The place of competitiveness in the era of sustainability – European Group Manifestoes Compared

By SEC Newgate EU

In Brussels, ‘competitiveness’ has become a prominent term, yet sustainability remains a top priority on the EU agenda. The interaction between the EU’s pursuit of competitiveness and its sustainability and climate ambitions will be central to upcoming legislative debates. While some policymakers view the green transition as crucial for addressing competitiveness challenges, others express concerns about potential setbacks. To develop effective advocacy and positioning strategies for the next term, it’s crucial for companies to grasp policymakers’ stances. This article aims to provide an overview of the current positions across the EU political landscape.

The European Parliament vividly reflects the divergence of opinions on the competitiveness debate. Recent negotiations, such as those surrounding the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and the Nature Restoration Law, offer insights into the forthcoming term’s dynamics. However, a more comprehensive analysis is necessary to delineate each political group’s stance on competitiveness amidst climate change. To achieve this, we’ve scrutinised the manifestos and recent publications of the five major groups in the European Parliament, outlining their opinions and visions for the next five years.

European People´s Party: Without a competitive Europe there is no green Europe  

The European People’s Party asserts that the EU should ‘’refrain from tendencies towards overregulation without considering all three dimensions of sustainability – economic, ecological, and societal’’. They argue that without a competitive Europe, economic prosperity, ambitious environmental protection, and social harmony cannot succeed. Consequently, they advocate for launching a Competitiveness Strategy for Europe and establishing an EU Competitiveness Check across every EU policy initiative. However, while prioritising competitiveness, the EPP also recognises the advantages of the Green Deal. They believe climate protection is essential for maintaining competitiveness, asserting that ‘’without a competitive economy, there can be no sustainable climate protection either’’. Their vision is to achieve a carbon-neutral transformation within EU businesses. For example, they aim to unlock investment and provide more support for innovation in clean technologies. Additionally, they highlight the importance of promoting environmental policies such as waste reduction, addressing PFAS and microplastics, improving air quality, and enhancing water strategies.

Socialist and Democrats – Building a competitive Europe by making it green  

The Socialist and Democrats dedicate a section of their manifesto to outlining initiatives aimed at environmental preservation. They emphasise their commitment to combatting plastic and climate pollution, particularly addressing PFAS and microplastics. Additionally, the S&D expresses dedication to enhancing water management and safeguarding biodiversity. Concurrently, the Socialists aim to revitalise the EU’s economy, fostering competitiveness while transitioning towards a circular economy, as outlined in their Investment Plan for the Green and Digital Transition. While the EPP manifesto elaborates on the alignment between sustainability and competitiveness, the S&D manifesto, albeit more indirectly, shares the vision that the Green Transition can propel the EU’s competitiveness forward. S&D primarily advocates for environmental protection as a standalone goal, while the EPP asserts that sustainable policies can yield broader benefits beyond climate action or environmental protection.

Renew – A competitive Europe means a reformed single market 

Renew’s priorities, representing the voices of ALDE Party, Renaissance, and the European Democratic Party (EDP), underscore a dual objective within the liberal group: to enhance Europe’s competitiveness and sustainability. Renew aims to achieve this through prioritising investment in research and innovation. Moreover, the Group emphasises its commitment over the next five years to focus on implementing existing regulations. The ALDE manifesto advocates for reducing administrative burdens and red tape by adhering to the straightforward principle of “one market, one rule” as a key strategy to enhance the EU’s competitiveness. ALDE prioritises solutions geared towards further integrating the single market and implementing structural reforms.

ECR – Competitiveness requires pushing back on the Green Deal 

The ECR expresses its opposition to the current approach taken towards the Green Deal during this legislative period. The group contends that ordinary citizens and their interests have been overlooked and advocates for the protection of citizens, farmers, and businesses from the potential adverse effects of climate policies. Additionally, the ECR articulates its desire to review the more contentious objectives of the Green Deal, such as the proposed ban on internal combustion engines.

The Greens – Green is the word 

The Greens view the greening of industries through investment in Europe as a significant opportunity for enhancing both competitiveness and achieving climate neutrality. They advocate for stringent regulations to curb carbon emissions and promote renewable energy sources as fundamental elements of a competitive and environmentally sustainable economy. In their vision, environmental stewardship drives economic prosperity and strengthens European competitiveness. Recently, three MEPs from the group, Michael Bloss, Bas Eickhout, and Sara Matthieu, have published a paper outlining a potential green roadmap to bolster the EU’s competitiveness. The paper underscores industrial competition from China and the US while emphasising the importance of upholding the Green Deal. The MEPs highlight the significance of intra-EU cooperation and providing financial support to smaller states.

As the EU embarks on a new legislative term, understanding these positions becomes crucial for companies navigating the evolving regulatory landscape. This article aims to shed light on the current debate within the EU political landscape by analysing the manifestos and recent publications of key political groups. However, the Brussels environment is fast-paced, and this debate is expected to evolve, especially with the selection of the new Commission. One certainty for the next term is the imperative of balancing competitiveness with sustainability goals and the necessity for nuanced policy approaches to tackle complex challenges such as climate change and economic growth. As policymakers grapple with these issues in the coming years, input from companies on this debate will be more crucial than ever.

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