Will the Demand for Critical Raw Materials Transform the Political Economy of the EU?

Ioannis Kampourakis

Batteries, solar panels, and semiconductors are essential for the climate transition. Certain critical raw materials like nickel, lithium, and rare earths are crucial to produce these items. The demand for these materials is projected to quadruple in the next decade. However, resources are scarce, and extracting these materials has environmental and social costs for the local communities where they are found. Ioannis Kampourakis, Assistant Professor of Law and Markets at Erasmus School of Law, received the Veni grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) for his research into how the new EU policies on critical raw materials change the political economy of the European Union. 

“My project is about the EU regulation of critical raw materials. My research will focus on the emerging, relevant regulatory instruments of the EU Green Deal, such as the Regulation on Critical Raw Materials and the Batteries Regulation, in light of the new Green Industrial Plan”, explains Kampourakis. “Furthermore, I will look into EU’s trade policy on critical raw materials and the broader implications of the shift to industrial policy and market instrumentalism in the context of the EU Green Deal.” 

Historical shift 

According to Kampourakis, the new EU policy will initiate a “historical shift”: “These EU policies seek to reshape markets so that they function not only to fulfil private interests but also to achieve public objectives. I will empirically investigate how this emerging legal framework affects impacted communities in mining and manufacturing sites.” Indeed, achieving public objectives is a new step and a departure from the past with the EU’s internal market policy. 

Weighing public interests is essential, says Kampourakis: “The conditions for economic exploitation and trade of these materials will be crucial in defining the direction of the twin green and digital transition.” Kampourakis’ research will not only focus on how EU policy regarding critical raw materials generates new legal rationales and values. It also encompasses empirical research into the distributive consequences of this emerging legal infrastructure and a normative assessment of whether the underlying EU agenda of domestic green growth is equipped to lead to a fair and global green transition. 

Kampourakis will draw from EU law and policy, international economic law, legal theory, and political economy for this project. His work builds upon the scholarly movement of Law and Political Economy, which frames law as constitutive of the economy and analyses legal regimes based on their distributive and power-structuring effects. 

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