Providing a framework supporting domestic extraction, subject to environmental standards and good working conditions, potentially offers a triple win for the environment, jobs and European economy in the future.
Speaking at the launch of the EU Raw Materials Alliance on 29 September 2020, industriAll European Trade Union Deputy General Secretary Judith Kirton-Darling reminded the Commissioners, industry and NGO representatives present that Europe’s industrial workers have a direct stake in the EU’s plans on raw materials. She underlined that industrial workers are keen to play a full role in developing an agenda which supports the objectives of the European Green Deal, underpins a strong European industrial strategy and guarantees good quality jobs throughout our industrial value chains.
The European Raw Materials Alliance brings together an array of stakeholders, and the Commission expressed hopes that the participants would initially focus on the most pressing needs, namely to increase EU resilience in the rare earth and magnet value chains, as this is vital to most of EU industrial ecosystems, such as renewable energy, defence and space. Later, according to the Commission, the alliance could expand to address other critical raw material and base metal needs over time.
Industrial trade unions have been calling for many years for a stronger EU strategy on raw materials. Greater independence through the sustainable exploitation of our own resources, the enhanced circular use of resources as well as security of supply through a joint external agenda on raw materials is vital for key industrial value chains advancing the twin digital and green transition. This joint approach demands a trade policy agenda tackling trade distortions in raw materials prices. The reform of EU trade defence instruments foresaw this, but industriAll Europe has expressed concerns that in cases like the stainless-steel industry’s concerns about nickel export bans, these new tools are not being fully operationalised.
Meanwhile, internal EU policies need to be better coordinated. As unions heard at the launch of the Just Transition Platform, the potential for diversification in coal-dependent regions is considerable and domestic metal and mineral extraction offer employment opportunities for today’s and future skilled miners in these regions. A valuable alternative to deindustrialisation and depopulation. This demands joined up thinking across the EU institutions and tools – from the new Raw Materials Alliance through DG Regio’s work on Just Transition pathways to the European sectoral social dialogue committee on the extractive industries. It also requires the full involvement of social partners, notably trade unions, in the development, monitoring and evaluation of regional just transition plans as foreseen in the context of the Just Transition Fund.
IndustriAll Europe’s Deputy General Secretary Judith Kirton-Darling reiterated at the launch event that “Providing a framework supporting domestic extraction, subject to environmental standards and good working conditions, potentially offers a triple win for the environment, jobs and European economy in the future”.