KNB organizes European election debate

In the run-up to the European elections, KNB, the Dutch umbrella organization for the construction ceramics industry, organized a political debate at the end of April. Six candidate MEPs engaged in a debate about the future of Europe and its significance for the economy, the environment and employment. Mr Ewald van Hal, KNB Director, used this opportunity to present to the candidates the translated version of the Ceramic Industry Manifesto “Paving the way for growth and jobs in Europe”.

With this Manifesto, KNB calls on candidate MEPs to take into consideration the importance of the manufacturing industry in the next mandate of the European Parliament. Manufacturing is the backbone of the European economy and a key driver of growth and jobs. The Ceramic Industry Manifesto comprises ten policy recommendations in the fields of climate and energy, environment and construction, research and access to finance, and trade and internal market.

The presentation of the Manifesto was followed by an intensive debate on Europe. How intrinsically linked are Europe, the economy and ecology? Will Natura 2000 present a challenge or an obstruction for entrepreneurship and employment? What can entrepreneurs in the ceramic industry expect from the next Parliamentary mandate? The aspiring MEPs were sometimes questioned fiercely about this.

The candidates expressed different views on Europe during the debate. Mr Mark Dijk (VVD) called for fewer European rules, no national add-ons and no directives, but instead regulations with uniform enforcement and implementation. Mr Raoul Boucke (D66) echoed this stance and went on to advocate fewer administrative burdens and a Permanent European Committee to test and monitor potential burdens.

The debate centred around Natura 2000, the European network for nature conservation areas. Its implementation is a source of tension owing to the economic activities taking place in these areas. One candidate stated that “sustainability must not put European competitiveness in danger”. However, others attach more importance to the aims of Natura 2000 and maintain that economic activities, such as brick production, will have to take a step back. This is a point of view which KNB Director Ewald van Hal opposed for a number of reasons. One of these concerns the new nature “made by the Dutch brick industry’’. “The beautiful Dutch river landscape is a merit of our industry long before everything was organized and planned’,’ said van Hal.

Acknowledging that Europe cannot compete with China in respect of cheap labour, speakers highlighted the importance of innovation. The words “green growth” are seemingly on everyone’s lips, but low-educated employment should not be forgotten because it provides the majority of jobs in Europe. Start-up businesses create few jobs and when they are successful they are often taken over by non-Europeans, draining Europe of its innovation and growth.

One of the candidates remarked that “employment in the manufacturing industry is deeply undervalued” and expressed a desire to continue to dialogue with KNB. KNB shares this view and sees the organization of the debate as an investment in its relationship with European politics in the coming mandate.

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