Less bureaucracy for certain branches of industry and more independence for important raw materials: the EU Commission is presenting two major projects for a powerful and environmentally friendly EU economy.

According to a draft available to the German Press Agency in Brussels, the European law on critical raw materials sets specifications for production targets, among other things. At least ten percent of the annual consumption of certain ores, minerals or concentrates should be able to be mined in the EU.

So far, the EU has been dependent on third countries for important raw materials. According to the Commission, 78 percent of the lithium that is important for battery production will come from Chile in 2020. But many raw materials that are of great importance for the EU economy also come from other countries such as China and Turkey. These raw materials are needed for cell phones and electric vehicles, computer chips, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines, stressed Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently.

“The branch we were sitting on in Europe was too thin”

Your colleague, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, recently said that numerous industry representatives were worried about the security of raw material supplies. Among other things, the corona pandemic had shown how dependent the EU is on functioning supply chains to Asia, for example. For example, the corona lockdown in Shanghai last spring severely disrupted supply chains worldwide and significantly delayed deliveries.

The European Parliament welcomes the Commission’s plan in principle. “The branch we were sitting on in Europe was too thin,” says CDU MP Hildegard Bentele. The Chairwoman of the Internal Market Committee, Anna Cavazzini (Greens), emphasizes: “Reducing the consumption of critical raw materials must come first, followed by recycling and finally dismantling.”

For the future, however, the EU Commission fears not only dependencies in the supply of raw materials. “System rivals are trying to grab our industrial capacities and thus create our dependencies of tomorrow,” Breton said with a view to China. In the field of electric cars, for example, he sees a real risk of becoming a net importer – i.e. importing more cars than exporting. “Last year China overtook Germany and became the second largest car exporter in the world,” said the EU Commissioner.

“We now have to step on the gas everywhere to protect the climate”

In order to counteract this and other risks of dependency, the second legislative proposal aims, among other things, to simplify approval procedures for strategically important value chains. The proposal also envisages simplifying state aid rules and making the use of EU funds more flexible. “In short, the Net Zero Industry Act provides speed, simplification and funding,” von der Leyen said. Exactly which industries should benefit from special rules was discussed until the very end. The CDU MEP Peter Liese welcomes the move. “We now have to step on the gas everywhere to protect the climate and become independent from Russia,” he said.

The proposal for the Net Zero Industry Act was also discussed intensively within the EU Commission. Leaked drafts of the project had been described as extremely worrying by authors at the Bruegel think tank. The political goals are blatantly protectionist. How much the final proposal differs from known drafts is still unclear. Von der Leyen rejected the criticism. “There is not a single point that is protectionist,” she told the German Press Agency and other agencies in an interview with the European Newsroom.