Stale Economic Policy Debates In Europe Indicate Inability To Reverse Historic Decline Unions want jobs without any consideration about sectors and competitiveness. Employers speak with a tired voice

WASHINGTON – A debate on French TV (France 24) featuring Pieter Timmermans, head of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium, and Bernadette Segol, General Secretary of the European Trade Unions Confederation, provided a depressing prospect of Europe’s chances to become once again globally competitive. 

The debate

The Union leader had a simple and frankly silly message: stop austerity measures, and spend money to create new, well-paying jobs, now. Just like that.

Mr. Timmermans in a somewhat tired voice tried to point out that good, sustainable employment is the result of innovative and competitive corporations. He tried to say that Europe-wide public policies should promote an environment in which innovation is not just possible, but actively encouraged. Non competitive industries –he said–struggle. They do not add jobs. They fire workers.

He also pointed out that Europe does not have an energy policy aimed at increasing supply and hopefully lowering costs. Indeed, the high cost of energy hurts European companies, as energy is a significant operating cost in many manufacturing operations. In other countries, such as the US, lower energy costs increase competitiveness.

Jobs can be created

Well, the Union leader was unfazed. Europe needs jobs, and jobs can and should be created. No mention whatsoever about the challenges of low-cost and/or more productive workers in other countries. Not even a passing comment on the impact of globalization on Europe’s competitiveness or lack thereof.

One can only conclude that, according to her, employment creation is simply a matter of good will. If you want to do it, it will happen. If it does not happen, then it means that mean-spirited companies do not want to do the right thing.

Inability to focus on the issues

If this is indeed the level of the debate in a Continent that (with due exceptions, especially in the North) is slowly descending into decline because of low productivity, high labor costs and extremely expensive welfare programs, then I see no hope for a vigorous economic renaissance.

Eventually, the smart European entrepreneurs will move elsewhere, while the Unions will keep demanding new jobs that nobody will want to create.

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