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Ministers for competitiveness endorse the start of the Green Deal Industrial Plan

An informal meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council was held today in Stockholm. At the opening session, ministers discussed the measures needed to improve the competitiveness of the European economy for an effective green transition. They endorsed the European Commission’s communication on the Green Deal Industrial Plan, which aims to provide targeted support to accelerate the decarbonisation of European industry, and thus European economic leadership in the new technologies and industries of the future.

In its communication on the Green Deal Industrial Plan, the European Commission identifies four sets of actions: a regulatory environment, financing, skills and trade. The core of today’s debate focused on the issue of relaxing the rules on state aid and its financing, especially in countries with less fiscal room for manoeuvre. The ministers also strongly emphasised the need to simplify administrative procedures and to combine public and private resources to invest in the green transition.

“The EU lags behind both the United States and China in investment in research, development and innovation. It is therefore not only a response to the US Inflation Reduction Act, but also about catching up on the last two decades. A new European industrial policy is necessary to restore Europe’s industrial and innovation primacy,” said State Secretary Matevž Frangež at the meeting.

At the meeting, Slovenia supported the European Commission’s message and the efforts of the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council. It is therefore open to the simplification of state aid rules, but these must be targeted and temporary. Slovenia also advocates a simplification of the rules for drawing on funds from the Resilience and Recovery Facility and a longer drawdown period. It favours the idea of a new Sovereign Wealth Fund, but its funding must not come at the expense of existing funds earmarked for Member States.

In the second part of the meeting, ministers debated in three separate groups. Slovenia took part in the debate “Mobilising Private Finance for the Green Transition”.  Ministers stressed the importance of the EU’s leadership in the green transition to gain a competitive advantage over other advanced economies. However, it will be crucial to attract private capital to green investments, and the business case for a green transition must be made. At the same time, it will be necessary to provide the proper basis for speeding up and simplifying regulatory procedures, investing in the ecosystem and infrastructure related to the green transition, and sharing the risks, in particular by incorporating public funds.

In the other two groups, ministers addressed how the single market, including the free flow of services, can contribute to the green transition and how trade and international partnerships can support the green transition.

The discussion during the working lunch focused on the European agenda for long-term competitiveness and productivity. Slovenia believes that three key factors are crucial at this moment in time: accelerating investment and structural change in the public and private sectors, adapting and strengthening knowledge, skills and competences, and accelerating the introduction of digital technologies, both in business and in the public sector. The debate will continue at the formal meetings of the Competitiveness Council and of the European Council.