What does the future look like after Corona? How can the economic relaunch be successfully managed in harmony with the digital and climate policy transformation? How does the German government switch from crisis mode to future mode? What course must politics set in order to sustainably strengthen the industrial base as the core of the German economy? These questions were the focus of this year's Day of German Industry (TDI), which is organized annually by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). We are convinced that especially in times of crisis, the open exchange of opinions, ideas and analyses is crucial for developing solutions together. Therefore, the BDI chose a hybrid format to maintain the dialogue between business and politics despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
The new normal: Hybrid conference
Vestager: The strength of Europe lies in its cooperation
In 24 panels, speeches and webtalks the TDI brought together a total of 46 speakers, more than 600 participants on site in the Verti Music Hall and thousands of online viewers in front of their screens. Among the TDI 2020 highlights were the speeches of Margrethe Vestager, Vice-President of the European Commission, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier and Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn as well as the federal chairpersons of SPD, Bündnis90/Die Grünen and FDP.
Regarding the recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic, Vestager said: "The idea is not to go back to what things were, but to build a better, a greener and a more digital future. We will only succeed, if we can do this together." Because the strength of Europe lies in its cooperation and lack of cooperation is our weakness. "I hope that Germany will take a pioneering role and that the German way will be green and digital." Everyone is looking at what German companies are doing. "The enthusiasm and willingness to do more" is important in order to pull the other Europeans along, she said.
In another panel addressing a greener future for Europe and the current trends in the energy sector and aviation, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury made it clear that "climate neutrality is a competitive advantage." According to him, the goal of climate neutrality can be achieved with hydrogen, if availability and costs were right. For this, it was crucial to establish uniform political regulations and to avoid a regulatory patchwork.
However, not only the regulatory framework must be right, but Europe must also work on how it is seen by its citizens, says Ingrid Thijssen, President of the Dutch employers' federation VNO-NCW. A strong Europe is needed not only to overcome the current crisis but also to master the transformation of the economy. "For that, we need the support of all the European people. But unfortunately, Europe is not a very popular theme." One reason for this is the lack of knowledge about the key role of the EU. "Many people, also in the Netherlands, think that the role of the EU in the crisis was limited, whereas it was crucial." A better communication strategy of the EU Commission could remedy this situation.
Boost the business environment in Germany
In his main speech on the second day, Dieter Kempf, President of the BDI, demanded: "We must switch from crisis mode to future mode." According to him, structural change in German industry, which has been made considerably more difficult by the pandemic, is profound and poses an existential threat. The President made it clear that the industry expects the Federal Government to make significantly greater efforts to sustainably strengthen Germany as a location for industry and investment. To achieve this, the German government must, among other things, create more incentives for business investment. These account for around 90 percent of all investments in Germany and must be urgently promoted. In addition, a corporate tax reform must be at the heart of "switching to the future mode." The tax burden of companies in Germany averages more than 31 percent, compared to only 22 percent in the EU. "Germany must aim for 25 percent," said Kempf.
Regarding the European Union, the BDI president called for a unified foreign and trade policy in dealing with China and in transatlantic relations. "Europe must have the ambition to be a regular player and not a reserve player – or even to become the playing field or, even worse, the pawn of major economic powers. Now more than ever, we need a Europe that can assert itself and compete based on mutual solidarity." It is important, he said, that Europe speaks with one voice, especially in the current German EU Council Presidency.
The next Day of German Industry takes place in June 2021.