Katinka Barysch, Patrick Diamond, Anthony Giddens, Will Hutton, Roger Liddle and Peter Mandelson discussed last night at the LSE The Global Age: Europe, India, China. Marking the publication of two new books – Europe in the Global Age, by Tony Giddens, and Global Europe, Social Europe, also by Giddens, as well as Roger Liddle and Patrick Diamond – the speakers made some interesting (although in some cases vaguely aspirational) remarks about the future of Europe in relation to the legacy of the welfare state and to the processes of globalization.
Amongst them, I noted the following interesting points:
“Europeans want the EU to guarantee the survival of the welfare state – this is at the root of the rejection of the Constitution in France and the Netherlands. […] This does not mean it can remain unaltered: it needs to reform, to adjust to the new challenges of the XXI century, becoming more interventionist and investment-orientated. […] At the same time, we need to reclaim the concept of reform from the neo-liberal agenda, dissociating it from market deregulation and greater social inequality“. (Tony Giddens)
“The commonalities of the best-performing economies in the EU, such as the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain, are the following:
- High levels of taxation;
- Relaxed trade barriers;
- Reformed labour markets;
- High investment in R&D and ICT;
- Huge emphasis on educating the new generations;
- High levels of social justice.
These are the steps the worst performing economies (Germany, France, Italy) need to take to face the challenges.” (Giddens)
“The idea – very present in the political debate on both sides of the Atlantic – that China is stealing our jobs is misguided. Of the 390,000 jobs lost by the UK in the last 10 years in the traditional industries, only 19,000 were offshored.” (Hutton)
“The entry of India and China into the world economic space has really happened alongside the Enlargement process. Although it is in itself an important component of globalization, it is also an event which has distorted the Europeans’ understanding of wider economic processes. […] The fact is, from an economic perspective integrating two very different economic zones is very good. […] The benefits of Enlargement to the EU’s competitiveness in the face of the rising economies of India and China have been huge, thanks to the opportunity to transfer some production facilities in lower-cost EU areas (although less than what most people think).” (Katinka Barysch, from the Centre for European Reform)
My question for the panel would have been:
– To Giddens: Reforming the labour market in Italy (and in France) is easier said than done. Not even Berlusconi dared confront the trade unions during his mandate. Clearly Prodi is even less likely to embark on such a mission. The political reform process in Italy is therefore stalled, with too many fiefdoms entrenched in the power politics of Rome, so how do you suggest Italy should break this empasse and join the economic elite?
– To Mandelson: You, like many other Trade Commissioners before you, keep on repeating the free-trade mantra as the only possible way forward for Europe. So why should our agriculture be exempt from such rule?
– To all: You didn’t mention at all the Third Sector and the role it can play in Public Sector Reform – something the UK Government has instead given lots of attention to, including by setting up a specific Office to deal with it. Lack of time or lack of insight into the only alternative to the much-feared (when it come to PSR) business sector?