Belgian PM argues for European Industrial Deal alongside Green Deal
The EU needs an Industrial Deal in addition to the Green Deal, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said in a speech to a German employers' association in Berlin on Monday.
The deal proposed by De Croo should elevate the fight against greenhouse gases above other environmental goals, use subsidies to encourage investments in clean tech and commit to emission-free energy sources - including nuclear power.
De Croo has been raising the alarm for some time about the de-industrialisation of Europe, with activity shifting to Asia or America. This would not only be disastrous for economic growth or employment but also "a real tragedy for everyone who cares about the fight against climate change", he told the Wirtschaftsrat, which defends the interests of 12,000 German companies.
Therefore, he said, there was a need for a European Industrial Deal on the same level as the European Green Deal. "Not in opposition to each other, but to reinforce each other."
"If we want to stay afloat in this new, more hostile geopolitical environment, Europe must lead in clean technology and digitalisation"
De Croo wants a stronger focus on reducing greenhouse gases, with a stable and predictable framework for an industry that is not overburdened.
"We are currently discussing Euro 7 standards for combustion engines in 2025, and at the same time, our production platforms are accelerating the production of electric cars," he said. "Is that the most effective way forward? The same goes for REACH [the EU chemicals legislation] or the new Nature Restoration Act: is this the right time for these laws when our industry is crucial to make the energy transition happen?"
Against the backdrop of the US Inflation Reduction Act, which frees up hundreds of millions of dollars for the rollout of a green economy in the US, De Croo also makes a case for more industrial incentives in Europe. "If we want to stay afloat in this new, more hostile geopolitical environment, Europe must lead in clean technology and digitalisation," he said.
Finally, he says there is no choice but to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to emission-free energy sources. This should be done by investing in renewable energy, batteries and hydrogen infrastructure and connecting national grids. Nuclear power should also be part of the future: "Especially if we can make it safer, with less waste, nuclear power should make its comeback as a reliable and carbon-free baseload for our grids."
Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK