At the press conference in Berlin, France, Germany, and Italy also announced that they were ready to invest in joint projects and data sharing to accelerate the achievement of the objectives set out in the EU regulations. A sort of “common platform” will be set up for this purpose, Le Maire added.
France, Germany and Italy will cooperate more closely on critical raw materials as ministers pledged in Berlin on Monday (26 June) to invest in joint projects and exchange views on the EU’s currently debated Critical Raw Materials Act.
In March, the European Commission presented its flagship proposal for a Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) to rely less on foreign countries for resources essential to the green and digital transition.
“We thought it would be useful for Europe’s three largest economies to exchange views and submit proposals for amendments to the CRMA,” explained German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck.
“This is the first time that France, Italy and Germany have decided, together, to strengthen their independence on critical materials chains,” added his French counterpart, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.
The risks of overreliance on foreign suppliers for critical raw materials were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which shut down parts of the supply chain, causing a shortage of chips and semiconductors.
Under the CRMA proposal, European Union member states must harbour 15% of the production, 40% of the refining and 10% of the recycling of certain critical raw materials – such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, and copper – by 2030.
All these materials are needed to produce wind turbines, solar panels, batteries for electric vehicles and other technologies to decarbonise the European economy.
Common projects, common investments
The three countries also announced that they were ready to invest in joint projects and data sharing to accelerate the achievement of the objectives set out at the EU level.
A “common platform” will be set up for this purpose, Le Maire explained. There will also be a joint strategy for a “genuine recycling industry”, the French minister added.
Regarding investments, Habeck said Germany would follow in France and Italy’s footsteps, referring to recent announcements that Paris and Rome would raise funds for their respective mining sectors.
“France is proposing a public investment of around €500 million, Italy €1 billion, which is more or less what we are proposing,” said Habeck.
At the EU level, Italy’s Business and Made in Italy Minister, Adolfo Urso, said he would like “the creation of a European fund to enable investment projects by European companies to develop the mining sector.”
In his view, it is “important that from the outset, cooperation is based on the key players in our industry”.
In Berlin, the three ministers also met several industrialists from the sector, including representatives of Imerys, a French mining site operator in the process of developing a lithium mine in Allier (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
Extending the EU’s list of critical raw materials
The meeting was also an opportunity for leaders to discuss extending the list of raw materials covered by EU regulations, notably aluminium.
“France has spearheaded this inclusion,” Cyrille Mounier, General Delegate of the French aluminium industry union Aluminium France, told EURACTIV France.
As discussed at the EU Competitiveness Council on 22 May, the three ministers also called for sector-based targets for extracting, processing and recycling each critical raw material.
“It would be absurd to set the same targets for cobalt, 80% of whose reserves are located in a single African country, as for lithium, for example, which can be extracted in Europe”, French Industry Minister Roland Lescure told EURACTIV France in an interview following the Council meeting – an approach Luxembourg and Slovenia, in particular, are also in favour of, Lescure added.
As for the Franco-Italian-German initiative, Le Maire said it remains “open to other member states that may wish to join”.
Swift CRMA adoption
To oversee this new cooperation between the EU’s three biggest economies, the ministers agreed to set up a working group of experts to monitor the implementation of joint measures.
This new alliance should also facilitate future discussions on the CRMA at the EU level, for which the ministers are calling for a “rapid conclusion of the negotiations” between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
On top of that, the three leaders also promised to hold follow-up meetings, including in Rome in October and later in Paris, to continue and broaden the discussions.
“The Berlin meeting opens a new phase in the definition of the European industrial policy that will enable us to meet the challenges of the dual transition to a green and digital economy,” Urso said.