EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has defended her plans for a climate-neutral industry against criticism. Her legislative project is "not protectionist in any point," von der Leyen said in an interview with AFP and other European news agencies. The EU Commission wants to propose a "net-zero industrial law" on Thursday, which should pave the way for an economy with significantly fewer greenhouse gases.
The promotion of clean technologies is "of utmost importance in order to achieve our goals under the European Green Deal and the digital transformation," said von der Leyen. She was alluding to the plan to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050, i.e. not to emit more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than can be saved elsewhere.
The European employers' umbrella organization Business Europe, to which the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) also belongs, accused von der Leyen of not providing enough incentives for domestic industry. "The risk of de-industrialization in Europe is real," warned Business Europe CEO Markus Beyrer on Monday. Many companies are already "relocating part or all of their production outside of Europe".
The Brussels think tank Bruegel criticizes the leaked draft of the "Net Zero Industry Act" as "blatantly protectionist" and accuses von der Leyen's authority of wanting to use planned economy methods to become more independent of the USA or China, for example in the case of solar cells. Von der Leyen, on the other hand, referred to her meeting with US President Joe Biden last Friday. This has created a "consonance" between the climate plans of the EU and the multi-billion US subsidies for green technologies.
"The second major building block is the law for critical raw materials," said von der Leyen about a plan that her authority also wants to present on Thursday. "We want to use this to secure our supply chains," she emphasized. The EU is currently “highly dependent on one country” for certain raw materials, said the Commission chief, referring to China.
All in all, they promote avoiding mistakes like those made with Russia when dealing with China, said von der Leyen. "We don't want any dependencies like we had with Russia on fossil fuels," she said. Cooperation with Beijing is essential, for example in the fight against climate change.
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