After Meseberg

by | 21 Jun 2018 | Sustainable Finance

Brexit, the resurgence of simplistic populist speeches, the controversies over security and migration issues, the threat of commercial war by the United States undermine and question the European project. With less than one year to go to uncertain elections, it is urgent to call for a stronger, fairer and more efficient Europe, both in terms of its ability to effectively finance the economy, and in terms of institutional view.

That was the meaning and ambition of the “Future Europe” conference organized on June 20th by the Banque de France and Société Générale, in partnership with Maleki Corporate Group and PwC in Frankfurt, and ING in Amsterdam. At our side, two prestigious schools : Sciences Po and the LSE.

A good timing, one day after the declaration of Meseberg, and on the eve of important European deadlines …

An unprecedented format of conference, federating from the major European financial capitals – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris – speakers from various horizons (central bankers, private sector, policy-makers …). No travel expenses, no long waiting at airports … a “low carbon” conference !

And free voices, on each of the three chosen themes :

In the same way as the ambitions displayed in terms of European defense or industry, we must now ambition to create a true “Europe of financing and investment”. The finalization of the Banking Union, as well as the realization of a Capital Markets Union (UMC), will certainly contribute to this. Progress on these two projects will build the foundations of economic convergence that we still lack, particularly on the issue of pension funds, harmonization of bankruptcy law, but also in terms of taxation, a key condition to ensure the right balance between responsibility and solidarity between Member States.

Neither can we today neglect the developments linked to digitalization or energy transition and the establishment of a framework for a “green finance”. These dimensions must be considered as opportunities for the financing of the European economy to be effectively sustainable.

Then, the question of strengthening the architecture of the euro area is inseparable from our debate on the Europe of tomorrow. As the ECB prepares to end its asset purchases, the euro area needs a stronger economic union, which not only based on monetary policy. In this respect, the budgetary guidelines under discussion will be particularly structuring. They are the ones who determine the priorities of the Europe of tomorrow. Whether it is about defense, migration, digitization or green finance, the European budget must stick to the challenges we face and the need for greater unity, efficiency and democratic accountability on the part of member states. This requires stronger governance and more efficient and transparent use of allocated resources.

I must confess that being in a position to talk about in the immediate aftermath of Meseberg declaration was just incredible.

Obviously, in the context of a rise of nationalism and protectionist temptation, our call for greater economic integration may seem out of step. Yet, it is essential. European countries can not defend themselves alone in a highly competitive world where relations between blocs are driven by strength. But we would miss the point if we do not integrate societal dimensions into our reflections for the Europe of tomorrow. The search for the common interest can only be effective and meaningful if it is accompanied by a genuine political will for inclusion and equity. Otherwise, the gap between Europe and its citizens will continue to widen.

Thanks again to all the participants !

Iconography : Future Europe Conference, Bank of France, Paris, June 20, 2018. From left to right: Ross McInnes, Ramon Fernandez, Denis Beau, Laurent Lascols, Odile Renaud Basso, Jacques de Larosiere, (personal collection)