Brussels (Brussels Morning) Speaking at the opening of the European Industry Days event, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned about the fragility of European supply chains, noting that the bloc’s industry cannot depend on China as a sole supplier of key raw materials.
“We import lithium for electric cars, platinum to produce clean hydrogen, silicon metal for solar panels”, von der Leyen said, noting that “98% of the rare earth elements we need” come from China. “This is not sustainable…we must diversify our supply chains”, she observed
Growth and innovation
Explaining the Commission’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, von der Leyen emphasised that Europe must also invest in circular technologies that re-use resources instead of constantly extracting them. The need for sustainability of the raw materials supply prompted the EC to create a European Raw Materials Alliance.
The EC head also expressed hope that the period following the pandemic will take a note from history, and usher a period of great expansion of growth, innovation and tech transition. In order to achieve this, the Commission will aim to make industry a key player through public funding in the NextGenerationEU project.
Von der Leyen also expressed concern over the fact that Europe still relies massively on batteries entirely or partially produced outside of the bloc, often with sub-par environmental standards. At the same time, Europe will need more and more batteries to reach its goals of climate neutrality.
The EU-founded European Battery Alliance, a grouping of more than 500 industries, research centres and investors, is a bloc initiative that the Commission hopes will drive the industry’s growth in the coming years. The aim is to ensure that the most innovative, long-lasting and clean batteries for electric cars will soon appear with a “made in Europe” label.