May 28, 2012

Business Leaders Call for a Strong, but Focused European Union

Industry leaders and policy makers to discuss The State of the European Union May 31 in Brussels.

A new international survey showing executives believe the European Union should consolidate its financial decision-making, while a shrinking Eurozone and a two-speed Europe are seen as realistic scenarios, is the basis for discussion at a conference of business leaders and policy-makers at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels on May 31. The second annual “State of the European Union” conference is presented by the European Executive Council (EEC). Some 2000 executives were surveyed for the study prepared by INSEAD, the international business school, Booz & Company, and the EEC. The conference will be streamed live online at Follow the conference on Twitter (@StateoftheEU and #stateoftheeu).

The State of the European Union 2012 will feature keynote addresses by Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy, Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia and Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD.  Throughout the day, panels will cover five themes: rising to the European economic challenge, reshaping Europe’s social model, re-inventing the European policies on innovation and technology, redirecting Europe’s youth policies, and Europe as seen by emerging countries.

“I founded The State of the European Union two years ago to allow multinationals to express their pro-European opinions. In these challenging times, the leaders of multinationals are better positioned than anyone to bring ideas to improve European competitiveness and “revitalise the European Dream”, said Denis Zervudacki, Founder of The State of the European Union.

Across the board, business executives believe in the power and future of Europe, even though nearly half is worried or concerned about the current situation. Corporate leaders believe that the solution to the current crisis lies in transferring more power to EU authorities, especially when it comes to monetary, budgetary and fiscal issues. The EU should focus on austerity and discipline states that do not manage to balance their budgets, however, austerity measures should always be coupled with a convincing growth strategy. More than 30% of the participating executives advocate a smaller Eurozone: deeper integration within a core group is seen as a pragmatic solution to the current issues.

Dipak Jain, Dean of INSEAD, commented “Maintaining strong relationships between business leaders, political figures and academia is crucial for the future of Europe. INSEAD is proud to be a major sponsor and the knowledge partner of The State of the European Union 2012 edition. This conference is helping create bridges between the public and private perspectives through constructive dialogues.”

The State of the European Union is an annual conference that provides a platform for senior representatives of the business community to share their experiences and visions of Europe and to discuss their outlook with leading decision-makers. It is supported by more than 50 major corporations, whose leaders will detail what they feel needs to be done in order to re-launch growth in Europe.

The business leaders surveyed say that Europe must also be more ambitious. Respondents applaud Europe for its investments in “hardware” (e.g. IT, transport), but they think Europe should be equally ambitious in terms of “humanware” and “software” (education and training). The EU has outstanding human capital, we often lack the self-confidence to fully acknowledge and leverage this strength. Further harmonising of regulations and continuing the development of a single European market would support in making Europe the agile, innovative economy it needs to be.

Per-Ola Karlsson, Senior Vice-President & Managing Director Europe of Booz & Company, co-author of the study, said “It is important to note that, despite the current crisis, business leaders have a deep-rooted belief in the European Union. They also have a clear view on what direction the EU should take: deeper integration in the monetary, fiscal and budgetary fields, greater flexibility of the social systems and wider structural reforms that are required to maintain solvency of the countries. If we, as businesses, governments and individuals work to make these ideas a reality, Europe’s competitiveness will be restored, sustained and improved over the coming decades.”

David Earnshaw, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, co-organiser of The State of the European Union conference explained, “In a period of deeply divided opinions on Europe and with today’s tremendous speed of change, The State of the European Union allows for different perspectives to be heard, developed and to coalesce. The State of The European Union is one of the best opportunities for business leaders and policy-makers to share their expertise, to interact, and to be confronted with diverging opinions and views on the future of the European Project.”

The business leaders present will participate actively in the debates by way of a voting system showing immediate results. They will also be asked directly what their position is towards the growth issue.

This year’s Annual Forum of The State of the European Union will be hosted by INSEAD, Booz & Company., the European Executive Council and Burson-Marsteller.