WORLD European Summit: In search of the new Europe

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europa has the worst of it: the old world must lift the impending Brexit, prevent its own marginalization by China and America, hold its own in the trade war and fight against the economic downturn.

At the same time, Europe has the best in store: it has the opportunity to become a pioneer in the ecological revolution. It has a duty to uphold one's own values ​​and thus to be the haven for freedom and democracy in an increasingly polarized world. With its liberal lifestyle, it can become a magnet for the brightest minds in the world, who use their ideas and innovations to help preserve the prosperity of the continent.

It was precisely in this field of tension that the first WELT European Summit (WES) took place, organized by the media group Axel Springer (WELT, "Bild") in collaboration with the leading French insurer Axa in Paris.

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This summit reveals the spiritual division of Europe

Among the more than 40 directors and CEOs as well as the prominent guests from European politics, the hope was that Europe, despite all the challenges, would take the right path. However, this is associated with some risks, especially for Germany.

Many beloved convictions of the past decades that have made the country successful must perhaps be sacrificed in favor of a more united Europe. Both the sound German budget management and the German ideas of monetary or competition policy came under fire several times at the WELT summit.

Europe's new goal of becoming the third player between the world powers China and America in the future seems to be going too far. "A totalitarian China and an increasingly illiberal America are also a tremendous opportunity for Europe," Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner summed up the mood at the WELT summit.

WWG19-paris (02.10.2019), AXA Headquarters - WORLD European Summit In Cooperation With AXA

At the Axa headquarters in Paris top executives and state leaders met for an exchange of ideas at the WELT European Summit

Source: Julien Hekimian / Getty Images for WORLD

Also Axa CEO Thomas Buberl, who had initiated together with Döpfner the summit, pleaded for a new European self-confidence. "We are in a sandwich position between the US and China. The question should not be which side of Europe is approaching. We should rather go our own way. "

There are also two schools of thought in the discussion on Europe's future: Should the monetary union be more in line with the German model, which stands for stable budget finances and subsidiarity? Or rather follow the French model, which stands for a state of centralism, pursuing a targeted industrial policy and in doubt also makes debts in order to achieve their own goals?

France's strategy has many supporters

At least at the summit, the answer was relatively clear. Especially with regard to how Europe can advance its own industries, France seems at present to score more points with its interventionist and centralist ideas.

"I came to Paris from London in just two hours by train today. That was also possible because France pursued a decided industrial policy and invested more than other states in its infrastructure ", praised Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr the consistent strategy of France.

Airbus is another example of strong industrial policy, he said in the direction of the Airbus chief, who also attended the summit. "We need more centralization to speed infrastructure investment and other future decisions. That's where we can learn from France, "said Spohr.

US is allowed to impose punitive tariffs on EU imports worth billions

It is the highest amount ever approved in the nearly 25-year history of the WTO. The US is allowed to impose punitive tariffs on EU imports amounting to billions due to illegal EU subsidies for the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Source: WORLD / Fanny Juschten

Accordingly, the French Minister of Economic Affairs Bruno Le Maire, who was also one of the guests of the summit, seemed to speak to many German managers from the heart. "Europe needs an industrial policy, just as China and the US have an industrial policy."

It is not possible to advance innovation and technological breakthroughs without state aid. "It would be naïve to leave responsibility for markets and private investment," said Le Maire. "That does not work."

For decades, France has been operating industrial policy on a large scale in its own country. Most recently, President Emmanuel Macron has amassed as much as five billion euros in venture capital to promote state-sponsored technical innovation. The state spends 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on state investment annually, which is considerably more than Germany.

Le Maire conjures up cooperation

In the run-up to the summit, Mr Maire had called on Germany once again to invest more and thus drive forward the growth of Europe as a whole. At the WELT summit, he further clarified his demand. "The black zero is not the right answer to the current economic situation," he said. Countries with financial leeway should invest more in the current situation to set a fiscal stimulus.

With another demand, Le Maire scored points with many CEOs: "We are used to competing in the Eurozone. But we should learn to cooperate more, "said France's Economics Minister, thus giving a kind of new mantra:" Europe needs more cooperation and less competition. "

Le Maire

The French Minister of Economic Affairs Bruno Le Maire

Source: REUTERS

Especially with new technologies, the Old World had to catch up with America. An impulse for how this could be achieved was provided by Daimler CEO Ola Källenius at the WORLD summit. "We are now faced with challenges that are so capital intensive that we can not master them alone, even if we wanted to. That's why we work together, for example in autonomous driving with BMW, "he described an example of the new corpsian spirit in Europe.

Le Maire also swore that "having more competition than cooperation in Europe is the wrong approach. Europe should better compete with the rest of the world, not between Member States. We all suffer from it, especially with the new technologies. "

The WELT Economic Summit also documented the obvious change in the perception of French statism. So far, this model of an over-protective state has been considered a path to stagnation. Now this version seems to be seriously traded as a concept of hope for Europe.

In any case, the managers present at the WES were in a positive mood, despite the challenges, that Europe will be cornered. "I am confident," said UniCredit CEO Jean Pierre Mustier, "that with the new Commission we will see more progress in Europe than in previous years."

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