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Sustainable supplies of critical raw materials crucial for EU industry

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MEPs want Europe to be less dependent on the imports of critical raw materials that are crucial for its strategic industries, Society.

To become climate neutral, energy-efficient and more competitive in the digital age, the EU will need more critical raw materials such as lithium and cobalt to manufacture batteries and electric engines. These technologies allow for the development of strategic sectors: renewable energy, electric cars, and digital technologies.

Global supply chains that were already stretched have been hit further by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to shortages of critical raw materials in Europe and leaving the industry facing challenges in securing access to resources.

Reversing EU dependence on imports

The EU faces bottlenecks and vulnerabilities along the supply chain due to its heavy reliance on imports from single sources. For example, China accounts for 98% of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements, Turkey 98% of borate supplies and South Africa 71% of the EU’s platinum needs.

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In an effort to reverse this dependence, MEPs will vote on a report asking the European Commission to put forward a comprehensive EU strategy for critical raw materials, based on sustainable sourcing and high environmental, social and human rights standards.

MEPs want the EU to diversify supply sources of critical raw materials and reduce its reliance on a few non-EU countries. The report proposes that the EU strengthens existing partnerships and trade agreements, while exploring options with new countries. It stresses that any agreements must consider the environmental footprint of imports and be responsibly sourced, respecting workers' health and safety, and ensuring decent jobs and working conditions.

Recycling raw materials in the EU

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Raw materials can be recycled from older products and are known as secondary raw materials. MEPs want to promote the recycling and recovery of critical raw materials from mining, processing and commercial waste streams to ensure reliable, secure and sustainable access to them. They also want dedicated recycling targets for critical raw materials, with a robust monitoring framework.

In a resolution adopted on 9 February 2021, Parliament called for tighter recycling rules and binding 2030 targets for material use and consumption in reply to the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan of March 2020, which aims to make the industry more sustainable by 2050.

Learn more about the importance and benefits of a circular economy.

A more comprehensive strategy for critical raw materials would help strengthen the EU's industrial ecosystem and retain jobs in the manufacturing industry.
The raw materials sector provides about 350,000 jobs in the EU and more than 30 million jobs in downstream manufacturing industries that depend on it. Moving towards a more circular economy could create a net increase of 700,000 jobs in the EU by 2030.

Read more about the circular economy

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China

Competition: EU and China meet during 22nd Competition Week to discuss competition policy priorities

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Officials and experts from the EU and China will meet online from 29 November to 2 December 2021 to discuss about their co-operation on competition law and enforcement. The discussions will focus on the green transition and how China's Fair Competition Review System and the EU's State Aid framework can contribute to it. Participants will also discuss mechanisms to control potentially anti-competitive acquisitions in the digital sector and the practical challenges of investigating digital markets. In addition, there will be updates on the proposed revisions to China's Anti-Monopoly Law and recent regulatory and competition policy developments in the EU.

The 22nd EU-China Competition Week follows the longstanding tradition of biannual competition dialogue between the EU and the anti-monopoly enforcement agencies in China. It is part of the Competition Co-operation project, a five-year EU funded programme offering technical co-operation to competition authorities in Asia. It also provides a platform for exchanges on competition policy between the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The objective is to exchange experiences and strengthen convergence in competition policy, to the benefit of citizens and businesses in both the EU and in Asia. More information about the European Commission's bilateral dialogue with China in the field of competition policy is available on the Commission's website.

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coronavirus

Commission hosts second matchmaking event to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 medicines

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Today (30 November), the Commission is hosting a pan-European matchmaking event to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 medicines in Europe, as part of the actions under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics. Following a first matchmaking event on COVID-19 medicines in July 2021 and a previous matchmaking event on COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, this event aims at strengthening the participation of EU companies in value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics and speeding up connections among the participants. It also broadens the focus: from therapeutics specifically used to treat COVID-19, to also including those used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, as well the production of disposable materials, such as syringes, and ingredients needed for making such medicines.

The event gathers companies from the European Economic Area as well as other businesses and organisations included in the portfolio of 10 most promising treatments, presented by the Commission in the follow-up to the COVID-19 Therapeutics strategy. In order to facilitate matchmaking events, the Commission issued a comfort letter in March 2021 (based on the Antitrust Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 8 April 2020) providing guidance, relevant also for this event, on how the matchmaking and exchanges between participating companies, including direct competitors, can take place in compliance with EU competition rules. The matchmaking event is organised by the Commission's Task Force for industrial scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, in close co-operation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The event is also hosted in partnership with the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and the European Cluster Alliance (ECA), which are supporting the Commission in running an EU survey to assess EU capacities for COVID-19 therapeutics production. More information about the event is available here.

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European Commission

President von der Leyen addresses the special session of the World Health Assembly of the WHO

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On 29 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) addressedthe World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gathers between 29 November and 1 December for its second-ever special session. The President welcomed the Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, President von der Leyen commended the leadership of South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, underlining that South Africa's analytical work and transparency have allowed a swift global response to save lives. She praised South Africa as an example of international cooperation in times of cross-border health threats.

Building on the Global Health Summit of May and on the G20 Summit last month, President von der Leyen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to uphold equity, good governance, multilateral cooperation and solidarity as the only ways out of the current health crisis. The European Union and its Member States will continue working to help achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 and will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and vaccination. In this sense, the President confirmed that the EU aims at sharing at least 700 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 with low and middle-income countries. That is on top of the €3 billion in financing that the EU provided to help create the ACT-Accelerator for global vaccination through COVAX and the ongoing efforts to develop vaccine manufacturing in Africa and in South America. The full speech is available here and can be re-watched here.

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