This Issue Brief discusses a narrative that puts sustainable development at the centre of EU industrial policy, in continuity to the EU Green Deal. In a context where the focus has moved to competitiveness, power, strategic autonomy, and security, it reviews the conditions under which sustainable development can remain at the centre of the EU project and possible contradictions.

Key Messages

  • The design of new industrial policies will be a central feature of the next mandate of the EU Commission. They are considered by all a necessity to assert the EU’s economic power in a period where geopolitics and economic rivalry dominate. There are nevertheless different visions of these industrial policies.
  • The Green Deal has established the sound fundamentals on which to build such policies, relying on long-term competitiveness, security of supply and strategic autonomy, that remained consistent through the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine. There is no clear economic or geopolitical rationale to stop its implementation or reduce its ambition.
  • The “new” European industrial policies encompass whole industrial ecosystems, focus on circular economy because of the scarcity of resources on the continent, require redistribution and cohesion across Member States and partnerships with non-EU countries. They involve a policy mix based on regulations, innovation support and investment subsidies. A sound debate between Member States, including stakeholders and partner countries, is needed to progress on all these fronts.
  • Enhancing the concept of security–to incorporate resilience–is critical to secure EU long-term stability. Extending beyond military and energy security would allow a renewed focus on the sectors that the Green Deal has failed to embark–notably agriculture, and ecosystem health. Debating what the new industrial policies mean for the agrifood sector could help regain strategic perspectives on the sector.
  • The crises and transitions at play call for a renewed social pact. The promises attached to the reindustrialization agenda must nevertheless be taken with caution. Other factors can lead to jobs losses in all industries, and the distrust of citizens towards Europe and their own government already originates from broken promises of individual emancipation and autonomy.
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