Commissioner McGuiness was our guest at the last Eurochambres Presidency meeting. We expressed our wish for an effective financial support to businesses not only in the rescue phase, but also in the recovery phase. Concrete measures to this end are being prepared and will be followed by Eurochambres.
The economic situation in Europe should ease. The vaccinations are progressing and so it is to be expected that the problems still existing in the COVID crisis will be solved by the summer and then a halfway normal summer tourist season, as well as an opening of trade, services and cultural institutions can take place.
Vice President Ebner reported on his fact-finding mission and presented a list of expectations for the next ECH President. The statutory procedure for the elections was explained by Ben Butters. You will receive this information in detail.
Our new Policy Director, Lina Konstantinopoulou, introduced herself. She will also take part in the General Assembly next month. Her international experience and education qualify her in the best way to fulfil the important tasks assigned to her.
Unfortunately, the European Parliament of Enterprises cannot take place this year. Nonetheless, we want to hold virtual events in the autumn to express our demands to the political authorities.
In addition, a consultation on the “Conference on the Future of Europe” will be launched by the Commission and Parliament on Europe Day on 9 May 2021. I think the involvement of young entrepreneurs is particularly important, so that not only other organisations with different interests express their opinions.
We have also received recognition for our engagement from the Parliament, Council Presidency and Commission: “The active involvement and support of Eurochambres in this exercise is very welcome and highly encouraged. We are pleased to hear that Eurochambres would be willing to bring together entrepreneurs, particularly young entrepreneurs, to provide input.” Let’s do it!
The European Commission is revising the EU framework for state aid to research, development and innovation. The framework aims to target initiatives and projects that would not happen without public support. All interested stakeholders can provide their feedback until 3 June 2021. An opportunity for our members who are involved in innovative projects but need public support to realise them.
At the last EU Summit, leaders expressed a readiness to boost cooperation with Turkey if the this is sustained. Eurochambres has always advocated an economic solution to the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean – as in other regions – and has contributed to discussions on modernisation of the customs agreement. Meanwhile, our activities in the framework of the Turkey-EU Business Dialogue project continue in a digital environment. Eurochambres has thus made a small contribution to a possible solution to the conflict.
We held a video conference with our partners in Washington. The main focus was on trade developments and both the US Chamber and Eurochambres agree that a good first step would be the dismantling of non-tariff barriers. The preservation of value chains would also be very much in the interest of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Further points of discussion concerned joint efforts in the circular economy, which is currently being pursued very vigorously by the USA. The question of taxation was also raised, where the USA has also put forward proposals.
I made two further proposals: to bring together the US Chamber, the China Chamber (CCPIT) and Eurochambres for a meeting to discuss existing economic problems between these three partners (e.g. compliance with WTO rules) and to find possible solutions. The US Chamber will discuss this proposal internally.
And finally, I have asked the US Chamber to participate actively in the Global Chamber Platform, because many problems can only be solved at the global level and we need a strong common voice towards the G7 and the G20.
The US Chamber agrees that steel and aluminium are not in the area of US national security and therefore import tariffs are not justified. Here, too, our arguments have fallen on good ground.
Overall, the US has three Cs in focus: Covid, Climate and China. To this end, they want to integrate the EU into a stronger partnership and, in particular, strengthen cooperation in innovative new technologies.
All in all, a very constructive and enjoyable meeting, which we will now deepen and continue.
Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, sees the inflation rate at around 2% in 2021, but no resulting fundamental upward pressure on prices. This means that the ECB’s zero interest rate policy will continue this year and probably also next year.
My appreciation to Martha Schultz and the Eurochambres Women Network. The findings of their special Corona survey were presented during an online event in March and the EU institutions are interested in the results. Feedback from many national Chambers continues to demonstrate the valuable support that our network is providing to women entrepreneurs across Europe in these very tough times.
Maria Gabriel is European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Our conversation with her focused on the lack of skills. This could lead to a noticeable bottleneck in many areas of the economy as soon as the economy recovers in Europe. 45% of our companies complain about a skills gap. On the other hand, we have many, too many, unemployed. There is a mismatch here. Our chambers are called upon to help eliminate this mismatch and our companies are called upon to intensify in-company training and further education in the direction of skilled workers.
With the approval of the European Parliament, economic relations with the UK are now on a firm footing. Our companies now know the framework conditions, which makes their work easier. But we have to develop this agreement further and simplify things step by step for the benefit of our members. The UK is and remains an important market for the rest of Europe and the second largest economy in Europe. I would like to thank all those who have contributed within Eurochambres, especially Ian Talbot.