Florence – On the second day of The State of the Union Conference “Europe in a Changing World”, organised by the European University Institute (EUI), several international decision-makers took the stage to discuss Europe and its global role.
The European Commission’s Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans took part in a morning session about global climate action. Timmermans said young people should not underestimate their influence on institutions: “There wouldn’t have been a Green Deal without Fridays for Future. So that is thanks them.”
Former Greek Finance Minister and EUI School of Transnational Governance (STG) Professor George Papaconstantinou interviewed ECB President Christine Lagarde (photo). Taking about the bank’s role in recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, Lagarde said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic will create inequality, and the ECB will have to deliver growth and jobs.”
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman to lead the multilateral trade organisation, offered a 360-degree view on trade challenges. She also touched upon the issue of gender, saying “we are working to involve women in new rules of trade and support them in our global economy.” Onkonjo-Iweala added the WTO must update its rules “to bring marginalised people into the global trade system.”
Professor Jean Pisani-Ferry of the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre also touched upon trade in his The State of the Union lecture: “Economists are wrong. It’s not all about games & incentives. Legal scholars are also wrong when they say it’s all about treaties and institutions,” he said. “We see cracks where we have the strongest institutions. The problem now is trade and global financial networks.”
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and EC Vice-President Josep Borrell Fontelles, also a founding father of The State of the Union Conference, was interviewed about strategic autonomy. Another interview with EIB President Werner Hoyer focused on climate.
STG Director Alex Stubb, master students and fellows talked with Nobel economics laureate Bengt Holmström about whether Europe is falling behind in the global digital economy. According to Holmström, who recently joined the STG as part-time professor, Europe has focused more on privacy and regulation. “The general idea in Europe is that individuals or enterprises own the data and should decide. But data has enormous social value,” he said. “Giving that ownership to individuals makes development very slow.”
The 2021 edition of The State of the Union concluded on Friday evening with a closing address by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. Nearly 2000 invitees interacted via a digital event platform during the conference.
On Saturday 8 May, a live in-person event for over 300 students and young activists will complement the 10th anniversary edition of The State of the Union. The live show with artists, influencers, and Members of the European Parliament is part of the Citizens Engagement Actions co-funded by the European Union.
#SOU4YOU – Bringing the State of the Union Closer to Citizens aims at creatively engaging young people, civil society organisations, and minority representatives on the big questions facing Europe to make sure the wider public feels part of the debate. It will also represent a symbolic stepping stone towards the Conference on the Future of Europe which will be launched on the following day in Strasbourg.