The European Commission approved yesterday one more piece of the new legislative package to strengthen the competitiveness of the Community industry and accelerate the energy transition, an old objective that has taken on an urgent aspect due to the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine.
The law on critical raw materials adopted by the college of European commissioners to reduce strong foreign dependence is the essential complement to achieve the objectives of the Zero Net Industry law, also agreed yesterday and advanced by this newspaper, which proposes measures so that the EU is capable of manufacturing 40% of the supply chain of clean technologies in community territory.
From solar panels to electric car batteries to wind turbines, all the technologies that Europe has set out to manufacture and not just import depend on the availability of metals and minerals that are mostly produced outside the continent, often only in China. “For many critical raw materials, the EU is dependent on just a few global suppliers, in many cases just one. This is not sustainable. We urgently need to diversify”, warned the vice president of the community executive and head of Commerce, Valdis Dombrovskis, at a press conference.
The message from Brussels is clear: the time has come to resume mining exploration and speed up the granting of exploitation permits. At the same time, in order to reduce foreign dependence and strengthen European autonomy, it is proposed to pay more attention to this sector in the new international trade agreements and create a kind of critical raw materials club that brings together both consumer countries and those rich in resources to strengthen supply chains.
The objective that Brussels proposes to the Twenty-seven is that in 2030 no more than 65% of any critical raw material is imported from a single country. Today, the EU buys 97% of the magnesium it needs from China. Also from this country comes 100% of the so-called rare earths, necessary to manufacture the permanent magnets of electric motors. 98% of the borate consumed by the EU comes from Turkey and 71% of the platinum metals from South Africa.
The plan also contains measures to move closer to the target of 10% of national demand for certain strategic EU materials being covered internally. Currently only 3% is of domestic origin. Regarding refining and processing, Brussels proposes going from 0% or, in the best cases, 20% to 40%. A newly created body will monitor the evolution of the markets for certain materials and will propose a risk reduction and diversification strategy, in addition to promoting projects of strategic interest. The targets are voluntary but, according to the Internal Market commissioner, Thierry Breton, they will point out to industry and banking the relevance of these investments. "The EU is not a planned economy," said Dombrovskis in response to criticism of "dirigisme" launched by some economists at the latest proposals.