Kerstin Jorna, Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) © European Commission

„We need global transition champions!“

Kerstin Jorna has been Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) since April 2020. In an interview with the BDI, she explains how the European Commission is breaking down national barriers in the EU single market and what challenges industry will have to overcome over the next five years.

What motivates you in your work?

Europe, of course. The great idea of overcoming what divides us and working out what we have in common. Because only together we are strong (enough) to overcome the challenges of the future: Climate change, protecting our citizens - be it a pandemic or war - and helping to shape geopolitical change. And yes, this also means re-evaluating what divides us. For example, what is the role of politics and what is the role of companies? Today, governments, regions, companies and investors from all over Europe are all working together in the Hydrogen Alliance to establish the first continental hydrogen market in Europe.

How do you contribute to strengthening Europe through your work?

The internal market is at the centre of my work and that of my team. More than 440 million citizens, 23 million companies - these are dimensions that allow us to operate on an equal footing with America and China. We may have dismantled the borders in the internal market, but the perspective is often still national. We see this when it comes to reducing bureaucracy in Europe: everyone believes that their own regulations are actually ok. The problem is the others. Wrong: the problem is that we have 27 different documentation and notification obligations, for example when posting workers. In our Single Market Enforcement Task Force, we work with the theme "it's about the economy,...". This brings a change of perspective. And results. For example, the removal of 300 rules in the area of professional qualifications in the past two years. Authorisations that sometimes take years... are our next focus.

What do you think is the top European policy issue facing German industry over the next five years?

Diversification. Of supply and target markets. This is not a competitive disadvantage, but a competitive advantage. First surgical gloves, then chips, magnesium, gas, now gallium, germanium and graphite. Sustainable business models must take these new realities into account. As mentioned above, this requires a strategic dialogue between politicians and companies: Raw material partnerships with third countries, rapid development of standards for innovation made in Europe or much faster authorisation procedures. We must also be prepared to share the financial risk of ramping up new technologies in certain strategic areas. Whether this is public-public, as with the important projects of common European interest (IPCEIs), or public-private, as with InvestEU or the hydrogen bank. As I said, we need new ways of working together to turn the internal market into a veritable springboard for the competitiveness of our companies, whether big or small. We need global transition champions!