On May 12, 2022, the conference “Just Transition: Where is the European car industry heading?” was held in Brussels. It was part of the EUKI project “Just Transition in the car industry” and organised by NELA. Next Economy Lab with the support of six partner organisations from Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany. The co-creative conference placed great emphasis on bringing together different stakeholders to enable and facilitate dialogue. Representatives at the conference included various different stakeholder groups: industry, environmental NGOs, academia, trade unions from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as policy makers from the European Commission and Parliament.
Asking the right questions
Since change is inevitable in the European automotive industry due to environmental regulations, international competition and technological shifts, many questions arise. How can we create new pathways for the automotive industry within the context of sustainable mobility in Europe? How to foster a Just Transition in one of our most symbolic industries? How to best manage the conflicting needs, priorities, and expectations of stakeholders? How to ensure that this transition is fair for the workers and regions directly affected? How can we account for the disparities between Eastern and Western Europe? And finally: How to enable Eastern European stakeholders to actively shape the transition?
What problems do we need to address first, and how?
The conference opened with keynote speeches and then moved into an interactive, co-creative format. The first keynote speaker Frank Siebern-Thomas from the European Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion stressed the need for policy to realise the potential of transition while addressing the risks through labour market policies, re-skilling, investment and mitigating regressive effects. Benjamin Denis, senior policy advisor at the European trade union IndustriALL, gave the second keynote. He particularly emphasised the importance of social dialogue in accelerating the emissions reduction in the EU.
Afterwards, transformation expert Janna Aljets provided critical commentary on the keynotes, with a particular focus on climate and global justice. “What kind of economy can we not only afford but which economy can bring wellbeing without destroying our common basis of life? How do we understand an economy that is not based on the over-exploitation of resources and people, especially in the Global South?”
Finding solutions – co-creatively
The new insights, controversies and open questions served as the basis for co-creative workshops on four topics: Stakeholder participation and social dialogue, Electrification, Reskilling and Just Transition in the Central and Eastern European car industry. In the workshops diverse stakeholder groups came together to identify key questions that urgently need to be answered together. Through lively, face-to-face discussions, the co-creative format of the workshops enabled an understanding of various perspectives on the transition. We used deep listening exercises to familiarise participants with conflicting positions of other stakeholders and enable the development of initial solutions.
At last, the conference concluded with a multi-stakeholder panel discussion. Panelists were Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg (MEP Greens/EFA), Tommaso Pardi (Director GERPISA, Research Group on the Automobile Industry and its Employees), Sigrid de Vries (Secretary General CLEPA, European Association of Automotive Suppliers) and Balázs Bábel (Vice-President VASAS, Hungarian Metalworkers’ Federation).
Sometimes it is not easy to engage in dialogue, especially when it is almost inevitable to be confronted with conflicting views and positions of various stakeholders. However, this conference chose to jump straight into the deep end and acknowledge opposing positions, different values and lived experiences. The numerous positive feedbacks from the participants showed once again that dialogue is worthwhile. Stakeholder participation and social dialogue is crucial for a Just Transition. When well facilitated, it creates ownership of change among all people and regions affected. Listening to views beyond our own allows us to come together and join forces for a sustainable future for all.
- Interview with Károly György on the impact of a Just Transition on regions in Hungary
- Interview with Monika Benedekova on Just Transition in collective bargaining agreements
- Interview with Michal Hrubý on the opportunities and risks of electrification in the Czech Republic
- Interview with Frank Siebern-Thomas on the triple dividend of a green transition
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