"Seven decades of peace, prosperity and progress in Europe represent an admirable starting point, but we need a European Union which addresses the questions of today - and creates the opportunities of tomorrow.
The social, economic and political challenges facing the EU - both internal and external - will remain, and likely increase, over the next five years.
This is why the following five priority themes are vital for governments, businesses, NGOs, decision-makers and citizens to focus on: 1) Free Trade, 2) The Environment, 3) Democracy & Openness, 4) EU Single Market, 5) Technology & Innovation"
Glen Hodgson, Founder & CEO
The European Union needs to promote, facilitate and commit to a rules-based multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Closed borders, tariffs and quotas harm all economies as businesses and consumers lose out. Similarly, we do not want to see a “Fortress Europe” but rather an open trading bloc that stands against damaging trade wars.
The signing of trade deals between the EU and Canada, Japan and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay & Uruguay) are excellent examples to the rest of the world. These can also be deepened and extended over time, leading to growth and jobs for all. Similarly the relaunch of the EU-Africa partnership is welcomed but needs to be underpinned by concrete actions and free, fair and open access to each other’s markets. The “twin continents” need to have a relationship built on trade, and not aid.
EU countries have agreed to put in place ambitious targets for reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 while aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. Lofty goals, far off in the future are one thing, but ensuring real action in the near and medium term is vital. In this regard the EU must lead and should use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for viable solutions to climate change.
The EU must also recognise the role of science and technology: utilising it to address environmental issues in a concrete way. Furthermore, sustainability needs to be in the DNA of all organisations as they work towards a true circular economy. At the personal level, we all have to take responsibility for our actions: making choices which reduce our impact on the environment and better use the resources available to us.
The need to promote democracy, fight corruption and address human rights abuses is vital within the EU’s borders, as well as around the world. The EU has an important role to play in both the online and offline worlds in protecting the Rule of Law as well as ensuring that free speech and personal choice are respected. Leading by example, sharing best practice and calling out abuses is fundamental to the EU’s purpose.
The internal market is crucial to the EU and should be protected and expanded over time. The four freedoms - labour, capital, goods and services - underpin the raison d’être of the EU and represent one of its biggest successes. Furthermore, completing a true Digital Single Market in Europe is essential: it will drive economic development, facilitate job creation and support SMEs. The approach here needs to be market-driven, technology neutral and supportive of interoperability.
Digitalisation and automation are good for the European economy, not a threat. What is more, they often mean that humans no longer need to carry out tasks that are dirty, dangerous and repetitive.
The role for governments here is limited to creating an environment that allows organisations and companies to thrive. This means allowing - and facilitating - the free flow of data, the lifeblood of the digital economy. Furthermore, governments should not be picking winners, but instead invest in R&D - along with companies - and be open to public private partnerships. Governments will also have a responsibility to get workers ready for this increase in technology and innovation. Education systems and training schemes need to be reformed to provide citizens with the skills that make them employable and ready for the workplace of today and tomorrow.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data also require an increased focus on cybersecurity, ethics and control over personal data. Governments and business will need to work together to develop the appropriate policy framework.