Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the original plans for a physical meeting in Königswinter near Bonn had to be abandoned in favour of a videoconference. The informal videoconference was chaired by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier. He was joined by Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, and Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market.
The videoconference provided an opportunity for the ministers to engage in an informal debate under the heading “EU industry as an engine for economic growth and recovery in the EU: delivering on innovation for the green and digital transition and gaining from a level playing field”.
Minister Altmaier said:
We will continue to need a strong European industrial sector
with secure jobs in order to ensure growth and prosperity. This applies all the more in the current coronavirus crisis, which we will only be able to tackle successfully if we work together. We need a strong and united Europe in order to overcome this crisis. At the same time, we must set the course for the future. That is why we are using today to discuss how we can meet the structural challenges of digitisation and climate change and ensure that the industrial sector fully harnesses the opportunities offered by the upcoming transformation. The key question is how we can foster greater investment in digital and climate-friendly innovations in the EU.
The debate addressed current issues related to European industrial and competition policy. Among others, the following items were on the agenda:
- Brief statement by Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, on the modernisation of the EU’s competition framework in light of the proposal submitted by the European Commission on 17 June 2020 for a new instrument anchored in competition law to create a level playing field regarding foreign subsidies.
- Keynote speeches by two industry representatives: Joe Kaeser (President and CEO, Siemens AG) and Dr. Markus Steilemann (CEO, Covestro AG). Both speakers represent international companies that promote digital and sustainable technologies.
- Discussion among ministers on the EU Industrial Strategy that was presented before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the importance of European industry for economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, on efforts to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry through active promotion and greater use of innovative and forward-looking technologies, and on the competitiveness of the Single Market in a globalised world.