confidence_bigEurope is in deep trouble: the economy is mired in recession; unemployment is breaking records; populism and nationalism are on the march; emerging powers are leaving the EU behind on the international scene. At last week’s State of Europe roundtable organised by our partner think tank Friends of Europe, key decision makers, business leaders and opinion formers debated how Europe can escape from the doldrums.

We confronted speakers at the conference with questions on the way ahead sent in by Debating Europe commenters.

From Germany, Karsten asked:

After the Second World War, the overall aim of Europe was to avoid another war at any cost. What today is the driving force behind European integration?

Here’s the reply from Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation:

In her answer, Bernadette Ségol said Europe’s great achievement had been bringing peace and that should not be forgotten. Now however there is a need for a greater emphasis on economic integration and the strengthening of Europe’s social model.

We put this question from Francesco in Italy to Conny Reuter, Secretary General of Solidar, a European network of NGOs working to advance social justice:

What would be the consequences for the international order of a failure of the European project?

Here’s the response:

Conny Reuter stressed the importance of working to avoid the emergence of Europe’s old demons of populism and extremism. He warned that the risk of conflict returning to Europe could no longer be discounted, so greater efforts are needed to protect peace and provide hope for the future.

Pietro from Brussels is concerned that:

In the past few years, we’ve seen a shift toward a situation where a few member states have the strength to shape the decisions and policies implemented in other countries. Do you share these views?

Here’s the reply from Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian Senate:

Emma Bonino said if some countries are asking for money, the others will want to know how it will be spent. What Europe needs, she said is to develop a shared European sovereignty for the common good. That would enable Europe to maintain a significant voice in world affairs that individual member states cannot provide on their own.

What do YOU think? Can Europe inject new vigour into its economic and social integration amidst all the austerity? Are the EU’s institutions up to the job? How can Europe keep its voice in world as its share of the global GDP declines? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

55 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Xavier S

    Europe, and democracy worldwide needs a new impetus.

    You raise the problem of confidence which is more of an issue with “trust” than a real vision of problems.

    What is required is more sincerity from above and more communication from below.

    For this transparency and the participation of citizens in policy-making is required.

    Of course us “experts” qill look at our interests and think – oh no we’ll lose our jobs – but we could be there to enable a rapid change in society leading to more inclusion, more projects, innovation and a clearer understanding of the problems we face, environmental first, monetary second.

    Without a good “vision” of the world they are in, citizens will increasingly mistrust their leaders, so it might be time for them to start listening instead of preaching.

    • avatar

      Yes, it would be so much better if they had an un-elected head of state, an un-elected second chamber of parliament, no real constitution or bill of rights, an electoral system skewed to favour parties that don’t win national majorities, and MP’s who use taxpayers’ money to embellish their moats and duck ponds. Then they’d be just like the jolly old UK, hoorah!

  2. avatar
    Bianca Guruita

    austerity is a cover up for huge corruption. when you impose a corrupted deal on people, expect rejection.

  3. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    People are not numbers, people are the Europe, if people have no money, economy will not grow, never. Crisis were made by banks and by errors of European management, Why have we, the people pay your errors?

  4. avatar
    Melios Athanasiou

    It is notable that employment in the service sector has been steadily increasing in the European Union over the past decades. In my opinion, it makes no sense to keep trying to place 500 million people into jobs mainly related to financial, legal and/ or IT services! Very little is done in the field of manufacturing, engineering technology and their implementation in the manufacture and/ or production sectors. The restructuring of the economies in the European Union must focus on the production (manufacture) of efficient industrial units both for private and public sectors with the ultimate aim of creating a whole lot of new job opportunities as it was some decades ago. The set-up of new production lines will bring back to Europe what has long been taken away by the cheap labour countries such as China, India, and Africa etc, and this by all means will fuel the European Economy helping to stimulate unemployment! The high productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of the European labour force will undoubtedly compensate Europe?s high labour costs. A concrete example is Germany?s Economy today! In spite of the global economic crisis, it is the only European/ Euro-zone country that managed to sustain a sound manufacturing based industry at a very high level.

  5. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    We need a project, something that will unite us, something great.. The Americans did it with walking on the moon… Europe should find something similar, that all states will participate and all Europeans can be proud of.. Otherwise I do not see this happening anytime soon…. :o[

  6. avatar

    EU covered to its own self, as an aging population and only one culture. imprisoned itself between wall, made a wall to the others as EU so perhaps you have most democracy, security and freedom but europeans lost their dynamism and innovative perspective. you should think that A structure that unites 25 countries can not be flexible and adapt global changes. only one europe culture and excessive formalism is slowed to EU. yes EU is multinational but not multi cultural. Economic and political power is chancing the center towards multicultural countries. because millenium is the age of speed, dynamism and transformation.

  7. avatar
    Omar Mateiro

    Education towards many Europes idea on the long run and acting accordingly on the short.

  8. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    First and foremost, the EU needs to decide what it stands for collectively.

    GDP has very little to do with identity or political and social ideology.

    GDP is also not necessary to make Europe a global voice. It has 2 permanent members of the UNSC amongst its number, several nuclear armed nations, a large number of citizens regardless of how great their purchasing power is, such a number does have purchasing power, generally good educational establishments by global standards etc etc.

    GDP does not make Europe what it is or what it can be as a global actor in many areas where Europe can lead or take the lead.

    What the EU needs is a grand plan that is centered around how it wants to be seen, in what areas it wants to be the world leader and how it will project those values globally.

    None of that necessarily means it has top top the GDP tables but it means it needs to choose core themes and have the integrity to project them robustly whilst adhering to it themselves.

  9. avatar
    Antonio Carapito

    Europe needs fiscal and judicial justice. A fiscal union and effective banking supervision can no longer continue any longer hated. It is absolutely necessary to re-produce the primary and secondary sector. It is necessary to return the industry who relocated to Asia.

  10. avatar
    Γρηγοράκης Σ.

    Real Unions are made in times of prosperity.

    fiscal unions under silly crisis and unemployment are just chains.
    weak temporary chains

  11. avatar
    Jude De Froissard

    easy…get rid of this bunch of people who are ruling us now…they are followers of a wrong economical path that will lead europe to a social impass and europeans to joblessness and poverty.austerity measures should be applied to the governments and the state….not to its citizens and their jobs or incomes.

  12. avatar

    Debating Europe, nice concept. But surprised you allow it become a platform for bigots to incite violence (that’s illegal too by the way.)

  13. avatar
    Maritana Alakiotou Anthopoulou

    Austerity???? For us, people, not for them!!!! If they stop spending money like water and act as a successful businessperson does, yes, we have hope!!! They keep urging people and especially women to start up businesses but the measures they take the taxation they impose makes it impossible!!!! No customers, due to reductions, no business!!!!!!

  14. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    Europe urgently needs to be a truly open internal market and reduce the red tape for SME’s. Give the EU parliament the mandate and slim down the institutions. In doing so austerity will be compensated by growth. If half the amount of SME’s would employ one person there would be no unemployed.

  15. avatar
    Rado Raykov

    By making debates, which involve people, who earn a living by selling false promises?

  16. avatar
    Malcolm Seychell

    By being democratic and stop taking more powers to Brussels. It is day by day turning like a Soviet State.

  17. avatar
    Goran Kotur

    More information, more cohesion, more solidarity, more responsibility, more democracy!

  18. avatar
    Jacques Valente

    Of course it’s possible and Europe can. The main thrust for it lays behind something that’s rare, called POLITICAL WILL………..

  19. avatar
    Rui David

    Greeks are starving whilst german leaders plan to low taxes and raise salaries. That says it all about ?european integration?, ?cohesion?, and the ?future? of Europe.

  20. avatar

    We need a new way……. They want to take us in the sclavagist epoca. And what I know is that was some time ago….. About 2000 years ago. This is not right!

  21. avatar

    I somehow agree with Malcolm Seychell …….. It likes to Soviet Union but as I’m born and live in Romania I can say it is worse…. It is not comunism it is sclavagism!

  22. avatar
    Dimitris Smirnioudis

    Let’s make a true United Europe .Not a “reach North” vs “Poor South”,but a reach North helping and supporting South to be impoved and close the gap. Europe was created not only as a “Merchants Union” .It’s also culture , respect , support, civilization , growth… A EU where the north lives in luxury and South is starving has no future . A union like this will collapse soon and the consequences upon reach and poor would be dramatic.

  23. avatar
    Alberto Pajares B

    Maybe should be better to put emphasy in the development of the growth based in our own resources and knowledges more than austerity measures of course, is better to cut the spin of austerity that won’t drive to good port.

  24. avatar
    Carla Carvalho

    Entrepreneurship, technology, new ideas, education…the industrial 5th revolution. A new concept of democracy based on transparancy and integrity! We do not want to be supported by the northern countries! We want to be able to support ourselves, which is completely different. To do that we need to get rid of this political class that asfixiates people with corruption!

  25. avatar
    Isabel Lindley Cintra Torres

    the 1st step is to speak with people face to face out of the EU confortable offices, to be corageous and listen to them. Young people are the first idea helping them to create their work, with money to begin and no burocracy and your eurocrats earn to much of our money, and people need help

  26. avatar
    Lino Galveias

    blame it on the banks and finance, impose tax for financial transactions and make them responsible. Back to primary and secondary industry, which foreclosure left so many unemployed and depressed, restore and develop a sustainable economy with independent countries deciding their own economic issues according to their need and not leaving those decisions to a fat ignorant bureaucrat in Brussels we even didn’t vote for.

  27. avatar
    André Miguel António

    A new era is growing. If the EU politics doesn’t change then a new world order will emerge. It will start in germany or Russia. I prefer germany.

  28. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa pode recuperar a sua auto-confiança desque os estados mais ricos da União e do eurogrupo possam repartir as dividas dos estados com as economias frágeis para que estes estados possam reduzir as medidas de austeridade para o crescimento económico

  29. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Hello, EU’s institutions are not up to the job in my opinion. There is not transparency and accountability in them. They look like Opus Dei of Vatican. For example; ?’m a lawyer since 1988 in ?stanbul. ? had two personal my lawsuits application number 23064/08 in Second of ECHR.My cases were about approximately 500.000 EUR my attorneyship fees.They rejected exactly as unjust according to Protocol No. 14 by single judge which judge Guido Raimondi, moreover without indicate any grounds to reject.After judge Raimondi elected as a Vice President for ECHR despite of to be a new judge in ECHR.? visited ECHR in Strasbourg to inspect and/or to understand why did my cases reject ? But ? could not see my case files and even ? could not get into the building of ECHR. ? was called like a prison only with telephone on door by a staff how did not want to say himself name. ? know ECHR is not a EU’s ?nstitution but if ECHR work secretly like Opus Dei , others are much worse.? presume if EU does not change , it will be like a Catholic ?nstitution depends on Vatican.

  30. avatar
    catherine benning

    This is on another website. I felt it should be on this one as well. It is pertinent to this thread.

    What most people don’t take into account about the push of women to work outside their home and those at the top being forced onto boards, whether they are up to it or not, is, the push of women into the work force has doubled the amount of people requiring jobs.

    So, when you have high numbers of people looking for work, what happens? Well, it lowers the wage level for entire nation. And that is how the wealthy have been able to quadruple their stash in the last thirty years.

    It is a con people. Most of the jobs they claim have been made by this new bunch with their austerity tactics is, part time jobs on minimum wage, shelf filling, McDonalds grease cleaning and floor sweeping. By forcing those collecting unemployment into starvation to fill them. And that doesn’t lower the tax bill one iota. It is all done with mirrors. The game they are playing, and playing it hard, is to reduce the wage level to third world standard.

    A man is no longer able to earn a living wage that will support a wife and family. And the reason for that is, they more than doubled the work force. Women forced to work when often they want to stay home with family, as that job is twenty four hours, and on top of that, massive immigration levels. Voila. Two birds with one stone.

    The standard of living across the board has fallen dramatically since the seventies. It was designed to do just that. And the reason was, to make those at the top of the financial tree disproportionally able to soak up the profits like a blotter. Where did you think the money came from for them to get a larger slice of the pie? Productivity my rear end. The productivity of the Western world was outsourced to the places where they get slave labour to do it cheaper. India, China, Indonesia, etc..

    What the people of this country should start doing, is, stop buying altogether. Everything made outside of Europe, where you know the pay levels are holding down the rest of our people, especially our young, should be ‘sanctioned’ never touched, passed over and if need be go without. That way, if they can’t sell the cheap stuff they bring in for us to pay through the nose for, they will be unable to continue to use this as a means to keep us in poverty.

    So, women must realise this cry for so called equality, which if you really look at it, is not at all equal, the very reverse is the truth. And we should shun the con. At that point women will find their standard of living, eventually, will improve as not so much of the weight they are presently carrying will be on their shoulders. It will be shared more ‘equally.’

    That is the real issue here not whether there are more women in radio and TV, for what I hear when I listen is, in fact, more female voices than male. If you doubt that is correct, get a pad when you listen or see what’s on and write down how many times it is a female voice rather than male. Take prime note of the news. And whilst you are at it, see how many of the voices and shows are made up of Americans pushing their life style your way. That will be an eye opener.

    After the Today programme this morning there was an hour long farce on American immigration coming from a university in Texas. Where they claimed the audience wanted ‘more immigration’ and had their eye on an open door policy for the USA.

    Now that is the biggest snow job I have yet heard. The American people are fiercely against more immigration. And anyone who has regular contact with people there will know it. It is all a way to reduce the pay levels of American citizens even further.

    Slave labour is what they want.

    Here is the intellectual argument.

    But, that is the flim flam. On the ground it is considerable lowering of the living standards of our fellow countryman.

    Hear the lines in this discussion that tells us, with immigration you cannot have a welfare state. That means, what we pay our taxes to the state for is no longer to take care of ourselves when the cards are down. It is now for the enhancement of the wealthy and those at the top.

    This is never divulged to the general public. They lie about the reality of their policies. They don’t tell you that your taxes are no longer and insurance against destitution for you as a result of their policies put forward for us all to swallow. And yet, they want to force us to go on paying the treasury at the levels we have today.

    This is why there has to be openness in our political society rather than the subjugation of the truth the people, who are paying to make this state function, are suffering.

    When listening to this, remember, it was the American Indian who was the indigenous people of that land. Unlike here and Europe.

  31. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Could we stop of being naive and establish the same custom duties the BRICs charge our own goods? We need factories, we need jobs, and these European leaders sold the Europe to China and to the multinationals, closing down our factories and re-open at Asia. The European leaders should remember that unemployment will cause desperation, and desperation is the mother of revolutions.

  32. avatar
    Mark Franck

    I am an EU citizen living in Belgium now. I am 51 now and have lived in the UK and over the past last years I have lived and worked in the US. I will keep my story and message short. In my observations while living abroad in the United States Of America I was fascinated of the patriotism always present no matter if you are a republican or democrat and no matter if you are Caucasian Afro-American or Asian immigrant you will put your American flag outside your porch and you will enjoy the family holiday and feasts on independence day. Whether you speak Spanish or Chinese at home you become patriotic and integrate into the US way of life.
    When I came back in Blegium, lately, I regret the absence of a Global European voice and culture. I am ashamed of the internal country politics of my own country. I see no solidarity, No EU Global Voice. No European patriotism other than criticism all over and worst of a lack of European integration for immigrants desiring to live and work in EU. This image of Europe is perceived around the world. While I lived in the US I was amazed to listen or read comments about our European political burdens and even that of our little country Belgium.
    It is time we steam forward and have a United States of Europe. In the lack of accomplishing this ambitious effort we will find ourselves isolated from the Global scene. We need a Global Voice. We need change and it is up to the EU leaders to change!
    Mark Franck

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @Mark Franck:

      Your post is an interesting perspective of US life and not one I recognise, having lived and worked there akin to you.. And the patriotism you write of, I would call indoctrination. Having your kids swear allegiance to God and America every day as they stand in their classroom is a more than a little Hitlerish I would think.

      Here is a view put forward in one of our daily newspapers this morning. Which leaves room for thought and consideration about where Europe is heading and why? Globalisation is a corporate con game and we should get ourselves separated from it as quickly and as fully as possible. the idea is to enslave the planet and have no place to flee. That is a fools dream.

      Will you be pressing for a special separate State or reservation to ‘save’ the European culture and people, akin to the Aborigine or Native American Indian protectorates in order to allow the breed to escape extinction? Why do I have the feeling your answer to that would be no. And I wonder why that is?

      However, I do agree we should have a European Federal State. built on the history, culture and social expectations of the European majority. A civilisation that is acceptable to the traditional peoples of this land.

  33. avatar

    What is ‘Self’? If EU were identified by its multinational disharmonious forms of social and political democratic systems based on both a cultural and an economical past, then it would be an impossible task to integrate something that has no clear neither differential aspect of X sets of sustainable communities nor a definite formulation of an operating matrix equalizing prosperity of a human being within eyes of ONE – a union that possesses an emergent vision of a common denominator – life, its reason and future. When regulatory constrains within each space (nation, region etc) are driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of supporting a society that not only gets into an illusion of well being, but also it demands prosperity by ignoring its foundations of freedom driven not by money but by enforceable ideas that seem to common people as dreams as much as blue sky on a cloudy day. Education of negatives comes prior to generating ideas. Projects that do not work for illuminating life, would not serve a society in a manner that generally ignores its fundamental need – mental evolution as spirit of youth do not need tools to grab your mind rather than experience it. The war on drugs, the war on truth will run up as long as Eu does not have a uni formal declaration where each individual has its rights of freedom stringed to rights towards interfering properly to life that is within and outside of an individual. Economy cannot grow unless population grows, and EU has a negative growth. Everyone does anything for getting money, albeit everyone forgets that money is in life rather than life into money. Life is not drinking beer and buying condoms for having a spiritually elevated youth. Life is understanding life and praising its fundamental need – being ONE. There is no way one expects economics to foster its value when value is not being placed outside of light of a projection towards future need, but gain. One cannot occupy nothingness and expect a full ornamentation of life splashed by both science and religion serving interests of preservation of control – to sell objectives based on subjective propositions of self indulging entities. In a nutshell – Life is not about money , money is just an illusion that controls value, a tool that must operate like blood, feed every tissue as much as needed, and as long as greedy governmental corrupted stringed institutions do not realize that our educational system needs a full fundamental re-formulation , as intelligent units will analyze past and project future , while our geniuses will live in future, forgotten by society of ever willing satisfaction for being valued. Life is an intellectual property of those that have given the free knowledge to those running businesses of a political scam entertaining minds of ever dreaming souls lost to time. As long as greedy regulatory bodies exists there will be an ever running recession – an absence of a progressive ideology through a realistic view on occupation of. In order to expand in discrete energy/spaces (languages) one must compress the matter/time constrains so that a union is a union. EU needs not being isolated , to the contrary, EU must interfere in a proper way to the rest of world and really think about what is value in its different forms of energy. It is not easy to transform one self when thy self lies on dealer that suck at envisioning economy of the new era. Every little bastard that gets access to a large amount of money bribes the group and feeds up the rest with bread crusts. Neither fiscal politics will work as rich are getting richer nor stimulating SME due idiotic constrains running from competitiveness local crap to taxation and bureaucracy to sky. There needs be an algorithm that deals with all those constrains from healthcare to energy. 20th century was a spirit based on building weapons and nukes, drugs and its proliferate agendas, lets 21st century be on realizing what is self, and what is the value of life as our children would one day see a world with ethics that praise unity – interfering people (particles) strings (connections) waves (emerging living forms) outside of electrons.

  34. avatar
    Juan Vázquez García

    Europe is losing vitality and human energy. Too many old people, not enough young people to concentrate resources on more productive things and make the economy grow once again. People in Europe complain all the time that we’re overpopulated, but in fact the opposite is true, we’re slowly fading away in Europe. Like the Japanese, Europe’s solution to problems is called having more babies, since Europeans seem to oppose immigration almost unanimously and say immigrants are making problems bigger. On the contrary, they’ve helped made them less acute if anything. Too much of the different countries resources are going towards paying pension plans and other social programs, but the system is already being put under pressure. You can’t tax young hard-working people even more, it makes them spend less and when people don’t buy, workers get laid off and the unemployment rate rises as a result. The state loses more money in unemployment benefits and gets deeper in debt. Deficits rise, the national debt gets bigger and the economy doesn’t grow. This in turn exacerbates every single problem even more. It’s a vicious circle. Spain has a pretty decent base of young people, but a good percentage of them is leaving the country in large numbers because Spain’s government can’t seem to concentrate its revenue on good solid projects that will boost the economy and create jobs. The government wastes people’s tax money on things that don’t help the economy grow, so it’s not an investment but a waste of money. Spain and Greece for example are highly unproductive and uncompetitive when compared to other countries in the Eurozone like Germany, the Netherlands or even France. If Spain hadn’t join the Euro, it could have easily devalued its own currency to even things out (balance trade deficits by reducing the cost of its exports). Then again in Spain all the political institutions are completely corrupt and Spaniards demand way too much from their government. They expect the government to take care of them from cradle to grave, something they should have realized is rather impossible given demographics, population growth and the size of their territory.

  35. avatar

    immigrants are a net loss to the EU. Most of them enter a member state, and promptly sign on to social security, and dont bother working. Here in the UK, we give them 2million £ houses in kensington to thank them for not being born here, and for graciously chosing the UK as their parasitic host

  36. avatar
    Simone Muffolini

    Try to ask the question he has one citizen, the 12 stars represent? I hope the answer right, otherwise I will have to teach. Possible? Many years of funding for the European development? Reviewing Community policies and the European identity deficit! Many people do not know what it’s like 12 star blue background, the most frequent answer is: are the twelve founding members.
    Passionate about European values, it means that you should know the meaning of the symbol stamped on the European flag?

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