ANALYSIS & OPINION
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Europe works

Anne Wendel, director of the VDMA Machine Vision group, discusses the VDMA’s new campaign promoting the EU called Europe Works

Open borders, shared values and many friends in the region; even if everything’s not perfect, Europe works! The people of Europe can be proud of this, and a shared commitment makes it worthwhile. And yet it cannot be denied that Europe is in crisis – at the very least since Britain voted to leave the union. The VDMA, as an association of machinery and equipment manufacturers, has started a pro-EU campaign (www.europeworks.de/eu) calling for a rethink of the EU and suggesting concrete reforms. The VDMA wants to remind people of what has been achieved in Europe: More than 70 years of peace; a single European market with free trade, benefiting us all; and reliable pan-European partnerships and co-operation in many areas.

The European Union is often criticised by both citizens and the business community for interfering in lots of things, but being unable to solve the really important problems. Some of this criticism is unfair and exaggerated, but some of it is justified. All too often, 28 nations are unable to agree on a common policy for Europe. Citizens and the business community then find it hard to understand why the EU is not taking action when everyone can see that action is required.

The first suggestion for reform the VDMA makes is that we need more democracy in Europe. The European Parliament is directly elected by the citizens and should therefore be strengthened and able to propose legislation itself. Conversely, it should no longer be as easy for governments of individual countries to veto majority EU decisions. Secondly, we need more transparency in Europe. Every citizen should be able to understand which decisions are the responsibility of the European Union and which are that of the member states. Ultimately, people will only accept an EU that they understand.

Everyone stands to gain from a functioning EU – ordinary citizens and the business community alike. This is why it is so important that everyone gets involved in a discussion about the future of the EU. Because one thing is clear: there will be many challenges, now and in the future, which we can only deal with at a European level. No one country on its own can be successful in fighting climate change, meet the challenge of digitalisation or survive in competition with economic powers such as China and the USA.

VDMA Machine Vision’s vote

The VDMA sector group Machine Vision started to open up its membership in 2012 to non-German companies and to become more European. Today, 15 out of its 117 members and three of its board members are non-Germans – a positive move! The three non-German board members make a great difference: they bring new opinions, ideas and approaches. Of course, it’s challenging – for all of us. The discussions have become more lively and active; the interests vary more, old behaviour patterns and decisions are reassessed.

With around €2.2 billion turnover created in Germany, the machine vision industry is a small (but great!) branch in comparison with other sectors. But even the biggest player in the machine vision field is not big enough to achieve much alone, and much is achieved when joining forces, be it in building value chains, or cross-industry links. There are also many examples where associations in Europe have been working together in a productive way to further the vision industry in the region: co-ordinating and cross-promoting standardisation activities, or promoting trade shows such as UKIVA’s new conference in Milton Keynes, UK, to name a few. But many challenges are still ahead of us, such as defining the role of machine vision in the factory of the future – this will only succeed by working together. Hence, VDMA Machine Vision’s vote is: we need more Europe, not less!

There are further more concrete activities VDMA Machine Vision has been working on lately. A joint Machine Vision Pavilion at SPS IPC Drives, Europe’s leading exhibition on electric automation, taking place in Nuremberg, Germany, from 28 to 30 November 2017; setting up successfully the OPC Vision initiative working on an OPC UA companion specification for machine vision; and supporting the Embedded World trade fair in Nuremberg earlier in the year. The agenda for the VDMA Machine Vision Summit – to be held from 29 to 30 September 2017 in Paguera, Mallorca, Spain, with the main theme being ‘Machine learning, digitisation of industry – what’s in it for machine vision?’ – is in its final stages of preparation. And not to be forgotten: the new VDMA annual machine vision market survey will be available soon as well.

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