The Brussels Economic Forum, held on 1 June in the Flagey area, was attended by a delegation from IME GSEVEE, where proposals and guidelines for the most important challenges facing Economic and Monetary Union were presented, while a text of reflection drafted by the European Commission for The possible scenarios of the Union’s evolution and the deepening of the European project. With this year’s title “Europe at a crossroads: ways of enhancing cohesion, integration and prosperity”, this year’s event was intended to highlight the awareness within the European Union and its institutions of the new role it has to play The EU in the new international environment, tackling internal contradictions and deepening democratic institutions.
Among the speakers of the Economic Forum were Vice-President of the European Commission, V. Bobrovski, Economic Affairs Commissioner P. Moskovis, academics, EU officials, ministers of countries, representatives of European institutions, research institutes and civil society.
The opening speech was made by France’s central banker, Francois Vileroy de Galhau, who put a special emphasis on the reforms being promoted in the member states in the midst of a crisis, as well as on the necessary joint step by the member countries. He also referred to the need to design and implement fewer but more important European projects and tools. The guest speaker, G. Soros, President of the Open Society Foundations, gave the conference a central theme on the need to transform the European Union and especially the Eurozone. Vice-President V. Drobrovskis referred to the significant progress and reforms made in the Member States under review and noted the value and stability advocated by the defense of the European Social Model through actions such as minimum income and the strengthening of youth entrepreneurship and Employment.
The main modules covered in the three thematic panels that followed were: inequalities, European integration and refugee crisis
The first section developed the dimensions of the phenomenon of inequality, which is expanding internationally. In spite of the best performance of the EU in this area (social protection, benefits, life expectancy, etc.), important challenges remain regarding poverty, the reproduction of inequalities due to reduced access to education and information, wages Gender gap. For example, we report that in the EU 20% of the richest households have five times the income of the poorest 20%. At the same time, 9.5% of the working population is considered to be “working in poverty”, while 23.7% of the population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion. It is noteworthy that the uncertainties about the economy, unemployment, business environment create more concern and fear of falling into poverty and unequal treatment (the appointment of a Bourguignon economics professor). In Greece, the absence of a minimum social protection grid and an institutional legal framework for failed entrepreneurs has pushed the risk of poverty and social exclusion to 37%. In addition, it was suggested that the emphasis on small business and micro-scale investments can mitigate the impact of digital transformation and job losses.
In the second section, Commissioner Moskovishi analyzed the problems surrounding the future and the prospects for integration of the European Union. Economic data on public and private debt, the financial sector, growth, unemployment show significant differences between countries, with Greece facing the most important structural and cyclical problems (public debt, unemployment, failure to exit markets). On the other hand, most private debt is in Cyprus (354% of GDP), Luxembourg and Ireland (over 300% both). Britain’s UK exit from the EU may also mark the redeployment of the European financial map and markets, with 46% of the stock value being traded today in London. Extensive mention was made by Economic Affairs Commissioner Moskovic in the Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union, which includes proposals on the transition of the European Union into a model of integration and deepening. The text of reflection, as a follow-up to the White Paper, supported three areas of intervention, which should be emerging as central EU policies:
– Complete a genuine banking and financial union, harmonizing financial markets and broadening funding instruments, with supervision
– Developing an effective economic union and fiscal union, focusing on macroeconomic stability and reform initiatives by member countries.
– Strengthening European institutions and consolidating democratic processes with accountable mechanisms at European level and balancing the powers that exist in various informal institutions such as the Eurogroup. In this respect, the institutionalization of the Eurogroup head as a quasi-finance minister of Europe would be a scenario. Indeed, in the first phase of operation, responsibilities could be attributed to internal security, defense and social policy expenditure. Some speakers have made particular reference to the need to harmonize tax systems.
The third section analyzed the impact of immigration and the refugee problem on EU immigration and labor market policies, and a brief assessment of the EU-Turkey agreement was carried out, which despite the problems seems to halt unscheduled flows of refugees. Today, when the EU is confronted with the aging and the natural decline of the population, migration and labor market relevance is a special challenge. The refugee increased the pressure on member countries, mainly Greece and Italy, and created a new immigration structure. 65.3 million people were forced to leave their homes, 21.3 million became refugees and 10 million people did not belong to any state (mainly from Syria, Iraq).
With regard to internal migration, in the EU, just 4% of its population is working in a country other than the one born, while in the US 30% of them work in a state other than the one born.
Faced with the international challenges faced by the European Union and recent developments, broadening the dialogue on the basis of the Union’s institutions is a positive development, but there remain many issues that seek swift, effective and democratic decisions. GSEVEE systematically monitors and actively participates in the public consultation on issues such as harmonization of economic policies, integration of small and medium-sized enterprises into the development agenda and a single European market, tackling critical international social problems such as refugee, unemployment and inequalities.