STATE OF EUROPE – A new action plan for Europe

09 October 2014 - 12:15 - 21:45
The anti-establishment “wake-up call” delivered by elections to the European Parliament demands urgent policy responses. Over the next five years, the European Union must implement a crash “emergency” programme of Europe-wide actions that addresses Europeans’ key concerns. The EU must be competitive in a rapidly-globalising world. The focus should move from austerity to sustainable growth-focused and job-creating policies. Citizens’ concerns about social and economic inequalities need to be tackled. Restoring Europe’s credibility and ensuring security must also be priorities.


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Session I - The challenges ahead

Session II - Competitive Europe: Stay ahead of the game

Session III - Sustainable policies: Greening Europe

Session IV - Social Europe: Putting citizens at the heart of Europe

Session V - Rebuilding credibility and rebooting security: Making Europe matter again

A selection of this year's discussants included:



It’s going to be a challenging five years - and Jean-Claude Juncker and his new European Commission team have their work cut out for them. Strong leadership will be required from the Commission but also from Donald Tusk, the new President of the European Council. The European Parliament will be a key player but much will also depend on the policies and actions of EU member states. Europe's politicians have so far done a poor job of engaging citizens and listening to their fears and concerns. What are the key tasks and challenges ahead for Europe's new leaders? Six months after many disaffected Europeans threw their weight behind populist, Far Right anti-EU parties, is there an EU-wide consensus on overhauling and re-orienting policies to tackle citizens’ priorities? Is the EU ready to put growth and jobs at the centre of a new agenda, replacing the focus on austerity? Will there be a new push towards a full EU banking union, with centralised supervision? Can there be are balancing of powers between EU and national authorities? How can a better job be done developing a credible, positive and relevant narrative for Europe to counter the simplistic and toxic anti-EU message of the populist and anti-European parties?


Mario Monti, Senator, Former Italian Prime Minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Mario Monti is an Italian economist who served as the Prime Minister of Italy from 2011 to 2013. He was European Commissioner for a decade, first as Commissioner for Internal Market, Financial Services and Financial Integration, Customs, and Taxation and then for Competition.

Introductory discussants

Bruno Maçães, Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs

A political economy expert, Maçães is a strong advocate of structural reform to tackle Europe's growth problem. He was Political Adviser to the Prime Minister of Portugal at a time when the country, one of the hardest hit by the Eurozone debt crisis, strived to get its economy back on track. He has stressed the importance of policy coordination in achieving better integration and urged the EU not to compromise its trade agenda.

Ulrike Guérot, Director of the European School of Governance (EUSG)

Guérot is an expert on European affairs with over 20 years of experience in the European think tank community. She writes about European Democracy and global Europe and publishes regularly on these issues for a variety of journals and newspapers. In recent articles she writes about a “European republic” based on solidarity, which makes democracy a priority and gives civil society a stronger voice.

Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

Europe’s manufacturing and service sectors face growing competition. Keeping ahead of the game requires that European policies focus on investing in people by improving workforce skills, opening up to innovation and investing in new technologies. What should the new EU team do to revive and repackage the competitiveness drive? What steps are being taken to complete the single market, especially in services? In the context of constraints for health budget, is there a risk that this sector loses attractiveness and that the European industry research and leadership may be weakened? What role can the “digital economy” play in boosting EU competitiveness? Will the signing of free trade and investment partnership agreements with the United States, Japan and possibly, China bolster Europe’s competitive edge? How best can the EU reconcile its skills shortages and economic need for immigration with the tough anti-foreigner and xenophobic message of the Far Right groups?

Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Competition
Almunia is an experienced politician currently responsible for competition policy at the European Commission. Over the past five years he has led the efforts to control the state aid granted to banks during the crisis and ensure fair competition between business and companies. He was previously responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs during President Barroso’s previous mandate.

Introductory discussants

Jean-Paul Kress, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Kress leads Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a French joint venture based in Lyon since 1994, develops and markets, in 19 countries throughout Western Europe, a wide range of vaccines offering protection at all stages of life, enhancing the research portfolios of its two shareholders, the French Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, and the American Merck.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President designate for the Euro and Social Dialogue, former Latvian Primer Minister

Dombrovskis was recently nominated to the new position of Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue. He is expected to coordinate the work of several Commissioners and work closely with other Vice Presidents to steer the ongoing reform of the Economic and Monetary Union, preserve the stability of the single currency and enhance the convergence of economic, fiscal and labour market policies. He previously served as Prime Minister of Latvia, Minister of Finance and Member of the European Parliament.

Giles Merritt, Secretary General at Friends of Europe

Governments across the world face the challenge of integrating environmentally sustainable and resource efficient policies with economic growth and social welfare. EU leaders have confirmed that “sustainable development remains a fundamental objective of the European Union” but a number of unsustainable trends are impacting negatively on the EU’s green growth goals and require urgent action: additional efforts are needed to curb and adapt to climate change, to decrease high energy consumption in the transport sector and to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and natural resources.  What should be the key green growth priorities for the new EU team? Is the shift to a safe and sustainable low-carbon and low-input economy losing momentum?  What is being done to promote sustainable consumption and production, for instance by encouraging moves towards a circular economy?


Sony Kapoor, Managing Director of Re-Define and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Kapoor is Director of Re-Define, an international think tank advising policymakers worldwide. An influential expert on finance, governance and development, Kapoor is also special adviser to the UN on green finance and a Strategy Adviser and Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics as well as a European Young Leader “40 under 40”.

Introductory discussant

Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment

As the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Potocnik is recognised for his strong commitment to the mainstreaming of the environmental dimension in the development of a more resource-efficient economy, as reaffirmed by his recent call for a 'New Environmentalism'. His leadership has been constantly emphasising how global resource constraints should trigger changes in the way the economy functions and in the way humanity lives.


Chris Burns, Editor-Media Director at Friends of Europe

The recent focus on austerity policies has done much to eclipse the emphasis on progressive social policies that were a feature of the “Delors decade” at the end of the 1990s. But stubbornly high youth unemployment throughout the EU, reaching crisis levels in southern member states, coupled with the alarming implications of an ageing and shrinking population as well as rising unease about labour immigration, is putting Social Europe back near the top of the political agenda. Should the new EU leaders tackle head on the goal of a European Social Union or is that an idealistic bridge too far? How can recent European Commission proposals on tackling the social dimension of the Eurozone crisis be improved? What are the key concerns of European young people and how can they be tackled?


Sylvie Goulard, Member of the European Parliament and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Goulard has been a Member of the European Parliament since June 2009. She is Coordinator of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee for the ALDE Group. Previously, she worked as a diplomat in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as at the Council of State. She is also the author of several works about European integration.

Introductory discussant

Reiner Hoffmann, President of Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), German Confederation of Trade Unions
Hoffmann serves as President of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), an umbrella organisation that manages German trade unions relationships with government authorities at federal state and national level, political parties, and employers´ organisations.


Giles Merritt, Secretary General at Friends of Europe

The incoming EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini faces tough challenges. Europe’s global role and reputation have taken a battering following the Eurozone crisis, disarray over the Ukraine conflict and discordant responses to the Arab awakening and the rise of the so-called "Islamic State". Meanwhile Russia's annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine have brusquely up-ended the post-Cold War order. As the US retreats as the world’s super power, is Europe ready to take on more international responsibilities? Are Europe's experiences in peace-building and crisis management relevant in an increasingly volatile world? Is the EU equipped to deal with the rise of Islamic extremism and terrorism on its southern borders? What needs to be done to re-energise EU relations with its eastern neighbours? Will tensions with Russia lead European governments to spend more on defence and take measures to improve capabilities and cooperation? What is the outlook for a genuine dovetailing of EU and NATO efforts after a decade of promises without much substance? Will the EU be able to pursue a common energy policy and reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas?


Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Former NATO Secretary General, Co-President of the Security and Defence Agenda, Trustee ofFriends of Europe

De Hoop Scheffer served as Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002 until 2004, when he was appointed NATO Secretary General, serving until 2009. He is now President of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs and Kooijmans Chair for Peace, Justice and Security at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Anna Terrón
, Special Representative of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, former Spanish Secretary of State for Migration and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Terrón serves as Special Representative and Spokesperson for the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean , a multilateral partnership aimed at increasing the potential for regional integration and cohesion among Euro-Mediterranean countries. Prior to that she was Spanish Secretary of State for Immigration and Emigration and acted as Special Advisor to Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on migration issues.


Introductory discussants

Ben Judah, Visiting Fellow at the European Stability Initiative and author of “Fragile Empire”

Judah is the author of the book ‘Fragile Empire: How Russia fell in and out of love with Vladimir Putin’ and a visiting fellow at the European Stability Initiative in Istanbul. His reporting from across Russia – including on the Georgian War in 2008 and the Kyrgyz uprising of 2010, has been featured in several journals and newspapers.

James Rubin, Scholar in Residence at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford and former US Assistant Secretary of State

Rubin is a scholar in Residence at Oxford University and frequent commentator and analyst on world affairs and US foreign policy. He served under President Clinton as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and chief spokesman for the State Department. He was also a top policy adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and acted as a special negotiator during the Kosovo war to secure the demobilisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Mary Fitzgerald, Irish Times award-winning Foreign Affairs Correspondent and European Young Leader “40 under 40”

Fitzgerald is the Irish Times award-winning foreign affairs correspondent. She began her career reporting on Northern Ireland before relocating to the Middle East. Now based in Lybia, she works across the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, reporting from countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe




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Brexit looms large on the EU's agenda, and with the tide of populism narrowly missing many member states there is a need to update and reform the Brussels institutions and make sure that they work for European citizens.


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Tel.: +32 (0)2 300 29 99
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