EU faces 'very worrying situation' as energy crisis pushes Europe into industrial decline

EU faces 'very worrying situation' as energy crisis pushes Europe into industrial decline

EU enlargement discussion at World Economic Forum

Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell

Published: 17/01/2024

- 12:54

Updated: 17/01/2024

- 17:57

The EU is in the midst of industrial decline as a result of the ongoing energy crisis, according to union organisations

Major trade union organisations in Europe are warning that the EU is in a “very worrying situation” with rising energy prices exacerbating the continent’s industrial decline.

Earlier this week, a Eurostat study revealed that month-on-month industrial protection in the trading bloc dropped by 0.2 per cent in November 2023.

This represents the third consecutive monthly decrease and year-on-year industrial output also plummeted by 5.8 per cent over the period.

Speaking to Euractiv, European Trade Union Confederation Confederal Secretary Ludovic Voet described the crisis as a “very worrying situation”.

Economy graph pointing down with Euro banknotes behind it

The bloc's economy is in a 'worrying situation', according to unions


He added: “These figures are a canary in a coal mine: the biggest hit are the long-term investments in buildings and equipment.”

The union leader also highlighted the impact of minimal investment in key infrastructure which was apparent in the Eurostat study.

In November 2023, month-on-month production of capital goods such as buildings, machinery, and equipment dropped by 0.8 per cent across the EU after dropping by 0.7 per cent the month before.

Capital goods production fell by 8.7 per cent in November compared to the same period of time in 2022.

Mr Voet said: “The lack of investment we are seeing today is already having dramatic implications for working communities.

“Factories are closing and jobs are being cut in the very sectors that lifted Europe to where it is today.”

His concerns were echoed by Judith Kirton-Darling, the acting joint general secretary of industriALL Europe, which represents seven million workers in the EU.

She told Euractiv that her organisation “has been raising the alarm about industrial decline and the threat of deindustrialisation in Europe for some time”.

EU flag and Euro banknotes

Union leaders are calling for greater investment to bolster the economy


Ms Kirton-Darling explained: “Alarmingly, fiscal austerity and a return to austerity policies are further hampering industrial development, potentially undermining Europe’s competitive position in the global market.”

According to the union leaders, the EU’s failure to control its industrial decline is pushing European workers into “bitterness and disillusionment” which in turn is fuelling the rise of the far-right on the continent.

Tobias Gehrke, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, blamed the EU’s economic woes on the energy crisis resulting from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Furthermore, he cited that bloc is failing to compete with the “lavish industrial policies” coming out of the US and China, with the continent dealing with the consequences of insufficient infrastructure and a lack of skilled labour.

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