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Europe needs social consensus for strong, dynamic and #sustainable industrial change

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Industry has always been shaped by continuous change. But some changes are real upheavals, such as the industrial revolution in the 19th century and the one we are facing now: Industry 4.0, the digital revolution of the 21st century. "It may be almost impossible to predict the future, but we need to be prepared for it": that was the message from the panellists at the event.

In particular, Europe needs a comprehensive public-private partnership framework:

  • to boost long-term investment in digital industrial change;
  • to ensure continually renewed 4.0 skills, life-long learning, quality jobs and the   sustained protection of labour standards in the new digital age;
  • to promote a fair societal distribution of the "digital dividend";
  • cooperation at all levels and along the value chain is paramount.

On 16 November, the Consultative Commission for Industrial Change (CCMI) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) celebrated its 15th anniversary with a conference entitled 'From Industrial Change to Society 4.0'.

Opening the event, CCMI President Lucie Studničná said: "Europe must reach a viable social consensus if the 4.0 process is to be strong, dynamic and sustainable. Industrial change and societal change are forged together and social and civil dialogues are paramount." She saw four important challenges ahead:

  • Creating a single Industry 4.0 policy framework for all EU members, with cybersecurity at the core of the project;
  • strengthening cooperation between the industrial and services sectors and the universities;
  • ensuring the labour force is enabled to master the technological skills for Industry 4.0., and;
  • framing 4.0 industrial transformation with less "flexicurity" and more "security-flex".

Count Etienne Davignon, special guest at the 15th CCMI anniversary, voiced his regret that industry was given too little importance: "Today industry has become like an abandoned child. With the Common Market, the EU thought everything would run itself, but the market is not strong enough. The market also needs a state that arranges things."

Europe's young people play a key role in shaping its industrial future. With this in mind, Count Davignon proposed teaching entrepreneurship from childhood on: "Businesses and schools must be brought together, and apprenticeship must have a higher standing in society. It needs to become as fashionable to be an apprentice as to be a student, because we need both."

EESC member Joost van Iersel referred to the impact the 4.0 transformation was already having on business models. New kinds of SMEs would emerge in all production or service sectors. The relationship between society and the production sector would also change, creating prosumers as new market participants. An emphasis on education, training and skills was therefore paramount – but also on collaboration between the main stakeholders, such as the private and public sectors, businesses and universities: "We need to do it together, or we fall apart as a society," he warned.

Enrico Gibellieri and Jacques Glorieux, two founding members of the CCMI, pointed out the importance of bringing in the different positions of various sectors of industry and society and so adding to the wealth of ideas: "This knowledge that civil society has is essential and should be the basis for Europe's decision-making."

Adrian Harris, director0-general of Orgalime, which represents a sector that directly employs almost 11 million people across Europe and which had a turnover of EUR 2 000 billion in 2016, highlighted the strength of Europe's industry in manufacturing-based services: "Our industry is well placed to build on its strengths through increasing digitalising of production, products, processes and services. The Single Market, the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union are important agendas for Europe's industry; however, what we are still missing is an EU industrial policy."

"Compared with the US and China, Europe is lagging behind in Industry 4.0.," said Mark Nicklas from DG Grow. This was particularly true for SMEs, which are at the heart of Europe's industry. Europe needs to invest in production equipment, but also in new skills and new forms of management and work. While 62% of US enterprises are prepared for the current transformation, only 38% of those in the EU are ready for the challenges. However, Europe is leading in clean production, which is an asset in terms of commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wolfgang Greif thought we needed to discuss a new distribution of work, new employment conditions and an intelligent approach to reducing working hours. It was also important that everyone – whether in or out of work, in stable or precarious employment – had the same opportunities for training and education.

The CCMI is the direct successor of the European Coal and Steel Community's Consultative Committee. Made up of 51 EESC members and 51 external delegates, it delivers in-depth policy opinions and reports on many industrial sectors, based on fact-finding field trips, sectoral consultations, hearings and conferences with civil society stakeholders.

Aviation/airlines

Airbus and Air France ordered to stand trial over 2009 crash

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Air France (AIRF.PA) and Airbus (AIR.PA) should stand trial for involuntary manslaughter over their role in a 2009 crash in the Atlantic that killed 228 people, the Paris court of appeal ruled on Wednesday. (12 May)

The ruling reverses a 2019 decision not to prosecute either company over the accident, in which the pilots lost control of the Airbus A330 jet after ice blocked its airspeed sensors.

Victims' families welcomed the ruling, but Airbus and Air France said they would seek to overturn it at the Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeal court.

"The court decision that has just been announced does not reflect in any way the conclusions of the investigation," Airbus said in an emailed statement.

Air France logo is pictured at the Air France check-in at Bordeaux-Merignac airport, as Air France pilots, cabin and ground crews unions call for a strike over salaries in Merignac near Bordeaux, France April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
The Airbus logo pictured at the company's headquarters in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, March 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Air France "maintains that it committed no criminal fault at the root of this tragic accident", said a spokesman for the carrier, which is part of Air France-KLM.

Air France flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed on 1 June, 2009, killing everyone on board.

French investigators found that the crew had mishandled the situation arising from the loss of speed data from sensors blocked with ice and caused an aerodynamic stall by holding the aircraft's nose too high.

The earlier decision not to go to trial drew legal challenges from the families as well as pilot unions and prosecutors who had pursued charges against Air France alone.

Wednesday's ruling upheld new demands for a trial of both companies from senior prosecutors who have accused Air France of pilot training failures and Airbus for underestimating dangers posed by known problems with the speed sensors.

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Aviation/airlines

Airline launches airbridge to bring relief to virus-stricken India

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The airline Emirates has set up a humanitarian airbridge between Dubai and India to transport urgent medical and relief items, to support India in its fight to control the serious COVID-19 situation in the country, writes Martin Banks.

Emirates will offer cargo capacity free of charge on an “as available” basis on all of its flights to nine cities in India, to help international NGOs deliver relief supplies rapidly to where it is needed.

In the past weeks, Emirates SkyCargo has already been transporting medicines and medical equipment on scheduled and charter cargo flights to India. This latest airbridge initiative takes Emirates’ support for India and for the NGO community to the next level.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ Chairman and Chief Executive, said: “India and Emirates are deeply connected, since our first flights to India in 1985. We stand with the Indian people and will do all we can to help India get back on its feet. Emirates has a lot of experience in humanitarian relief efforts, and with 95 weekly flights to 9 destinations in India, we will be offering regular and reliable widebody capacity for relief materials. The International Humanitarian City in Dubai is the largest crisis relief hub in the world and we will work closely with them to facilitate the movement of urgent medical supplies.”

The first shipment sent as part of the Emirates India humanitarian airbridge is a consignment of over 12 tons of multi-purpose tents from the World Health Organization (WHO), destined for Delhi, and coordinated by the IHC in Dubai.

Giuseppe Saba, CEO of International Humanitarian City, said: “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid built the International Humanitarian City (IHC), so Dubai, in coordination with humanitarian agencies, would be able to assist communities and families, most in need – around the world. The creation of the humanitarian airbridge between Dubai and India, facilitated by Emirates SkyCargo, Dubai’s International Humanitarian City and UN agencies, to transport urgent medical and relief items, is another example of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision for the IHC, being brought to life. Last year over 1,292 shipments were dispatched from the IHC in Dubai, setting the standard for humanitarian response globally. We appreciate the great efforts by IHC’s partner Emirates SkyCargo establishing this humanitarian airbridge between Dubai and India in this time of need”.

The freight division of Emirates has a close partnership with IHC, developed over several years of delivering relief materials to communities across the world impacted by natural disasters and other crises. IHC will support Emirates SkyCargo in channelling relief efforts to India through the airbridge.

Following the Port of Beirut blasts in August 2020, Emirates also leveraged its expertise in humanitarian logistics to set up an airbridge to Lebanon to assist with relief efforts.

Emirates has led the aviation and air cargo industry in its efforts to help markets around the world combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The air cargo carrier has helped transport thousands of tonnes of urgently required PPE and other medical supplies across six continents over the last year by rapidly adapting its business model and introducing additional cargo capacity through its modified mini freighters with seats removed from Economy Class on Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft along with loading cargo on seats and in overhead bins inside passenger aircraft to transport urgently required materials.

In addition, Emirates SkyCargo has partnered with UNICEF and other entities in Dubai through the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance, to transport COVID-19 vaccines rapidly to developing nations through Dubai. So far, close to 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been transported on Emirates’ flights, equating to nearly 1 in 20 of all COVID-19 vaccine doses administered around the world.

Through its scheduled cargo flights to close to 140 destinations across six continents, Emirates helps maintain unbroken supply chains for vital commodities such as medical supplies and food.

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Digital economy

Europe's Digital Decade: Commission launches consultation and discussion on EU digital principles

EU Reporter Correspondent

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As a follow-up to its Digital Decade Communication of 9 March, the Commission is launching a public consultation on the formulation of a set of principles to promote and uphold EU values in the digital space. A Europe fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “A fair and secure digital environment that offers opportunities for all. That is our commitment. The digital principles will guide this European human-centred approach to digital and should be the reference for future action in all areas. That's why we want to hear from EU citizens.” Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “This is Europe's Digital Decade and everyone should be empowered to benefit from digital solutions to connect, explore, work and fulfil one's ambitions, online as offline. We want to set together the digital principles on which a resilient digital economy and society will be built.”

The consultation, open until 2 September, seeks to open a wide societal debate and gather views from citizens, non-governmental and civil society organizations, businesses, administrations and all interested parties. These principles will guide the EU and membersStates in designing digital rules and regulations that deliver the benefits of digitalisation for all citizens. The contributions to the public consultation will feed into a proposal from the Commission for a joint inter-institutional declaration on Digital Principles of the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission. The proposal is expected by the end of 2021. A press release is available online.

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