Has Europe Forgotten its Strength?
In a recent speech, referring to tackling the economic downturn, Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Economic, Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn stated : “If we would have a silver bullet, we would already fire one”.
Given that Europe’s problem is not only connected to the financial mismanagement but also to its competitiveness, Europeans may feel as standing at the point where some try to re-invent the wheel. Now, when the question about financial growth is on the table, it is high time to remember where Europe is strong already.
“We obviously don’t have a silver bullet. So we need consistent policies, which will make it for the public finances on a solid longer term balance,” added Rehn’s colleague in the European Commission commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik.
In Brussels, within the EU institutions’ settlement, one can observe two strands in introducing future solutions. Sometimes you need just to cross the street to see the different picture. On the dramatic side there is Europe thinking what to do with its irresponsible parts, leaders struggling to find one single straightforward solution, and look for the prospects for growth. On the other side, one may see sustainability as an objective.
“For me, those two stories will be always consistent and when you are in the position, that you are forced to do systemic changes, why not do that in the way that it actually benefits the two facets of the coin. For me it makes sense and I think that this will be a story that will be much heard in the future,” Potočnik said.
At this point, the story comes back to the need for competitiveness. It is widely agreed that, in order to succeed, Europe needs to vary its activities in different sectors such as youth employment ad resource management. And systemic changes are hereby needed.
“For example, move to knowledge economy, that is research, innovation, everything that we are so strong in Europe. But sometimes we speak more than we actually do. And I think we have still to sincerely start to invest in those things and try to move them ahead,” Potočnik asserted.
Potočnik’s main task, however, lies in managing resource efficiency.
“In these days we see prices going sky high and companies expect that this trend continues. Being very much dependent on resources’ imports, Europe’s real core issue is competitiveness.
Here the stories go together. We believe that these two things match. The environment is still seen as an obstacle to future growth, I claim the contrary,” Potočnik argued.
Commissioner Potočnik admits that some transformations will be costly and, consequently, some companies will entangle problems and downturns.
“I am always trying to be clear, that if they do not do that now, these companies will anyway have to adapt,” said the commissioner. Otherwise, there will be more global winners and more European losers. Transforming production and consumption patterns is inevitable, the commissioner pointed out.
In his opinion, the basic issue lies in understanding what is happening. Ergo, Europe needs to strengthen science and knowledge. “It’s like with the climate change debate, the only question that you have to ask yourself is: is it a reality? Because, if the answer there is yes, a lot will be easier, but if you start with the <<yes, but…>> argument you will be swimming in different waters of conclusions”.
Potocnik’s issues will be high on the agenda at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20-22.