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Published: November 30, 2004

 
 

Europe: Old World or New?

Lautenberg: Fernando is absolutely right about drawing our attention to the difficulties in the political arena. Our governments are very, very weak. Our societies are extremely defensive. Otherwise they wouldn't all vote for very extreme movements. There is a problem with our political establishment.

Pineau-Valencienne: Much of this happened after Maastricht. Those who signed the Maastricht treaty, who created and went into the euro zone, abandoned a lot of sovereignty. Interest rates are no longer a national responsibility; the amount of currency printed is no longer their decision. That has all been delegated to the European Central Bank. The value of the euro is also delegated. As a consequence, the variability of the employment level in an individual country, in effect, also has been delegated to the European entity. So the local governments are going to be weaker and weaker because they have lost a lot of their economic responsibility. If we had to vote today, I think that most European countries would say no to the Maastricht system, because they've lost the capability of immediate adaptation.

I think people would be wrong to do that. The easy game of printing more money, in the long run, doesn't work. And Maastricht and the euro were a big step into unity, which I think is very, very good. It does mean, though, that countries will have to change, and some are doing it now more rapidly than the others. But it's very, very difficult for the populations to accept these changes.

Habbel: That's one of the key things we individually can contribute -- to improve the linkage between the business community and other communities. I think working across boundaries and building networks that focus on common goals would be very valuable. We need to break down boundaries: geographic boundaries, boundaries separating politics and business and culture, and -- very important in Europe -- hierarchical boundaries. Building networks, increasing cross-boundary teaming and collaboration, will help Europe become much stronger.

We have learned from the restructuring work we do with companies that breaking down hierarchy is a two-way undertaking. General management has to listen to the younger workers, and the younger ones have to be active enough to seek out connections with senior management. That needs to happen in every sphere of life, so that collaboration across boundaries can improve the path forward for Europe.

Lodewijk van Wachem
Public-Private Collaboration

Wittlöv: I think Rolf raised the right issue when he talked about what we, individually, can do to support Europe. Too often, we think that to support something is to weaken something else. But making Europe stronger is not a zero-sum game. Rather, the game is one of total growth, and we've got to find opportunities for growth. That's one of the fallacies of the current outsourcing debate. It is possible for a company to be both global and European -- and to seek to grow globally and in Europe. We can do that in our day-to-day jobs.

But that will take real work for change. Over the last three years, I've been participating heavily in the European Research Advisory Board. It was started by the European Commission to provide independent, high-level advice on research policy and implementation in the E.U. A base for our work has increasingly been to support the fulfillment of the Lisbon agenda. In 2000, the heads of the member states signed a treaty in Lisbon setting the goal -- for Europe to become the most dynamic and competitive region in the knowledge-based world by 2010. That was meant to spur research and innovation, which includes how we educate young people. Right now, we are halfway through the period, but far from the goal.

 
 
 
 
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