A broader perspective on the European Raw Materials Initiative

Armin Dieter

Publikation: AbschlussarbeitDissertation


Raw materials are the physical basis of the economy and society. Their unique physio-chemical properties provide the functionalities essential to the functioning of technologies. Some of them are essential to the functioning of key and sustainable technologies, which are provisioned to contribute to the transition towards a more sustainable European economy and society. For safeguarding the undistorted supply of raw materials, and in particular of these functional raw materials, the European Commission proposed the European Raw Materials Initiative (RMI). As a strategic policy framework the RMI focuses at ensuring a reliable supply of raw materials from international and European sources. Moreover, parts of the strategy focus on increasing the overall material efficiency of the European economy and society. Thus, RMI features a narrow perspective at different levels. It ignores the threat of geological threats to supply and, similarly to others, the accompanying criticality reports are narrowed down to considering primarily geopolitical threats to the supply of raw materials and their economic impacts. Moreover, a strong influence of industrial actors on the creation of the initiative has been reported.

Against this background, this dissertation intends to broaden the perspective on the RMI and of the RMI. The first paper explores whether the proposed solutions of the strategy are consistent with the (geo-) physical basis. By reviewing the underlying concepts, the paper shows that contrary to the assumptions of the RMI the geophysical basis is essential also for increasing overall resource efficiency. The second paper discusses and analyses how promoting particular interests contributed to formulating the current raw material strategy of the European Union. By referring to the theoretical framework of agenda-setting, the paper points out that the proposal for increasing the supply from European sources emerges from a solution to the problems of the extractive industry. It shows that at that moment the problem of threats to the supply of raw materials emerged, requiring a political answer, a policy window opened up for the extractive industry to promote their particular interests. As a consulting expert to the Commission, the industry proposed the solution to their issues as part of the solution for ensuring the undistorted supply of raw materials to the EU. The third paper discusses how the narrowed-down focus of classical risk assessments fails to address issues on various dimensions that could threaten the availability of functionalities. By adapting the story-of-stuff approach, by shifting the frame of criticality assessment to functionalities provided by raw materials, and by broadening the scope and dimensions of criticality assessments, the article conceptualizes an alternative to classical criticality assessment. All three articles provide broader perspectives of the RMI, and by doing so at the same time on the RMI, indicating it might be useful to reconsider its background and its basis. Both might avoid exposure to surprise, when implementing the strategy. (author's abstract)
Gradverleihende Hochschule
  • Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 4 Jan. 2016