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14 November 2012

Joint statement for European Action Day 2012

(Sent to Commission president Barosso and Nordic Prime ministers)

Europe is in an economic and financial crisis, which has until now been attempted solved through a series of austerity policies. While we agree that sound accounting and long term balances of public budgets is necessary, we find that these policies have gone too far and that more growth oriented policies are urgently needed.

It is not possible to create jobs and welfare only through savings. Manufacturing is at the core of the welfare societies in Europe and it will also be the precondition for job creation and welfare in the future. The current European crisis is a crisis of manufacturing. Falling or struggling manufacturing production coupled with a decline across Europe in manufacturing employment is in itself an attack against European welfare and the European social model. The downsizing of the industrial sector will make the recovery of the European economy even more difficult

The European Union is treaty-bound to “work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment”

This goal cannot be achieved without a strengthened manufacturing sector and the European Commission has realized this.

The Nordic industrial unions in Nordic-IN are welcoming the European Commission’s call for a new industrial revolution in Europe. We support the thrust to reverse the current downward trend from its current level of 15.6% of EU GDP to 20% by 2020.

Such a European policy is a good initiative and will contain elements which can bring progress for industry. To be effective, however, it needs to be followed by concerted action by the nation states. National governments, not least in the Nordic countries, must set concrete national targets reflecting the European ones and urgently establish policies to make the achievement of this goal possible

The Commission has pointed to a number of areas where action should happen and have already made a number of proposals which we share

In the area of innovation, we find that the European patent system is a major step forward, especially for smaller EU countries. A key issue in this area is to stress the benefits which can be derived from employee driven innovation, and the need to establish mechanisms which strengthen such innovation. This is also linked to training and skills development. Support for innovation must be followed and supported by developing a qualified demand for new and sustainable products.

Access to affordable finance and risk capital is essential. SMEs play a key role for industrial development and innovation. The difficulties encountered by enterprises, not least SMEs during the financial crisis clearly illustrate the importance of focus on this area. Undoubtedly availability of affordable finance is a key requirement for industrial growth. We welcome the commissions’ proposal to channel funds from the EIB in the size of 10-15 billion to SMEs. We find that an important element in improving the access to finance is to strengthen the parts of the finance sector, which is closest to the real economy at the expense of purely speculative transactions of so called shadow banks.

Skills development plays a decisive role in industrial restructuring and growth, because it is a precondition for a dynamic and competitive industrial sector. Skills development should be for all employees, from unskilled to academically trained colleagues. Also it is important to drive skills development from pure training for the current job to enable mobility through an individual right for training according to the ability of the individual. Life-long training remains a key for European industrial policy. Special attention should be paid to validation and transferability of skills and to skills development for the whole European labour force – including unemployed and those in precarious employment.

The development of sustainable energy and energy saving technology must be supported. This is not only a question of research grants but even more the need to establish a European wide coordination and qualified demand for these technologies. It is also important to tailor the policies to not hamper the current use of sustainable energy through recycling in some sectors of waste by industry itself.  Europe needs an affordable supply of sustainable energy. A stable and affordable supply of energy in the future is important and the energy technology carries a substantial industrial potential in itself.

Industrial services must be part of industrial policy agenda not least in the Nordic countries. Industry is a driver for development of industry related services like research and development, logistics, maintenance, management systems etc. These functions are often outsourced and the development happens in separate companies across traditional sectors. During the last years job creation in industry based services has been notable and the future of these sectors are promising. .

A special aspect of this is embedded technology, where Nordic companies have a wide range of products which are key components of cutting edge products from across the globe

On a global competitive market value added production is a key element for European Union countries. Targeted efforts to strengthen the development of this sector are another important necessary initiative.

The Nordic Industrial Unions acknowledge the Commission strategy for a new industrial revolution. We urge all parties to back this policy up. The Commission must take initiatives vis-à-vis the European countries to follow up this strategy at national level. The strategy must be followed by initiatives which ensure fair global competition. Finally the strategy must have a social dimension and lead to jobs with good conditions. We must avoid a race to the bottom.

The Nordic Industrial Unions demand that the Nordic countries must follow the call for a new industrial revolution and set clear targets for the growth of Nordic industry and they must follow this with a strong package of concrete policies including elements mentioned above. We need decent jobs for the future