When people talk about Europe today, the discussion is frequently consumed by the sovereign debt crisis and the heavy price it is extracting from southern member states of the EU. This is unfortunate, because the success story of Europe as a guarantor of peace and stability gets lost in the shuffle – just like the region’s great potential to continue writing this chronicle of political and economic prosperity.
We must transform Europe’s historic success into a project of the future that will expand the scope from debt reduction and budgetary discipline to a long-range economic vision for the continent. Drawing on the broad technical expertise of Europe, particularly in the area of environmental protection, and the high level of education among Europeans, our continent can evolve into the world’s most innovative, resource-efficient and sustainable economy.
I see great opportunities for European renewal. But it will require a sweeping transformation effort to exploit them, an effort that must be rooted in budgetary discipline, structural reform in member states and the harmonization of fiscal policies. This will not happen overnight and will require an enormous joint effort . Nonetheless, I am confident that Europe can emerge from this process in a strengthened position.
While recently attending an economic summit organized by the German daily newspaper “Die Welt,” I expressed my thoughts about the future of Europe. It was encouraging to note the strong support for the continent’s future and its common currency – the Euro – being articulated by other business leaders.
Excerpt from an interview with Frank Appel about the future of Europe in “Die Welt” on January 17, 2013:
“It’s going to take longer to get the national budgets on an even keel again. When a problem has been 30 years in the making, it is not solved in three or four years. We have to face the fact that Europe is going to see relatively low growth for a longer period.”
“It’s naive to assume that the national budget problems can be solved quickly with only one measure. We have to assume that it will take a while. The European governments have been right to take their time to carefully work through the issues.”
“The early years of the European Community were shaped by the experience of a war. It was easy to say what we wanted: to avoid another war. The same goes for the Cold War. We wanted to protect western values. What’s missing right now is something positive to strive for. Where should this continent go? Where and how does Europe want to add value? It would be easier to hold a steady course if we could clearly chart where we want to be in ten or 20 years.”
“I believe in the vision of a federal state of Europe.”
“The fact is that the budget deficits in Europe have declined in the past three years. And the ECB’s actions gave the governments the time they needed to do this. That is positive for the countries and for the economy and in turn for the people who have found work because of it.”
“We have to admit that there will be transfers. We lament the growing gap between rich and poor in Germany. But the same is happening in Europe.”
“We have to be realistic. After the Second World War, Germany benefited from the Marshall Plan. The new German states have only developed as they have because we made the right choice to invest two trillion euros, which continues to this day. Of course not every place is flourishing today, but if you dropped into Germany by parachute, you’d end up in many places where you’d probably assume you were in the more prosperous part of the country. We achieved that thanks to our huge efforts. This is going to happen in some parts of Europe, too. We should take some pride in that.”
You will find the complete article at Welt.de (German version).