Business leaders call for less bureaucracy and more competitiveness to counter Europe's economic crisis
- In a globalized economy, the EU's complex tax laws and regulations continue to drive investment elsewhere
- Politicians within the EU need to synchronize national policies to take advantage of Europe's expanded market potential
- Greater investment in education is needed to remain relevant in a fastchanging job market
- More information about the World Economic Forum on Europe at www.weforum.org/europe2010
The five Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum on Europe, which opened its meeting in Brussels today, called on the Eurozone's political leaders to simplify bureaucratic restrictions that reduce Europe's ability to take advantage of its market potential, and indirectly contribute to the Eurozone's financial crisis.
Jeffrey Joerres, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Manpower, USA, pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty, which called for unlocking labour laws and investing in people, succeeded mostly in adding to the complications of doing business in Europe. "What we have done is to make things more complex," Joerres said. "Without simplicity, companies will continue to go elsewhere. It is too easy to move out of the Eurozone, and it is getting easier and easier."
Lord Levene, Chairman of Lloyd's in the United Kingdom, illustrated the point by noting that it took him six months to transfer his car registration to France, despite the fact that the car was manufactured in France. Levene said that Lisbon was supposed to define the structure of the European Union. "This is probably the only city in the world where we can get more than 20 people who understand the treaty."
Instead of focusing on bringing new business into Europe, politicians have wasted time squabbling about petty differences. "We have the wrong agenda," Levene said. "We have very able people, who are focusing on the wrong thing." Levene added that the advantages offered by the Eurozone, which encompasses around 500 million people, are being lost because many politicians take a theoretical approach to economic issues and fail to understand pragmatic business needs. "We have a lot of people spending a lot of effort producing reports," he said, "but they don't produce what we want to see."
The growing impact of populism on politicians was mentioned as another factor complicating Europe's response to the crisis. Joerres observed that unemployment in the US is just as high as it is in Europe, but the approach is much more open. People lose their jobs, retrain and move on with their lives and find new jobs. "In Europe," Joerres said, "that is a difficult message for a politician to say and get reelected."
Joerres added that his company regularly gets complaints that business conditions are changing faster than people's skills. "Do I train someone now for six months, or do I hire someone in Shanghai who can do the job right away?" The solution is a greater emphasis on education and job training, and less on poaching staff from other companies.
Over 400 leaders from business, government, academia and civil society from over 40 countries are participating in the World Economic Forum on Europe. The meeting is being held from 10 to 11 May under the theme Renewed Leadership, New Vision.
The Co-Chairs of the meeting are: Chander P. Gurnani, Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Satyam, India; Jeffrey Joerres, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Manpower, USA; Lord Levene, Chairman, Lloyd's, United Kingdom; Sir Martin Sorrell, Group Chief Executive, WPP, United Kingdom; and Ruben K. Vardanian, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Troika Dialog Group, Russian Federation.
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