Europe used to be the economic powerhouse of the world. But that was back when we still had empires, and when Europe led the way in terms of industrialisation and cutting-edge steam technology. Now all that remain of those colonial empires are a sense of guilt (and the odd Caribbean island), and we find ourselves competing with others in a globalised world.

Some parts of the developed world have adapted to global competition better than others. The gap between EU and US economic performance (measured by GDP per capita) has been widening since the economic and financial crisis. On the other side of the coin, China is rapidly catching up. Can the EU rely on smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth to help it keep up with the competition?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Proactive, arguing that: “the European target should be first and foremost a globally competitive European economic block which is rich in innovation and entrepreneurship” – which is a nice goal, but how can it be achieved in practice?

How would YOU make Europe more globally competitive? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!

Radical Left
Stelios Kouloglou (Radical Left), Member of the European Parliament:

KouloglouWell, I believe that Europe has other advantages: culture, and the sciences, and a very highly skilled workforce. So, Europe shouldn’t aim to become China by reducing our wages in order to compete that way, but instead it has to use its own advantages and to combat China on a higher level. What they are now doing is trying to transform Europe into China. And look at what’s happening in the poorest countries of Europe. They have very low wages. Can they compete with China? No.

Rebecca Harms (Group of the Greens), Member of the European Parliament (NOTE: We contacted the Greens for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a statement made by Rebecca Harms following the announcement of the ‘Juncker investment plan’):

Rebecca HarmsThe top priority […] should be to create a green energy union (based on energy efficiency and renewable energy), to reorient our economy and to stimulate social and green innovation. These are priorities where there would be a real value-added for European level investment, notably with the energy union, where cross-border infrastructure is necessary to unlock the sustainable energy potential we have in Europe.

Liberal Democrats
Philippe De Backer (ALDE), Member of the European Parliament:

Centre Right
Peter Liese (EPP), Member of the European Parliament:

lieseWe can stay globally competitive if we invest in innovation, and if we let entrepreneurs be creative and find new solutions. Of course labour costs are important and we shouldn’t increase them too much, but they are not the only important factor. In a competitive world, having new products that your competitors don’t have is key to being successful.

Sander Loones (ECR), Member of the European Parliament (NOTE: We contacted the ECR for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a statement made by Sander Loones about EU tax avoidance plans):

loonesOn an international level, there’s a battle raging for the creation of jobs. The EU and its Member States should use all of their powers to attract international investments, businesses and employment. This requires ambition and realism together. Everyone who ignores the reality that the markets have become global puts himself in a weaker competitive position and shoots himself in the foot…


Roger Helmer (EFD), Member of the European Parliament (NOTE: We contacted the EFD for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a statement made by Roger Helmer about improving energy competitiveness in particular):

helmer-speaks[…] Competitiveness cannot live in a vacuum.  It is relative. You can only be competitive against someone else… Other major economic areas – China, the USA – are also concerned about energy efficiency, and optimising their marketing and distribution arrangements.  So our efforts in Europe, even if successful, will merely maintain our current level of disadvantage.

It’s time to recognise that the huge discrepancy in energy prices arises from our gross over-commitment to expensive, inefficient and intermittent renewables, while our competitors rely largely on cheap coal or (potentially) cheap gas.  Until we address that fundamental point, Europe can never hope to be competitive in energy.  In the UK, only UKIP has a policy to deliver secure and affordable energy.

Curious to know more about the gap between rich and poor across Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

Globally Competitive-01
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Aurorion
With the support of:


Who do YOU agree with on this issue?


Results for this issue

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81 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Satsuma Angel

    in the US immigrants are an asset, in Europe they are hated.
    Without immigrants there will be no Steve Jobs and no Space agency. Stop racism towards immigrants.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      In the US there is no culture, you are a random mass of sheep herded from one side to another with ease. You have no anchor and no stability.
      If the media tells you to think one way you immediately follow…like sheep.

      Europe is different. We have HISTORY.
      We don’t want ISLAMIC conflict on our soil.
      We don’t want MORE immigrants when our own EUROPEANS are unemployed – this is lunacy !

      I understand these “refugees” want a better life.
      I do too.

      But i don’t queue-jump others to get to it !

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Reduce the corruption of the Latin nations INCLUDING France – please refer to TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index for clarification.

      Adopt a single language – clearly English – less paperwork, less bureaucrats and less confusion.

      De-power the EU parliament.

      Introduce democracy to Brussels.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      We don’t need a single language, what we DO need is a “EU language”, which yes is English.
      Each member state can keep its language for internal use however.
      Dual languages, like Belgium has now.

    • avatar

      Yes the Americans absolutely love the mexicans and especially the muslims.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Adrian Limbidis
      An EU language yes, tribal/local languages yes too.
      I think we’re agreed!

    • avatar

      The word is middleclass Nando.

  2. avatar
    A.c. Spyred

    Three things :
    – open mind
    – stopping austerity
    – investing in innovation & developpment

  3. avatar
    Domagoj Škender

    Keep the social safety net, but get rid of 90% of buereaucracy and unnecessary laws and regulations. Force banks to extend credit for startups (maybe a mandatory % of all credit extended for consumption needs to go to startups and small business). Simplify tax codes, get rid of local, communal and special taxes for small business, just tax profit (maybe even avoid taxes at all for the first 3 years for startups, that would help them bud).

  4. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Reduce the corruption of the Latin nations INCLUDING France – please refer to TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index for clarification.

    Adopt a single language – clearly English – less paperwork, less bureaucrats and less confusion.

    De-power the EU parliament.

    Introduce democracy to Brussels.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      And embrace corruption from LONDON?
      I don’t think so !

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Adrian Limbidis
      The UK always appears higher in TI’s Corruption Perception’s Index than ANY Club-Med country and indeed than the EU as a bloc.

      Intelligent Romanian’s [and there are many, many such exemplars] would weep with joy if Romania’s corruption levels where anywhere near that of the UK’s.

  5. avatar
    Valerio Jeson Maggi

    Break up the euro. In 1957 Nobel prize James Meade, told that adopting a same currency between different countries would bring unemployment and deflation. What do we se now? The reason is really simple: there is not a big differences if you move from New York to los angel to seek a job. But there is a huge difference if you have to move from Portugal to Finland. By the fact that capital doesn’t speak any language it is very easy for it to move when is free to move across borders. People do not have that same mobility. Things has been told for decades, but politicians decided to not to listen and play as if they were economists, with the excuse- I actually heard it- that “politics has to sell dreams”. There you have it. Someone could reply that Germany is doing really well, but it is proven that the adoption of a common currency has made Germany gaining lot of richness, which however is not being distributed between workers-it is called “wage dumping”. They have something like 200 billion euros of commercial surplus. If we were a group of countries that supports each other Germany should have applied laws that could have propelled economy growth. This is something that happens in every federation included the US. Now, the German establishment is openly against this sort of reforms, because it is politically impractical: how would you say to a berliner that his taxes have to go to the southern countries?

  6. avatar
    Valerio Jeson Maggi

    Can we se that in the era of globalisation the political power is splitting? Why? Because in the big sea of globalisation it is useful to be small and elastic. We se this in Every European countries with different degrees of tension. The goal to create a federal Europe is anti-historical, politically and moreover economically unbearable

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Silvio Bosco
      I almost agree – free the EU of the CLUB-MED national sovereign states.

  7. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Does the EU has the will & capacity to publish a comprehensive database of ALL products (from a pencil to a rocket) and services produced in the EU to be made available to global customers on a massive & unique “ http://www.EUproducts” website?

    Would ALL EU manufacturer agree to publish their competitive prices without fear of competition and exposing their secrete trade culture on such global website- blowing away Amazon plus Alibaba together?

    A “winning” proviso: “the EU will match less 0.5% any prices worldwide if a valid & written quote is submitted (cheating is against EU laws & Brussels HR!) In addition, early settlement discounts for advance payments and discounts for huge volumes would be offered. To crown it all a special structured EU rebate for deals over €1 bn & above will be given & sponsored by the IMF, WB, ECB and German Bundesbank- as a gift to all Europeans for all the years when they were ripped off!

    An interesting development:

  8. avatar
    Dobromir Panchev

    Just compare the IT sector. The average American user would immediately give up using most EU web sites because they are not user-friendly and look outdated. For example the EURES site could not automatically do such a simple thing like migrating job seekers CVs from the old version to the new version of the site, and they had to do this by hand. Can we compare it to LinkedIn? I do not think so :-) LinkedIn is easy to use and entertaining, profiles are interesting and people communicate. In EURES you can claim that you are expert in Windows 98, but Window 10 somehow is missing. Maybe they will add it after 20 years. iOS – such thing does not exist at all. Will we see European search engine that can rival Google, or European social network that is even close to Facebook?

  9. avatar
    Omid Danesh Khorak

    Replace me on posts currently occupied by (Mario Draghi, Christine Lagarde, Martin Schulz, Kong Herald V, Deutschland Bundespräsident, while I move to Windsor Castle and establish my home-office there, then I start to work on Europe and its issues :D

  10. avatar
    António Barreto

    The first step is to free the civil society from de technocrats and the brussels centralism. Second to change the prioritys of the energy quality. Third, to change the terms of cooperation with the thirth word countries.

  11. avatar
    Martin Unterholzner

    1. Introduce direct democracy on several levels (EU, national, regional, local). This should help to avoid that corporations take over politics and to rebuild trust of citizens.
    2. Implement subsidiarity
    3. Weaken the European Council and get rid of the unanimity requirement. Today it has too much power, in many respects it is the only institution that can take decisions (migration etc.). This must change such that single large nation states can no longer impose their national interests on all the others.
    4. Launch an investment program for infrastructure (logistics, energy and internet) that is financed exclusively by private equity capital. This reduces the extremely high level of debts in the system.
    5. Introduce an institution (similar to a parliament) to coordinate economic policies in the Eurozone. Once established, the nations in the Eurozone have more rights and more duties. The aim is a better integrated economy among the countries with the Euro. Since there is a better coordination and common duties, it is possible to emit common bonds.
    6. Normalize relations with Russia. It is against the European interests to break economic relationships because of sanctions on Russia.

    • avatar

      Wel start with you and your family, you get to work for me, and your sister well she ………………

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      We can’t do that.
      Russia has breached international law and we must show STRENGTH to punish it.

  12. avatar
    Olivier Dutreil

    Stop Eu inventing new norms everyday…conyrol our borders as Us and China do,,decrease charges on wages by controlling welfare allocations,suppress minimum wages to migrant workers

  13. avatar

    Look at Japan and stop flooding the EU with cheap labour.
    Cheap labour takes the pressure to innovate from the economy.

    Japan has recognized this and answers challenges like demographic decline with developing sophisticated technology.
    For example, harvesting salad which in Europe is often a task for migrant labour can be done by autonomous robots. Japan already has this solution developed.

    The last strategic innovation which came out of Europe was the GSM mobile phone standard in the Eighties. Since then nothing ambitious of global relevance anymore. And, seemingly the stagnation started with the transformation of the EEC into the Maastricht-EU.
    Just look at the delays and missmanagement with GALILEO.

    19/09/2017 David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre – UK, has responded to this comment.

  14. avatar
    Tony Kunnari

    Through these:

    1 ) Cover Incentive
    • Poses a cover constant in seconds.
    • Bigger price tag takes longer to cover.
    • Personal income flow poses due dates.

    2 ) Basic Income
    • Shuffles taxes equally between all humans.
    • Subscriptions resume the flow.
    • Default tax percent is 50 %.

    3 ) Net Income
    • Share of personal investment on you.
    • Subscriptions resume the flow.
    • Raise tax percent in order to invest in others.

    0 ) Management Device
    • Tool to govern your personal income input and output.
    • Can be used to open and cancel subscriptions.
    • Income flow is divided between subscriptions.

  15. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    la domanda è posta male. Non si può chiedere come rendere la UE più competitiva ma come rendere la società dignitosa e serena , ecco dove è sbagliata la UE . Si sta costruendo una società senza il consenso dei cittadini fatta di interessi in base ad un PIL freddo ( anche gli interessi sul debito è pil ma non è benessere )

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Stefania Portici
      Etymologically speaking – your post is BARBARIC!

  16. avatar

    I guess EU ( specifically under german management ) failed Big in every aspect. EU initially promised security, prosperity, democratic principles and freedom. What we end up with? Islamic terrorism, Crimea seized by Russia, out of control hordes of refugees flooding our squares, economic austerity, an alarming lack of democracy, out of the charts unemployment, non-transparent political decisions, and so on. There should be a big reset button somewhere because the time has come to start all over. Oh well, I might be too optimistic.

  17. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    A European single patent, a pan European registry for enterprises and a harmonised taxation system that avoids capital migration and the establishment of companies in fiscal havens within the EU. Educate citizens on how to build up an enterprise and on how to take advantage of a single market. Less tax burden and regulation, more red tape cutting.

  18. avatar
    Paul X

    The EU doesn’t want to be globally competitive, it wants to be inward looking and protectionist..

    Get rid of CAP and let European agriculture compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world…then watch as the French agricultural industry collapses overnight

  19. avatar

    Can anyone recommend a website to look at in order to make an informed decision in the event of an in/out vote? I believe there are lots of people out there who are expected to vote on something that they have very little information about. Also does anyone else think the main catalyst of the decision making process in the heads of British voters is the migrant crisis? Whenever I talk to people about the in/out referendum the conversation always finds its way to fighting age males fleeing their countries to sponge of us.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      The migrant crisis is a very recent issue and therefore gets a lot of press. Problems with the EU go back to the day it “came out” and admitted it was a political project instead of just a trade arrangement

      From my experience finding an unbiased website is impossible, even on those that claim to be you can still detect a certain leaning one way or the other

      On balance, the hard facts back up the leave campaign (i.e. we are a net contributor – indisputable fact) whilst the stay in campaign can only provide suppositions on how we MAY suffer on the outside (Employment. trade etc )

      Personally, to stay in a club because you are scared of being left out rather than staying in for the benefits it brings is pretty stupid

  20. avatar

    With public investments.

  21. avatar

    With public investments which are not a private investments.

  22. avatar

    Get rid of the euro
    get rid of high taxes
    get rid of regulations
    stop interfearing in business

  23. avatar
    Alexander Simon

    The problem Europe faces is rather “Knightian Unsecurity” than just risk. This probably is one of the reasons that the effects of QE performed by the ECB are behind the expectations. What is would need is a new base technology. Some suggestions are given by Mariana Mazzucato in “The Entrepreneurial State”. The core ideas is that it needs public funding of basic research that have the potential to yield such a base technology (in contrast “venture money” is rather used to develop products based upon disrupting technology – rather than funding the research of the latter). The “Juncker Plan” instead focuses on mere infrastructure projects – apparently even including atomic energy. Maybe the reason is to provide some kind of certainty to investors but unfortunately supporting the status quo. –> So te approach to research and public spending must be revisited.

    But even if Europe had that technology it probably would not be picked-up by Europen Companies. Top innovators are leaving EU not just leading to a brain-drain but also limiting the potential to build on base-technology. Regulations, high taxes and other location factors must be significantly improved in order to become competitive again.

    With reagrd to the monetary policy nowadays helicopter money is debated. Instrad of following that thread of discussion, I suggest to evaluate an unconditional basic income. That would give people the chance to think of their skills and how to best market them best. Nowadays it rather seems that a lot of skilled people is executing an unfitting (hence unsatisfying) job due to restructuing, relocation and more … leading to right people in the wrong seats.

    Finally sovereignity must be regained – including to decide who immigrates to EU as integration means efforts and resources are limited. Innovation is not driven by letting “everybody in” – we rather should focus on attracting talents so that “diversity” leads to a giant leap forward instead of social issues and preciariat.

  24. avatar
    Claudio Bartoletti

    globally competative quite easy eliminate the dictatorship of germany backed by Junkner and run it on a rotation basis of countries , better still dismantle this jjoke

  25. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Ban products that use slave/exploited labour from mining to production until they are fair trade, use green energy instead of fossil fuels, give everyone a guaranteed minimum income to increase entrepreneurship and trade that stays mainly within individual EU member states and within the EU.

  26. avatar
    Franck Néo Legon

    With protectionism, in order to rebuild an efficient and lively internal industrial grid and commercial net and a powerfull internal market. Just like USA does in fact, protect Europe from external interests.

  27. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    Create a European Silicon Valley where new ideas can be conceived and developed. It needs to be funneled with EU funds in a Capital where ideas and people can merge together. Brussels is the natural candidate because of obvious reasons. The fact that Companies like Google are already based there can facilitate the task…

  28. avatar
    Leonard Prifti

    EU must bring all the European companies into Europe and make a low taxes politic, to open new work places

  29. avatar
    Joseph Stack

    Simple, disband the European Union and allow countries with similar sized economies all over the world to trade with each other, that way the risk is low, and each country will only buy and sell what they can afford to…

  30. avatar
    Marco Peel

    All the political parties seem to be completely lost.
    GDP doesn’t distinguish between schools or prisons, bombs or hospitals, good or bad. It doesn’t measure progress or wellbeing, just money, irrespective of how it is made or distributed.
    On the other hand, the dependence on cheap labour and mass production from the industrial age is outdated, as we no longer require them to produce effectively what we need in the information age.
    Furthermore, why should we compete with countries or companies that do not guarantee fair labour practices, human rights and environmental protection? They don’t play by the same rules. Free trade doesn’t work unless it is also fair.

  31. avatar
    George Singleton

    Thats easy..Stop stealing the money from the Europeans and leave the economy run.Dont pay rappresentatives and parliaments .Use the technilogy to leave the Europeans decide by themselves the policies and not the banksters…

  32. avatar
    George Singleton

    Create a real justice system without intervenctions from the politics and make the banking system trasparent and being controlled by the citizens…Stop making laws financed by lobbies..

  33. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    europa più competitiva o europei più felici . La competitività in piccole dosi più essere stimolante ma in questo sistema globalizzato (imposto ) la competitività è micidiale passa sopra i cadaveri della gente.e chi sopravvive non è felice. Europei più felici o competitività ( al ribasso ) globalizzata ??? Questo è il punto ! Bisogna RIMETTERE la vita e la dignità umana al di sopra di tutto, che non è la competitività . Prima che inventassero la UE e il sistema globalizzato avevamo una vita felice , quella rivogliamo, il resto è solo potere ( e neanche felicità ) per i grandi capitalisti

  34. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    The EU cannot become competitive, it is an outdated relic of the last century and as no place in this one.

    Nations States however can become competitive, but only by leaving the pointless EU.

  35. avatar
    Luis Garcia

    Life is NOT a competition. Why we need became “homo economicus”?? we are people, not raw material. The economy would work for us, and not we for it, and basically it s a wrog question and a stupid idea. Economy is not a science or a God to govern us.Currently the 47% of jobs in America are repaceable by robots or programs. Now. Just wait ten years. What means competition so?

  36. avatar
    Mugur Cristian

    why Europe should be ‘globally competitive’?? what is this? is it a contest or what? we could be all winners. no need for a global competition?

  37. avatar
    Mugur Cristian

    why Europe should be ‘globally competitive’?? what is this? is it a contest or what? we could be all winners. no need for a global competition?

  38. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    Global competitiveness means producing things at lower and lower cost, ie with fewer jobs, less salary, more work for the same pay, or with more efficient production processes.
    And why?
    So investors can have higher returns on their investments. :P

    I think Europe should reclaim all the money hidden in the offshore paradises and create jobs and produce high quality products instead of mass garbage – and do this based on fair and equitable economic conduct, observing the principles of sustainable development.

  39. avatar
    cliff brown

    There is no way that the EU can be competitive with 28 countries all having their own interests. The proof is that employment in europe is twice that of the UK and youth unemployment almost 10 times. when the UK economy was performing better than any other EU country what did the EU do it find the UK £1.2 billion.
    This is economic madness

  40. avatar
    Roy Singh

    Yes, it’s really Hard cause the Chinese market (and Asia as a whole) is BIGGER than the European Market so the European companies preffer to produce in China and sell in the Chinese Market and Asia. They cant do this if they were producing in Europe cause they wouldn’t be able to compete.

  41. avatar

    For me it comes down to basic economics. Each country have different fiscal policies, but to share the 1 Euro currency is utterly insane. The poorer countries cant be competitive as they have high Euro currency, and the rich countries will slowly go bankrupt for bailing out poorer countries. Is it only me that sees this? I see hidden inflation at over 100% in Europe, and why the people are not angry I dont understand? The average salary Europene get compared to cost of living is outrageous and only harm the people. Only the very rich benefit, Im angry for the people, and Im angry how they are not getting looked after. Wake up and fight for your right of living, way of life and basic needs!

    To be competitive you also need good policies inorder to nurture philosopical thoughts and ideas. If people are too busy finding their next meal, what time do they have to innovate? Every person should also have the right to higher education. How can you build your nation without the right minds and experience? Aint these philosophies based on your ancient forefathers?

    In summary, be cheap and competitive in every way you can to make a living and create jobs. Ensure quality and build brands. Most of all, have the right policies to look after your people….as the people will look after you in return!

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