Certainly, the union's putative advantages are profound. With 455 million people and 9.6 billion in GDP, the E.U. is now the world's largest trading bloc. At the same time, its challenges are severe. With organic population growth near zero and falling, the ability of the original "E.U. 15" to support some of the world's most generous welfare systems is increasingly constrained. Although the 10 newest members are growing rapidly, their GDP is a fraction of their neighbors', impinging on their ability to invest in infrastructure development and education.
Can the new Europe, this set of once-fragmented nations sewn together after centuries of war, work together to spur innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth? Strategy+business invited members of Booz Allen Hamilton's European Advisory Board to debate the opportunities -- and the challenges. The participants were:
Fedele Confalonieri, the chairman of Mediaset SpA, Italy's leading commercial television company. He is a member of the board of directors of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA, the country's leading publishing group, and of the daily newspaper Il Giornale.
Claus Helbig, chairman of the German bank Bankhaus August Lenz & Co. AG and chairman of the real estate company GLL Real Estate Partners GmbH. Educated as a lawyer, he is the former chief financial officer of Munich Reinsurance Company.
Willy R. Kissling, the former chief executive and current board president of the Unaxis Corporation, the Swiss technology company. He is the vice chairman of Holcim Ltd., a leading global cement company, and serves on the boards of Forbo Holding AG, Schneider SA, and Kuehne & Nagel International AG.
Alexis Lautenberg, the Swiss ambassador to Italy, and an expert in trade policy and European integration. He previously spent seven years as the Swiss ambassador to the European Community in Brussels.
Didier Pineau-Valencienne, the former chairman and chief executive of Schneider Electric SA, the French power company, who currently is a senior advisor to Credit Suisse First Boston and the chairman of the private equity fund PEP. A member of numerous boards, he serves on the board of overseers of Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business.
Lodewijk Christiaan van Wachem, who spent 50 years with the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, rising to the position of president, and then chairman of the supervisory board. He has served on numerous boards, including those of Akzo Nobel, Bayer, BMW, and IBM, and currently serves on the board of Royal Philips NV, the Dutch electronics company.
Arne Wittlöv, who spent 20 years at the Swedish transportation company Volvo, retiring in 2001 as group executive vice president with responsibility for technology. He is chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and chairman of Göteborg University.
Joining the conversation from the global strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton were Vice President Shumeet Banerji, the managing partner of the London office; Vice President Christian Burger, a Munich-based partner specializing in organization and change leadership; Senior Vice President Rolf Habbel, who directs the firm's European business; Vice President Torbjorn Kihlstedt, the managing partner for the Nordic region; Vice President Bertrand Kleinmann, the managing partner for France; Helmut Meier, a senior vice president based in Düsseldorf, Germany, and Vienna, Austria; Senior Vice President Peter Mensing, the managing partner for the Netherlands; and Fernando Napolitano, the managing partner for Italy.