The hole at the heart of Europe’s industrial strategy: demand
The barely known EU Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani (good grief, he’s a Vice President of the Commission – who knew?) has written a piece for British Influence that is so vapid and devoid of new ideas that the image of a sclerotic and stagnant European Union has rarely achieved such concrete form.
But there are sins of omission and comission in his short piece. In diagnosing Europe’s economic malaise, he stresses the possibility that external trade could be a saviour. But he fails to mention the internal trade that renewed demand could produce. And, instead, he rehashes the hackneyed neoliberal prescription for enhanced competitiveness: reduced administrative burdens, lower costs and liberalisation of the energy market.
Instead of demanding ever further cuts and an ever smaller state, the European Commission should use next week’s summit to focus on what is really keeping so much money locked up in European corporate bank accounts. Europe’s workers need a pay rise, and we need a 1-2% of GDP stimulus in infrastructure, research and skills development.
Tajani’s vapidity is a cover for his much more dangerous strategy of increasing competitiveness through lower wages, worse employment rights, less life-saving and consumer-protecting red tape. He writes:
“We need to dismantle the perception of Europe as an enemy to business. Fewer rules, procedures and costs can help companies. Fitness check and competitiveness proofing should be our priorities.”
It doesn’t set the pusle racing, but it’s cover for beggar-my-neighbour policies that would start a race to the bottom, rather than the high skill, high productivity, high wage route back to economic growth and social solidarity we need.