” The world around us, both in Europe as well as inside the sector is changing fast. We need to focus on value creation, the bioeconomy shows the way forward, and we need breakthrough technology and innovation to give us the tools to take these steps. CEPI will keep highlighting the pulp and paper industries’ role for the EU economy, where we create value and bring employment. “
1. How does it feel like heading the same team you were a part of till now?
It feels great. The CEPI team is one of the most professional teams in Brussels. We are recognised for our expertise and advocacy approach. Heading the team of course is different than being part of it. But I’ve been deputy DG now for three years as well, working very closely with Teresa.
2. How was your experience as a subordinate to Mrs. Presas? Any points you would want to share with us?
She is a tough boss! A professional through and through. Focused on how to make CEPI even better and serve our members. She has brought CEPI to what it is today, for which we are grateful. I will have to fill her shoes now. Shoes that seem size 36 but walk size 50 steps. In general CEPI boxes above it’s weight, and I aim to keep doing so.
3. With an experience of 2 years of being the deputy director general, how far do you think you will justify the upcoming years challenges in CEPI?
The world around us, both in Europe as well as inside the sector is changing fast. We will face an increasingly difficult political situation in Brussels. At the same time politicians will have to find or be given the answer how to solve the uncompetitive situation Europe is in. We cannot sustain this much longer. The European industry nowadays lives in a regulated environment in many respects. CEPI has proven to be a key tool to moderate the impacts of legislation in the last years. We have also taken a number of steps taking us ‘ahead of the game’ – such as the Two Team Project and the CEPI 2050 Roadmap. These were not only moving the pulp and paper industry great steps forward but they have also given us the leverage to be heard by the EU policy makers.
4. The major issue is energy cost for European pulp and paper, you quoted this in an interview prior. What could be the main reason?
The simple facts are that our energy costs are two to four times higher in the EU than the US. This is unsustainable. Next to exchange rates this is the key issue that makes the difference in world markets. The EU heads of state have now finally recognised this fact. And have identified that industry is a key pillar for the EU Economic recovery. The question that remains unanswered though is how to proceed on the EU climate change and energy agenda without increasing energy costs further. There are a number of tough debates ahead. The background is the lack of indigenous energy sources in Europe. In the long run that means the only answer for EU industry is to remove as much as possible the energy costs out of the cost structure. Innovation is the only way forward in this respect.
5. Sustainable development, subsidies for renewable energy will they be of any help in decreasing the costs? Any solutions from your end?
Subsidies should only be in place to kick-start development of new technologies. Otherwise they distort markets similar to the subsidies for bioenergy impacting the wood markets. Policy by exemption or subsidy, limiting the impact of legislation on industry can help. But this should never replace the need for the right policies. In the case of the EU, this means policies that find solutions without extra burden on the energy costs and the competitive position of EU industry.
6. How is the work at CEPI 2050 road map going on? Any news you want to share with its regard?
The CEPI 2050 Roadmap has set the standard in Brussels. We have taken the next step in the Two Team Project and in the establishment of the Bio-based Industries Public Private Partnership in Brussels. Both the ideas and funding opportunities are now there to push this development forward. In the coming years we might update the Roadmap, but the overarching three messages still stand: We need to focus on value creation, the bioeconomy shows the way forward, and we need breakthrough technology and innovation to give us the tools to take these steps.
7. What is your key role at ‘Two Team Project at CEPI?
Together with Bernard de Galembert and Teresa Presas at CEPI, I shaped and organised the Two Team Project. I was part of the Blue team in this project and an active participator. I’ve also been at the forefront of the development of the CEPI 2050 Roadmap itself. The Two Team Project is unique in its kind. We are very proud of it.
8. What your future plans for CEPI? Any expansions or new projects in mind?
We want CEPI to bring the best value for money for industry possible. To be a leading industry federation in Brussels, achieving results for its members. An association that adapts to changes and focuses on key priorities. With strong links to the industry itself and based on the strong support of its national associations. Equally representing packaging, tissue and graphic papers, small and large companies, and all the different regions and countries in Europe. But also representing the new products in the bioeconomy now developed by our companies. Communication with our members is key. We will make an effort to ensure that issues important to companies and mills reach us and vice versa that the Brussels policy development reach our members early enough to be able to adapt.
9. How do you want to change the working of CEPI from what it is now or are you planning to keep it the same?
CEPI Board just approved the so called CEPI 2020 proposal for a new CEPI structure in the coming years. We will be even more focused and unite in one voice in Brussels to be able to best defend our sectors interests. This means there will be changes in the internal CEPI structure and CEPI staff in Brussels. But it is evolution, not revolution. Even though CEPI is in good shape today it needs to adapt to the changing circumstances to be ready for the coming years.
10. A pioneer in the pulp and paper industry of Europe, 14 years of experience. How do you see the future of this industry?
This industry has surely an interesting future. Markets will change and the structure of this sector will adapt. But we are very much European based, with our raw material , customer markets and knowledge base firmly set in Europe. The bioeconomy brings good opportunities for our industry and so does the ageing society. In packaging there are a multitude of innovations one needs to pay close attention to. The key to growth is what European politicians now need to focus on – how to address the crucial issue of 26 million Europeans that are unemployed. Our industry is ready for the future because it is in full transformation. It will not stay the same, but we have a great future ahead of us. One key message – we need to see the positive in between the transformations. There are large investments taking place, innovations taking shape and some money is made. That does not take away the hardship of consolidation. But seeing the positives and highlighting them also means we are an interesting sector for the public and the politicians. CEPI will keep highlighting the pulp and paper industries’ role for the EU economy, where we create value and bring employment.