“This is the starting point for the European awareness of our own role in the world.” – Federica Mogherini

by Frederik Kussé

The first role for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the EU was created by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into effect in 1999, and was expanded with the Treaty of Lisbon a decade later. After almost 20 years of joint foreign affairs at a European level, what has been the result and what are the next steps? How can the European Union profile itself as an actor on the world stage?

The annual European Business Summit brings together European lawmakers, business leaders, think tanks and young adults to debate on Europe’s most challenging issues. As a delegate of Young European Leadership, I had the privilege to participate in the high-level discussion between Federica Mogherini, Vice President of the EU Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister of Foreign Affairs, as they shared their views on this important topic on the 24th of May 2018 in the Egmont Palace in Brussels.

In varietate concordia?

Mr. Reynders reminded the audience that it is not enough to preach our European values, we need to live by them ourselves as well. With rising populism and attacks on the rule of law in multiple EU member states, the world is looking at a divided Europe. To tackle these internal divisions Mr. Reynders proposed a rule of law peer review mechanism as currently already exists for the EU budget. He believes it will allow a “real open discussion at the political level on the situation in the different member states” and that it is a “non-discriminatory process”. It is true that the EU has procedures in place to thoroughly assess the compliance of candidate countries with the fundamental values of the EU, but that there is no robust system to do the same thing for member states. At present, the only real mechanisms are the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, the Council’s Rule of Law Dialogue, the infringement procedures under Articles 258-260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and the ‘big stick’: Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) when an infringement of Article 2 (the fundamental values of the EU) has been observed. The critical reader should nevertheless note that the instalment of a voluntary peer review mechanism could hide the ambition to evolve to a more permanent review mechanism. Such a mechanism would in practice require a revision of the EU treaties, of which the chances of success are at present – under the unanimity rule – questionable at best.

What about Jerusalem then? There were rumours that some member states were present during the inauguration of the American embassy in Jerusalem. Ms. Mogherini denied that representatives of EU member states were present during the opening ceremony. She reiterated that the EU position on Jerusalem is consolidated and confirmed by all member states, as is the case with all foreign policy issues. She stated that a lack of unity is not the problem of the European foreign policy, but that “Europeans do not always realise that the only way to achieve national priorities in many foreign policy fields”, including migration, “is through the European Union”.

Pacta sunt servanda

“A made deal needs to be honoured, otherwise we lose our credibility”, Mogherini said, “we need to make sure that we can protect the deal and our economic interests.” But can we protect the Iran deal and why should we? First of all, Mogherini affirmed that the deal is working, referring to the certifications made by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Secondly, she reminded everyone that the Iran deal is not a bi- or multilateral agreement, but a UN Security Council resolution. “Technically, the President of the United States has announced the decision to stop implementing a UN Security Council resolution.” Thirdly, she stressed the importance of the Iran deal as a stepping stone for future negotiations with Iran on other issues, such as Syria or Yemen. Mr. Reynders also expressed his pessimism about the chances of a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with North-Korea if it turns out to be impossible to implement the agreement with Iran. He added that: “in the Middle East, it will be impossible to organise a new dialogue without the US, but with the US alone it will also be impossible.” Therefore, he believed that the European Union should take part with “its own view and its own voice”.

Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe and leader of the debate, asked how we can protect our economic interests with the United States threatening to impose sanctions on European businesses who are dealing with Iran. During the conversation, Ms. Mogherini said that it is vital that “we protect the economic investments we encouraged when we signed the deal, because that is our part of the implementation” and going even further stating that there is “an economic interest for Europe to be there”. Which instruments do we have then? Both interviewees responded by talking about the possible measures for SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises) and that they were studying the potential role for the banking sector, in particular the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). Ms. Mogherini also spoke about the importance of a legislative shield for companies doing business with Iran, mentioning the ‘blocking statute’ that was introduced to prevent European businesses in Cuba from complying with US sanctions. A member of the audience later addressed the elephant in the room with his question about the fate of multinationals doing business in the region as well as in the US. This is especially critical considering the European banking system is very exposed to the American one and most investment channels use the US dollar. Both interviewees admitted that this was a difficult and complicated problem, with Mr. Reynders proposing to organise channels that use the euro instead. One can argue however that their answer with ‘studies’ and ‘possible solutions’ demonstrates the lack of effective measures to currently be taken by the EU, which is anything but reassuring for Europe’s biggest companies.

At the time of writing the United States has already imposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium. After a G7 meeting that only deepened the divide between the US and its allies, tariffs on automobiles seem to be back on the US President’s desk. With a trade war looming over Europe and the weakened position of several multilateral organisations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), what can the EU do? Mr. Reynders responded by saying that if it is not possible to “begin a real positive agenda with the US to restart some of the negotiations in different fields”, the EU needs to react by taking countermeasures. He continued that “if we have a lack of capacity to discuss with the US, we need to go further with others”. With the recently approved Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the trading agreements with Japan, Singapore, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand being prepared, the EU is doing exactly that. Ms. Mogherini also told the anecdote about the complaints she received when she visited the American Congress. They were wondering why the lobsters from Maine, a US state neighbouring Canada, did not have the same access to the European market as the Canadian lobsters. She responded by saying that this is because the EU has a trade agreement with Canada and that there is an “economic benefit in having a trade agreement with the European Union”. Finally, she expressed her hopes that this realisation will also soon surface in the US.

Let me conclude this article by agreeing with a statement from Ms. Islam that the EU needs to move from reaction to proaction. As Ms. Mogherini said: “This is the starting point for the European awareness of our own role in the world.” These are challenging but interesting times and we need to show the political will to live up to our own expectations. I would therefore like to end with a quote from the famous speech Sir Winston Churchill made in Zurich in 1946: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong.”

Frederik has always believed in an international and multidisciplinary approach. Currently studying Control Engineering and Automation at the University of Ghent, he takes part in multiple projects at home and abroad to diversify his skills. As an avid European, he considers going on Erasmus to Germany as one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

Brussels, Brexit and the Future of Television Channels

By Philip Frey

On June 23rd 2016, the world experienced a major earthquake. Not a seismic event, but among many, a political and economic earthquake. The aftershocks of Brexit are still been felt, with the departure date of the United Kingdom from the European Union less than a year away. Everyone involved and influenced by this earthquake has put a big red cross on this date, March 29th 2019, which is the date of the divorce between the UK and the EU. Try to imagine all the commitments the UK has made to the EU, such as implementing more than 100,000 pages of legislation and billions of euros worth of contributions to the EU. After this date, these 100,000 pages of legislation will in theory be null in the UK, the EU will delete or cross off the UK from all these pages and the UK will no longer be obliged to contribute to the EU budget, except for their already promised commitments. However, negotiations between the EU and the UK to limit the impact for each party have been ongoing since 2016. However, the British Chancellor Philip Hammond seemed to be quite optimistic about settling a good deal off with the EU at the closing ceremony at the European Business Summit. As he said: “Even though we are leaving EU, we are still Europeans”. He did also mention that the UK will not leave Eurovision, which is broadcasted to the entire Europe, plus Australia!

Try also to imagine the cultural influence the UK has in the different Member States. From movies, music, sports and others. Who has not watched the tv programmes: “Top Gear”, “Mr. Bean”, “The X Factor or “Britain’s Got Talent”? Others have maybe watched a Premier League football game. So why are these programmes and sport transmissions important to address at the European Business Summit? As the name of the summit suggests, there is a lot of business in the UK TV industry and the TV industry in the EU. For each programme, there are rights connected to either the producer, the distributor or transmitter of those programmes. Among the 100.000 pages EU legislation, some of them are protecting and granting certain rights to right holders of these programmes. This is where the big business is placed within. Country of origin, a term used in regard to the single market in order to clarify which member state legislation applies to which service provider. For example, a business based and established in the UK offers TV programmes to Germany will be governed by the laws in the UK. The Single Market gives access to all the markets in the EU member states. The country of origin has in this regard been a good business for the broadcasting industry in the UK, such as taxation wise.

What does Brexit has to do with anything?
Brexit has the consequence that these channels will not be able to operate across EU member states anymore. Brexit can in this situation pose problems for cross-border broadcasters, who are based in the UK. Broadcasters who wish to continue operating in the EU will need to have their editorial decisions and at least a significant part of their workforce in an EU member state. This means that they would have to either move their headquarters to a EU member state, create a hub in a member state or licence their rights out to third parties.

Whether or not the popular British television programmes will have an impact on the Brexit negotiations, there is a clear sense of unease among the UK’s production and creative industry. The main question still remains. Would the EU decide to impose tariffs on UK film and TV productions in order to promote and boost its own production? Today, there are more than 4,600 TV channels established in the main EU markets. The UK is the largest exporter, with more than 1,400 established  TV channels of which 1,000 are exported to the EU and other countries.

Some of the concerns addressed at the meeting were, whether the high skilled editors, technicians and experienced crew members in one of the world’s largest production hubs, would be willing to move to the EU or whether they would stay after Brexit. There is no doubt that the EU would struggle to compete with the UK, if they were to stay there after Brexit, since it takes many years to train specialized workers within the film and TV production. However, the market can open for competition in the EU and who knows, maybe in 5-10 years we will have a similar popular German version of James Bond or a Swedish version of “Sweden’s got Talent”. On the other hand, the restriction on the free movement of workers can limit the amount of non-UK talented and skilled workers to seek a job within the film and tv production industry.  I had the chance to ask one of the speakers, a spokesperson from the British Chamber of Commerce to the EU, about the fact that more than 600 non-British channels are licenced by the UK communications regulator Ofcom and then broadcasted freely to all the member states of the EU, which is a £5 billion a year business. The question I asked was, what would happen if these foreign channels had to find another ”country of origin” in one of the other EU member states? The answer was clear: the UK will remain to be the biggest production and broadcasting hub in Europe. I also asked whether the option of licencing would result in higher prices for the end consumer. I received a firm answer: “I don’t see the end users will be affected”.

It is possible that a London-based international broadcaster will have to get new broadcasting licences within the EU. It is far from clear just how large such a presence will be and how big the Brexit impact will be. Philip Hammond’s optimistic attitude towards the ongoing negotiations can hardly justify a positive impact on the UK based broadcasters and tv and film production industry in the UK.

 Philip is a recent law graduate from Paris with a specialization in International Business Law, combined with a Business programme at INSEAD Business School. He is currently working as a Blue Book Trainee at the European Commission in their Legal Service.

How to digitise EU industry?

By Maxi Pethö-Schramm

The European Commission (EC) has estimated that digital innovation will increase the annual European industrial output by €110 bn. So far, Europe has on average only reached 12% of its digitisation potential, ranging from 10% in Germany to 18% in the UK. Europe is underperforming relative to the US, which has reached 18% of digitisation potential.  The European digital frontier, represented by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is only 60% as digitised as the US frontier. https://scontent-frt3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.15752-9/34268658_1802864126419683_4764689602667610112_n.jpg?_nc_cat=0&oh=66207dee25bb7d730ae0a1a0af0b4249&oe=5BB1127FIn April 2016 the EC launched its Digitising European Industry (DEI) initiative, with the intent of reinforcing EU’s competitiveness by embracing digital innovation across all European industry. The Commission and Member States are investing €50bn by 2020 on digitization strategies. Yet, a further push from both EU policy makers and businesses is needed to fully tap into the potential of digitisation and keep up with the pace of the digital transformation.

During the roundtable at the EBS, Katarzyna Jakimowicz, Associate Director at the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal, Antti Peltomäki, Deputy Director General at DG Grow, Sandeep Simon, Utilities Segment Head Europe at TATA Consultancy Services, Eva Maydell, MEP, and Bruno Basalisco, Head of Digital Economy service at Copenhagen Economics, discussed obstacles and recommendations for action with moderator Julia Fioretti, Correspondent for Reuters News Agency.

Enabling Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

At the beginning of the discussion, Mr. Simon noted that technology has become so democratized that it is in principle available to all companies. However, in reality only 16% of SMEs in the EU are highly digitised, compared to 42% of large companies. The fast developments in digital technology make it difficult for SMEs to adopt and integrate them into their processes. Ms. Jakimowicz added that very simple, for instance cloud-based, solutions are available to SMEs. Yet there are big challenges even with adoption of these simple solutions – in 2017, only 36% of enterprises of the EU28 used business software for information sharing. Both Mr. Simon and Ms. Jakimowicz agreed that businesses need to understand the urgency to digitise which often starts with a mindset change of business leaders. Under the DEI initiative, Digital Innovation Hubs have been designed as tools to support in particular SMEs in their digital transformation. Acting as a one-stop-shop, they provide a series of support services and access to knowledge, methods and software, technology platforms, prototyping solutions and testing facilities.

Promoting Investment

Mr. Peltomäki expressed concern over the private sector investment gap in the EU compared to countries like China or Korea. Bruno Basalisco added that industry expenditure on computers accounts only for 1.3% in Europe compared to >2% in the US, Japan and Korea. From a venture capitalist point of view, there may not be enough good companies in Europe to invest in. Ms. Jakimowicz explained that some VCs perceive the European market as saturated due to available bank funding from institutions like the European investment bank. However, banks as investors are less focussed on R&D and innovation than VCs. To secure sufficient investment, Eva Maydell highlights that the EU needs to mobilise capital around Europe by pushing ahead with the capital markets union (CMU). The CMU aims to complement bank financing with deep and developed capital markets,  unlock the capital around Europe, and to establish a genuine single market for capital. An action plan for CMU was launched in 2015 as part of the Investment Plan for Europe, however, implementation is delayed. The Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called Juncker Plan, has three broader objectives: (i) to remove obstacles to investment; (ii) to provide visibility and technical assistance to investment projects; and (iii) to make smarter use of financial resources.

Closing the Skills Gap

Ms. Maydell opened this section with reference to a statistic that Europe needs another 750,000 ICT practitioners in 2020 to match the investments in technology and resulting demand for e-skills. According to Bruno Basalisco only 15% of manual workers compared to 47% of non-manual workers have sufficient digital skills. As of 2017, 88% of workplaces have not taken any action to tackle the lack of digital skills of their employees. High costs seem to be the main barrier encountered when undertaking actions to deal with digital skills gaps. Mr. Basalisco explains that investing in knowledge capital can be risky for businesses and difficult to quantify in business cases. Ms. Maydell stressed that Europe must be at the forefront of the upskilling revolution to keep businesses operating on the continent. The focus should not only be on digital skills but also on other skills like learning to learn, being adaptable and creative. To this end, more data related to skills and an upgrade of Europe’s educational models are needed. According to Ms. Maydell, 60% of European teachers feel unprepared to teach the skills businesses need, especially soft skills. Traineeships and integrating trainings for communication or management as part of any course, starting already in high school, may be part of the solution. However, education is still a very conservative system, requiring strong political vision and leadership and a difficult policy conversation. Mr. Basalisco added, that complementary ways such as “using digital to teach digital” are needed due to pace of transformation. Mr. Peltomäki briefly mentioned the New Skills Agenda for Europe, which was adopted by the Commission on 2016 and launched 10 actions to make the right training, skills and support available to people in the EU. Those actions include the Digital Skills and Job Coalition as well as the Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills. The former was launched to support co-operations among education, employment and industry stakeholders while the latter addresses skills intelligence and skills shortage in specific economic sectors.

Shaping Social Perception

Society and individuals need to be prepared to fully embrace digital transformation. Even though consumers benefit from digitisation, many will need to face challenges as workers at the same time. The adoption of robotics have raised wide-spread employment concerns. In fact, robotics have, however, attracted production back to Europe, reducing total employment cost while creating new jobs. Germany and Sweden are the forerunners of use of robotics in Europe, while maintaining one of the lowest unemployment figures in the Union. Ms. Maydell suggests that most citizens are resistant to change and while there won’t be less jobs, all jobs will be different and require digital skills. Hence policy makers need to address worries of citizens in an honest public debate – with skills, not jobs at the core. Ms. Jakimowicz concluded that it is important for policy makers and media to create a positive narrative.

Maxi Pethö-Schramm was a YEL delegate to the 2018 European Business Summit. Maxi currently works as a Consultant at McKinsey & Company and holds a degree in Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Views are her own.

How Can Business Support Refugees?

By Rustam Baratov

The global number of refugees continues to rise, and the role of the private sector is therefore inevitable to support the long-term sustainable integration of refugees. Almost one-third of all refugees are moving outside of Africa, and Europe — countries, such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, respectively 3.5 million registered by the government of Turkey, and 2 million registered by UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, was mentioned by Gideon Maltz from Tent Foundation.

In the Panel Discussion at the European Business Summit with speakers, such as Tent Foundation, Starbucks, Microsoft, and the European Commission — It was discussed that solely financial commitment from the private sector is not sustainable, however utilizing the core competences of the same stakeholders, and the long-term commitment, such as ‘providing training of new skills, services and community engagement can help to build impact collaboratively. Alice Vermaele, Senior Manager for Global Social Impact at Starbucks, highlights the commitment the company has made to hire 10,000 refugees by 2020 [that have legal authorization to work in the country].

For example, Tent Foundation says that business has a critical role to play in solving the refugee crisis and helping everyone for a better sustainable integration — Gideon Maltz mentioned three key initiatives to support the public sector:

  1. Impact Investment: Where companies invest directly in refugee entrepreneurs, refugee-owned SMEs, social enterprises, and organizations that hire and source from refugees.
  2. Service Delivery: Where businesses reach refugees directly and engage refugees by meeting the needs of refugee communities.
  3. Hiring & Supply Chains: Working directly with suppliers to create employability opportunities for refugees, and sourcing from refugee-owned businesses.

Source: https://www.tent.org/

What is the role of the business?

It is important to think that the particular role of the businesses is long-term economic integration, and it is critical to elaborate that business can support refugees everywhere, including low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, taking full advantage of core-competencies of private ventures is important to support the public funds, and immediate humanitarian aid.

What is the role in hiring?

“The reality is that 99% of our jobs are in retail.” says Alice Vermaelen from Starbucks, and there are so many different ways of supporting the refugee crisis. For Starbucks it is through hiring and providing learning opportunities by partnering with nonprofit organizations that provide services to refugees in the US, Canada, and Europe.

Learning from others and talking to other businesses and organizations, such as Tent Foundation and the European Commission is one of the steps we can follow to work collaboratively together and share mutual success.

How can we help NGOs to become more productive?

“Microsoft has commited to create a future that works for everyone” published by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch (19 Jan 2016), and launched Microsoft Philanthropies in 2015 to empower people and communities. Mentioned by the speaker from Microsoft, “Satya Nadella made a public pledge to donate $1 billion worth in cloud computing resources to nonprofit organizations and research centers tackling the most crucial social issues.”

“Work closely with nonprofits that are dealing with refugees and offer them for free software that would improve productivity.”

How can we develop skills to help refugees integrate in the society?

Look further than emergency relief, and support those who had a business or an idea, says Emma Ursich, Global Head of Corporate Identity & the Human Safety Net Foundation from Generali Group — “This is also connected to what we do everyday in advising SMEs, and we try to package this all together to create an ecosystem.” For example, Generali is focused on entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Why does this matter, integration?

“The European Commission has been working on integration of people as a result of a large influx of refugees in 2016.” — ‘Philanthropy is great [..] says Antoine Savary, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Home at the European Commission, but there is also a business case: (1) Ageing in Europe, and (2) the shortage of skills, for example, IT, and Health Care.

“Not investing in integration would be a waste of potential resources in the economy.”

Initiatives, such as Employers together for integration launched on 23 May 2017 at the second meeting of the European Dialogue on Skills and Migration by the European Commission provides employers with the opportunity to learn how they can support refugees and integration into the labour market. Additionally, partnerships with social and economic partners (Brussels, 20 December 2017) are important and were highlighted by speakers, such as Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.

Learn more on how you can join and sign up to the Commissioner’s initiative here.

European Business Summit is one of the most far-reaching and influential debating and networking platforms in Europe, held annually at the Egmont Palace, Brussels. It attracts over 2,000 participants and 250 high-level speakers, such as Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, Chiara Tomasi, Public Policy and Government Relations Analyst at Google, and Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs & European Affairs.

 Rustam is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Belgium and France, who currently works at a Silicon Valley tech company from San Francisco. He shares a vast interest in international relations and entrepreneurship. He has always taken a more unconventional approach in travelling, sharing his experiences and participating at international conferences by contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) between Asia and Europe. 

Creativity at the Heart of Businesses: a Key to Success?

By Clara Bütow

What role does creativity play for business innovation, profits and talent management? I had the pleasure to attend a session called Creativity at the Heart of Business: a Key to Success? at the European Business Summit in Brussels. The panel discussion on creativity brought together leaders from corporate, entrepreneurial and artistic fields and was moderated by Bartholomeus-Henri Van de Velde, the conductor of the Charlemagne Orchestra for EU. The four experts debating the topic were Javier Echarri, the CEO of EBN Innovation Network, Zeldah Schrama, consultant at Connect Africa Group, Frederique Paccagnella, the director of Excel Careers and the Angela Mortimer Group as well as the CEO and founder of Bundl, Thomas Van Halewyck.

Creativity can be a way to create innovations, but usually only leads to business success when incorporated in focused strategic approaches. Innovation on the other hand starts with a market need and the development of a product-market fit, so Thomas van Halewyck, who builds startups for corporations. A disruption can only take place whenever such innovation is scalable across the whole market, he added. Thus, business must focus on the market need and economic indicators when assessing the feasibility, validity and scalability of creative ideas to select those that best can represent a potential disruption. Frederique Paccagnella agreed that innovation at all cost can be no guarantee for success, as “innovation and creativity, if not linked to efficiency, will not go anywhere”.

The panel seemed very decided on the fact that we do not lack great ideas for innovation. Javier Echarri pointed out that what is really needed is not creativity, but rather execution and support for entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurs who lead change within their own organization. Zeldah Schrama stressed the need for corporations to go step by step towards more innovative processes and products instead of breaking down all their walls to “become Google from one day to another”. Especially more traditional and larger companies can struggle in the incorporation of processes and organizational structures that allow more creativity and innovation; thus it is important to acknowledge the specific culture of each organization when thinking about modernizing. Van Halewyck described, that there are two main ways to make your company more innovative: either by trainings such as hackathons or design thinking initiatives that trigger innovative skills of employees; or by supporting the few already entrepreneurial and innovative talents in the company to pursue their ideas and innovate the company from within. Such initiatives will automatically inspire the rest of the company and create spill-over effects for all employees, ultimately updating the corporate culture, so van Halewyck. Schrama added that besides the importance to give space for free thought and ideas, focus is important to focus employee creativity in the right direction.

Creativity has a very big human component and cannot be detached from both the inherent personalities of employees as well as the way employees are treated and encouraged inside the organization. Drawing an analogy to the orchestra, the moderator and conductor of Charlemagne Orchestra showed that whilst the core of the organisation will follow rules and work almost automatically, a “grey zone” of more independent and creative people is necessary and enriching for the whole organisation. Those people at the boundaries of following and independence bring a different mind-set as well as inspiration to the core of the organisation and should not attempt to be pushed out of the grey zone by assimilation. As in the orchestra, managers must listen to each individual, take their strength and creative capacities into account – only then can harmony and excellent performance be achieved by the orchestra as a whole. Human resource expert Paccagnella suggested that creativity is something deeply embedded in a person’s character and depending on the creativeness of each person different management practices may be required. Not every employee wants to have an environment that encourages or emphasises creative thinking, therefore it is extremely important to match the right people with the right job. This means taking into account personality traits, preferences and characteristics rather than forcing everyone to be more or less creative. Only placing the right individuals in a job that represents their skills, mindset and values will maximize the outcomes of the corporation.

Speaking of values, the experts touched upon one final topic that combines talent management, culture and creativity: How can companies use their innovations to drive social purpose and values? As we have seen in many of the discussions at this year’s European Business Summit, responsible and sustainable business, that contributes rather than takes from society and the planet, is a rising topic for global leaders. Not only governments and regulations, but also customers and even the competitive environment is now demanding more from companies than mere profit generation. “How can startups better use their innovative thinking to solve real challenges of society”, Echarri asked while pointing at increasing support and interest in such hybrid initiatives. Schuma added that while Western startups such as Tinder and Deliveroo address entertainment and comfort, a much higher percentage of companies created in emerging markets respond to an actual social or structural need of society. She linked this trend to the rapid innovation growth in Africa and its leading position in the mobile money sector as well as great competitiveness in agritech and fintech.

As Schuma said, “we cannot divorce creativity from innovation”. Should we then, as members of government or people in business, use the creative approach to solve some of the biggest global challenges and obtain leadership in a changing world?

Clara is an hard-working student in both business and international relations at IE Business School, with a passion for sustainability and social impact. As founder of Impact Revolution and the Traveling Trash Tour, co-founder of the first European B Impact Team, she takes forward solutions how individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses can change the world for the better.

Mainstreaming Sustainability: Dream or Reality?

By Xènia Greenhalgh

Consistent themes running throughout the European Business Summit 2018 of digitalisation, artificial intelligence, Sustainable Development Goals and the circular economy, all culminated in a roundtable on the second day of the event – “Mainstreaming sustainability in the public and private sector: What role for innovation?” This question is perhaps the most important in a series necessary for building an environmentally responsible world, and it was enlightening to witness its exploration by an international and multidisciplinary panel of experts.

It is evident in the Juncker Plan, the EU Plastics Strategy, and other recent shifts in public policy that governments on national and supranational scales are taking seriously their role in mainstreaming sustainability. However, what has traditionally been more difficult is incentivising this paradigm shift in private actors. Despite Richard White, VP Procurement & Sustainability Europe for the world’s largest brewer – AB InBev, having expressed heart-warming idealism about prioritising change for his children, and the company’s steadfast belief in “the right thing to do,” corporate incentive is found at the bottom of a balance sheet – profit.


This pragmatism has seen inspirational innovation in AB InBev’s operations and wider supply chain – “seed to sip.” Not only have they begun to do away with a linear value chain, commercialising new products produced from waste in the beer brewing process, but also set targets and expectations for their suppliers according to a set of ambitious sustainability goals for 2025. White insisted, “If a supplier doesn’t have the same ambition as us for sustainability, we will take our business elsewhere.”

White also emphasised the importance of Public-Private Partnerships – especially with regards to investments into innovation, and technological development, which he calls key factors for mainstreaming sustainability. Innovations have the potential to make circular business models more efficient with resources and create opportunities for new products, and are therefore essential for mainstreaming sustainability.

Simona Bonafé, Member of the European Parliament and architect of its circular economy transition, also emphasised efficient resource use, stating that sustainable industrial policy is, “Important for the environment, but also for the competitiveness.” Private actors have a more significant role than funding research into innovative solutions, as governments and policy makers are responsible for fostering sustainable business environments by regulating practices, setting targets and preventative measures, providing a forward-looking legal framework that is clear for investors, and ultimately driving change. Even so, Signe Ratso, Deputy Director General of RTD Research at the European Commission, warned, “Regulation should promote innovation, rather than curbing it,” as she alluded to an example of prescribing technologies, and limiting waste production which otherwise could be used to create new products to be incorporated into an innovative circular business model.

This statement applies not only to the description of this brand of policies’ role, but more widely the role of innovation in mainstreaming sustainability in private and public spheres. In the diverse ecosystem of actors, innovation’s definition needs to be broadened past technologies, and include that of governance, markets, and more. Nevertheless, critical technologies like IoT and Big Data will be fundamental for sustainable transitions, and their development is the responsibility of every level of society. “Businesses do not exist in a vacuum,” as said by Céline Charveriat, the executive director of the Institute for Environmental Policy, and collaboration between NGOs, governments, and companies alike will be essential. Moreover, as Ms Charveriat accurately described, “consumption, again, does not fall from the sky,” and in order for bottom-up behavioural change, as in the example of Tobacco, “unbiased, quality information” must be made available to the consumer about sustainability.


Ultimately, private and public actors are equally responsible and instrumental in driving the rate and direction of sustainable change in Europe. Innovation in markets, governance, and technologies will be essential to incentivise investment into the transition, and regulators at national and European levels will be responsible for shaping the environment to foster it. The panel made an inspiring and convincingly multifaceted case for mainstreaming sustainability as a paradigm. However, greater practical change is what will pull Europe out of the rabbit hole and into a sustainable future.

Xenia is passionated and dedicated student in international relations and she hopes to, one day, enter a political career in multilateral institutions for the pursuit of international peace and prosperity. This trajectory is largely inspired by her colorful background as a South African with Zimbabwean and Spanish parents. 

“It is only when we psychologically refuse to be European that we have issues” – Federica Mogherini at the European Business Summit 2018

By Eloise Ryon.

The European Business Summit, an event that ran from the 23rd to the 24th of May 2018, featured Federica MogheriniHigh Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission as one of their main speakers. She appeared alongside Didier ReyndersDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Belgium, on the topic of “the EU as a global actor”. I had the privilege to witness this discussion and now to analyse their words.

Didier Reynders began with the vision of a Union that is a “Champion at promoting rights”. However, the Deputy Prime Minister affirmed that the EU, in order to promote rights and liberties, first needs to be “organized at home”. The EU needs to “practice what it preaches”. In fact, the rise of attacks to fundamental rights in countries within the European Union does not make it easy for countries outside the Union to take it seriously and respect its standards. The Polish ban on abortion, or the agressive repression of migrants at the Hungarian frontier, are examples of EU values being challenged. Therefore, before taking a role of leadership in the area of fundamental rights, the EU should for sure clean up its own porch.

“The EU is not only about fiscality and economics” said Federica Mogherini. In fact, since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, the EU has considerably evolved. There was a need and the will to develop this economic partnership towards a more integrated unity, which has given birth to the European Union as we know it. We however should not forget that the EU is only what it was allowed to become by the member states. The EU therefore should not only be the one to blame when its efficiency reaches its limits. Member states have the biggest responsibility, they have the future of the EU within their hands. As Ms. Mogherini stated “No one is giving marks … , the EU is a voluntary family”. That is the reason why the growth of extremist parties and the constitution of euro-sceptic governments is so worrying. That is the reason why we need citizens to be informed, and citizens who are not afraid to express themselves, during elections but also on a day to day basis. Opinions needs to be challenged.

What are the next steps? Can we say the EU is a global actor? Being one of the largest economies, that is still growing at the moment you are reading this article, and giving a louder voice to smaller and bigger states on the international political stage, the EU can certainly be said to be an important actor. But is it a global actor? We can see through the Iran Deal, which was “facilitated by the EU” as explained Ms. Mogherini, and through its stand on fundamental rights and the environment, that the EU has an enormous potential as a global influencer. The Iran Deal still stands because the EU, and the international community has proclaimed its validity. The EU’s political power appease Iran and balance the rejection of the United States, clearly demonstrates the Union’s strength on the international stage. But then why does the Union have no power over the instability caused by the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States? Because there are several global actors in our shared society, each actors has its on cards to play and they are playing it (such as China with its road-belt initiative), the EU should do the same. Mr. Reynders proposed the idea of a seat for the EU within the Security Council, recognizing through this project that Belgium would have more power being one of the member states of the European Union than by requesting a seat for themselves. This trust in the EU is what it takes in order to transform the Union of today into the Union of tomorrow.

Our capacity to recognize the benefits, as well as the disadvantages, of the European Union, our capacity to take our own actions, to represent our own interests through one single voice, will determine the future of the Union. And do not forget,that each of us, has a role to play as the EU is and will always be what we decide it will be. Citizens: do not forget to vote at the next European elections and political leaders: be ambitious, realisitic and responsible.

Eloïse is a student in a double degree in French and English Law, with a specialization in European Law. She does not only believe in the European Union, she feels European after having lived in different countries; in France, Sweden and England. She is for critical thinking in order to promote constructive solutions. She is passionate about international relations, diplomacy and the study of cultural difference. 

Looking Back at COP23

This November, a group of six young leaders passionate about working for climate change solutions traveled from six different countries on three continents to Bonn, Germany for COP23, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. During our two weeks at the conference, we observed negotiations and plenaries, attended side events and talks, and even hosted an event of our own — a first for the YEL delegation to a COP! Now COP23 has ended, and the world is already looking towards COP24. The delegates are using this time to reflect on their experience in Bonn and answer two questions: what will they take away from this conference, and what are their next steps?

Casey Miller

As I look back on my two weeks at COP23, I feel two things — disappointment and hope. During the conference, the idea that nothing was moving fast enough was prevalent. There was a frustrating distance between side events with experts discussing the urgent need to ramp up ambition and the slow-moving negotiations. As our delegation spent every morning going over the previous day’s negotiations, the idea that some developed country was dragging its feet, slowing down progress in areas such as pre-2020 action and loss and damage happened so often that discussing it felt somewhat redundant. Looking at the results of this year’s conference, I wonder what else could have been achieved if all countries took scientists’ warnings to heart and negotiated towards stronger climate action like our lives depend on it — because they do.

Luckily, I didn’t leave the conference filled only with thoughts of disappointment and hopelessness. The people I’ve met during the conference, both in this delegation and as part of other organizations, have left me with one very hopeful thought — with so many passionate, intelligent and innovative people working towards solving some of the world’s greatest problems, I’m sure there’s still hope to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Even if you look solely within the YEL delegation to COP23, you’ll find many different types of people — entrepreneurs, activists, academics, development experts, and inventors — all working towards one common goal while utilizing their personal and unique expertise.

Now that I’m back home in Vienna, I’m taking some time to find ways to keep the passion and drive I feel with at the COP alive all year long. I’ve been inspired by the rest of my delegation to find out what the most pressing climate change issues we’re facing are and then work on innovative ways to fix them. Most importantly, I’m actively looking into events where young professionals get together to discuss inventive ways to solve these issues. Fellow delegate Shrina and I spent a lot of time during COP23 discussing what positive results could come out of groups of young professionals coming together to work towards a common goal. I’m looking forward to put those ideas into action.

Sian Evans

This was my first COP, and given my background in environmental management and current work on sustainable development, it was a real privilege for me to attend an event I’ve heard so much about. The volume of people and sheer energy at the event struck me – it really felt like a place where things were happening, and progress could be made. The presence of the US Climate Action Center, representing the many American leaders committed to upholding the Paris Agreement, demonstrated that while Trump may be u-turning on climate action, the rest of the world is moving ahead – with or without him. Although there is still so much to be done, with developing countries dragging their feet, and many key issues being kicked down the road to COP24, I still left Bonn feeling hopeful.

YEL delegates at COP23

When I returned to Jerusalem and got back to work and my daily life, COP23 suddenly felt very distant. Many of my friends and colleagues didn’t know what COP 23 was, let alone the issues being discussed there. Climate change is such a difficult issue to communicate, and it’s hard to engage people (including decision makers) with something that feels so distant, particularly in regions fraught with their own challenges. The UNFCCC process – with its acronyms, articles and terminology – does not make this any easier! One of my key takeaways is that more needs to be done to ensure that the energy I experienced at COP 23 translates to action on the ground, by engaging the communities, businesses and decision makers that aren’t at these events or a part of this process. I think that youth have a big role to play here, so I’m looking forward to continue to work on these issues and hopefully be in Poland in December 2018 for COP 24!

Katja Garson
COP23 was full-on, contradictory, baffling, inspiring. My six days inside the Bonn and Bula Zones were characterized by a consistent inconsistency: a buzz of activity; of interviews and listening; of moving from meeting to press conference to civil society action. This was the ‘technical COP’ of working out the details relating to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as the Fijian COP of openness and welcome. I bring away some thoughts on access and voices. Most people do not have the privilege of entering the COP space, many groups are underrepresented once there, and many were denied visas to attend. I took part in ‘Pass the Mic’, an action which provided a space for indigenous peoples to speak out. This should not have been necessary — all voices must have the same space and stage, always. COP is not only an international conference. It is an event which demonstrates the many inequalities and injustices of everyday life on Earth. It is a model, small-scale, of tensions, divisions, and, thankfully, of collaborations and celebrations.

Going forward, I will draw on the great energy which I gained from being surrounded by people working for environmental justice and sustainability around the world, especially the younger generation who will continue to be impacted by climate change. Although the policy outcomes of COP23 were less than impressive, with many of the details of the Paris rulebook still undecided, it is the raw determination and creativity of NGO and grassroots campaigners, researchers and activists which inspires me. The walkout from a White House press conference on ‘cleaner’ fossil fuels was a key moment of action which stated that ‘we, the people, reject your false claims.’ As the UK government prepares to leave the EU, I will work alongside friends at the UK Youth Climate Coalition to make people aware of the environmental implications of the government’s decisions. We will call for appropriate and binding legislation, and will support allies across borders. And I will continue to value connection, organizing and communication as tools for resistance and rebuilding.

Shrina Kurani
Take aways:
This year, COP23 took me on a ride. While updating my climate science, I simultaneously recognized the climate elite for the first time, which fed my continued frustration with the process, and led to me to my final takeaway: that I need to be brave. Last year I still held the perspective of a naive student and budding entrepreneur, in awe of meeting my climate heroes in the flesh. It took a year, and evolving into the critically optimistic perspective of an investor, to identify the inefficiencies and have my wonder fade into frustration. And I realized that the best thing I could do was to play to my strengths and be opportunistic. Landing YEL a press conference just took sending an email – and now thousands of people have heard our message. I’m so excited about that!

Next steps:
So now that COP is over and the excitement is approaching a normal state, I need to take my own advice. I need to have the courage to stand up for what I believe in, and then be open to convinced otherwise. Just as we need to emphasize adaptive climate policy, we also need to be adaptive in looking for best practices and working together as a community to move forward as a united front. There is strength in diverse perspectives, and strength in community – and that’s what I’m looking forward to continue building. My climate community!

Alexander Pfeiffer

My main take-away is that hope is not lost yet. Attending COP 22 in Marrakech last year and witnessing the Trump election was a pretty discouraging experience and following his climate policies since then did not improve my mood and attitude. Being at COP 23, however, proved that there are still many Americans and, perhaps more importantly, American leaders out there that will uphold the U.S.’ contribution to the Paris Agreement. Trump clearly does not speak for the majority of mankind — in fact, not even the majority of U.S. citizens — and will therefore fail to block climate progress. This COP has clearly showed this!

Going forward I think much more needs to be done. While the parties are fleshing out the rule book to figure out how the Paris Agreement can be implemented global emissions have risen again by 2-3% in 2017 and are expected to continue to rise. At the same time coral reefs die, wildfires destroy California, Africa still suffers from a multi-year drought and extreme weather events wreck havoc in many parts of the world. Overall our planet sends us clear signals that we are running out of time. I think over the next 2 years it will be important to push for a lot of pre-2020 action and especially avoid further lock-in by building even more dirty infrastructure.

As a German I will do my best to push for a clear statement of the German government by which year they will have exited the dirty coal-fired power generation (#exitCoal). I believe such a statement must be communicated before the next COP in Poland in 2018 if Germany wants to continue to be a leader in the climate effort. Being the organisational host of this COP it was cringeworthy to witness the disgraceful failure of Germany, represented by Steinmeier and Merkel, to showcase good climate leadership.

Lastly it was great to meet so many old friends again. I didn’t realise it but after now three COPs I already know many people in this realm and it was great to see many of them again (including three quarter of my delegation). I hope to be able to stay part of this delegation and effort.

Working Towards a Positive Change by Fighting Negativity with Quality

How the Digital Communications Workgroup on the Digital and Communications Affairs Council is Tackling Fake News

By Claudia Scandol

The main focus of one of the workgroups at this year’s Young European Council in the Digital and Communications Affairs Council was fake news and digital communications. This topic has been extremely salient of late in policy making circles due to the potential impact it has on the wider European populace and our delegates were excited to investigate the policy options and current actions. During a meeting with the carefully selected council advisers Mr. Joran Frik, Mr. Joe McNamee and Ms. Iva Tasheva, the delegates were able to get valuable feedback about their policies thus far, discuss further ideas and ask questions to experienced experts in the field.

The workgroup developed a policy draft in order to counter fake news where they focus on rewarding legitimate news sources as opposed to punishing and banning fake news sources. Team representative Catarina Burstoff was presenting the policy and emphasised one of the most important factors in this matter, being the people’s perception of fake news as real. The workgroup, led by Magdalena Surowiec from Poland, proposed a certificate based system whereby honourable journalists are given a sort of rating to indicate the reliability of their news sources. They proposed that the ratings should be given by an EU level expert group with as much independence as possible, and national and local scholars in order to overcome language barriers in smaller member states. The workgroup also suggested the utilisation of celebrities and media personalities in an influence campaign due their exposure and following to combat questionable sources.

When these proposals were presented to the expert advisers, they had many compliments and suggestions to give to the delegates which have helped to improve and streamline their work. Mr. Joe McNamee emphasised two of the major factors that influence the perpetuation of fake news – the prominence of “clicks” on bad news as opposed to good news and the speed at which fake news spreads and is believed by people.  Mr. Joran Frik added to McNamee’s thoughts on the propensity of and dissemination of negative and inflammatory headlines. On the other hand, Ms. Iva Tasheva focused her comments on the importance of education of the populace. The special advisers were also able to give some valuable criticism, which for delegate Antonio Božić from Croatia only helped to increase the validity and quality of their work. He sees their policy as not only realistic, but also feasible if they can take the adviser’s considerations into account.

Mr. Božić also shared the disagreements and challenges that his team faced when developing their policy, such as discussions on how to best address the problem (through a punishment of fake news sources versus promotion of legitimate sources) and how to best implement their grading system – how is it granted? Who is in charge? Ms. Tasheva also took this chance to advise caution on certificates as a policy solution – who polices the police? The delegates need to address this in order to create trust in the public, something which is vital to the issue of fake news. They decided to focus on promoting positive new sources as opposed to attempting to blacklist and ban fake news sources, as they are too easy to replicate. Instead, they want to public to engage with trustworthy and credible sources.

The team presented their final communiqué with the rest of the Digital and Communications Affairs Council on Thursday morning.

Youth and internships: Why it is now time to move away from them

By Frida Hoffmann at YEC17

During the negotiations at the Labour Affairs Council of the Young European Council 2017, the issue of unpaid internships surfaced and became one of the leading motives of the Council.

We are in the age when sacrificing time to have valuable experience is the only way to get a well-paid job. I know it, you know it and the delegates know it. One negotiation after the other the participants gradually got into a sequence of heated debates on alternative solutions and possible outcomes. The working groups presented a Framework Agreement that defines trainees and interns as two separate entities both entitled of  “monetary salary or in kind”.

The problem is, as flagged by Max Uebe (who is the Head of Unit “Employment Strategy” in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) that these issues have to first be resolved on the domestic level of each member state.

The European Union has no power to enact binding legislation based on Article 153(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Any regulation regarding pay is strictly in the realm of the member states. Consequently, only non-binding forms of EU action is available that enables the needed cooperation and communication. However, this still does not place enough pressure on the Member State, but only removes the latter from the Commission. An empty promise that never will be implemented? Yes, most probably.

If the EU has no competence over what Member States are doing, they could at least address this by paying their interns. As it happens, an estimated half of the current EU internships are full-time and unpaid.

After witnessing the different proposals and their barriers, I came to the conclusion that the best solution would be to abolish internships once and for all. The whole phenomenon of internships is faulty and full of errors. The EU will not legislate on it because it cannot. The Member States have more pressing issues and they are under no legal obligation from the EU and employers are generally glad to have unpaid workforce. The real problem is that ensuring that internships are paid positions would not even solve the situation. While paid internships look wonderful from the intern’s point of view, it would be a major financial setback for the employer, and would eventually result in no internships at all. Something that would definitely not look promising for those student, who would like to try themselves in the professional environment.

Instead of having lengthy internships, a shorter (maximum 2 weeks) unpaid, but more intense “work experience” might be a solution. This would provide an opportunity for students to get insights on specific fields, and still be eligible to apply for a job that actually pays during the holiday season.

 My personal experience is that a week-long unpaid internship is not as burdensome financially as running on no salary for 3 months and living up non-existing savings from my student loan.

One would argue that the concept of a short “work experience” would not guarantee the opportunity to learn. On that point, I strongly believe that the goal of a work experience is not to gain extensive knowledge about a job position. It is for the students to gain an insight,  and decide whether they would like to get more involved and apply for a graduate role or not. Work experience is quite frankly for experience that can be manifested in a variety of ways. This would require more effort from the employer to shift the focus from coffee making activities to more exciting tasks, that focus on personal development and learning new skills in an alternative way.

The problem of unpaid internships and the painful fact that these positions are only open for students with very stable financial background is more extensive and complex than most of us think. Like every single EU employment topic, it is in fact just as fragile and specific as unemployment, working condition or social security for every Member State. Getting to the end of it would surely require bold and clear actions. Can we really expect it to be happening in the near future though?