Inevitable twilight of the European steel industry?
Being reliant on sectors such as the automobile and construction sectors, the European steel industry has been hit extremely hard by the economic crisis.
Many production facilities have been closed, resulting in the loss of over 60 000 jobs. The European Commission has just launched an Action Plan for the European Steel Industry (APS), but the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) thinks this is not enough.
In its opinion, adopted on 11 December, the EESC calls for short-term and more concrete solutions alongside the long-term Action Plan. "The EESC welcomes the Commission proposal to support demand for EU‑produced steel both at home and abroad, and ensure EU steel producers have access to third-country markets through fair trade practices. However, it is not enough. Long-term and general policies must be accompanied by fast-track, concrete actions", said Claude Rolin (Workers Group, Belgium), rapporteur for the opinion.
"In particular, careful consideration must be given to the special features of the sector. For example, the increases in electricity prices across the EU should be compensated, and climate change targets for the steel industry need to be technically and economically feasible", added Zbigniew Kotowski (Various activities Group, Poland), co-rapporteur.
The EESC considers that the action plan is rather vague and does not adequately address the cyclical dimension of the crisis. To ensure that the sector remains strategic for European manufacturing industry and employment and to prevent it from shrinking further, the EESC calls for urgent measures including:
- Undertaking a detailed evaluation of existing capacity
- Facilitating the use and transport of scrap and preventing illegal exports
- Ensuring that a sufficiently sectoral focus is taken when allocating EU structural funds
- Developing temporary measures with public support to ensure that workers are retained in the steel industry
- Boosting demand in steel downstream sectors
- Providing much more support, including public support, for investment in developing new technologies and processes to trigger further upgrading of installations and plant
- Introducing a sustainable model of steel production
- Focusing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund on anticipating change, for instance by facilitating the introduction of new technologies and helping workers to adjust to new technologies.