The Ceramic Days 2013, organised by European ceramic industry association Cerame-Unie, took place in Brussels from 25 to 27 November and welcomed 150 participants from EU institutions, industry and relevant stakeholders. The Ceramic Days centred around 26 November, a day featuring two public conferences, the 14th Plenary meeting of the European Parliament Ceramics Forum (EPCF) and keynote speeches by Commissioner for Energy Oettinger and Director General of BUSINESSEUROPE Mr Beyrer.
The conference on trade – International trade principles: how to ensure better enforcement? – dealt with vital concerns regarding the European Union’s enforcement of international trade rules to tackle unfair trade practices affecting market access for EU businesses. Commission official Ms Ratso affirmed that the European ceramics industry is a “global player” and “export champion”. Despite this fact, the industry faces an increasing trend in barriers to trade, including high tariffs, burdensome certification and counterfeiting, as evidenced by the testimony of Steelite International CEO,Mr Oakes. Lawyer and Professor Mr Bourgeois stressed that companies could make more use of the Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR) and urged the Commission to be “a little bit more daring and a little less cautious in handling the TBR”.
The second conference – Environmental performance tools: how do ceramic Product Category Rules (PCR) contribute to a better environment? – revealed the importance of standardisation, harmonised PCR and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) as useful tools for the European construction industry. The speakers discussed the benefits of a cradle-to-grave Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach which helps architects determine the environmental impact of a product. “There is still a lot to do,” according to moderator Mr Koch. “The harmonisation of existing environmental performance tools would significantly reduce the burden placed on manufacturers of construction products”.
The 14th Plenary meeting of the EPCF covered topics currently being discussed in the Parliament, namely the future EU climate and energy policy, the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package and the competitiveness of SMEs. MEPs, Commission officials and industry representatives discussed these significant questions and what they mean for the ceramic industry.
While considering the forthcoming 2030 EU climate and energy framework with panellists MEP Davies, Mr Bergman (DG CLIMA), Ms Wörsdörfer (DG ENER) and Ms Rogalska (DG ENTR), Dr Scheuch, Cerame-Unie Vice-President, stressed that it is essential to reconcile sustainability and competitiveness and take into account the international context in which the industry operates.
The second panel, with Mr Baldinato (Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Tajani), MEP Baldassarre and Mr Ingels (DG ENTR), presented an opportunity for participantstodiscuss the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package and the way forward on critical aspects such as origin marking.
The third panel, which took place in the context of the SME week, saw speakers MEP Creutzmann, MEP Bennion and Ms Busson (DG ENTR) examine the situation for SMEs in Europe. It was revealed that despite existing initiatives, SMEs in the ceramic industry continue to be weighed down by difficult access to finance, complex legislation and administrative burdens.
The EPCF, chaired by MEPs Harbour and Cashman, was concluded with a discussion on the future of the Forum after the 2014 Parliamentary elections.
The day’s events culminated in memorable keynotes by eminent speakers at the EPCF cocktail reception hosted by Cerame-Unie. Commissioner Oettinger discussed the 2020 targets and the need to create realistic and pragmatic new targets for 2030, taking into consideration the reality faced by energy-intensive industries in Europe. He affirmed that the responsibility to address climate change should not only be borne by Europe, as it only represents 10% of global CO2 emissions. Finally, he stated that if Europe wants to solve its budget and labour market problems, it needs more – not less – manufacturing industry.
Mr Beyrer offered insight into the high energy prices in the EU and the challenges this presents to businesses. He asserted the need to find the right balance between energy and climate policy, thereby favouring industrial competitiveness and climate goals on an equal footing. Both speakers agreed on the need to diversify energy supply sources in the EU, which means leaving the shale gas option open. Cerame-Unie President Alain Delcourt wrapped up the evening and stressed the vital importance of the EU’s forthcoming decisions on climate and energy for the ceramic industry.
After the successful close of the 2013 edition, we look forward with great anticipation to hosting the next Ceramic Days on 3 and 4 December 2014.
About the ceramic days
As the main policy event for Europe’s ceramic manufacturers, the Ceramic Days present a key occasion for representatives from all ceramic sectors, experts and policymakers to exchange ideas at sectoral and public events.