The business community firmly believes that Europe must look to the future, even as they still manage the impact of the last 18 months.
The European Commission’s renewed commitment to the political priorities set out before the pandemic for the 2019-2024 legislative term remain more relevant than ever and must be pursued resolutely, while factoring in the legacy of the deep economic crisis and the need to revive the European economy.
While some aspects related to the sanitary crisis, such as freedom of movement, could have been managed better, overall, the EU responded adequately to address the unprecedented economic crisis that followed.
The Malta Chamber, Eurochambres and many chambers across the EU made the case to public authorities and EU institutions for effective policies and to roll out funding support to aid millions of companies, without which they could not have survived. As we move beyond the crisis, it will be crucial to pursue the other important priorities that will contribute to a swift revival of the European economy.
The single market must be at the centre of the EU policy programme. Temporary measures to contain the pandemic led to the return of long forgotten barriers and provided a stark reminder of what has been achieved over the last 30 years of integration.
Nonetheless, the single market remains incomplete and obstacles present even before the crisis need to be addressed. We continue to advocate for better implementation and enforcement of existing rules to enable businesses and consumers alike to benefit from the world’s largest trading bloc.
The pandemic highlighted the social and economic importance of digitalisation. Businesses and governments need to invest smartly in digital tools and literacy. Technological development, research and innovation must be prioritised. None of this will gain traction unless Europe also enhances its digital skills capacity.
Businesses play an important role in education, training, reskilling and upskilling, equipping the European workforce for the digital transition and chambers of commerce are ready to play an integral part of this process.
The Commission also has a strong role to play, for example by promoting the use of artificial intelligence for more effective skills forecasting.
The single market remains incomplete and obstacles present even before the crisis need to be addressed- Marisa Xuereb and Christoph Leitl
During a summer of record heatwaves, raging wildfires and catastrophic floods, the reality of a changing climate has never been more apparent. To pursue the EU’s new 2030 climate targets effectively, there is a need for an enabling framework that provides planning security for businesses, while carefully balancing regulation and incentives.
We also recognise the importance of achieving a more circular economy in which waste becomes a key resource. Industrial regeneration, recycling and remanufacturing activities must be stimulated. The strategy for the transition to a sustainable economy needs to encourage investments in a cleaner economy without limiting businesses’ access to finance or imposing undue administrative burdens.
The Next Generation EU recovery plan and the Recovery and Resilience Facility can provide valuable opportunities for our businesses to enhance their sustainability if rolled out correctly and swiftly across the economy. The engagement of grass roots actors, such as business support organisations and financial intermediaries, is essential to translate these vast EU financial instruments into support for viable projects on the ground. We are ready to work with public authorities in the design and implementation of their plans to ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented, and that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) benefit directly from the available funds.
SMEs are integral to Europe’s economy and essential to the recovery. They should be considered by policymakers and legislators systematically as part of the solution. This applies particularly to the Commission’s ambitious new industrial strategy to drive Europe’s twin green and digital transition; SMEs need to be at the centre of the industrial transformation, reflecting their significant contribution to innovation and competitiveness.
Finally, the EU cannot forget its place in the world. The pandemic may have prompted us to focus on matters closer to home, but Europe is a fundamentally an outward looking continent. We must remain open and aware of our leading role in ensuing free, fair and inclusive international trade. Let’s build on the EU’s extensive trade network to drive a positive global agenda, enabling businesses to gain resilience, to diversify supply chains and build international opportunities.
With 85 per cent of future economic growth forecast to come from outside the EU, an ambitious and assertive trade agenda is vital to Europe’s competitiveness and prosperity. Chambers are ready to offer their unparalleled expertise and global economic outreach.
Last Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen delivered a State of the Union address, which is a highlight of the EU policy calendar. It is also an important vision for the European chamber network, reflecting our conviction in a dynamic, integrated and globally competitive Europe. We believe the Commission president’s outlook sets the right tone, but this must be followed with a positive, realistic and galvanising action so that millions of businesses across the continent that share this conviction can contribute to Europe’s economic revival.
Marisa Xuereb is president of the Malta Chamber and Christoph Leitl is president of Eurochambres.
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