Slovenia, as the presiding country of the Council of the European Union, has organised an Informal Meeting of Competitiveness Ministers to discuss how to create a circular, creative and smart future using textile and energy-intensive industries in the European Union as a template.
“One of the main questions we are facing today is how to build a bright future for future generations,” said Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, who chaired the meeting. “The answer lies in EU economic growth that enables the EU to compete on global markets while being sustainable and making the most efficient use of all its resources.”
In this regard, he stressed the importance of the circular economy which offers opportunities to change the way economies works and to create products that are durable and can be repaired, reused or recycled.
“This also applies to the textile and other energy-intensive industries, which are an important pillar of the EU economy, but we need a coordinated response and a roadmap at the EU level to facilitate the transition of these two ecosystems to climate neutrality,” he continued.
Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Kerstin Jorna, welcomed the main topic of the meeting and underlined that the European Union was a leader in green technology because it had adopted it sooner than other continents.
“We need to ensure that green technology continues to develop in the European Union and that we are able to support it properly,” she said. “It is important to create ecosystems that will embrace a green and digital transition in raw materials and energy. Electrification could be a good solution for energy-intensive industries.”
All Ministers agreed that a revised industrial strategy is the right path to recovery. Together with the Fit for 55 package and the circular economy concept, it provides an important framework.
“Croatia strongly supports the concept of a just transition and we believe that companies should be helped to introduce cost-effective solutions to achieve climate neutrality,” commented Croatia’s State Secretary Nataša Mikuš Žigman, who also participated in the discussion. “Special emphasis should be placed on funding research and innovation. […] Some EU regions are still economically heavily dependent on energy-intensive industries and a comprehensive approach is needed – from retraining workers to providing support to small and medium-sized enterprises to facilitate the transition with as few economic losses as possible.”
Indeed, a green and digital transition is a prerequisite for strengthening the competitiveness of the EU economy, which needs to primarily focus on the development of new technologies and innovation. The transition for energy-intensive industries must be fair since the management and production costs of the transition will be high, while the issue of carbon leakage must also be tackled properly.
These industries depend on the import of critical raw materials, therefore it is essential to ensure the availability of raw materials and the same conditions globally. It would be necessary to combine the traditional sector with new innovative sectors and ensure that the labour force was requalified and had the appropriate skills both in the case of the textile industry and the energy-intensive industries.
With regard to the textile industry, the need for technical norms and standards was highlighted in order to achieve a reduction in the environmental footprint, as well as the need to focus on the regionalisation of value chains. Furthermore, it would be necessary to stimulate investments in high-quality recycling in the European Union, a good basis for which could be the national recovery and resilience plans.
“We need a coordinated response at EU level to meet the challenges and opportunities of the textile industry,” underlined Mrs Mikuš Žigman.
The need to revise the emissions trading system and the carbon border adjustment tax was also pointed out, which must be in line with the rules of the World Trade Organisation.