When the Global Survival is at Stake

Esmeralda Altmeyer

In early December I had the opportunity to join the World Climate Conference that took part in Katowice, Poland. The COP24 (Conference of Parties) is the annual worlds highest-level decision making body on climate change, organized by UNFCCC, the United Nations organisation on climate change. COP24 in Katowice was especially crucial as it was the last chance for world leaders to agree on a joint common rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement before it will go into effect in 2020. Therefore the most daunting question of COP was the “How?” How will the targets set in the Paris Agreement be reached? Special importance held the recently published IPCC report on climate change, outlining the urgency of action to reduce carbon emissions and putting more pressure on all parties.

We arrived to the venue on Monday morning and were overwhelmed: A giant space filled with 30,000 participants and an incredible buzz of energy in the air. This was further strengthened when we attended the first meeting of the official observer youth constituency YOUNGO that YEL is also part of and that would organise incredible events, powerful protests and demanding interventions throughout the next week.

With an abundance of  high-level segments and side events to choose from, each of us was full-time busy learning and exploring. I decided to focus on the topics gender and Talanoa dialogue. Talanoa is a special form of dialogue that aims to build empathy and trust to solve conflicts and was introduced to climate negotiations by the presidency of Fiji during COP23. UNFCCC had made gender the main topic of a full day to highlight the increased vulnerability of women during climate change as well as push for women’s participation in the negotiations.

As a student of international relations I was particularly excited to listen to the speech of Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary General) during the opening of the Talanoa Dialogue – and I was not let down. Guterres stressed that “Katowice must be the dawn of a new determination to reach the Paris Agreement. We clearly have the knowhow and the ability to reach the 1.5 degree target.(…) What we need is the political will. A failure of this conference would be suicidal.“ His call for action and strong commitment to climate justice set the tone for the Talanoa dialogue that would follow the next days at around 20 roundtables behind closed doors.

Equally powerful was the national statement of Vanuatu. Small Island states usually don’t play a big role in the UN. However,  when it comes to climate change they are the ones who have the most at stake as they face the imminent threat of losing their complete state territory. A strong risk that called for strong words by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ralph Regenvanu:  “Whether you welcome or note or shamelessly ignore (the IPCC report), it is a fail of humanity.(…) 16% of my countries GDP was swept away by a cyclone within hours. If Vanuatu one of the least developed countries can move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, what stops others?

Myself being a German citizen I was delighted to hear that Germany and the EU joined Vanuatu and other small island states in forming the “High Ambition Coalition” to push negotiations forward. Thanks to the efforts of other German youth delegates I had the opportunity to meet the German Minister of Environment Svenja Schulze and discuss the coalition, national climate policies and the role of youth with her on Friday. And a few days earlier, me and the other YEL delegates had already joined a youth meeting with Talieh Wörgebauer from the EU delegation to demand more ambitious climate policies of the EU and a greater inclusion of European youth.

When negotiations started stalling on Friday, the Women and Gender constituency invited youth organizations to join their powerful protest in the main hall, calling for a strong commitment to reach the 1.5 degree with a just transition on the way. This being the last of many protests and actions during COP, it unleashed great energy and made it to many international media outlets, including Germanys biggest TV news show “Tagesschau”.

I am incredibly thankful to have had the chance to participate in COP24 and experience the strong spirit and unity of climate defenders across the world. That world leaders have been listening to the stories and voices of youth throughout the COP gives me strength to continue being an agent of change at home.

The Role of Youth: Young Professionals, COP24 and Climate Change.

I am Carmen Huidobro and, thanks to the Young European Leadership (YEL) organisation, I was able to attend the first week of COP24 as media delegate. The “observer” status allowed me not only to fulfil my delegate role by attending open meetings, side-events and interviewing several stakeholders, but also to see with my own eyes and reflect on what such an event is like. As an environmental policy master student, being able to experience the real-life version of what is being taught in the classroom and academic readings was an incredible lesson.

The main focus of my interviews was to investigate the role of youth and their participation in COP24 and Climate Change leadership. As a YEL delegate, my colleague Karishma and I were also looking to empower and inspire future young leaders, so asking different key stakeholders about their thoughts and organisational activities sounded quite appropriate. From NGOs and government parties to youth groups, the different answers surprised us quite a bit.

COP24 delegates

All professionals we interviewed recognised the importance of youth towards efforts to tackle Climate Change, and how these future generations were more aware than ever about the climate crisis and the need to increase ambition and action. They talked about various strategies for Climate Change communication and youth engagement among universities, schools, and even young professionals. These professionals acknowledge that future generations will be in their positions someday, and enabling knowledge sharing and participation is key in strategies for Climate Change.

For instance, we interviewed some of these young voices to get to know the insights of the other side. From YOUNGO (United Nations youth group) to Young Reporters of the Environment and other groups formed by students and young professionals, we asked how they see the role of youth, our role, in COP24 and Climate Change. They all agreed on how new generations are more aware of Climate Change issues, and how they are interested in demanding action and mobilising towards change. You could sense that spirit across the venue, with groups of young people taking part of the side-events, attending the meetings, writing articles and interviews, even pushing political leaders and demanding action through different protests and sittings. It was definitely inspirational to see youth interacting with the current leaders, highlighting our demands and getting to know the COP24 negotiating process to communicate it to the rest of youth throughout the world. The presence of youth at COP24 is key to inspire and gather these voices, and transmit the message to the respective audience in every country.

Nevertheless, they all agreed in something else. Besides the presence of youth through the venue and the “young and future generations” day, it was definitely hard to see as many young professionals and students as you would expect in the side events, or represented in the discussions. In my experience, and from the other young people we asked, none of the side events took into account the role of youth in their topic discussions. Not even the work we will need to be part of and in charge of during the near future. Unfortunately, youth do not get a real chance to intervene and negotiate, or to transfer demands and thoughts in the final documents. Nonetheless, some voices were listened to indeed. For example, the teen Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, was the real youth star and inspiration of COP24. As she claimed in one of her speeches: “we have not come here to beg world leaders to care (…) we have come here to let to you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. Real power belongs to people”. And that includes us!

As youth and young professionals, we have more power than we might realise. According to the IPCC scientist, we have 12 years to act towards lowering emissions and innovative solutions to manage the global temperature raise. And we will be pursuing our careers during that time, careers and actions that can solve the challenge. We can be an inspiration to others, help to communicate the actions that can tackle Climate Change, giving a message of hope. That is why it so important to include youth and future generations to the climate discussion, to share the innovations with them, to include us into the negotiations. We have a role to play, and a word to say! Let’s keep inspiring each other, and working hard, because together, we can change the world.

Discussing Youth Issues at the Y20 in Córdoba, Argentina

By Luisa de Simone

¡Hola! My name is Luisa De Simone and I was the EU Head Delegate to the Y20 Argentina 2018. From the 13th to the 18th of August 2018, Mark Coles and I had the honour of representing the European Union at the Y20 Summit in Córdoba, Argentina. As mentioned by Mark in his blog post, the Youth20 is one of the seven engagement groups of the G20, aiming at connecting young delegates and professionals from different countries with the world leaders. It is a unique opportunity for youth to influence the policy debate, offering concrete solutions and recommendations to tackle the most pressing societal and economic challenges.

After a week-long summit – that felt like a month-long due to an agenda full of events and endless opportunities to engage in lively discussions around the future of work, the issue of sustainability, the skills and education essential for the 21st century and the needs of entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals – now that I am back to Europe, there are three thoughts I would like to share with you.

As you might expect, the Y20 is all about youth. It is a genuine platform for young people to share their knowledge and showcase their talents. It was indeed a great opportunity for me to learn from incredible individuals creating tangible impact in their communities. To say it in the words of Ilona Dougherty, one of the keynote speakers, ‘young people’s brains are “wired for innovation”’. And certainly many young delegates and special guests proved it right.

If you fancy getting involved in the Y20, get prepared for a lot of talking. I very much enjoyed being one of the speakers invited to discuss about the future of work – and the future of workers, most importantly – questioning the paradigms and predicting the future alongside other distinguished guests from the private sector and international development. In the same way, a lot of talking on gender, social entrepreneurship, social protection, sustainability – just to mention some of the topics debated – was involved in the negotiations that led to the final policy recommendations. And let me guess… Even more talking will be required for the promotion of the final communique, keeping the delegates busy for the rest of the year.

Moreover, the summit is a genuine opportunity for finding a good dose of inspiration. Spending a week with a group of young people – most of them in their early twenties – meaningfully engaged to create a better world, is like a breath of fresh air. I believe that a sparkling combination of energy, alfajores (☺), curiosity and willingness to take on new challenges was the secret ingredient of this gathering and what made it very special.

Finally, I would invite you to learn more about Young European Leadership (YEL), the organisation that made this experience possible and that is effortlessly providing opportunities to empower young individuals from Europe and beyond. Will you be the next delegate? Check the website and do not miss your chance!

Shaking the Present… Y20 2018 Argentina

By Mark Coles

Hello! My name’s Mark Coles and along with Luisa De Simone I was lucky enough to be selected as YEL’s delegate for Y20 (Youth 20) summit in Cordoba, Argentina. I’ve been a long a long way, both metaphorically and physically…13,000km in fact, but having recently returned I was asked to share a few words on what has been a unique experience.

Rather than bore you senseless with chapter and verse, I thought it a good idea to outline what we got up to and some of my reflections now a little time has time elapsed. The Y20 is one of seven streams into the G20 group nations (the others with a focus on women, business, science, civil society, academia and labour) for which each country can put their own spin on the event when blessed with the presidency.

Our Argentine hosts were no different and wanted to give us a flavour of not only Argentina, but create a legacy through a suite of scalable social action projects that would ‘picked up’ and rolled out around the world by anyone wishing to do so. We also created a more ‘traditional’ communique that were lucky enough to take to Brussels to present to the G20 Sherpa team, and three other European Commission departments and visit community projects in Cordoba and La Perla, a concentration camp when there was Junta (military) rule in the late 1970’s.

The policy areas (Education, Entrepreneurship, Future of Work, Sustainability) we worked on were extremely broad and with such a vast array of talent attending the summit in the form of official delegates and special guests (we had everything from lawyers and PhD’s to social project leaders) had much lively debate on what our communique should include. Lesson One- compromise is key when there is a broad spectrum of views.

I could write a blog about each area, but rather than that, the three key themes and messages that jumped out for me from the week that we are passionate about is the step-change to sustainability, a levelling of inequalities, and inclusion of marginalised persons.

I’d argue the world is at a junction where there is an imperative need for the benefits of growth, technology and interconnectivityto be equally distributed. Not only between nations but also between societal groups within them- for too long the benefits have been shared amongst the few and the message is that this needs to change.

It was also evident we felt there needs to be more empathy in policy making…how can you balance this off against actionable delivery to retain legitimacy and public support? How can legalese become more empathetic? How can we change mindsets so issues are thought about through a broader lens rather than pure trade-offs or costs?

‘Social entrepreneurship’ was a phrase I heard banded around and I hope in a nice way it becomes obsolete. all entrepreneurship will have an inherent element of ‘social’. Companies and brands will have an existential crisis if they do not espouse this with the young global consumer of today.

The future of work is something that will affect us all and seems to be a sleeping giant problem- disruption to working conditions, equality and fairness create unrest … more companies and governments need to be engaged looking at the solutions.

George Bernard Shaw said all good ideas start as blasphemy and I think this is a license the youth at any point have … we are starting from no entrenched position, competition and national advantage still have a role and should be encouraged, but how can we shake the cart, do things differently, more equitably for a better outcome for all?

Everyone loves a video right? So if you like to find our more, one has been widely shared!

Thanks for reading!


“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.