The results of the current Handelsblatt study show clearly the challenges faced by regional economic policy in Germany and Austria: In both these countries labor costs and energy costs are some of the highest in the world. EU environmental protection measures and the demographic developments which are leading to a desperate shortage of specialist skills make the conditions for industry even tougher. As a result, industrial enterprises are increasingly relocating their investments abroad. Consequently, the EU’s goal of increasing the share of overall value creation contributed by industrial manufacturing from its current level of 15.1% (2013) to 20% by 2020 now appears a distant prospect.
“Over the past years the political framework conditions for Europe’s energy-intensive industries have worsened, particularly in Germany and Austria. If this is not counteracted at political level, then the process of de-industrialization in Europe will continue to accelerate, with all the negative impact that this brings to employment levels and value chains,” says Chairman of the voestalpine Management Board and Chairman of worldsteel Wolfgang Eder, pointing to the heart of the problem. “It’s now almost impossible to plan for the long term. Energy-intensive industries such as voestalpine are increasingly forced to concentrate their strategic growth in markets outside Europe, because being competitive in the global marketplace is increasingly difficult when based in Europe,” according to Eder.
General Secretary of the Federation of Austrian Industries, Christoph Neumayer, confirms that the developments indicated in the study will have far-reaching consequences: “When energy-intensive industries move away it costs jobs and has a significant impact on all downstream industries as well as the functionality of networks and research alliances.”