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Europe’s urgent response: Mitigating dependency on critical raw materials

President von der Leyen prioritized establishing a list of critical raw materials to safeguard Europe’s security and competitiveness—a promise she has upheld. Now, with the list in hand, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) assert that it’s time for tangible action.

Since assuming office in December 2019, President Ursula von der Leyen has progressively expanded this list of critical materials over her term. The European Parliament and Council recently granted final approval to the accompanying strategy, marking a significant milestone.

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The Critical Raw Materials Act identifies 17 strategic elements, including cobalt and copper, alongside an extended list of 34 critical materials, which encompasses coking coal. It aims to mine at least 10% of these materials locally by 2030, with the EU processing 40% and recycling 25% of them.

Moreover, the act enforces a critical provision: no single country can supply more than 65% of the EU’s annual consumption of any critical raw material after 2030. It also streamlines permitting procedures for local sourcing, requiring decisions on new mines within 27 months and on recycling and processing facilities within 15 months.

However, MEPs emphasize that the adoption of the act doesn’t signal a time for complacency. During a recent MEPs’ debate in Brussels, organized by Eurometaux, lawmakers stressed the need for proactive measures.

MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen urged the Commission to designate strategic projects, emphasizing the necessity of de-risking investments. He proposed collaboration between EU and member state funds to establish a revolving system for investment de-risking. This sentiment was echoed by others, highlighting the importance of industry and policymakers collaborating to spur investment.

As the EU election approaches, President von der Leyen and her commissioners are shifting focus to industrial competitiveness, aligning with the post-Green Deal agenda. While this pivot is welcomed by many, concerns have been raised about potentially undermining the Green Deal’s achievements.

Belgian Green MEP Sara Matthieu stressed the importance of industry’s role in a climate-neutral economy, advocating for a balanced approach that prioritizes competitiveness alongside environmental goals.

Evangelos Mytilineos, CEO of Greek metallurgical company Mytilineos and president of Eurometaux, emphasized the urgency of action to secure Europe’s competitiveness and autonomy. He highlighted challenges faced by the metals industry, particularly in the face of global competition and geopolitical tensions.

The recently published Raw Materials 2030 report by Eurometaux outlines key challenges and recommendations for the industry. It calls for urgent measures, including the establishment of new mines, processing facilities, and recycling initiatives, to ensure Europe’s resilience amidst growing competition.

In light of initiatives like the US Inflation Reduction Act and China’s export bans, Europe must act swiftly to maintain its position in the global market. The report emphasizes the need for decisive action to address critical raw materials dependency and secure Europe’s industrial future.

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