the important role that his company is playing in Europe’s energy sector. At the same time he drew the attention of the participants to the closure of oil refineries of Lukoil in Europe and the uncertain soil for further energy investment. He continued by saying that the petrochemical sector provides around 800.000 jobs, half a million jobs at the marketing and logistics sector surrounding it and 100.000 in refineries.
Given its size and importance in employment for Europe, Lukoil took the opportunity during the event to claim a regulatory framework that will allow foreign energy investors to do business in Europe with less obstacles. Since it is in Europe’s best interest to keep big investors in the Old Continent, and simultaneously effectively safeguard the consumer and the environment, Mr Alekperov gave the right pass to the representatives of the Commission and the Parliament to begin their exhaustive political game.
Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General for Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission. European Business Summit Launch Event 2014, Square – Brussels Meeting Centre (EBS)
The European Commission was represented last week at this panel by Mr Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General for Enterprise and Industry. Mr Crespo started by underlining the significant timeliness of the discussion signalled by the title of launch event that concentrates on Energy, Industry and Growth. The Spanish bureaucrat expressed his relief that talking about industry is ultimately very fashionable compared to the past because it is well understood that industry drives growth and job creation. Mr Crespo argued that industrial production is the key driver of the economy. To support that he brought the example of the EU countries that survived better the crisis, the member states with significant heavy industrial activity.
Mr Crespo did not omit to admit that Europe has not seen the exit of the crisis yet. He stated that the EU has been suffering from long recession but he ascertained everyone that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel just now. In order to come out of the crisis as soon as possible, he believes that the Banking Union and the Fiscal Union are a must. But even those “will not be enough if we don’t reindustrialize Europe”.
According to its Director General, the European Commission plans to succeed in this European reindustrialization by setting as 2020 target that 20% of the EU GDP will be provided by the European Industry. Furthermore, Mr Crespo presented to us Commission’s five pillars of Industrial Growth:
- Innovations – Many European sectors have an important role to play there
- Globalization – EU needs to pursue more Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
- Access to Finance – Financing European SMEs with the support of the European Parliament (Horizon 2020)
- Skills – Training effectively the European youth
- Energy – Lack of single European market, need for more integrated approach (Cars 2020, Galileo, Copernicus)
Addressing his message to Lukoil, the Director General said that the Russian giant is a European company as well and that Europe needs more long term rules to attract further investment on energy.
Mr Crespo at the end of his speech invited us to February’s European Council that will be the first Council focusing exclusively on Industrial Policy.
Reinhard Butikofer, MEP, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. European Business Summit Launch Event 2014, Square – Brussels Meeting Centre (EBS)
The European citizen was decided to be represented last in this debate. Mr Reinhard Butikofer, Green MEP and responsible for Industrial Policy started with a sarcastic teaser towards the Russian Ambassador to the EU, Mr Vladimir Chizhov, who was also present at the event last week. He said he noticed the Ambassador’s disappointment when he first heard that the responsible for Industrial Policy at the European Parliament would be a Green MEP. Since Mr Butikofer started with a joke, he raised high the expectations of the public to see whether he can effectively represent the EU citizens’ aspiration for Industrial Growth.
The German MEP initially agreed with Mr Crespo from the Commission that talking about industry is luckily not a taboo any more. He stressed that it is very important for Europe to compete internationally and in order to do that we need to give up any protectionist intention or policy. Then he referred to the US President, Barack Obama, who once had said: “we cannot resist the industrial revolution; we must lead it”.
For Mr Butikofer Europe needs to implement innovations to its entire value chain, while the Commission needs to steer the structural base for productivity. Better industry will inevitably lead to better solution of society’s problems.
What is more, the Green MEP, just like Commission’s top official, focused on the global dimension that the energy topic should have in the EU dialogue. Climate change is not only a European but a global problem that requires global agreement and consensus. We in Europe need to reach out and engage with the rest of the world on this issue, according to Mr Butikofer. The EU should avoid more than anything isolation on the matter. In addition, he brought on the table the example of Asian countries in comparison with Europe, and particularly China and Japan that have been implementing Green technologies for years.
Last but not least, the German MEP urged Lukoil and the rest of the players in the energy field to go more Green. As he stated, even a steel plant can be Green! Further, he drew the attention of the attendees on the need to differentiate the European business environment from the world with renewable fuels, better education and training to the European human capital and more efficiency.
Overall the EBS 2014 Launch Event last week in Brussels was successful. Does this mean that a two hour panel discussion was enough to give birth to the final solution on the long big energy issues at the Old Continent? We are afraid that this did not happen last week and whoever came with that expectation inevitably went home frustrated.
The aim of the EBS 2014 Launch Event was not to present a pan-European solution in a sole panel discussion but rather to apply a ‘Socratic Method’ that will give birth to useful input by the stakeholders, which will in turn lead to a solution in the long run. And the European Business Summit succeeded this goal in a delicate manner last week. That, together with significant awareness about next year’s European Business Summit that is bound to raise crucial questions and request critical answers from the EU stakeholders and business leaders on various hot topics, one of which will definitely be Energy.
The European Sting, as always, welcomes any form of respectful democratic dialogue that can be the fertile ground for stimulating insights to be heard from various stakeholders. The road to the discovery of the “Golden Cut” between the European Citizens, Policy Makers and the Industry is long and full of challenges. We are certain though that events like last week’s have the potential to light up the road in the right direction. The Sting will follow closely the evolutions on the field and will take the challenge to inform its readers about the European Business Summit 2014 in the most critical and constructive way.