How can Europe position itself at the forefront of global economic, social and political change?

This is the question business and political leaders explore in a report being launched at the opening of this year’s European Business Summit by the First Vice President of the European Commission.

It is particularly pertinent today as the European model of political and economic organisation is challenged by other approaches promoting different values and objectives.

These challenges come from multiple directions: political, economic and technological.

Writing in the report, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani highlights the critical role that technology will play in Europe’s future economic growth.

To harness this economic potential of technology for the region, Pieter Timmermans, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, writes that Europe must build on its success in adopting the Internet of Things in industry. The challenge, he says, is for Europe to become a trailblazer not only in Industry 4.0, but Business 4.0 – allowing every part of the continent’s business processes and services to be transformed by technology.

These and many other views show the importance of technology to Europe’s future as it grapples with multiple challenges to its political, social and economic organisation.


Freedom values

After 1989, there was a shared belief that values and principles such as parliamentary democracy, individual freedom, legal certainty, promotion of free trade and multilateralism to mention a few, seemed to be taken for granted as the normal path to follow. This belief is now put in question by other approaches both internally and externally.

These new developments reinforce the necessity to check our own model, to recognise its consequences on the political, economic and cultural levels and therefore to reformulate it. As one of the largest economies in the world, the European Union has a natural prominent position and a role to play at the global level.

We know nevertheless that this position largely depends on its capacity to develop and strengthen a cohesive internal leadership, on its own continent. The EU is a complex organisation which has to take into account different deep political and economic traditions, not to mention different languages.


Strength in diversity

The European area is deeply and inherently characterised by the idea of plurality: diverse geopolitical connections to the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Continental ‘worlds’ have emphasised national (and sometimes regional) visions of economic and political concepts such as the role of the State in the economy, way of conceiving power or simply the way to conduct business. The complexity of Europe is of course also an asset, of which Members States and the European people should take stronger ownership.

This unity and diversity can play a positive role amidst the many challenges we face at the global level. In particular, Europe must come together to further support sustainable technologies, innovative research and digitalisation. I would like to thank the prominent leaders for their enthusiastic and committed contributions to the report, which will enrich the debates taking place at EBS this year.

They all bring new perspectives from different angles based on a shared ambition for Europe. Over the past 18 years, EBS has been proud to provide the forum for policy-makers, business representatives and academics to debate key issues in Europe.


Arnaud Thysen is the Director General of the European Business Summit