Originally, the exchange was to be held as a formal Council meeting in Brussels, but had to be changed to a videoconference due to COVID-19 restrictions. The meeting was chaired by Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier. Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, also took part.

The main topic of the videoconference was industrial policy. The core element was an orientation debate on “Making the most of recovery: a more dynamic, resilient and competitive European industry through investments in the green transition, #cleanindustry”. The discussion focussed on the ecological transition with regard to pandemic recovery plans and securing competitiveness on a long-term basis.

The challenges faced by industries highly reliant on basic materials and by energy-intensive industries will be important points on today’s agenda. These industries, in particular, need to successfully harness the economic potential of taking the technological lead on low-carbon technologies that will pave the way for climate neutrality. As is the case for the entire industrial sector, greater innovation, pan-European cooperation on key enabling technologies, and a level playing field are key requirements for this to work.

Economic Affairs Minister Altmaier:

A resilient EU industrial sector with the ability to compete is the backbone for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. This is why, in addition to instant crisis relief, we must now also create the right framework to allow us to make the transition to a green and digital economy. We also need more investment in forward-looking technologies. The Council Conclusions on industrial policy represent a clear contribution to a strong, modern, and competitive industrial sector in Europe.

The debate took place within the overall context of the Council conclusions on industrial policy, which were adopted via written procedure on 16 November. With regard to the upcoming review of the EU Industrial Strategy, which has been announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, these Council Conclusions serve as an important tool for the member states to position themselves with regard to key economic-policy issues.

Following the orientation debate, three further topics were also on the agenda:

  1. 2020 Annual Report of the SME Envoy Network to the Council
  2. New Consumer Agenda
  3. Work Programme of the incoming Portuguese Presidency.