The mining community must contribute to the EU2020 Strategy

Written by Catalin Hosu

European mining industry leaders gathered in Brussels at the end of September 2014 to discuss important matters that concern mining & processing industries in all European Union member states. One of the main points they touched upon was the public consultation on the Europe 2020 strategy launched by the European Commission this year and which will end on October 31.

The consultation seeks to gather views on the lessons learned from the early years of the Europe 2020 strategy and on the elements to be taken into account in its further development, in order to build the post-crisis growth strategy of the EU. Key industrial players in Europe must play a role in this consultation and thus the industrial sector is strongly encouraged to contribute to the consultation.

The Europe 2020 strategy in brief

The Europe 2020 strategy is built around three reinforcing priorities; smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, translated into five headline targets in the areas of employment, research and development, climate and energy, education and the fight against poverty and social exclusion. The strategy also sets out seven initiatives that aim to create progress under each of the three themes: innovation union, youth labour market entry, digital households and firms, resource efficiency, new skills and jobs agenda, a platform against poverty and an industrial policy for the globalisation era.

After four years, the Commission has proposed, and the European Council of 20-21 March 2014 has agreed, to initiate a review of the Europe 2020 strategy. Given the last of the seven initiatives, our industry has the opportunity to contribute to the industrial policy review.

The mining and raw materials manufacturing industries should have an important say in terms of increasing global competitiveness in the globalisation era by providing SMEs and businesses all over the European Union with access to locally produced goods and capture more of the value chain inside the Union.

Summary of reported progress so far

Unemployment has increased sharply in Europe as a result of the last financial crisis – peaking in 2013. The EU employment rate stood at 68.4% in 2012 compared to 68.5% in 2010 and is expected to remain below the Europe 2020 target of 75% of the population aged 20-64 by 2020. Portugal, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Ireland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Croatia and Greece are the countries with the highest unemployment – almost all of them have significant unrealised mineral wealth and mine permits pending. Greece, Portugal and Romania – in particular – appear not to have valorised opportunities to create wealth from the upsurge in demand for metals and minerals in recent years.

The European economy has grown by around 45% in real terms since 1990 and has achieved a clear decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. The performance of individual Member States demonstrates that such decoupling has also occurred when significant mining industries are present (Austria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) or growing (Finland and Sweden). Considerable investment is still needed in energy infrastructure across Europe and some of that investment can come with the help of the mining sector, one of the most important stakeholders for the energy sector.

The Europe 2020 targets for education appear achievable by 2020, but some of the progress made has been caused by worsening employment prospects. Overall, investment in education and training has diminished during the crisis and progress in ensuring that adequately skilled labour is available for industrial jobs has been slow. Again, this is a sector where the mining industry can very well contribute with strong lifelong learning and skills development programs for the communities we operate in.

Last but not least, the published fact is that 22.8 million Europeans were severely and materially deprived in 2012. They could not afford to pay rent or utility bills, to keep homes adequately warm, to meet unexpected expenses, to eat meat, fish or a protein equivalent every second day, to take a week’s holiday away from home, to own a car, to own a washing machine, to own a colour television, or to own a telephone. Europe needs the jobs and the income generated by large scale industrial activities, and safe, sustainable mining should be at the forefront, given the fact that the Old Continent is still rich in natural resources and turnkey projects like Rosia Montana are pending impact assessments in various parts of the Union.

The European Commission needs now, as a new team comes into office, to be reminded of the opportunities that lie unexploited in the Union’s mineral resource sector. They have given us the tool to do so via the public consultation on the Europe 2020 strategy, which we encourage all those interested in a strong industrial Europe to complete by the 31st of October.