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Competitive European metals industries

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Competitive European metals industries



Commission Communication (COM(2008) 108 final) on the competitiveness of the metals industries — A contribution to the EU's growth and jobs strategy


It sets out broad guidelines to encourage the European Union (EU) metals industries and other interested parties to focus on innovation and on supplying energy at competitive prices without neglecting environmental aspects.



The metals industries are characterised by 2 main elements:

  • capital intensity — they require very large investments in technology and equipment which then have a very long use;
  • high energy use — the production process requires very high energy use (between 10 and 37% of the costs involved).


The communication sets out a number of challenges facing the metals industries including:

  • Importance of raw materials — high dependence on ores and concentrates* from non-EU countries.
  • Place in and importance to the EU economy — part of a network of sectors including the manufacturing sector (e.g. cars and building). In 2005, the industries’ turnover was 5% of total EU manufacturing.
  • Industry structure and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — the large capital investments to set up and operate in the industry mean that there are structural barriers preventing SMEs from entering the industry; large companies, often operating at global level, dominate the market.
  • Impact of globalisation and new emerging economies — most metals and their raw materials are traded on global markets. The development of emerging economies has increased demand, putting pressure on supplies and prices.
  • Competitiveness — EU countries are losing their share of world metals production and the EU metals industry is very dependent on energy prices and imported materials.
  • Social perspective — there is an ageing workforce in the steel industry and a need to better use existing training structures.
  • Environment — metals production is energy-intensive and has environmental effects.

Integrated approach

The European Commission proposed an integrated approach to improving the industries’ competitiveness including several elements:

  • ensuring energy supply at competitive prices, through well-functioning energy markets;
  • creating the conditions to allow the sector to meet the EU’s environmental and climate change policy objectives;
  • encouraging research and development and innovation skills;
  • creating open and competitive global markets and removing distortions in trade in metals and raw materials.

These general goals are to be achieved through EU programmes as well as specific action in various policy areas carried out by the national public authorities and the Commission:


Concentrates: the product generally produced by metal ore mines from the raw ore by removing impurities and concentrating the metal.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the competitiveness of the metals industries - A contribution to the EU’s growth and jobs strategy (COM(2008) 108 final, 22.2.2008)

last update 17.01.2017