European Parliament urges help for steel industry

Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:28pm EST

* Calls on Commission to deliver action plan quickly

* Struggling steel plants should be monitored - MEPs

By Stephen Eisenhammer

LONDON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday calling on the EU Commission to urgently help the region's flailing steel industry which is struggling against falling demand and high operation costs.

With supply outstripping demand by 30 percent, plants across Europe have been shut in the past few years and more are threatened in France and Italy, raising fears of extensive job losses and putting pressure on governments to intervene.

The Strasbourg-based parliament passed by a large majority a resolution urging the Commission, the executive arm of the European Union to consider the steel industry within EU state aid rules, it said on its website.

It also said that threatened plants should be monitored to safeguard competitiveness.

MEPs listed 20 threatened plants that needed to be watched, including Italy's largest stainless steel factory, Acciai Speciali Terni, owned by Germany's ThyssenKrupp.

The parliament also supported the action plan for the steel industry promised by the Commissioner for Industry, Antonio Tajani, which is set to be delivered in June 2013.

"MEPs welcome the Commission's promise to deliver an action plan for the steel sector by June 2013 but stress the need to have it as soon as possible," the European Parliament said.

The plan, which is being devised with steel industry leaders aims to resolve problems such as high energy costs, access to raw materials and skills shortages.

The resolution was adopted with 351 votes in favour, 125 against and 34 abstentions.

EU steel industry body Eurofer, which has long lobbied for greater governmental support for the sector, welcomed the resolution.

"We are very happy that they acknowledged the importance our industry has for Europe and that they call on the Commission and the member states to support the industry and to keep it in Europe," Bernd Overmaat, the spokesman for the group, told Reuters. (Editing by James Jukwey)

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