The Future of Europe - European Policy Summit, Roundtable
The State of Europe: Escaping the doldrums
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Videos with introductory remarks and photos are available here.
Thursday, 11 October 2012 – Brussels
The European Union (EU) must urgently create jobs for millions of young unemployed people across Europe, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said Thursday. Speaking at Friends of Europe's annual "State of Europe" roundtable, Barroso recognised the "fairness gap" in Europe and said the struggle to make Europe more competitive was not in contradiction with social inclusion. "We have to address youth unemployment as an urgent issue," Barroso said, adding that more progress was needed on the EU's agenda for growth and jobs. Reforms being undertaken by governments have to be socially acceptable, he said. "Growth is central," he declared, underlining that despite the crisis, there must be space for job-generating investments. A balance had to be found between fiscal consolidation, deep structural reform and targeted investments which create jobs. The Commission President said that while governments had given the EU institutions powers for discipline and control to tackle the Eurozone crisis, they were more reluctant to transfer competence for questions related to ensuring social cohesion.
It was little surprise therefore that the EU was not viewed favourably by the public. Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), said Europe was facing a "social emergency", warning that "austerity cuts do not work".
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, speaking in the session on Europe's role in a globalised world, pointed to increasing confidence in the future of the eurozone but said governments had to keep reforming and stay competitive in a rapidly-changing global landscape. The EU's partners would not be convinced by speeches alone "but by results", he said. Van Rompuy added that he favoured further exploration of creating a "central fiscal capacity" for the eurozone in order to stave off asymmetrical shocks. The proposal was not as divisive as people thought since the priority was to have a stable currency, he said. "Every currency union needs fiscal capacity to prevent asymmetric shocks," he said, adding that he would explore the idea further and report to EU leaders in December.
Over 100 other key EU policymakers, senior business leaders and civil society representatives met for Friends of Europe's no-holds barred, interactive and open discussion on the future of Europe.
The State of Europe roundtable is held annually. This year's meeting served to highlight the over-arching challenge of reconciling Europe’s politics of austerity with the need to restore growth, create jobs and tackle social inequality.
The roundtable was followed in the evening by our annual President's Dinner, which welcomed Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti as guest of honour.
Karel de Gucht, EU Trade Commissioner, and Conny Reuter, Secretary General of Solidar, also addressed the dinner. Reuter reminded participants that fiscal and financial consolidation have to be accompanied by social consolidation. According to him it is time not only to rethink the growth paradigm, but the logic which says that growth will generate wealth which only then can be redistributed, while in the meantime cuts in social expenditure diminish the capacity to react to social developments.