Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Felipe Gonzalez on the Future of Europe

by Carrie Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:17:23 AM EST

Last weekend, Spanish financial newspaper Cinco Días published a special volume to commemorate 30 years of itself and the Spanish constutution, from an economic perspective. The book includes a wide-ranging interview with former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, of which I have excerpted and translated the parts relevant to European politics. As González has recently been put in charge of a Committee of Wise Men to draft a report on The Future of Europe due in 2010, this interview provides a sneak peek into the likely content, or at least the orientation, of that report. Extensive quotations after the fold...


'La descentralización explica el dinamismo de España' - CincoDias.com"Decentralisation explains Spain's dynamism" - CincoDias.com
Felipe González
Felipe González
Presidente del Gobierno de España entre 1982 y 1996. Actualmente preside el Grupo de Reflexión sobre el Futuro de Europa Spain's Prime Minister between 1982 and 1996. Currently presides the Reflection Group on Europe's Future.
......
Hablaba antes de la evolución de la renta per cápita, pero como contrapunto da la impresión de que el peso de España como país no equivale al de su economía. ¿A qué se debe esto?You spoke earlier about the evolution of per-capita income, but as a counterpoint there is an impression that Spain's weight as a country is not equivalent to that of its economy. Why is that?
Cierto, no equivale. Tenemos un peso relativo mucho mayor del que hemos tenido nunca, pero estamos soportando algo que podríamos llamar, en términos suaves, una pérdida relativa de relevancia de Europa. A pesar de que, en términos relativos, nos ha ido mejor que a los países centrales de Europa… que a Francia, que a Alemania, mejor que a Italia… y de que nos libramos un poco de esa decadencia relativa de Europa por nuestra presencia en América Latina. Pero Europa en su conjunto ha perdido claramente relevancia a partir de 1989. Y ésa es una de mis preocupaciones para el informe que me han encargado del Grupo de Reflexión sobre el Futuro de Europa o Comité de Sabios, para cuya presidencia fue elegido por los jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de la UE en diciembre pasado. Padecemos la caída de relevancia de Europa, que, cuando desaparece la Unión Soviética, no es el interland de seguridad en las relaciones Este-Oeste. Padecemos esa caída, que se vio claramente tras el drama de las Torres Gemelas. Y también la pérdida por inadaptación a la economía de la globalización; es decir, por falta de adaptación a la revolución tecnológica. La pérdida de relevancia de Europa también la padecemos nosotros. No es un fenómeno específicamente español.True, it is not equivalent. We have a much greater relative weight that we have ever had, but we're enduring something we could call, to put it mildly, Europe's loss of relevance. Despite, in relative terms, having done better than the central countries in Europe... France, Germany, better than Italy... and that we have escape a bit of Europe's decadence due to our presence in Latin America. But Europe as a whole has clearly lost relevance since 1989. And that is one of my worries for the report commissioned to me [as part] of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe or Committee of Wise Men, which I was chosen to chair by the Heads of State and Government of the EU last December. We suffer a loss of Europe's relevance which, after the disappearance of the Soviet Union, is no longer the nexus [?] of security in East-West relations. We suffer that fall [in influence], which was seen also dramatically after the drama of the Twin Towers. And also the loss because of the lack of adaptation to the technological revolution. We also suffer Europe's loss of relevance. It's not a specifically Spanish phenomenon.
... ...
En este cuadro que dibuja, la inmigración aparece como una gran oportunidad, pero ¿necesita ajustes?In this picture you're drawing, immigration appears as a great opportinity, but does it need adjustments?
Sí. Necesita ajustes, pero no brutales. Tenemos con el flujo migratorio un impacto indiscutiblemente muy positivo en el crecimiento, en la sostenibilidad de la Seguridad Social, en la pirámide poblacional. No hemos tenido, o no tenemos por el momento, problemas graves de integración, probablemente por el tipo de colectivo de inmigrantes, como están teniendo Francia y otros países europeos. Tenemos que prevenirlos, y comprender que cuando se tiene un mercado interior sin fronteras hace falta coordinar una política migratoria común; si no, simplemente no hay arreglo. Algunos países estarán más apretados por flujos migratorios de una naturaleza y otros de otra, pero sólo haciendo una política migratoria común vamos a obtener resultados eficientes. El emigrante que está en el territorio Schengen no tiene fronteras. El problema, más que de demagogia electoral, es de desafío de la Unión Europea.Yes, it needs adjustments, but not brutal ones. We have, with migratory flows, an indisputably positive impact on growth, sustainability of Social Security, on the population pyramid. We haven't had, or we don't have for the moment, serious integration problems, probably due to the kind of immigrant population, as France and other countries are having. We have to prevent them, and understand that when an internal market without borders is made, a common migratory policy must be coordinated; otherwise, there is simply no solution. Some countries are more constrained by migratory flows of one kind and others of another, but we can onle obtain efficient results by doing a common migraiton policy. The migrant who is in the Schengen area has no borders. The problem, more that electoral demagoguery, is a challenge for the European Union.
¿Se refiere al contrato de integración, la propuesta electoral que hizo el PP en la campaña de las anteriores elecciones generales? Are you referring to the integration contract, the electoral proposal that the PP made in the campaign for the previous general election?
Se hablaba entre otras cosas de un contrato que implica la aceptación de las costumbres. En un país tan diverso como el nuestro no hay un código de costumbres. ¿Sabe a qué me recuerda? Al esfuerzo, y lamento decirlo así, de los Reyes Católicos y los sucesivos para perseguir a los conversos moriscos porque no comían carne de cerdo. A eso me refiero. Al 'oiga usted, si ese señor no bebe vino, no está aceptando nuestras costumbres'. Pero, '¿y si es español y no bebe vino?'. 'Ah, no, si es español puede o no beber vino, puede o no comer carne de cerdo'. Así que, espérese. Vamos a tomarnos en serio este problema, no vayamos a crearlo con una gravedad que no existe. Y además es un problema recurrente, porque se crea también con la política territorial por exceso. La emigración es un desafío europeo con sus pros y con sus contras. Si se ve Europa con el Mediterráneo se entiende mejor. En el Mediterráneo Sur existe todo lo que le falta a Europa, desde energía a demografía. Y falta todo lo que le sobra a Europa, que es capital, desarrollo… Y al revés.Among other things there was talk of a contract implying the acceptance of customs. In a country as diverse as ours there isn't a code of customs. You know what this reminds me of? The effort, and I regret saying it this way, of the Catholic Monarchs and their successors to persecute morisco converts because they didn't eat pork. That's what I'm referring to. To the 'listen here, if that man doesn't drink wine he's not accepting our customs'. But 'what if he's Spanish and he doesn't drink wine?'. 'Ah, no, if he's Spanish he can drink wine or not, eat pork or not'. So, hold on. Let's take this issue seriously, let's not create it with a severity that doesn't exist. And it's also a recurrent problem, because it is created also with an excessive territorial policy [referring to devolution?]. Migration is a European challenge with pros and cons. Seeing Europe with the Mediterranean this is better understood. On the South Mediterranean there is everything that Europe is missing, from Energy to demography. And there is a lack of everything that Europe has too much of, which is capital, development... And conversely.
Ante la polémica de los campeones empresariales nacionales….On the controversy on national [business] champions...
No creo en eso…I don't believe in that...
¿O campeones europeos…?Or European champions...?
No creo en eso. Vamos a ver. Europa tiene un problema, que viene de un error de diagnóstico en la Agenda de Lisboa diciembre de 2000 que pretendía que entre 2000 y 2010 recuperaría su posición de primera potencia económica y tecnológica del mundo. Si se equivoca el diagnóstico y no se conoce la enfermedad, se hace un tratamiento sintomático que no corresponde, y el gap tecnológico ha aumentado. Lo que tenemos es un problema serio de adaptación a la revolución tecnológica y a la competitividad del siglo XXI, como europeos, ya ni siquiera sólo como españoles.I don't believe in that. Let's see. Europe has a problem, which comes from a diagnosis error in the December 2000 Lisbon Agenda which intended that between 2000 and 2010 [Europe] would recover its position as the world's first Economic and Technological power. If you mistake the diagnosis and don't know the disease, a symptomatic treatment is done which doesn't correspond [to the disease], and the technological gap has increased. What we have is a serious problem of adaptation to the technological revolution and the competitiveness of the 21st Century, as Europeans, not even as Spaniards any longer.
¿Y su diagnóstico cuál es?And your diagnosis is, what?
Lo que me angustia de verdad es que Europa siga discutiendo del modelo social sin ligarlo a la capacidad o no de añadir valor del modelo económico europeo. Estamos pasando, inconscientemente, por una crisis que produce una doble fractura: la fractura de la sociedad industrial, por muy avanzada que fuera, pero vieja, que soporta la deslocalización inevitablemente, y la fractura de la inadaptación a la revolución tecnológica… porque hay que importar ingenieros de software hindúes para Alemania, que es el país de la ingeniería. Eso hay que ligarlo al gravísimo problema energético que tiene Europa, España incluida, como es natural, y a los desafíos que se han planteado. Si ligamos revolución tecnológica y desafío energético, podemos tener una vía de salida para ese comité que dicen que es de sabios, en el horizonte de 2010.What really pains me is that Europe continues to debate on the social model without tying it to the European economic model's ability to add value or not. We're passing, unawares, through a crisis which causes a double fracture: a fracture of industrial society, advanced as it was, but old, which is unavoidably enduring outsourcing, and the fracture of lack of adaptation to the technological revolution... because Indian software engineers have to be imported to Germany, which is the land of Engineering. This must be tied to the very serious energy problem that Europe has, naturally Spain included, and the challenges [recently] posed. If we tie the technological revolution and the energy challenge, we can have a way out for this committee that they say is of wise men, on the horizon of 2010.
El mayor hito de España en estas tres décadas es probablemente la integración en la Unión, que usted firmó. ¿Es ésta la UE que quería para España?Spain's greatest milestone over these three decades is probably the integration in the Union, which you signed. Is this the EU that you wanted for Spain?
Sí y no. Sí, porque si no hubiéramos entrado entonces enero de 1986 y se hubiera retrasado sólo seis o siete años tras la caída del Muro de Berlín noviembre de 1989, hubiéramos tenido problemas infinitos para la ampliación, para el dinamismo europeo. Y no, porque yo prefiero una Europa autocrítica, que sea capaz de darse cuenta a tiempo de que está perdiendo posiciones en la economía global. Eso me angustia, porque creo que el poder que hay que definir para Europa no es el reglamentario para decidir qué agua mineral y cómo la bebemos, o qué queso comer, sino el poder para hacer de Europa una potencia económico-tecnológica.Yes and no. Yes, because if we hadn't joined then in January 1986 and it had been delayed by 6 or 7 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, we would have had infinite problems for [EU] expansion, for European dynamism. And no, because I prefer a self-critical Europe which is able to realize early that it is losing rank in the global economy. This anguishes me, because the power that we should define fr Europe is no the regulation to decide which mineral water we drink and how, or what cheese to eat, but the power to make Europe an economic and technological power.
Usted fue uno de los artífices del euro, de hecho el nombre euro se decidió bajo presidencia española en una cumbre de Madrid, pero ha criticado la falta de convergencia en política económica. ¿Cree que el Banco Central Europeo y la propia UE siguen cojos sin un gobierno económico de la zona euro?You were one of the Euro's makers, in fact the name Euro was chosen under a Spanish presidency at a Madrid Summit, but you have criticised the lack of convergence in economic policy. Do you believe the European Central Bank and the EU itself are still limping along without an economic government for the Eurozone?
Sí, siguen cojos. Probablemente no va a haber una política económica única, pero tiene que haber políticas económicas comunes más adaptadas. Porque, con una política monetaria única y políticas económicas diversificadas, es inevitable tener choques asimétricos difíciles de gobernar. Los estamos viviendo todos los días.Yes, they are still limping. There will probably not be a single economic policy, but there have to be more adapted common economic policies. Because, with a common monetary policy and diversified economic policies, having asymmetric shocks wich are difficult to govern is inevitable. We live this every day.
En cada decisión sobre los tipos de interés.With every decision on interest rates.
Eso es. Mientras que no haya una convergencia de políticas económicas vamos a tener un grave problema de desajuste, aunque los beneficios del euro son indiscutibles.That's it. As long as there isn't a convergence in economic policies we're going to have a serious maladjustment problem, though the benefits of the Euro are indisputable.
La Europa de 1986, cuando se integró España, estaba marcada por el eje franco-alemán. ¿Sigue vigente ese modelo tras la ampliación hacia el Este o es multipolar, y cuál es aquí el papel de España?The Europe of 1986, when Span joined, was marked by the Franco-German axis. Is this model still in force after the eastwards expansion or is [the model] multipolar, and what is Spain's role here?
Cuando yo salí del Gobierno, el Gobierno que me sustituyó no creyó necesario mantener una relación especial, que no está en los tratados europeos, con Francia y Alemania, sino que se sumó a Italia. No lo creyó desde el primer día. Y también desaparecieron los mecanismos de enlace con la Comisión Europea, de complicidad en el sentido positivo. Eso fue un error en aquel momento. Y sigo pensando que es un error hoy. Porque Francia y Alemania no pueden pretender que Europa dependa de lo que digan ellas, pero el resto tampoco puede pretender avanzar en el proyecto europeo sin contar con ellas. Siguen siendo condición necesaria, pero claramente insuficiente, para construir Europa. Hace falta que el liderazgo europeo, incluyendo Francia y Alemania, se complemente con políticas más decididas de algunos actores más de Europa. Yo no pretendo que los 27 vayan por la misma senda, no va a ser posible, pero sí aspiro a que algún día haya un núcleo de cinco o seis dirigentes políticos que sean capaces de coordinarse con la Comisión y con el Consejo Europeo para marcar la pauta.When I left the government, the government that replaced me didn't think it necessary to maintain a special relation, outside the treaties, with France and Germany, but it joined Italy. They didn't believe it from the first day. And the mechanisms to link with the European Commission, to be complicit in a positive sense, also disappeared. That was a mistake at that time. And I still think it is a mistake today. Because France and Germany cannot pretent that Europe depends on what they say, but the rest also cannot pretend to advance in the European project without counting with them. It is necessary that European leadership, including France and Germany, be complemented with more decisive policies from some more actors within Europe. I don't pretend that all 27 go on the same path, that will not be possible, but I aspire that one day there will be a kernel of five or six political leaders able to coordinate with the Commission and with the European Council to set the pattern.
La Europa de las élites se estrelló contra los referendos francés y holandés de 2005. No parece que se pueda seguir construyendo la UE sin entusiasmar a los ciudadanos. ¿Cuál va a ser la aportación del Comité de Sabios para el futuro de Europa que usted preside, especialmente en los campos económico y social?The Europe of elites crashed into the French and Dutch referenda in 2005. It doesn't seem possible to continue building the EU without the enthusiasm of citizens. What will be the contribution of the Committee of Wise Men for the Future of Europe which you preside, especially in the economic and social fields?
Los ciudadanos no creen que la Unión Europea esté dando respuesta de verdad a esta sensación que tienen de pérdida de relevancia para su propia vida. Si se traslada a Francia, incluso el triunfo de Nicolas Sarkozy se explica porque el francés, como muchos de los europeos, piensa: 'Francia ya no es lo que fue, y no va a volver a serlo; pero no sabemos lo que va a ser'. Esa angustia, que es existencial, exige una respuesta, que no está viniendo del liderazgo europeo. Con ese comité Grupo de Reflexión para el Futuro de Europa o Comité de Sabios, que sí creo que va a ser independiente, yo pretendo hacer un diagnóstico de por qué falla Europa como potencia económica tecnológica en la economía global, por qué tenemos problemas energéticos muy serios -en no renovables por dependencia y en renovables por falta de I+D+i- y por qué tenemos una red de distribución energética tan mala, tan antigua, tan poco integrada; pretendo dar una respuesta a eso como a los problemas de emigración, de la seguridad y de la política exterior de Europa. Y pretendo convencer a los actores económicos y sociales de que el modelo social europeo, es decir, la cohesión social, depende de la capacidad de añadir valor de la economía europea, que el éxito de la segunda posguerra mundial es que el pacto social era el círculo virtuoso que hizo de Europa una potencia económica industrial de primera magnitud, con un fuerte grado de cohesión social y una gran capacidad de generar mercado.Citizens don't believe that the EU is truly giving an answer to that feeling of [the EU's] loss of relevance for their own lives. Translated to France, even the triumph of Nicolas Sarkozy is explained because the French, like many Europeans, thinks 'France is no longer what it used to be, and it will not be again; but we don't know what it will be'. That anguish, which is existential, demand an answer, which is not coming from the European leadership. With this Committee of Wise Men, which I do believe is going to be independent, I intend to diagnose why Europe fails as an economic technological power in the global economy, why we have very severe energy problems—in non-renewables because of dependence and in renewables because of R&D&i—and why we have such a bad, antiquated, not integrated, energy distribution grid; I intend to give an answer to that as well as to the Europe's problems of migration, security and foreign policy. And I intend to convince the European social and economic agents that the European social model, that is social cohesion, depends on the European economy's ability to add value, that the success after WWII is that the social contract was a virtuous circle which made Europe a first-grade industrial economic power, with a strong degree of social chesion and a great capacity to generate a market [demand].
¿Qué papel puede jugar ahí Turquía?What role can Turkey play there?
Mi posición fue que Turquía tuviese un estatus especial, con todas las ventajas de la pertenencia a la Unión, incluido el euro si se adaptan, y que no tuviese la carga negativa de un rechazo, por ejemplo, en un referéndum como el que ahora se han planteado en Francia para aceptarla o no. Sin embargo, una vez que se ha aceptado que sea país candidato y que hay que empezar la negociación, creo que hay que cumplir la palabra dada. Pero no tiene fácil solución en los próximos 20 años. Por tanto podemos crear frustraciones acumuladas de parte y parte, cuando se podían haber evitado perfectamente y haber habituado a Europa a convivir con Turquía con un estatus absolutamente especial, privilegiado, que al cabo del tiempo haría que el paso a la plena integración fuera natural.My position was for Turkey to have a special status, with all the advantages of belonging to the Union, including the Euro if they adapt, and not having the negative burden of rejection, for instance, in a referendum like the one France is proposing to accept it or not. However, once it has been accepted that Turkey is an accession candidate and the negotiation must start, I believe one has to follow through on one's promises. But it won't be easy to solve in the next 20 years. Therefore we can create accumulated frustrations on both sides, when they could easily have been avoided and have accustomed Europe to live together with Turkey with a special status, privileged, which after a time would have made the step of full integration a natural one.
Usted coincidió en Europa con François Mitterrand, con Helmut Kohl, con Jacques Delors… ¿Hacen falta figuras de mayor calibre que las actuales en la UE?You were together in Europe with François Mitterrand, with Helmut Kohl, with Jacques Delors... Is there a need for figures of a greater caliber that the current ones in the EU?
No quiero caer en la tentación de que cualquier tiempo pasado fue mejor. Cuando yo estaba en esa Europa también oía decir que dónde estaban los Konrad Adenauer, los no sé cuantos… Esos conflictos generacionales me tocan poco, entre otras cosas porque hay jóvenes muy viejos de mentalidad y viejos que todavía se mantienen atentos. Hay de todo. Lo que sí creo es que se ha perdido impulso en los elementos relevantes de la construcción de Europa. Se discute mucho sobre el reparto del poder, que siempre ha sido uno de los problemas de las reformas institucionales, pero sin definir qué poder necesita Europa para recuperar relevancia. ¿Siguen siendo autopistas o es revolución tecnológica con I+D+i? Y una vez que discutamos qué poder queremos poner en común, veremos cómo se reparte, pero no antes. Por eso el reparto ha sido absolutamente decepcionante para todos los ciudadanos. Le diré algo que parece banal. Haga el ejercicio de leer cualquier resolución del Consejo Europeo. Verá que son 50 puntos de los que por lo menos 40 son 'el Consejo Europeo lamenta…', 'el Consejo Europeo se alegra…'. Miren, a mí me da igual el estado de ánimo de ustedes. No les pago para ello. No se les puede ofrecer a los ciudadanos una literatura en la que los líderes europeos dicen si están contentos o si están tristes, sino cómo van a afrontar los problemas.I don't want to fall to the temptation of [thinking] the past is always better When I was in the Europe one also heard that where were the Konrad Adenauer, this or that other... These generational conflicts touch me little, among other things because there are young people with an old mentality and old people who remain attentive. There's all kinds. What I do believe is that impetus has been lost on relevant elements of European construction. A lot is discussed about power sharing, which has always been one of the problems with institutional reforms, but without defining what power the EU needs to regain its relevance. Is it still about highways or is it technological revolution with R&D&i? And once we have discussed what power we want in common, we'll see how that is shared, but not before. That's why the [power] sharing has been absolutey disappointing for all citizens. I'll tell you something that seems banal. Do the exercise of reading any resolution of the European Council. You'll see that it's 50 points of which at least 40 are 'the European Council deplores...', 'the European Council celebrates...'. Look, I don't care about your mood. I don't pay you for that. You can't offer the citizens a literature where the European Leaders say whether they are happy or sad, but how they are going to confront problems.
¿Cómo encaja el modelo de la UE con una globalización que ha dejado pequeños a los Estados, pero también obsoletas a muchas de las instituciones internacionales surgidas tras 1945?How does the EU model fit within a Globalization which has diminished the states, but also made obslete many of the international institutions created after 1945?
Nos vino Dios a ver con la UE. No se creó pensando en la globalización, sino en los desastres de la Primera y la Segunda Guerra Mundiales, pero de pronto nos encontramos con la sinergia de 500 millones de seres humanos que deberían estar unidos en unos propósitos comunes, y por tanto en el mismo viaje y con el mimo barco. Esto nos da una dimensión que si no tuviéramos tendríamos que construir para ser eficientes en la globalización. Pero la tenemos y no la utilizamos. Esto es lo que me angustia. Ya no es para evitar la guerra, ahora es para competir en una sociedad globalizada y abierta, para disminuir el gap tecnológico con Estados Unidos. Y con China y la India, que aprietan por la otra parte.The EU is a gift from Heaven. It wasn't created thinking of globalization, but of the disasters of the First and Second World Wars, and suddenly we found ourselves with a synergy of 500 millin human beings who should be united by common purposes and thus on the same journey and in the same ship. This gives us a dimension that we would have to build if we didn't have it, to be efficient within globalization. But we do have it and we don't use it. That's what anguishes me. It is no longer to avoid war, now it is to compete in a global ised and open society, to reduce the technological gap with the US. And with China and India, who are squeezing [us] from the other side.

Display:
I translate, you comment.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:22:27 AM EST
Thanks for this Migs.

One point, among others, which jumped out at me was his stressing that Europe was at a technical disadvantage.  That doesn't seem to jibe with industrial facts on the ground.  I wish I could better understand what he's implying here.

I would think that germany's export lead qualifies as technical advantage, and i believe the Euro's strength rests partly on an advanced industrial base.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 08:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he's talking about the gap that opened up in the 1990's between the US and Europe because the US were early adopters of information technologies and productivity increases accrued there earlier. Also, he claims that the Lisbon Agenda for "Growth and Jobs" was based on a misdiagonosis of Europe's economic problems. The Lisbon Strategy is based on the idea that unemployment and sluggish economic job is due to lack of "competitiveness" rather than in a combination of lack of research and development and erosion of social protections. And the policy prescriptions that follow are different. Lisbon:
This strategy, developed at subsequent meetings of the European Council, rests on three pillars:
  • An economic pillar preparing the ground for the transition to a competitive, dynamic, knowledge-based economy. Emphasis is placed on the need to adapt constantly to changes in the information society and to boost research and development.
  • A social pillar designed to modernise the European social model by investing in human resources and combating social exclusion. The Member States are expected to invest in education and training, and to conduct an active policy for employment, making it easier to move to a knowledge economy.
  • An environmental pillar, which was added at the Göteborg European Council meeting in June 2001, draws attention to the fact that economic growth must be decoupled from the use of natural resources.
A "competitive, dynamic, knowedge-based economy" neglects engineering, materials and even biotechnology. Give everyone a computer and they'll be productive! Also, "human resources" is business-speak out of place in the "social pillar" part, and they are also asking for "education for a knowledge economy". At least they get it right on the reduction of resource use. Gonzalez says
I intend to convince the European social and economic agents that the European social model, that is social cohesion, depends on the European economy's ability to add value, that the success after WWII is that the social contract was a virtuous circle which made Europe a first-grade industrial economic power, with a strong degree of social chesion and a great capacity to generate a market [demand].
In another question about "advice to a young aspiring entrepreneur" he talks about "leadership" in terms of being able to inspire a team of people, believing in a project, avoiding a mercenary spirit, and aiming not to satisfy existing demand but to create new demand (I suppose true innovation means creating entirely new products). He's also clearly a fan of the Social Market Economy.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 09:41:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Euractiv story I link to in the introduction itself links to this interview in the Financial Times on January 18
"The Lisbon agenda identified the symptoms of Europe's malaise - lower growth, loss of competitiveness, widening technology gap - but misdiagnosed the disease," Mr González said.

"Europe suffers from an extraordinary corporate rigidity," he said. "And I am not only talking about the power of trade unions and labour rights. There is also enormous rigidity on the corporate side. You only have to compare the rankings of US and European companies now and 30 years ago. Most of the top US companies today were not around in the 1980s. There is a lot of mobility: it is a system that rewards risk, initiative and efficiency and allows companies to succeed as well as to fail.

"In Europe, there have been hardly any changes in the corporate rankings. Business, labour and political elites protect each other. We stifle innovation. That is why Europe has failed to produce a Bill Gates. It is a cultural problem." Mr González said.

There's more where that came from...


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 10:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seen here on ET in the Salon...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 10:22:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe has failed to produce a Bill Gates

Better not!

Sorry, but my impression is that Felipe got stuck in a lighter version of Third-Wayism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:45:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In some ways, he did.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:47:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that Europe was at a technical disadvantage [...] doesn't seem to jibe with industrial facts on the ground

Can you expand on "the industrial facts on the ground" as you see them, with an emphasis on research, develoment and innovation? Also, he's maybe comparing Europe with an unrealistic or outdated image of the US, to which you can also speak.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 09:44:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, he's maybe comparing Europe with an unrealistic or outdated image of the US, to which you can also speak.

I was thinking about that as I read those earlier comments.  For all Clinton's faults, and there are many, during his tenure the US was a progressive, hopeful, innovative place.  All that came to a screeching halt with Bush v Gore and the fevered dreams of the PNAC and neocon hegemonists.  Whatever technological edge we might have gained in the 90s, we have squandered since then.  Now it seems the only sphere in which we truly excel is in bigger and more expensive ways to kill people and blow things up.

And I would argue that one of the cornerstones of the information age and the knowledge economy often overlooked is the growth of open source software and technology, the iconic example being the rise of Linux as a viable alternative to the Microsoft borg.  And I think it is no accident that Linux itself is the brainchild of Linus Torvalds, an unassuming Finn.  I suspect even a casual inspection of the pool of significant contributors to Linux, KDE, and GNOME, as well as the amazing pool of follow-on products and programs, would reveal the enormous contributions made by European coders and advocates.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:48:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not in question F.González is a true believer in Social Democracy. He however does not understand that Bill Gates ans Microsoft were a post-industrialist mirage.

Forget Bill Clinton's era. The real breaking steps were done before Microsoft, and were largely helped by DARPA. the real action happened from the late 50's to the early 70's, in a progressively liberalised US.
 Do you know what SF means?
  - until late 60 meant Science Fiction.
  - beginning from late 60 became to be Speculative Fiction
(engineers and scientists are highly respected, but the us entered an age of mysticism, with drugs contributing a little to that, but SAT scores were already decreasing since 1963)

I sorry for german universities. since they are so bad, compared to english and american ones, i guess people graduating from that must have real problems in creating gadgets that anyone else may buy.

Tell you what, i am going to create the best university in the world. i will buy the best young brains, and then claim that there is a trace-element in the water that makes people smarter, errr, innovative.

Finally: People who believe in mirages should not be selected as guides.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 09:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
budr:
For all Clinton's faults, and there are many, during his tenure the US was a progressive, hopeful, innovative place.  All that came to a screeching halt with Bush v Gore and the fevered dreams of the PNAC and neocon hegemonists.  Whatever technological edge we might have gained in the 90s, we have squandered since then.  Now it seems the only sphere in which we truly excel is in bigger and more expensive ways to kill people and blow things up.
Here's what González has to say about the Bush administration:

¿Cuál sería la mejor noticia de Estados Unidos para España tras las elecciones del próximo noviembre?What would be the best news from the US for Spain after next November's elections?
Yo creo que van a ganar los demócratas. La gran paradoja es que Barack Obama tendrá más dificultades para vencer a John McCain de las que tendría Hillary Clinton. Eso no quiere decir que no pueda ganar. En uno u otro caso, espero que suponga, y eso sería la buena noticia para España, un cambio sustancial para evitar los dos grandes errores de la Administración saliente. Uno, el de una política exterior muy errática, muy mala, que nos ha llevado a situaciones peores que al comienzo en todos los desafíos y en todas las amenazas. Y dos, en la política interna, en materia económica, por el desequilibrio que Estados Unidos padece en estos momentos y está filtrando al resto de la economía mundial. Es verdaderamente increíble cuando oigo a los grandes amigos de la Administración americana en España hablar de que no estamos haciendo bien las cosas aquí y que mejor lo hubiéramos hecho como George Bush, que debe ser su modelo. Eso va a cambiar, y también cambiará si gana McCain. Yo tengo respeto y amistad por Estados Unidos, pero las torpezas que he vivido en este periodo -hablo de torpezas, no de ideología- nunca las había conocido.I think the Democrats are going to win. The great paradox is that Barack Obama will have a harder time beating John McCain than Hillary Clinton would. This doesn't mean that he cannot win. In either case, I hope this means, and that would be good news for Spain, a substantial change to avoid the two great errors of the outgoing administration. One, a very erratic, very bad foreign policy, which has taken us to worse situations than at the beginning on all challenges and all threats. And two, in domestic politics, on economic matters, because of the imbalances that the US suffers at this time and which are seeping out to the rest to the world economy. It is truly incredible when I hear the great friends of the US administration in Spain say that we are not doing things well here and that we would have done better to do as George Bush, who must be their model. That is going to change, and it will also change if McCain wins. I have respect and friendship for the US, but the clumsiness I have lived in this period--I speak of clumsiness, not of ideology--were unknown to me.

When he says in either case is he betraying that the interview was made before the end of the primary season, maybe much earlier? However, it must have been already after Obama was well ahead of Clinton. Or maybe he means whether the Demsocrats or the Republicans win (given the comment about McCain also changing the way things are done).

The first time I read this I thought that "the great friends of the US Administration in Spain" meant American officials in Spain, but clearly he means Aznar's people in the Spanish opposition party PP which--interestingly--he doesn't name at various points of the interview even though clearly he refers to them.

And note the accusation of incompetence of the Bush administration. He's not so shocked about the ideology, but about the sloppy execution.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 02:01:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course my view is a bit jaundiced, coming from so long in the energy industry.  Europe absolutely leads in renewable energy, there's no comparison there.  There are only two wind turbine manufacturers in the US.  Clipper Wind, which has had a very problematic product introduction, doesn't come close to even the second tier European manufacturers such as REpower or Nordex in sales or revenue.  GE's wind division is of course a US company, and they have been the market leaders in the US nearly since turbine introduction.  But the turbine is designed and supported by the European design and engineering team, resulting from their purchase of a German company, Tacke.  Further, their new 2.5 MW machine is completely designed by the European team, and only available for sales here in Europe.

The solar industry also has European companies at the foundation, though Japan ranks as high as Germany, and China is expanding voraciously.  The salient fact in all this is that innovation alone doesn't cut it, one also has to build markets, and there the EU has shone.

It is European utilities like EdF, EdP (Portugal), E.on, Scottish and Southern, Endesa and others who are currently storming around making the innovation purchases in both technologies and projects, as well as taking control of greater parts of international grids.

The amurkan "lead" in information techologies is partly true, partly hype.  Much of the US investment in 90's IT went to a fantasy of the Web, while at the same time the steel industry collapsed, and manufacturing went elsewhere (though partly owned by US companies; partly means there is now also part local ownership.)  Across the pond, manufacturing continues in the EU, and is growing strongly, particularly in the eastern countries.

While much of heavy industry has moved to China, India and Korea, there are quality issues which allow a premium on higher cost EU manufacturers.  So I don't see the EU losing out there either.  The Chinese windpower industry has been exploding for several years, and there are now players whose installations begin to match 2nd tier EU companies.  But their turbines don't work yet, even when partnered with top EU companies, simply because they can't reach EU quality standards.  For industrial equipment, that's important.

One example outside of windpower: a local German company, Barmag, was a global leader in their field, making huge profits in China as well as their fabric winding machines were the centerpiece of the explosion of Chinese clothing manufacturing.  They went nearly bankrupt (or did they go bankrupt?) when the Chinese reverse engineered their machines cheaply.  Two factors resurrected the company:  one, it was eventually learned that you don't make a profit if the machines keep breaking, so quality counts; and two, they have innovated fabric winding machines for other technologies.

I don't dispute that entrepreneurship may well be a bit harder in the EU (from my own experience) but i also believe it is overplayed in the US today, a mythical relic from previous times when it was true.  The framework of the amurkan economy sets the stage, and one only has to look at the difference in products between US and other global auto manufacturers to see that the US badly missed the boat, because the US market prevented them from seeing the real market of the rest of the world.

On the R&D side in windpower, while i personally know many of the top NREL execs and engineers, and they do great work, it doesn't compare to what's done here.  They simply don't have the long term experience or infrastructure on which to build an R&D program.  (With the explosion of the US wind market, that is changing, but it will take some years of stable growth, which remains unsure, before the US begins to reach parity with EU research.

As an example of where infrastructure makes a difference in windpower, the EU has already pioneered huge R&D projects partnering the top labs and companies, to the level of some 60 or 70 concerns participating in the latest round.  These R&D projects are already based upon several years of major discussions which refined where the emphasis should be, and then they designed the R&D to meet the goals.  The R&D platform was based upon what the existing market and infrastructure demanded.  The US, without enough infrastructure to know what's necessary, is still playing catch-up.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:55:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe absolutely leads in renewable energy, there's no comparison there.

And, to Migeru, this is what González said in contrast:

we have very severe energy problems--in non-renewables because of dependence and in renewables because of R&D&i


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:49:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it appears we think González doesn't have a very realistic assessment of where Europe stands, let alone where the US stands.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:51:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also:

the fracture of lack of adaptation to the technological revolution... because Indian software engineers have to be imported to Germany, which is the land of Engineering.

Actually, the idea to import foreign software engineers was pushed by the IT business association, citing 10% of jobs permanently unoccupied, but more likely inspired by hopes of lower labour costs. However, even though already Schröder tried to put policies in place, very few people came - even Indian programmers want higher wages.

Also note that say two top programs, the anti-virus program Avira and the anti-spyware program Ad-Aware, are creations of German start-up companies.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 07:12:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent and insightful article.  Could we borrow this guy for a few years?

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:52:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent diary, migeru!

wise old men should be listened to, and i sure hope this one is.

he's zoned in on the three biggest problems europe has, imo, and shows acute perception and the knowledge of intelligent solutions.

in no particular order:

immigration...comments on meat, wine and catholics spot on.

energy grid and renewables r'n'd.... hallelujah!

turkey role vis-a-vis EU....a good reality-based compromise. we've dangled the carrot long enough to confirm moslem prejudice that we are looking for what we euros can get, while conditional on heavy conditioning of their own traditional worldviews by our own.

yet there are still good reasons for doubt about turkey's access, notwithstanding their progress, and their recent politics of electing a leader whose commitment to a secular governing philosophy is in question may be a result of what the turks feel is dithering on EU's part. Gonzales' option may well be the best for all, giving them a good taste of what accession wold be like, and 20 years to mull over the benefits and learn what they would be sacrificing millennial mores for.

i think it's obvious the EU has bitten off more than it can institutionally chew with 27 on board, especially in the field of immigration, which is heartbreakingly schizophrenic at the moment.

his take on the complementarity between the EU's and n. africa's needs are also on target. (sarkozy listen up.)

i sure hope the other members are half as wise...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:44:23 PM EST
Great diary, Mig.  Seems to me that Spain was fortunate to have Felipe Gonzalez to preside over so much of the transition from the evil that was Franco.  Would that we could do so well here in the USA.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:43:43 PM EST
You were together in Europe with François Mitterrand, with Helmut Kohl, with Jacques Delors... Is there a need for figures of a greater caliber that the current ones in the EU?

Yes. We need figures like them. Felipe González and Köhl were able to advance the European Union. Aznar and Blair did not. Today, with Sarkozy, Berlusconi, the Irish and British politicians do not walk in a manner acceptable. And Zapatero lacks vision and leadership. Yes. Figures are needed as there were before: illusion or interested in positive developments in the European Union.

by PerCLupi on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 04:34:29 AM EST
Interestingly to the direct question Felipe replies
I don't want to fall to the temptation of [thinking] the past is always better When I was in the Europe one also heard that where were the Konrad Adenauer, this or that other...
but in the answer to a different question he really says there aren't even 5 European leaders able to set a common direction:
I don't pretend that all 27 go on the same path, that will not be possible, but I aspire that one day there will be a kernel of five or six political leaders able to coordinate with the Commission and with the European Council to set the pattern.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 05:06:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be interesting to see what the Committee of Wise Men comes up with by way of proposals, if the guideline is what FG offers here: seeking a place in globalisation without the ceaseless "competitiveness" focus that has in fact been in operation all this decade (meaning, reduce taxes, regulation, labour costs).

A nitpick: it seemed to me what he said about France voting for Sarkozy, pero no sabemos lo que va a ser, is "we don't know what it will be". About which he may be right, for part of the electorate. Though, if Ségolène Royal had won, one might have said the same thing...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:29:04 AM EST
Right, I corrected it.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:36:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would also be interesting to see who ends up making up the Commitee (to be decided in September, I believe). In the FT interview he mentions that he wants to fill the committee with entrepreneurs.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:53:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The FT headline was rebel seeks innovators to shake up Europe.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:54:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, he may talk about issues other than competitiveness, too, but it is a recurring theme in the interview...

What we have is a serious problem of adaptation to the technological revolution and the competitiveness of the 21st Century

...and look what he thinks should be the new goal and reason for existence for the EU:

The EU is a gift from Heaven. It wasn't created thinking of globalization, but of the disasters of the First and Second World Wars, and suddenly we found ourselves with a synergy of 500 millin human beings who should be united by common purposes and thus on the same journey and in the same ship. This gives us a dimension that we would have to build if we didn't have it, to be efficient within globalization. But we do have it and we don't use it. That's what anguishes me. It is no longer to avoid war, now it is to compete in a globalised and open society, to reduce the technological gap with the US. And with China and India, who are squeezing [us] from the other side.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:57:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's fairly ambiguous.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 07:02:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries