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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The EU is the world's biggest producer of glass with a market share of around one third of total world production. The industry is known for the quality of its products, its capacity for technological innovation, and its skilled labour force. In 2012, the sector employed 100 thousand people. The European Commission aims to enhance the industry’s competitiveness.

The glass sector covers

  • container glass (60% of output in tonnage terms but about 54% in terms of value)
  • flat glass (about 30% in both tonnage and value)
  • domestic glass, special glass, and reinforcement glass fibres

Why the glass industry is important

  • Employment - in 2012, the sector employed 100 thousand people
  • Link to other sectors - the industry is interlinked with other sectors such as construction, automotive, domestic, and leisure

Challenges faced by the glass industry

  • Crisis - glass production in the EU was severely impacted by the economic crisis. Germany is the EU’s biggest producer (one-fifth of the volume produced), followed by France, Spain and Italy.
  • Trade - the main challenges include competition, downstream bargaining power, energy prices and a lack of security of supply, substitution by other products, non-EU country trade barriers, and the counterfeiting of European designs.

Competitiveness and innovation in the EU glass industry

  • Competitiveness – the EU glass industry is represented by large EU‑based companies. The production process is energy intensive and the manufacturers have to face high start‑up costs and tied distribution channels. Production facilities are also capital intensive and require long investment cycles.
  • Innovation – process research and development has resulted in improvements to energy savings and environmental protection, a switch from fossil to non-fossil energy, and glass fibre substituting metals and wood through composites.
  • Export and import - about 80% of the glass produced is traded within the EU.
  • Trade barriers – non-EU countries with strong glass production have been introducing non-tariff trade barriers such as compulsory testing and certification schemes. The Commission pushes for the elimination of peak tariffs in non-EU countries important for EU glass manufacturers.

Sustainability of the EU glass industry

Supporting information


GROW-I1atec [dot] europa [dot] eu (GROW-I1[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)