24 Mar 2020

The incoming EU Commission of Ursula von de Leyen set an ambitious timetable of 100 days to make a series of strategic announcements for the direction of the EU, so the last few weeks has seen a flurry of announcements in all the key subjects, not even slowed down by the emerging Coronavirus crisis.

Policy and industry experts in all the EU trade associations have been studying the documents carefully, checking for which industries might be winners and losers and using the statements as a basis for future lobbying. While most of the Brussels policy community is now working from home it is clear that this enforced change to travel plans is actually giving Commission staff more time to work on turning policies into legislation and funding proposals, so our work may change, but it hasn’t stopped.

Here’s CIE’s overview of the big EU announcements in February and March, with a quick first commentary on what we see for the cycling sector in the EU Green Deal, the European Digital Strategy, Industrial Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan on sustainability and updates to the SME Strategy.

The European Green Deal became the EU Climate Law in March committing the union to climate neutrality by 2050. It was highly criticized in many quarters for not having a clear 2030 milestone to accelerate change, not least Greta Thunberg who was the guest of the EU Parliament on the day the law came into existence. It has a final feedback round until May after which it is expected to be adopted.

CIE and other cycling associations are concerned that most of the transport expectations seem to be aimed at changing engines and power sources, with only digitalization through Intelligent Transport Systems and Mobility as a Service tools to encourage mode shift. The Sustainable Mobility Strategy due in Autumn 2020 will be the critical milestone to see if the Commission can recognize the role of Active Mobility in delivering change to green mobility much faster than other modes.

Next new strategy was the European Digital Strategy in February which included both Data and Artificial Intelligence strategies. There is huge pressure on the Commission to show it can support a Europe in the face of digital giants from the US and Asia. Collaboration across sectors, academia, public bodies and business is meant to harness European strengths. Elements of the plan include a big investment in digital skills for workforces, a focus on public benefit and enforcement of EU values in areas such as privacy. This is approach is entirely in line with the needs of the cycling sector because we are perhaps not large enough for any one company or sector to fund a complete eco-system, but we will benefit if we can ensure we are coordinated as a sector and with other industries.

Eye-catching announcements included A Common European mobility data space, to position Europe at the forefront of the development of an intelligent transport system, including connected cars as well as other modes of transport. Such data space will facilitate access, pooling and sharing of data from existing and future transport and mobility databases

When it comes to the EU Industrial Strategy all sectors are on the lookout for big initiatives in terms of regulation or funding. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) rise and rise within EU policies because of their potential for innovation and job creation. While not all the SME announcements were new it was clear that they have high level support with at least €300million of new funding to be released from 2021 for SME support. CIE is creating an Expert Group for Innovation and SMEs this spring because of the importance of these companies to cycling and the importance of this policy area for the EU. We think we have a lot to offer the EU by way of green high-tech innovators so this new strategy is very welcome.

The other big story to note in the EU Industrial Strategy is the focus on huge international and cross-sectoral coalitions to address specific industrial topics needed for the Green Deal. In transport the big focus is energy. A European Battery Alliance has already been announced which has created a huge cross-sectoral alliance to make the EU successful in battery research and supply, with a lot of money from governments, industry and the EU. With that model in mind the next big alliance will be European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, not currently a big topic in e-bike power supply, but a number of bike companies have done research in the area, so it may be worth following this initiative.

In general, the EU Industrial Strategy is very big on the idea of value chains, alliances and clusters within the EU, to deliver growth, to main control on key sectors, to enable the greening of whole supply chains including raw materials. To quote “Europe must pool its strengths to do collectively what no one can do alone.”

This approach was written into the new Circular Economy Action Plan proposing a common strategy for Europe supporting the growth and competitiveness of the circular economy. The New Circular Economy action plan aims to prevent a resource crisis, to break patterns of production and disposal, and to inspire a shift towards circularity.

Transport is a key sector in the new plan along with construction, demolition, food, textiles and electronics. Enhancing product durability, reusability, reparability and recyclability along with treatment of secondary raw materials and the definition of waste in circular economy legislation are among the pressing issues. The new Action Plan introduces legislative and non-legislative measures, so CIE members will need to coordinate action across our whole supply chain to manage big impacts. A joint CIE and CONEBI Sustainability Expert Group has been created to coordinate our responses. 

Collectively this is a huge range of activities which show the importance of industry and technology at the EU. Historically the cycling sector has struggled to make an impact in many of these areas because we lacked the capacity to have representatives in many industrial work areas. Cycling Industries Europe has now been created to increase our presence in these topics and we will be working with our Expert Groups in the coming months to get our priorities into many of these emerging fields.

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