We’ve already lost the present; let’s not forsake the future

First of all, I should like to excuse the pessimistic title as my readers know this is not the general tone of my articles. In fact, I am quoting my good friend, Axel Olesen, President of Next Nordics, a Danish prospection and futures company, in talking about the state of current affairs in Europe. I am sorry to say that I must agree with him.

As a staunch proponent of European integration and of the need to consolidate a political, economic and social zone strong enough to allow for competitive dialogue with the rest of the world, it is with a heavy heart that I am witness to a leaderless and directionless Europe, incapable of establishing its role in the new scenario. Indeed, Europe is in the hands of 'bean counters', simple accountants who are evidently at a loss as to what to do or where to go in future, and who sadly have little respect for the identities of nations and regions of our Union. This, I feel, is the root cause for "having lost" the present. 

The truth is that we are arrogant and presumptuous by continuing to see Europe as the centre of the world. How wrong we are! One need only attend any international forum anywhere in the world to find evidence that the Europe we once knew as an economic motor is definitely on the wane and that emerging countries no longer look to us as a model to be followed.

As I reflect on this issue, I am reminded of something I wrote years ago in an MBA exam paper about the case of Polaroid vs. Kodak patent battle: "I was so proud of my work. I considered it so immutable and true, that I neglected to take a look around me. Had I done so, I might have easily understood that the world and my work were on diverging paths."

According to projections by international organisms, Europe, China and the USA will all be on par in terms of global GDP three years from now. This has never occurred in the last few hundred years of world history. We really need to react, take stock and get cracking on a new European project which works towards wealth creation, social justice, education and knowledge; a Europe with a greater capacity for dialogue, both within Europe and beyond. 

My plea is that we not miss the boat to the future. We must ask ourselves, therefore, some hard questions as to just what Europe will live off this century and what our role in the new international order will be. Not only must we design and build a Europe that makes a clean break from short-sighted policies and which reinvents itself from the bottom-up, but the new Europe needs to incorporate the most notable differences found amongst its different nations and regions. Furthermore, the strengths and capacities of the domestic market must be boosted, and mechanisms to create value added in its industries and services must be developed, leading to a more active and noble dialogue with other regions around the world. 

In rebuilding and reinventing ourselves, we must start with our basic capacities at the foundation and create an unquestionable equilibrium of economic wealth and social cohesion; an equilibrium which Europe has managed to achieve to a much greater extent than other regions of the world. Additionally, another cornerstone in that foundation is our system of education and knowledge; by focusing on value being added to our products and services; by its capacity to transform knowledge into real products; the incorporation of technologies which converge with our traditional sectors; by co-operation with other players; and by devising creative business models. 

To sum up, we need to get Europe into gear and pronto. This will require committed and forward-looking leaders who can come up with solid projects which give people in society something to get excited about. In this sense, the panorama is quite disheartening right now with few, if any, leaders on the horizon capable of moving the transformation process along. Instead, what we have are bureaucrats, something we certainly don’t need more of. What we urgently need are people with passion, vision and conviction, who lead by example, as Gabriel García Márquez tells us: "Only by dreaming and devoting ourselves to living our dream, can we discover the true identity of human sociability."

* Originally published in El Economista, 10/06/2013

Sabin Azua

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