The EU must avoid the “slippery road” of protectionism as it engages in a turbulent industrial confrontation with the United States, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told POLITICO in an interview on Wednesday.
“Are we getting into a subsidy war? I would warn a lot against it, but I fear when I see an increase in protectionist angles,” said Metsola, speaking at the gala to unveil the POLITICO 28 ranking of Europe’s most influential people during the year. coming.
Europe is reeling from the provisions of Washington’s giant Inflation Reduction Act aimed at providing billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives to its domestic green tech and electric vehicle sectors. The EU fears this will give US manufacturers a competitive edge at a time when European industrialists are facing severe economic hardship from post-pandemic recovery and sky-high energy bills stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine. .
The subsidy program has even prompted some in Europe to accuse Washington of profiting as war rages on the European continent.
Metsola said the EU should avoid “the slippery road of going all the way to the bottom of the protectionist race”. She added a caveat that some degree of state interventionism is also needed to spur economic growth.
Instead, the bloc should try to gain a competitive edge globally by sticking to its democratic values and pursuing its climate agenda, she said. “I want to see us competing on our climate goals rather than how we close our arms and think it’s good – because it’s not,” she said. “I think we should continue to insist that our path can work.”
Metsola also called for a more proactive approach to relations with Beijing and other countries in Asia, describing the EU’s industrial dependence on China as “economically huge”.
“We haven’t worked enough with our Asian partners, so many trade deals are still up in the air. Where are we? Why don’t we have these debates instead of whining?” she asked.
As the EU seeks more funding to help bolster the continent’s industrial base, Metsola said a comprehensive overhaul of the EU budget was the only way to ensure that soaring inflation and interest rates interest does not render the block’s historic COVID loans worthless.
If 2023 fails to be “the year of competitiveness” and recovery, Metsola suggested his 2.5-year tenure will be dominated by tackling crises.
Metsola, a Maltese politician and longtime MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party, has also vigorously defended herself against allegations of cronyism over how she nominated her group’s candidate for the top job in the office. public in Parliament.
Alessandro Chiocchetti, who currently serves as Metsola’s chief of staff, won the role thanks to a series of behind-the-scenes deals first reported by POLITICO last summer. He is expected to take on the role of parliament’s secretary-general in the new year, after deals were struck in September with other political groups criticized by transparency advocates.
“What I would change is that I would codify the rules that we put in place [and] I insisted that no other civil servant in this city with three decades of experience should go through what the next Secretary General of the European Parliament went through,” Metsola said.
She also mentioned that she read POLITICO “every morning, all summer” while the scandal was covered.