Energy costs 'stifling competitiveness'
Smurfit Kappa chief executive Gary McCann. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.
European competitiveness is being stifled by high energy costs, the chief executive of Smurfit Kappa has said.
Addressing more than 400 business leaders at the Ibec CEO conference in Dublin today, Gary McCann said Europe needs a co-ordinated energy approach.
"Increasing taxes on energy is not a recipe for success."
He also criticised Europe's refusal "to research shale gas" options.
The US through a shale gas boom is said to have cut energy prices and carbon dioxide emissions to a 20 year low.
Markus Breyer, director general of lobby group BusinessEurope, said the price of gas for industrial consumers is 30 per cent cheaper in the US than the EU.
"It's difficult for companies to remain competitive," Mr Breyer said.
He said Europe needs a market driven approach to energy and climate change policy.
The high energy costs were also criticised by Ericsson chairman Leif Johansson who said 50 per cent of energy costs were tax.
Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said Ireland should look to Singapore, which has relentlessly adapted and reformed to ensure it is among the best countries in the world in terms of competitiveness and doing business.
"More needs to be done to make Ireland more competitive, more successful and more prosperous. The key to achieving this is the same at a domestic level and at a European level: we need growth."
He said Ireland and other member states now need to move the debate on in Europe.
"Europe remains a world leader in so many areas, and has the potential to corner new markets, create new opportunities and be a global centre for enterprise and innovation. But we sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot".
Mr McCoy said the recent agreement on a European financial transaction will put European firms at a competitive disadvantage globally.
"It is short sighted and sends out the wrong signal."