Cefic General Assembly – Statutory Part
September 30, 2011
I would like to welcome you to the final stage of our work - the statutory part of our General Assembly.
Forecast for output in 2011 and 2012
The time span between Rome and Madrid has been a positive one for our industry. We see growth of 2.5 per cent for 2011, even if there is some way to go before reaching pre-crisis levels again.
Though facing turbulent financial seas today, we do not anticipate a negative impact on the real economy. So for next year we are keeping our growth forecast for the chemical industry at 2.5 per cent.
We remain confident that the political will to strengthen Europe and its competitiveness will prevail at the end of the day, and that the financial markets will not win out over the need to further integrate Europe, our economies and societies.
We are indeed living in historical times, and fundamental decisions have to be taken about our common future.
Policy challenges in Europe
Political Europe has changed radically since World War II and the days of the Cold War. The European Union has developed into an integrated and economically strong powerhouse; the Euro has been an additional step forward but is far from having realized its potential. Perhaps we have lost too many years focusing on defending the common currency, instead of advancing an industrial policy that would have further underpinned the economic strength of the European Union.
After all, if Europe has emerged from the crisis in relatively good shape – with of course huge differences from country to country – it is because we still have a manufacturing base capable of absorbing the financial shock.
But we all know that this manufacturing platform is increasingly being challenged by Asian competitors, and we know as well that we are losing market shares and employment in our industries. Certainly, these regions have strong growth and some of them have raw materials and feedstock at more advantageous conditions.
Building a future in Europe
Yet, this is no reason for resignation; quite the contrary. Europe has the capacity to bounce back and build a new future if it gets its act together.
First and foremost, we need an industrial policy which goes beyond purely defining favourable framework conditions. Europe must regain control of its economy and strive for growth and jobs. The EU Strategy 2020 is a good step in this direction, with "flagship initiatives" such as the Innovation Union, Resource Efficient Europe, Digital Agenda, Youth on the Move, and new Skills & Jobs.
This should also be read as an opportunity for our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are particularly instrumental in achieving a strong, sustainable and innovative chemical industry in Europe. SMEs have been put at the heart of the European Industrial Policy Strategies, and I believe that we all need to support this approach.
Above all, we need a stronger coordination of all relevant policies to make a broad industrial policy effective and successful.
This can be done by clarifying our objectives for Europe and setting the right priorities.
First, sustainable development, with its three pillars, economy, social and environment, can be our unifying ambition. Europe, with its industry, can lead towards more growth with using fewer resources, showing that “doing more with less” is possible. We have no alternative, if by 2050 we want to meet the needs of 9 to 10 billion people living well on this planet. This is a unique opportunity for the chemical industry, as we know that our stakeholders expect our industry to play an important role in finding the appropriate solutions to the manifold challenges.
Second, innovation is certainly the cornerstone of any ambitious industrial policy project and should receive priority in national as well as in EU budgets. Financial and monetary policies should contribute to sustainable growth and job creation, not the reverse. Let us be clear: budgets must be kept balanced, but priorities must be set. As the present crisis shows, this requires more alignment of policies and governance between member states sharing the same vision for an industrial Europe.
The chemical industry is ready to lead EU public-private projects such as raw materials, sustainable process industry, water efficiency, smart cities and key enabling technologies. Getting the next great breakthroughs in chemistry from lab to the market is the only way to meet future challenges; chemistry can drive the next major technological advances but it has to happen within value chains and we have to speed up.
Third, investments are needed and must be attracted. The operational framework for enterprises must be efficient and competitive, proposing incentives to invest and create jobs in Europe.
Last but not least, our companies need reliable and predictable framework conditions, based on effective regulation and institutions. Better regulation means better management of public and private resources. The same philosophy should apply here as with resource efficiency: “doing more with less”.
I firmly believe that over the last year, our relationship with the European Commission has reached a new dimension, marked by mutual understanding and shared awareness that we need policymakers as partners as much as they need us if we want to tackle the challenges of the future together.
The frequent high-level meetings with key commissioners and members of our board paved the way for smoother cooperation on many projects, such as the private-public-partnerships in innovation.
For the second part of my mandate, I will continue to work towards an ever closer cooperation between our industry and the European Commission, without neglecting the other institutions, of course.
Chemicals sector getting its act together
But equally important is that our industry has to get its act together. That is why I am eager to continue bringing all members of our great family closer to each other, our federations as much as our affiliates.
Following my election in Rome as Cefic president I started a tour through several European countries, to get to know the respective member federations, to strengthen our ties and build on our commonalities. During those meetings I had the opportunity to understand how different and complex national relations with European legislators can be. This is a challenge for all of us: we need to develop strategies to communicate and advocate our positions better. Cefic is firmly committed to doing so. For my part, I can assure you that I will continue next year to meet the others national associations in order to enhance alignment of our common business positions.
And why not our companies as well? We have to lead by example if we want to be successful in implementing partnerships.
Cefic wants to deliver on sustainability, innovation, product safety and competitiveness. We want to demonstrate that sustainability and competitiveness go hand in hand.
Together we can do it.