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Europe must fight raw material shortages by securing supply guarantees from foreign exporters, finding alternative resources and improving recycling of its electronic waste, EU lawmakers said on Tuesday.
The European Parliament's recommendations are not binding on policymakers, but reflect rising concern among industry and green activists alike over shortages of essential materials as the EU struggles to avoid deepening economic difficulties.
The EU should "follow an ambitious innovation strategy based on resource efficiency and the recycling of raw materials in order to promote the sustainability and competitiveness of European industry", Reinhard Buetikofer, a German member of the EU's Green party alliance, who led the parliamentary debate, said in a statement.
Policymakers should press international suppliers to guarantee continued sales, lawmakers agreed in Tuesday's vote.
But they also said EU development schemes in poor countries should not be made conditional on their mineral exports to the 27-member bloc. The executive European Commission said last year it would withhold trade benefits from developing countries that restrict raw material exports -- seen as a warning to countries such as China and India, which have cut back on commodity exports.
Instead the EU should work with other states to develop alternative resources and make more effort to recover electronic scrap.
"We must focus on our urban mines: the old laptops and cellphones that lie dormant in our households," the report said.
China controls more than 95 percent of global rare earth exports -- used in high technology such as electronics, hybrid car batteries and wind turbines -- and its efforts to cut back exports have alarmed its overseas customers.
The parliamentary report urges the European Commission to consider taxing land and water use by industry to encourage efficient exploitation of European resources.
Mindful of the contrasting positions of resources firms and environmental campaigners, it avoids clear recommendations on whether the EU should push to exploit areas such as the Arctic, Barents Sea region or Greenland.
"I am particularly pleased that the European Parliament agrees on the importance of three key elements for the success of this strategy: the role of innovation, the importance of creating a true diplomacy and the sustainability of raw materials, central to reconciling mining and environmental protection," EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in a statement after the vote.