The European Commission says it plans to “foster the competitiveness” of the steel industry as part of its strategy for the re-industrialisation of Europe, Katarina Jastrzembska of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry told a press conference in Bratislava on June 11.
The steel industry is of strategic importance for the European economy, the EC said, as it represents 360,000 jobs in more than 500 plants in 23 EU member countries. "The European Union, with an annual output of 177 million tonnes, is – after China – the world's second largest steel producer," said Jastrzembska, who also presented the framework for a commission action plan for steel. According to her, the steel industry is also highly important for Slovakia, where the sector is dominated by US Steel Košice.
"With annual production of 4.4 million tonnes of steel, Slovakia accounts for 2.4 percent of the EU's production capacity," she said as quoted by the TASR newswire, before adding that the sector also has a significant impact on regional employment and helps improve Slovakia's foreign-trade figures.
The crisis has left a substantial scar on the sector, as employment dropped by more than 10 percent between 2007 and 2011 following, above all, a drop in demand by 27 percent, she said. The EC’s strategy for the re-industrialisation of Europe is aimed at boosting the portion of the EU's GDP accounted for by industry from the current 15.2 percent to 20 percent in 2020. The action plan for steel is based on six pillars: an appropriate regulatory framework, galvanising demand for steel, an equal footing for steel producers across the EU, energy and climate policies to foster the sector's competitiveness, support for innovation, as well as sector-specific qualification requirements.
The Sme daily wrote that the EC has acknowledged that the pace at which it ordered European steelmakers to reduce their CO2 emissions has put them at a disadvantage to their competitors outside the EU. US Steel said last year, when it was considering quitting the Košice steelworks, that high costs for purchase of emission quotas were a consideration. In a deal to get US Steel to stay the Slovak government promised to repay a portion of its environmental costs, provided the money was invested in the plant, Sme wrote.
Sources: TASR, Sme
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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12. Jun 2013 at 14:00