French President Emmanuel Macron cannot complain about a lack of support from the EU in the election campaign for a second term.
Never before has a government geared the six-month EU Council Presidency to the interests of its “boss” like the French.
The others are playing for fear of a victory for Marine Le Pen in the elections in April, whether recently at the pompous summit in Versailles or in daily politics.
EU policy has been more French than ever since the outbreak of Corona and the Ukraine war.
There is talk everywhere of a “turning point in time”.
This is also reflected in the conclusions for the EU summit.
The focus is no longer on open markets and free competition, but on reducing strategic dependencies, on autonomy and on an active role for the state.
In the face of the crises, no investment in domestic production seems too expensive.
After all, that's still better than when the supply chains break, production stands still and prices rise, or the food supply is threatened.
The basic question of any industrial policy remains
Thinking it through to the end, the EU should declare self-sufficiency as a goal in many areas, and turn back globalization in many areas.
Nobody goes that far.
But the calls for “strategic autonomy” smack of it.
The “Chips Act” of the European Commission is emblematic of this reorientation.
It opens the subsidy cornucopia to settle highly modern chip factories in Europe.
Those involved have just announced the first “success”.
Intel is building two semiconductor factories in Magdeburg for 17 billion euros.
This is great news for Saxony-Anhalt.
That's why you don't want to let the beautiful picture be destroyed by the high price it has.
The figures for state aid are not yet available.
But a third of the investment sum is likely to be shouldered by taxpayers - although Germany is not even attracting a world market leader with the money, but only a group that would like to do so again.
That arouses cravings.
Other sectors are already reporting to advertise their own, generously equipped "act".
The Chips Act is a good example of how dangerous the "new" European industrial policy based on old French models is.
If things go well, the EU will bring the production of state-of-the-art semiconductors back to Europe.
Other companies settled around the factories.
Thousands of jobs will be created.
That is the calculation that Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton is making.
Whether it will rise is an open question.
Nobody knows whether the chips that Intel will build in four or five years will find buyers in Europe.
The industry has so far reacted cautiously.
The automotive industry is also calling for other, larger chips than those that Intel wants to build.
Then the EU would have wasted billions in subsidies.
The fundamental question of any industrial policy remains: Does the state know better than the companies which chips, batteries or pharmaceutical products will be needed in five, ten or twenty years?
Experience speaks against it.
This also applies if the responsible Internal Market Commissioner has had a long career in industry.
After all, Breton in particular is given a large part of the blame for the problems of the French Atos group because, as boss, he overslept the trend towards cloud computing.
The expensive path to self-sufficiency remains wrong
The EU must therefore not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Compared to France, Germany has done well for decades by not interfering too much in the market.
The international division of labor has also made the EU richer.
Of course, it must not become too dependent on one source, whether it is Taiwan, China or Russia.
But the industry should have understood that by now anyway.
Either way, there is no argument for producing primary products yourself again at high costs.
That doesn't mean that the EU can sit back and compete with China and the US.
It's hard to keep still when others are investing billions.
But does the EU have to enter a subsidy race?
Rather, it must set the framework conditions so that competitive companies can develop and ensure functioning markets for this.
This also includes the promotion of research and education.
The expensive path to self-sufficiency, however, remains wrong even under the new framework conditions.Keywords: