The participants of the third Vision Europe Summit discussed policies which can contribute to a better distribution of the benefits of globalization. The debates highlighted a fair trade policy and instruments of social and labour market policy which enable citizens to cope with change.
Globalization has contributed to lifting millions of people out of poverty. However, neither have all countries benefited to the same extent from the increasing global interdependencies, nor have the economic gains been distributed equally among groups of society.
Denis Mukwege illustrated this in his keynote: Using the example of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the doctor and human right activist showed how the country has contributed to the international trade system since colonization and is today an important exporter of resources for the tech industries. Due to a lack of rule of law and ongoing violent conflicts, the gains of this trade only benefit a small national elite and international companies.
A fair trade policy is necessary
Distributing the gains of globalization more broadly among citizens not only requires the appropriate institutions at the national level, but also a fair trade policy. The conference participants agreed that the EU will have to design its future bilateral trade agreements accordingly.
The discussions on the second day, among others with representatives from the World Trade Organization and the EU, highlighted that the multilateral trade cooperation within the WTO currently suffers from the fact that the US has relinquished its historic leading position. Up to now, no other country has replaced the US in this leading role.
Enable people to cope with change
"Change" was a recurrent theme during the two days. Globalization is not the only driver of change; technological progress also significantly affects labour markets and societies. All these change processes generate insecurity among the groups affected by them. It is therefore important to enable people to cope proactively with change, for example with mobility and training packages, so that they can benefit from ongoing changes instead of being left behind by society and on the labour market.
A policy of social investment can contribute to enabling people. Such measures can, on the long run, also re-establish the trust in politics, which some social groups have lost. As Michael Spence (Nobel Prize laureate of 2001) put it in his speech: Trust that politics acts in the name of the common good for example by enacting policies in favour of inclusive growth, is one of the conditions of a functioning society.
Policy proposals at the EU level
It is time to act in this direction in Europe, on the level of the EU institutions as well as on the level of the member states. Disappointed citizens call the process of European integration into question, but unilateralism is not the solution. On the contrary, the EU should support member states in the endeavour to shape globalization and to enable their citizens to cope with change. During the summit, several concrete policy proposals have been discussed: With the European Globalization Adjustment Fund the EU has established a promising instrument which, however, needs more resources and should focus its interventions more on pre-emptive actions. In addition, the EU should more strongly support social investment efforts within its member states.
The third Vision Europe Summit brought together political, civil society and business leaders from throughout the European Union in Turin on 14 and 15 November 2017. Established in 2015 on our initiative, Vision Europe is a consortium of eight European think tanks and foundations. Through research, publications and an annual summit, it serves as a forum for debate and a source of recommendations that address pressing socio-economic issues and Europe's future. Vision Europe partners include the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany), Bruegel (Belgium), CASE – Center for Social and Economic Research (Poland), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), Chatham House (UK), Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy), Jacques Delors Institute (France) and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra (Finland).