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Make Europe a globally competitive energy supplier. Do something about the enormous amount of regulations that often conflict with each other and are very complex. And make it easier to claim subsidies.

These are three of ten action points of the Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal presented yesterday to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. The deal calls on European industry to improve the business climate.

Why this is important:

The Antwerp Declaration calls for improving the European business environment, with concrete action points to strengthen competitiveness. This is crucial for the EU industry in a world where more efficient support models sharpen competition elsewhere.

New high point

Concerns about that business climate have reached a new high. At a meeting in Antwerp, the industry stressed the importance of a competitive business climate for the entire EU region. The action points presented reflect the unease among entrepreneurs about the current state and future of the European business environment.

Global fiscal reforms significantly impact how countries such as the Netherlands position themselves. With multinationals leaving and declining investments, the Dutch business climate is under pressure. It is common knowledge that the Netherlands is attractive for international companies, thanks partly to favorable tax policies. However, the tide is turning. Almost one in five entrepreneurs considers leaving the Netherlands because of increasing regulatory pressure, tax concerns, and a need for government stability.

Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal:

  1. Put the Industrial Deal at the core of the new European Strategic Agenda for 2024-2029.
  2. Include a strong public funding chapter with a Clean Tech Deployment Fund for Energy Intensive Industries closely coordinated with a simplified State Aid framework, while respecting the Single Market rules
  3. Make Europe a globally competitive provider of energy. The costs of energy in Europe are simply too high to compete and are not only driven by commodity prices but also by regulatory charges.
  4. Focus on the infrastructure Europe needs. Target the Recovery and Resilience Facility and Structural and Regional Funds to integrate and build a worldclass EU Energy, digital, CCUS and recycling infrastructures as soon as possible.
  5. Increase the EU’s raw materials security through scaling up domestic mining, sustainable processing and recycling capacity for crucial raw materials, combined with new global partnerships.
  6. Boost demand for net zero, low carbon and circular products. Empower consumers (businesses and private) to choose net-zero and circular products, based on transparent product and environmental carbon footprints.
  7. Leverage, enforce, revive and improve the Single Market for the transition of integrated value chains,
  8. Make the innovation framework smarter including fostering high-quality science, technological innovation,
  9. A new spirit of law-making. Let entrepreneurship thrive to find the best solutions to overcome challenges.
  10. Ensure the structure allows to achieve results.

The call to action

European industry’s signal to the European Commission in Antwerp is a wake-up call. The action point list represents an urgent request to improve the business climate and safeguard the EU’s competitive position. For the Netherlands, this means critically examining its fiscal strategy and policies to maintain and strengthen its attractiveness for businesses.

Yesterday, the Green Deal – the flagship package of the current European Commission – took center stage. The package is being touted as an economic growth model. But, about this very promise, the industry has its doubts. China and the US are also fully committed to the green transition. State aid ensures that these countries play catch-up in areas where the EU had a head start. 

For example, the US has enacted the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). At $370 billion, this support model is similar to European support, but companies can benefit more quickly and easily.

The efficient support model of the Americans especially continues to occupy the minds of many European companies. The so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), at $370 billion, is similar in size to the aid available in Europe, but companies can benefit from it more quickly and easily.