EESC calls for digitalisation of mining to enhance the resilience of European industrial supply chains

Securing sustainable access to raw materials, including metals, industrial minerals and construction raw materials, and particularly critical raw materials (CRM), is of huge importance to the European economy, where at least 30 million jobs depend on the availability of raw materials. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the importance of digital transformation.

At its September plenary, and at a crucial moment for the implementation of the Green Deal and the EU recovery plan, the EESC adopted an own-initiative opinion on Digital Mining in Europe: New solutions for the sustainable production of raw materials drafted by Marian Krzaklewski and Hilde Van Laere.

In the opinion, the EESC recommends the digitalisation of the EU raw materials sector as a unique opportunity to enhance the resilience of European industrial supply chains, to improve the environmental performance of the minerals sector and to increase transparency and dialogue with citizens and communities affected by mining activities.

The EESC points out the importance of having a global, comprehensive minerals intelligence network to underpin the digital transformation and informed decision-making at EU level. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is developing and maintaining a European raw materials information system, which is acknowledged by the EESC. Continue reading “EESC calls for digitalisation of mining to enhance the resilience of European industrial supply chains”

EU calls for a Next Generation EU strategy for SMEs

COVID-19 has been a tsunami for SMEs. The EU’s proposed new SME strategy, which predates the crisis, fails to cope with the huge challenges that have since jumped to the fore, says the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in a recently adopted opinion.

COVID-19 has dealt a very serious blow to SMEs across Europe, many of which risk being swept out of business in its wake.

How can the new EU strategy for SMEs, which was put forward before the pandemic and has not been overhauled since, help the sector cope with the aftermath, asks the EESC in an opinion on the European Commission’s draft strategy adopted at its September plenary.

“What we really need at this point in time is a sort of ‘Next Generation EU strategy’ for SMEs, putting together all there is for SMEs under the huge umbrella of loans and grants from the Recovery plan for Europe to mitigate the negative effects of the lockdown, social distancing and health security measures and help businesses recover quickly”, says opinion rapporteur Milena Angelova.

SME organisations to cover the last mile

SME organisations ought to have a pivotal role in the successful implementation of the strategy, as they can ensure that the needs of all different groups of SMEs are met and can shape any follow-up measures that may be needed.

Instead, the strategy mainly relies on existing national SME envoys, a new EU SME envoy and the Enterprise Europe Network.

But the EESC points out that the network of national SME envoys, which represent Member States’ authorities in charge of SME policy, is not fully operational in all Member States. It also stresses that, as SME envoys come from the administration, they need to stay in constant contact with SME organisations and listen attentively to their advice, if they are to play a useful role. Continue reading “EU calls for a Next Generation EU strategy for SMEs”

Commission sets new plan to support green and digital transition and EU recovery

The European Commission adopted yesterday a Communication on a new European Research Area for Research and Innovation. Based on excellence, competitive, open and talent-driven, the new European Research Area will improve Europe’s research and innovation landscape, accelerate the EU’s transition towards climate neutrality and digital leadership,  support its recovery from the societal and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, and strengthen its resilience against future crises.

The Commission set out strategic objectives and actions to be implemented in close cooperation with the Member States, in order to prioritise investments and reforms in research and innovation, improve access to excellence for researchers across the EU and enable research results to reach the market and the real economy. Additionally, the Communication will further promote researchers’ mobility, skills and career development opportunities within the EU, gender equality, as well as better access to publicly funded peer-reviewed science.

Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “The EU is already leading innovation through its research and scientific excellence. We want to build on that and step up our efforts towards achieving breakthrough market-driven innovations that will contribute to a green digital Europe and will boost growth, job creation and our competiveness in the global scene. Today we are setting a new ambition for a European Research Area to facilitate cooperation and contribute to a more competitive European industry.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We live in times when scientific activities require faster and effective collaborations. We need to strengthen the European Research Area. An area embracing all of Europe, because knowledge has no territorial boundaries, because scientific knowledge grows with collaborations, because knowledge is trusted if there is open scrutiny of its quality. It has also more chances to achieve peaks of excellence and support an innovative and risk taking industry to shape a resilient, green and digital future.”

Launched in 2000, the European Research Area has made major achievements over the past years – yet, today’s context prompts us to rethink how to strengthen its role, better define and implement its key objectives, as well as make it more attractive as a common space for creating valuable research and innovation. Moreover, Europe is currently facing significant societal, ecological and economic challenges that are aggravated by the coronavirus crisis. Research and innovation is therefore crucial in addressing these challenges, delivering on Europe’s recovery and speeding up the twin green and digital transitions. Continue reading “Commission sets new plan to support green and digital transition and EU recovery”