France eager to discuss funding of EU’s new green industry plan
French politicians and industrialists widely welcomed the European Commission’s newly announced ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’ to challenge the US and China’s clean subsidy push but are hoping for upcoming discussions to lay out specifics on funding.
Economy Minister Bruno le Maire, who will be travelling to Washington on 7 February, praised the “strong proposals”, saying they went “in the right direction” to promote “Made in Europe” industries, according to a statement circulated to the press.
As the European Commission prepares to present its green industrial plan at the next EU leaders’ summit on 9-10 February, the French have their eyes set on one issue in particular – the financing aspect.
“While we welcome a future regulatory framework for the decarbonised industry, we also need a more precise financial framework,” said Simon Pujau, head of institutional relations at France Hydrogène, a group bringing together the French hydrogen value chain.
This sentiment is echoed by the French government, which told other EU countries in mid-January that it wanted to drastically loosen EU state aid restrictions – something for which it can count on German backing.
The issue of EU financing is also on the Commission’s mind. Alongside its green industrial plan, Brussels also put forward a draft proposal to transform the current crisis state aid framework, initially adopted during the COVID-19 crisis, into a Temporary Crisis and Transitional Framework (TCF).
The proposal was forwarded to member states for consultation on Wednesday (1 February) and constitutes the most immediate financing pillar of the Commission’s proposal.
For potential additional funding, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referred to a forthcoming “European Sovereignty Fund” announced in December last year.
EU’s green industrial plan vague on clean tech, finance, critics say
The Commission’s ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’, unveiled on Wednesday (1 February), promises simplified EU regulation for clean technologies, but critics say it lacks clarity and opens the door to unrestricted subsidies in France and Germany until the end of 2025.
France has proved an ardent defender of the “European Sovereignty Fund“, which is set to be presented in the summer as part of a wider mid-term EU budgetary review.
In the European Parliament, the French delegation of the centrist Renew group is actively pushing the Commission initiative.
“We are still waiting for the details,” said Christophe Grudler, a French Renew MEP. While he welcomed the announcement of the strategy, Grudler said his group was drafting a parliamentary resolution asking for “more precise criteria” to be decided for the fund.
The resolution is set to be voted on during the Parliament’s plenary session on 13-16 February.
On the left, French MEPs are also very much in favour of extra funding for Europe’s green industries.
Member states are not yet unanimous on the principle of a special fund, though the idea is supported by von der Leyen and the EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton.
And among French industries, some are pointing to missing parts.
“The plan lacks an energy price component,” said Cyrille Mounier, general delegate of the Aluminium France union. “There will be no industrial plan without a competitive electricity price, so a revision of the European electricity market de-indexed from the price of gas,” he told EURACTIV France.
According to Grudler, the energy aspect of the EU’s industrial policy is also a key issue for the French delegation of the right-wing EPP group in the European Parliament.
If there were any remaining doubts in France about the need to reform the EU’s electricity market, they have now faded away.
Defiance grows in France against EU electricity market
As expected, French senators on Thursday (12 January) rejected a resolution to take the country out of the European electricity market. But while the resolution was largely expected to fail, the vote on the contrary revealed growing defiance against the EU market.