For electric cars, solar panels and smartphones, EU needs raw materials deal

EU seeks long-term agreements on critical raw materials for its electric cars, solar panels and smartphones

Electric cars, solar panels and smartphones – all of them contain critical raw materials.

Yet the EU remains dependent on certain raw materials which are pivotal for its green and digital transitions. So securing their supply is crucial for the European Union’s economic resilience, technological leadership, and strategic autonomy.

Since the Russian war against Ukraine, as well as an increasingly aggressive Chinese trade and industrial policy, cobalt, lithium and other raw materials have become a geopolitical factor.

In this global shift towards renewable energies and the digitisation of economies and societies, the demand for these strategic raw materials is set to rapidly increase in coming decades.

In December, a group of MEPs from the industry committee (ITRE) will push to the plenary an informal agreement that has to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, to become law.

This law, the Critical Raw Materials Act, is intended to make the EU more competitive and sovereign by cutting red tape, promote innovation along the entire value chain, and boost the development of alternative materials and more environmentally-friendly mining and production methods.

MEPs have already highlighted the importance of securing strategic partnerships between the EU and third countries on critical raw materials, in order to diversify the EU’s supply, with benefits for all sides.

The law will include measures for long-term partnerships with knowledge- and technology-transfer, training and upskilling for new jobs with better working and income conditions, as well as extraction and processing on the best ecological standards in partner countries.

It will also have a stronger focus on research and innovation concerning substitute materials and production processes that could replace raw materials in strategic technologies.

“The agreement is an industrial policy blueprint for a secure and sustainable supply of raw materials in Europe,” said German lead MEP Nicola Beer (Renew). “With targeted economic incentives, we are creating project-planning certainty for private investors – through single points of contact for companies and fast and simple authorisation procedures with clear deadlines for national authorities. This will boost mining, processing and recycling in Europe.”

The legislation will set up economic incentives and a more stable and secure business framework for the deployment of mining and recycling projects, with faster and simpler authorisation procedures.

“A framework for strategic partnerships on raw materials with third countries on equal terms will also make the EU an attractive partner in geopolitical competition – with real benefits for both sides and strong protection for local communities and nature. With a clear signature from the EU Parliament, the course has been set for Europe's open, economic and geopolitical sovereignty,” Beer said.

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