It is a delay that has been recorded very precisely.

Actually, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton and Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager wanted to present the EU's revised industrial strategy at the end of April.

Now, however, it is only due to be approved by the College of 27 Commissioners and presented to the public this week.

Apparently, despite intensive preparatory work, it was more difficult than expected to find a common position within the authority.

This is not surprising, as the paper is also about a partial redefinition of the relationship between the state and the economy.

A draft of the strategy, which was submitted to WELT in advance, already shows where the journey is headed: In the systemic dispute and economic competition with China, the EU wants to rely more on state intervention and an active industrial policy in the future.


In fact, the EU wants to become a bit more Chinese in the future in competition with China, at least when it comes to targeting global champions with tax revenues.

Billions in EU programs should in future increasingly ensure that companies from sectors that the EU Commission consider strategically important settle in Europe.

The subsidies from Brussels and the national capitals are intended to make it easier for managers from Europe and third countries to choose a production location in Europe.

Berlin and Paris in particular are pressing for this new industrial policy.

Two years ago, Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire warned in a joint manifesto on industrial policy that Europe could be left behind other economic areas in terms of key technologies such as artificial intelligence.

At the time, both of them announced that they would use billions in subsidies to start production of battery cells for electric cars in both countries.

Idea to make Europe less dependent on the world


The battery initiative is now considered an industrial policy coup in Berlin, Paris and Brussels.

In Germany alone, the companies involved have planned or already made investments of almost 13 billion euros, the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) recently said.

This would create around 10,000 jobs.

Production in Germany, however, had its price: the BMWi alone claims to have funded projects by companies such as Varta, Tesla, BASF and BMW with almost three billion euros.

Other industries are set to follow.

The idea that Europe should be less dependent on other regions of the world in strategic industries in the future already had many supporters in some capitals and in Brussels before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.

Above all, the intensifying systemic competition with China and the aggressive trade policy of the US administration under Trump caused a rethink.


The pandemic has exacerbated this development.

The supply bottlenecks for masks and medical products at the beginning of the pandemic ensured this, as did the problems in the supply chains, which were responsible for factories around the world having to pause again and again.

The calls for Europe's economic independence have therefore become louder - not only to keep up with technology, but also to reduce dependencies.

The latest example is the currently scarce microchips: The most important producers are based in Asia, and the EU Commission wants that to change.

Breton and Vestager want 20 percent instead of 10 percent of global chip production to come from Europe.

In an extensive study of 5200 imported products, the authors identified a total of 137 products for which the EU is “highly dependent” on other economies.

It is primarily raw materials and chemicals, but also active pharmaceutical ingredients.

In addition to more production in Europe, new suppliers should also ensure better availability here.

The risk of future technologies

The widespread use of state funds to set up companies is definitely problematic, as the EU rules set strict limits on subsidies.

The EU is therefore focusing on so-called “important projects in the common European interest” in its strategy;

the English abbreviation is IPCEI.

EU law allows exceptions for such projects.

"Clear competition rules are good for the internal market, but with dogmatic application you sometimes shoot yourself in the knee," says EU MP Markus Ferber (CSU).

The industrial strategy gives these subsidy projects a central role: “Member States and companies are showing interest in getting involved in additional IPCEIs”, says the draft paper, which may not reflect the final status of the publication.

"For example in next-generation cloud applications, hydrogen, low-carbon industries, the pharmaceutical industry and a second IPCEI on innovative semiconductors."

A glance at the plans with which Germany applied for money from the EUR 750 billion EU reconstruction fund shows that this industrial policy initiative has been coordinated with the member states: IPCEIs are strongly represented;

for example in microelectronics, cloud technologies or hydrogen.


Economists are critical of this development: “Nobody knows whether these will really be the successful future technologies,” says Matthias Kullas from the think tank Center for European Politics (CEP).

“The further you look into the future, the riskier the bet becomes.” It is better to equip universities well and to promote research in companies in a technology-neutral manner, instead of specifying technological development.

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