THE STATE OF EUROPE 2015 Addressing Europe's Crises: Policy Crossroads

Past event

State of Europe 2015


The ‘State of Europe’ high-level roundtable ‘Addressing Europe’s Crises – Policy Crossroads’ offered a unique opportunity for a large-scale brainstorm by EU Commissioners, MEPs and MPs, ministers, opinion-formers, civil society and business leaders.

The event took place in Brussels on Thursday 22 October and was held under the patronage of the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU. This event also marked the end of Friends of Europe’s 15th anniversary year.

This year’s edition looked at Europe’s many challenges, including the repercussions of the refugee crisis and the uncomfortable light it shed on the Europe of the 21st Century. In addition to dealing with the fall-out of war and poverty on Europe’s borders, the European Union must urgently implement a crash “emergency” programme of Europe-wide actions. This must address the critical need to move from austerity to sustainable growth-focused and job-creating policies, boost innovation to make Europe more competitive, and help meet citizens’ concerns on health as well as social and economic inequalities. Europe’s credibility is also at stake in its dealings with Ukraine, and in questions linked to global security and climate change.

Over 200 Ministers, senior policymakers, business leaders and top academics from all over Europe and beyond discussed these challenges outside their formal portfolios in order to help generate innovative solutions.

State of Europe 2015

OPENING PLENARY SESSION – Sickly Europe: Diagnosis and cure

PARALLEL SESSION – Future Europe – Regaining public trust in the European Union

PARALLEL SESSION – Global / Greener Europe – Recovering Europe’s global influence

PARALLEL SESSION Smarter Europe – Catching up with the ‘Digital Era’

PARALLEL SESSION Quality Europe – Building a caring Europe

PARALLEL SESSION Security Europe – Making Europe’s neighbourhood safe again

PARALLEL SESSION Smarter / Greener Europe – Defining Europe’s infrastructural challenges

CLOSING PLENARY SESSION – Mood music for a brighter future



IMAGE CREDITS: CC / FLICKR – Thomas Guignard



OPENING PLENARY SESSION - Sickly Europe: Diagnosis and cure
Expand OPENING PLENARY SESSION - Sickly Europe: Diagnosis and cure

Is the European project unravelling, and if so how can it be knit back together again? The strains being placed on solidarity between European Union as well as eurozone members are a threat both to the single currency and to the hallowed principle of free movement of Europe’s peoples. Due to the combination of the Grexit and refugee crises, the gulf between advocates of ‘more Europe’ and ‘less Europe’ widened dramatically this year, raising stark questions about the viability of the EU in its present form. What is a realistic diagnosis of Europe’s ills, and what should be the prognosis?


Etienne Davignon

President of Friends of Europe, Belgian Minister of State and former European Commission Vice-President


Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Introductory remarks

Kensika Monshengwo

Intercultural Training Coordinator at the Immigrant Council of Ireland

A conversation with

Frans Timmermans

European Commission Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal

Coffee break

Should the EU’s chief domestic policy thrust be:

  • Countering rising populism by creating a 21st Century ‘new narrative’ for the EU?
  • Addressing the widening North-South rift in the EU now being exacerbated by the Eurozone crisis and go-it alone taxation policies?
  • Tackling the widening social inequalities?


Monica Frassoni

President of the European Alliance to Save Energy, former co-president of the European Green Party, former member of the European Parliament and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Antonia Meszaros

Managing Director United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Introductory discussants

Zoe Konstantopoulou

Former Syriza President of the Hellenic Parliament

Hélène Rey

Professor of Economics at London Business School and Recipient of the Yrjö Jahnsson Award in Economics

In this ‘Asian century’, should the EU’s international priority be:

  • Setting an international agenda for global governance reform that answers the concerns of emerging powers and least-developed countries?
  • Re-establishing Europe’s leadership on climate change and sustainable development?
  • Up-dating trade and development links with key Asian, African and Latin American nations?


Franziska Brantner

German Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Pascal Lamy

Vice President of the Paris Peace Forum, former director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Trustee of Friends of Europe and Member of the Africa-Europe Foundation High-Level Group of Personalities

Introductory discussants

Assia Bensalah Alaoui

Ambassador at Large of HM Mohamed VI the King of Morocco

Jean-Pierre Clamadieu

Chairman of the Board of Directors of ENGIE

Christian Leffler

Managing Director for Americas, European External Action Service (EEAS)

Lunch break

Is the best way to close the innovation gap with global competitors:

  • By re-doubling existing EU-led stimuli like funding cross-border R&D?
  • Through a wider long-term strategy spanning education to entrepreneurism?
  • By ‘backing winners’ with subsidies and tax breaks at national and EU levels?


Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University, former president of the Republic of Estonia and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Wouter Verschelden

Author and Chief Executive Officer at NewsMonkey and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Introductory discussants

France Cordova

Director of the US National Science Foundation and former NASA Chief Scientist

Marietje Schaake

President of the CyberPeaceInstitute, Director of Policy at the Stanford Cyber Policy Centre, former vice- chair of the European parliament delegation for relations with the United States and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Amit Sood

Director of Google Arts & Culture

To address its deepening social challenges, should Europe:

  • Lay much greater emphasis on demographic changes and long-term labour shortages, even if that highlights immigration issues?
  • Fashion an EU ‘Master Plan’, however controversial that might be, to address the skills gaps and wider educational shortcomings now handicapping the European economy?
  • Invest political capital as well as resources in an ambitious new EU-wide strategy for narrowing societal and healthcare inequalities within and between EU countries?​​​​​​​


Nina Rawal

Partner and Co-Head at Trill Impact Ventures and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Introductory discussants

Jim Clarken

Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam Ireland

David Khougazian

President and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Nicolas Schmit

European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

Coffee break

For the EU to stabilise the refugee crisis and get the ‘security genie’ back in its bottle, should it:

  • Define more clearly the EU’s global and regional priorities in its new EU Global Strategy?
  • Focus on getting the balance right between “soft power” and “hard power”?
  • Tackle the security implications of weak integration policies which lead to marginalisation and – sometimes – of radicalisation of migrant communities?​​​​​​​


Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Minister of State, President of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs, former NATO secretary-general and former Dutch foreign minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Mary Fitzgerald

Non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, Trustee at Friends of Europe

Introductory discussants

Saliha Ben Ali

Founder of Society Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) Belgium

Ian Buruma

Author of ‘Year Zero’ and ‘Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy of Three Continents’

Stefano Manservisi

Special Advisor to the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs and AVSI Board Member

Faced with global climate change, its own deepening energy crisis and low growth, should the EU:

  • Press ahead with the €315bn ‘Juncker Plan’, and perhaps expand it to make it a truly ambitious ‘New Deal’ comparable to FDR’s in the 1930s?
  • Identify energy as the most important infrastructure gap of all and define priorities and timetables in an ‘Energy Union’ blueprint?
  • Further develop ‘green growth’ as key to the EU’s economic future?​​​​​​​


André Loesekrug-Pietri

Chairman and Scientific Director of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Introductory discussants

Ambroise Fayolle

Vice-President at the European Investment Bank (EIB)

Jan Mischke

Partner and Research Leader on Europe at the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)

Coffee break
CLOSING PLENARY SESSION – Mood music for a brighter future
Expand CLOSING PLENARY SESSION – Mood music for a brighter future

The King, the Rock Star, the Viscount, the Comedian, the Prime Minister and the Young Leader


Geert Cami

Co-Founder and Secretary General of Friends of Europe, and Co-Founder and Co-Secretary General of the Africa-Europe Foundation

Giovanna Pancheri

Brussels Correspondent at Sky TG 24 and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)


Etienne Davignon

President of Friends of Europe, Belgian Minister of State and former European Commission Vice-President

Shazia Mirza

Award Winning British Stand Up Comedian and Writer

Mario Monti

Italian Senator for life, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, former Italian prime minister, former European commissioner and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke

Founder & Managing Director of Women's Worldwide Web (W4), Senior Fellow for Women, Peace and Security at Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Henry Padovani

Musician, first guitarist of rock group The Police

In presence of

Philippe of Belgium

King of the Belgians

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