Tom Keighley

Europe has a "strong hand to play"

Europe’s businesses are facing a “crisis of confidence” a European Commission (EC) senior told Bdaily this week.

Speaking off-the-record, the EC senior said Europe had a strong hand to play, but must regain its confidence.

Brussels’ industrial strategy must focus on the Real Economy in order to restore growth and confidence, he added.

“We are not going to find success in the old models of subsidies and picking winners and losers,” the EC senior said, but emphasised that investment in ‘close-to-the-market’ research was crucial to competitiveness.

He added: “Companies and consumers are less confident than ever before. Brussels does not pretend to have the magic solution, but last year we launched a public consultation with 350 responses from member states, stakeholders, SMEs and industry organisations.”

The consultation identified four key challenges, including lack of investment; lack of market opportunities; lack of access to finance; and a lack of skills.

The Commission’s “Mission for Growth” policy aims to replicate growth seen across Asia, the US and Latin America, following the financial crisis of 2008 and its impact on the real economy.

Six areas of the economy have been selected to focus the EC’s instruments of growth, including Advanced Manufacturing Technologies; Key Enabling Technologies; clean vehicles; sustainable construction; smart grids; and the value economy.

For example, Key Enabling Technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and photonics, will create a market estimated to be worth €1 trillion by 2015, accounting for 8% of EU GDP.

The EC senior said Europe is pioneering in many of these fields and holds large proportions of the patents, but fails to convert this prowess as there is “too much research and too little commercialisation.”

Development of free trade agreements with other international markets will also be integral to the EU’s success it was noted, particularly the advancement of transatlantic frameworks.

Turning to defence, the EC senior suggested Europe was spending more on the sector than China, Russia and India together, but was “spending badly.” A big “push” on defence from the European Council is expected in October.

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