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Competitiveness Council in Brussels: EU member states take important step towards green industrial policy

The main topic of the Competitiveness Council held in December was the adoption of a general approach by the Council on the European Commission's proposal for a "Net Zero Industry Act" (NZIA). This is a key component of the Green Deal Industrial Plan of February 2023, with which the EU has set a comprehensive agenda for a green industrial policy. The German government is represented today by State Secretary Sven Giegold (BMWK).

The NZIA strengthens the ramp-up of industrial production capacities for net-zero technologies in the EU. The so-called strategic net-zero technologies, including solar, wind, batteries, hydrogen and heat pumps, but also CCS and nuclear fission, are particularly favoured. The aim is to cover at least 40% of the EU's demand for these technologies from EU production by 2030 and thus become more independent. To this end, administrative and authorisation procedures for the establishment of production facilities are to be massively accelerated and simplified. The NZIA also obliges authorities to take resilience and sustainability criteria into account in procurement procedures and auctions.

The adoption of the general approach by the Council of Member States will now be followed by negotiations with the European Parliament.

State Secretary Sven Giegold commented: "The EU is competing globally for leadership in future technologies. The EU Green Deal is now entering a new phase of a green industrial policy. In implementing the European Green Deal, we will increasingly focus on European production capacities. With the NZIA, we are strengthening investment in sustainable technologies in the EU and sending strong signals to industry and authorities. For us, nuclear energy is not a technology that can achieve a cost-effective and rapid transformation. At the same time, we respect the energy sovereignty of the member states. EU funds must not be channelled into technologies that are not supported by all member states. It was therefore crucial for us that we excluded financing issues from the NZIA and that existing EU regulations remain untouched.

In future tenders for renewable energies, we need a balance between strengthening European industry and achieving our common ambitious expansion targets. The current text is an acceptable compromise."

Another focus of the Council is the ban on products from forced labour. The EU Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on this in September 2022. In the view of the German government, it is particularly important that the regulation is clear and effective. It must be able to be enforced effectively and at the same time avoid bureaucratic burdens for companies.

Cutting red tape is also on the Council's agenda. France and Germany are presenting an initiative to reduce bureaucracy, which was launched at the Franco-German intergovernmental meeting on 9 October 2023.