As the United Kingdom continues its slow and time-consuming exit from the European Union, ESCP Europe's Dean and Executive President considers it essential not to lose sight of the strong and compelling need to rethink Europe’s ambition in order to better relaunch its construction. The world will not wait!
For those who interact daily with economic and institutional decision-makers around the world, it is striking to see how no one can seriously consider a world in which Europe has no place, for one simple reason: who would want the rebirth of a bipolar world?
Current economic debates underline that the relaunched economic war between the United States and China combined with the emergence of their digital champions, industrial giants of the 21st century, is not sustainable for the emergence of a stable world where prosperity would be fairly shared.
The world therefore needs Europe as much as the other way around. A Europe in which the Union would be a driving but not necessarily exclusive pillar. As such, I am firmly convinced that the United Kingdom will have to find a way of remaining European one way or another: a Europe deprived of this great nation would be a historical nonsense.
Europe is needed in several respects. First of all, it is still one of the main economic forces combined with a strong culture. Although it recently became the world's third largest economic power (it was the first one less than 10 years ago), it is still the leading exporter of goods and services ahead of the United States. The voices of its main countries are still heard on the international scene. Its main languages are vectors of economic, diplomatic and cultural exchanges in vast parts of the world.
Only these assets are in no way guarantees for the world to come. No one will be grateful to us for having invented capitalism, modern science, or even democracy if we can only be satisfied with our past successes.
In this context, Europe needs to be put at the forefront, not the remnant of our concerns, and at the heart of our actions. Europe was built to offer our weakened and devastated continent a new lasting peace, and it achieved this feat. It must now find a sanitized relationship with the notion of power.
If the industrial revolution is drawing its strength from knowledge and data, then let us invest massively in education, research and training, like China and the United States. Not only through bureaucratic projects involving only a minority of actors, but by promoting the creation of European champions through both public and private funding. Every trip to China is an opportunity to see that a new university has come into existence! We know about the billions invested by the major American universities, both public and private.
We should not be satisfied with national actors competing with each other. The debate is the same as the one that recently agitated the Commission with the merger between Alstom and Siemens: is it better to cultivate competition at all costs and let national players fall prey to non-European champions? Or promote the emergence of new institutions capable of expanding into the world?
It is not just about competing with the rest of the world. It is also about promoting a new European perspective on the two major challenges facing humanity today:
The first challenge is technological. Can we be satisfied today with two hegemonic powers (digital, but also biotechnologies, artificial intelligence...) colonizing the world according to their views? Does Europe have nothing to contribute, both in terms of innovation and respect for mankind in the face of these upheavals (private life, bioethics, etc.)? Before speaking on these subjects, it is therefore necessary to be a champion in this field, with its extraordinary potential for knowledge, skills, and jobs! Otherwise, we will transform into the Greeks when they were overtaken by the power of the Romans.
The second is related to corporate responsibility: environmental, societal and social. Far from restricting performance, taking into account these imperatives is critical, as they are essential to the harmonious articulation of the economy and society. And who can deny that Europe would have much to contribute against Trump's America and a China that is still not very aware of these issues?
While the political debates in the forthcoming elections are once again in danger of becoming bogged down in strictly national approaches, it is time for the guardians of the future, namely the new generations and all those who educate and train them, to take the lead in truly launching a European Renaissance. After all, European academia emerged and shone when the nation states that make it up today did not even exist!