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!
Well, 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.
The 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.
We 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.
On 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):
[…] 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).
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Aurorion
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