(L-R) Ignacy Niemczycki, Undersecretary of State in Poland's Ministry of Economic Development & Technology; Lex Delles, Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, SMEs, Energy & Tourism; Credit: European Union

Luxembourg's Ministry of the Economy has reported that Minister Lex Delles participated in the Competitiveness Council of the EU in Brussels on Friday 24 May 2024; this was the last such council under the Belgian presidency.

Regarding the strategic agenda at European level for the next five years, the 27 EU ministers adopted conclusions on the future of the single market and industrial policy.

Following the independent high-level report on the future of the single market, drawn up by the former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, the ministers sought to highlight the elements which will merit monitoring by the next European Commission.

For Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, SMEs, Energy and Tourism, noted the ministry, it was particularly important to reaffirm the need to eliminate barriers to the free movement of products and services, with the aim of improving the competitiveness of European SMEs and simplifying the regulatory framework. The ministry added that Luxembourg is particularly impacted by the fragmentation of rules: a survey carried out in 2023 showed that 90% of citizens and businesses are calling for further harmonisation of European rules.

As such, Minister Delles, together with his Benelux counterparts, proposed putting the problem of territorial supply constraints on the agenda. "By depriving traders of the possibility of freely sourcing from the country of their choice, territorial supply constraints create inefficiencies which result in a reduced choice of products and higher prices for the consumer," the minister stressed. He cited the example of geoblocking, which deprives consumers of purchasing or receiving delivery as in neighbouring countries: "These barriers within the internal market of the European Union create frustrations that cannot be ignored by European citizens and businesses."

The EU ministers also agreed on key priorities for "a competitive European industry driving our green, digital and resilient future". The ministers also responded to the Antwerp declaration, launched in April 2024 by industrial associations, calling for a new European Industrial Deal to strengthen competitiveness. Minister Delles emphasised the need for transversal ambition: "In addition and beyond sectoral support initiatives, all companies, especially SMEs, must be able to benefit from strategic measures for EU industry." He added that this will depend in particular on the ability to implement accelerated regulatory and administrative simplification, and he said care must be taken to adopt common, clear and simple European rules, reported the ministry.

Moreover, the Council formally adopted the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which aims to strengthen the protection of the environment and human rights in the EU and beyond.