EU industry commissioner warns of structural chem changes

19 February 2009 20:45  [Source: ICIS news]

BRUSSELS (ICIS news)--EU industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen warned on Thursday of structural change in European industry, driven by the current deep financial and economic crisis.

“The scope and depth of this crisis is unprecedented,” he said at the launch of the final report of the EU’s High Level Group on competitiveness of the chemicals industry.

“We are in a kind of freefall and have not yet hit the bottom,” he added.

EU analysis shows that the real economy has been hit hard by the crisis in the financial markets, Verheugen said.

“We must be aware that the industrial landscape in Europe after the crisis will not be the same," he added.

The first major effects of the crisis on European industry were expected this spring, the commissioner warned.

Delegates at the Industry Commission meeting, which was held to launch the High Level Group (HLG) of chemicals competitiveness final report, expected industry restructuring and job losses to mount in Europe this year as the EU economies slumped further into recession.

“Structural change cannot be prohibited or prevented but can be managed,” Verheugen said as he warned against member states enacting anti-competitive policy to support some industries and jobs.

“Policy makers cannot make management decisions,” he said. “We must not allow market participants and members of the EU to jeopardise the functioning of the internal market.”

The European Commission must play a watchdog role in the circumstances, he said. “In our crisis response, we should not allow that short term needs jeopardise longer-term objectives, “he added.

Policy makers cannot prevent structural change, the industry commissioner suggested. “You don’t help the company or the sector involved,” he added.

Describing the HLG on chemicals process as a unique opportunity to discuss the views of the chemicals industry and sector stakeholders with the Commission, BASF CEO Jurgen Hambrecht said the industry was strongly committed to Europe and while requesting level playing field on issues such as energy and climate control, did not need subsidies.

The industry has restructured, he said. “We can take care of our own destiny.”

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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