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Enterprise and industry

1. Enterprise and Industry policy

European Union’s enterprise and industry policy aims at creating a favourable environment for European businesses and enterprises, for economic growth, jobs and welfare. It attempts to make conditions for businesses supportive, so that businesses are able to compete and trade on fair and equal terms in Europe and globally. The policy also strives to make Europe an attractive place to invest and work and to support knowledge-based and innovative industries in particular.

Specific needs of individual industries such as food, IT or car-manufacturing are taken into consideration, while it is made sure that strategically important industries such as defence, aerospace, biotechnology, chemicals and mechanical engineering can function well.

The European Commission emphasises the need to integrate policies as diverse as trade, research, the internal market, training, the information society, regional development, taxation and the environment, so that they boost the use of knowledge and innovation across EU industry as a whole. Obstacles to competition must be moved and regulation must be cut to the minimum in the interest of growth. Enterprises are asked to commit themselves to sustainable development, skills development, rational use of natural resources, poverty reduction and respect for human rights.

The Lisbon Summit, in March 2000, marked a major turning point in this field. Its declared objective was to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion” by 2010.

At the European Council in Gothenburg, an environmental dimension was added to the strategy to promote sustainable growth in Europe.

In December 2006, the growth and jobs strategy of the EU Lisbon process was re-launched. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: “Europe is starting to embrace the changes that can make the current economic upturn last. To get in shape for globalization every Member State needs to pick up the pace and perform to its full potential.”

According to the Commission, efforts to make structural changes to member countries’ economies are starting to bear fruit. Research, technological development and innovation are gaining momentum, cutting red-tape is improving regulation and business environment, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s), is enhanced.

When measuring innovation performance, the EU has been slowly closing the innovation gap with the US in the last five years (see European Innovation Scoreboard 2006) . Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany have been named innovation leaders not only among EU members but also globally, performing far better and investing much more than average in the field of innovation.

The EU’s goal is to bring research and development investment to an average of 3 percent of national GDP by 2010, as a part of the Union’s Lisbon strategy for growth and competitiveness.

The Commission’s Enterprise and Industry DG lists as its main objectives:

  • support the Lisbon process
  • lower barriers to entrepreneurs in Europe and encourage potential entrepreneurs
  • foster innovation both in the technical sphere as an adjunct to research, and in the business process
  • continue to enhance the efficiency of the internal market, especially in the new member states
  • enhance the global competitiveness of European industry within a framework of sustainable development.

The EU advocates a policy where product and production regulation is imposed on enterprises only when absolutely necessary. Only in special cases, such as pharmaceuticals, upfront approval is needed before a product can be put on market.

Strict rules also apply to chemicals. A long-awaited compromise on the REACH - the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals - was adopted in December 2006, to come into force in June 2007. The REACH package requires the manufacturers and importers of chemicals to provide health and safety data for some 30 000 chemical substances currently used in everyday products. These include a wide range from plastics used in toys, mobile phones and household articles to chemicals used in cleaning products, paints and textiles.

All substances must be registered over a period of 11 years at the new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. The agency will coordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find information. The work will begin with the most toxic and commonly used chemicals. If a safer substance can be used at a reasonable cost, the more toxic one must be replaced. The responsibility for proving that their products are safe rests with the manufacturers. REACH is hoped to increase protection of EU citizens’ health and the environment while enhancing the innovative capability and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.

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