The EU needs a long-term and active industrial strategy that focuses on people - this is the key message, which the President of the Chamber of Labour Lower Austria and ÖGB Lower Austria Chairman, Markus Wieser, stressed during his talks with high-ranking representatives of the EU institutions.
In March 2019, the European Council asked the EU Commission to submit a strategy on European industrial policy by the end of 2019. However, in view of the transition phase from Commission Juncker to Commission von der Leyen, it is highly unlikely that this timeframe will not be complied with. Nevertheless, industrial policy is currently one of the key issues on which the EU institutions are working behind the scenes.
This work provided the President of AK Lower Austria, Markus Wieser, with the opportunity to explain the key demands of AK Lower Austria for a fair industrial strategy in Brussels: not only the fight against climate change and the rapid developments through digitalisation present the European industry with a massive challenge, but also the constantly growing competition in a global context (e.g. China, India, South Korea). Hence, a modern and future-oriented industrial policy is required since prosperity and employment are still to a large degree dependent on industry. After all, in Lower Austria alone, 17 % of all workers are employed in industry and their share of value added is 19 %.
Fair industrial policy
A modern and socially fair industrial strategy must set clear targets and priorities and define measures to achieve them. In doing so, it is important to integrate all stakeholders and above all also the relevant social partners, since a fair industrial policy can only be achieved through joint efforts. However, most of all it has to be ensured in international trade agreements that countries do not gain any advantages when they lower worker protection and do not contribute to the fight against climate change.
CO2 label at EU level necessary
To enable consumers to use their buying decisions to make a better contribution in the fight against climate change, President Wieser recommends the introduction of a binding label, which records the CO2 footprint of a product’s entire lifecycle “From raw material extraction via production up to average useful life and disposal - everything must undergo a climate check and thereby made verifiable.” Product labels help consumers to consciously make buying decisions. This CO2 label could make a product’s “damage to the climate” transparent. If data, the label is based on, is ascertained in accordance with uniform standards, it will be able to positively influence consumers’ buying decisions, thereby making an important contribution to climate protection.
Details on energy efficiency or fair trade are positive examples, which make a major contribution towards informing and raising the awareness of consumers. However, it is vital for the quality of the product labels that they are issued by an independent body.
Several successful talks in Brussels
In order to make these important demands widely known in Brussels, AK Lower Austria President Markus Wieser, AK Lower Austria Director Bettina Heise, AK Lower Austria Vice Presidents Horst Pammer and Josef Hager as well as ÖGB Lower Austria National secretary Christian Farthofer held talks with representatives of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee as well as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
The dialogue partners showed great interest in the proposals and emphasised that they had been made at the right time since the programmes for the new period were currently developed, which means that the work for the coming months is in the process of being defined.