Europeiska chefer samlades i Rom

Den italienska chefsorganisationen CIDA stod som värd den 10 oktober då den europeiska chefsorganisationen CEC:s medlemmar träffades i Rom. Läs det tal som Annika Elias, ordförande Ledarna och president för CEC, höll.

CIDA:s ordförande Silvestre Bertolini fokuserade i sitt inledningsanförande på chefernas viktiga roll i det ekonomiskt krisdrabbade Europa, där en stabil, varaktig ekonomi är en nödvändighet för återhämtning och därmed minskad arbetslöshet.

Annika Elias betonade vikten av att de nödvändiga strukturreformerna inte äventyrar det sociala skyddsnätet. Hon underströk även betydelsen av att vi under krisen även förmår oss att lyfta blicken för att ta in vad som händer utanför EU:s gränser.

Dessutom har chefer ett ansvar att stödja ungdomar att komma in på arbetsmarknaden, och väl där ge dem bra förutsättningar, risken är annars överhängande att ungdomarna fastnar i en ohållbar situation. I tider som dessa är ett gott ledarskap av största vikt. Med tanke på europeiska chefers relativt höga ålder framhöll Annika Elias betydelsen av att kvinnor släpps in på chefsposter på alla nivåer.

Gianfranco Polillo från finansdepartementet avslutade mötet genom att betona att Europa måste bli bättra på att kompromissa om vi ska ta oss ur krisen. I detta sammanhang bör chefers yrkeskunnande bättre tas tillvara.

Annika Elias tal i Rom den 10 oktober 2014

Dear all,
We are here today to discuss the crisis and the views of European managers, sketching some general remarks on the current situation and commenting on the various policy options that have been applied in recent times. The crisis has become THE subject of all political discussions both at European and domestic level, and the public debate on the alternatives available to solve it THE main source of distinction among parties. We are all so absorbed by the theme of the crisis and its internal relevance that we almost risk losing sight of the real essence of it and the complexity behind it.

But the events of this summer have showed us all the emergence of a bigger and potentially more devastating risk: that we forget the external dimension of Europe and the threats our continent can be exposed to. What happened in Ukraine last August put us all in the very uncomfortable condition of taking into consideration the event of a real, old-style war being fought almost at our borders. For a couple of weeks, we have even been faced with the threat of a military invasion of the European soil. And more recently, another danger has become far more concrete than we would expect: Islamic terrorism almost at the borders of Europe.

Our common reaction to these events has probably not been as prompt and determined as the situation would have suggested. We must not fall into the trap that to overcome our weaknesses we only have to focus on our internal issues. In the months ahead, should the geopolitical situation require it, Europe will have to demonstrate its unity on all the issues concerning its security and of the respect of its areas of influence.

As I said before, the crisis is the key issue of the current European political debate. The crisis, and the right policies to overcome it, was the theme dominating the recent elections of the European Parliament. We have all witnessed with surprise and worry the success of Euro-sceptical parties and extremist movements, whose electoral results are at least partly a consequence of the impact of the crisis on the lives of the most vulnerable. This is probably the starting point of every reflection on the policy responses to the effects of the financial crisis: the social cost of our response to the crisis has been high, and not always fully taken into account.

Mr. Juncker, the President of the European Commission said it very clearly in his opening speech to the European Parliament, right after being nominated by the European Council last July: “If, in the future, further economic adjustment programmes were to be introduced … I would like to see a very rigorous social impact study carried out before any adjustment programme is implemented”. Mr. van Rompuy too, President of the European Council, explained more recently that for those countries hardest-hit by the financial crisis, the “difficult decisions on budgets” that were taken “did take a cost on growth”.

If we look at recent economic data, the clear perception is that the economy is still on its way to a slow and very uncertain recovery. Other indicators of the general macro-economic trend, such as the inflation rate or the business-confidence rate, can make us consider that economic forecasts for 2015 possibly will need to be revised downwards. But there are also other signs showing that the structural reforms adopted by those countries most in need are starting to bring results: unemployment is timidly but rather evenly decreasing, and more importantly so is youth unemployment. From a broader point of view, the much-feared breakdown of the Eurozone has not happened, but it has actually increased in numbers  and overall resilience and credibility on international markets.

I will not linger any further on interpreting economic data, but rather comment on what indications we can draw from these figures. Structural reforms like the modernization of the labour markets, improving the efficiency of public spending, a better alignment of the educational systems to reduce skills-mismatch and better respond to the needs of companies have proven effective. They are helping those countries that have adopted them to become more competitive and better prepared for the years to come.

These reforms are an inevitable process that every country must undergo to keep up with the economic and social transformations occurring within and around it. The crisis has acted as a “catalyst”, making them an necessity; but it should not be seen as their cause.

From the perspective of managers, structural reforms mean adopting those measures necessary to obtain the best results with the resources available, with one eye on the future and one eye on the sustainability of actions taken. In this line, our countries still need to do a lot to further improve their educational systems, equipping younger generations with the competences of tomorrow; adopt a business-friendly environment where regulation is an ally to fair and sustainable competition and not an obstacle to growth; modernize public services, adapting them to the challenges of our times and much more.

But there is also another aspect to take into account, another side to be looked at. I have already pointed out earlier that the social cost European people have paid has been very high; the effects of this cost might now risk leaving permanent marks not only on the real economy, but also on real life. To put it more bluntly, the fact that so many young people are finding it impossible to complete the transition from education to employment and that when they finally get there, the quality of their employment is not sufficient, but condemns our youth to remain in this situation forever. We cannot tolerate this, as managers but also, and probably primarily, as parents.

Europe must find ways to restart the productive engine. I have found the engagement of Mr. Juncker to inject 300 billion € of public and private investments into the European economy over the next three years courageous and very much welcome.  We need policies that are capable of restoring confidence in the capacity of Europe to play and win on the global scenario next to both emerging and mature economies. This means increasing our competitiveness, but not to the cost of what I consider to be one of the very distinctive traits of Europe: its social model.

And yes, our welfare systems also need to be transformed and modernized – let me just quote the threat posed to our societies by the ongoing demographic trends, on which CEC has extensively worked in recent times. This is a topic of particular importance for us, given that as managers we are the professional group whose average age is traditionally higher. And at the same time the most directly engaged with the necessity to provide companies with new, trained human resources.

CEC has completed a study on demographics and its impact on the future availability of managers in Europe within the framework of a European project. The results of the study show that an increase of the average retirement age, combined with the enlargement of the “active” workforce by having more women occupy leadership positions, is the only way to reduce the risks of future shortages of managers. But we have to make sure that these transformations don’t touch the core of the model – protecting the disadvantaged, creating safety nets for those who need support, providing affordable healthcare and encouraging employment – which previous generations have worked so hard to put in place.

Europe is the common house we have decided to build together to be better prepared for the future This is a journey whose destination cannot be set in advance and from which we cannot come back.  The decisions we take now will reflect on how future generations will look at us and judge our choices. Let us make sure that when this time comes, they will think we made sure the crisis would be a turning point, an opportunity to seize and not just a period of deep, painful and aimless changes.

Thank you for your attention.



Text: Uppdaterat: 2014-10-24

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