Manuel Bermejo. Professor. IE Business School

14 October 2011

The European Union has undeniably brought many benefits to Spain, but it is also threatening the welfare state as we know it.

Recently I was in my homeland, Extremadura. I visited Yuste, the final resting place of Emperor Charles V, a man who was ahead of his time, a man who overcame local bias and devoted his life to the idea of a united Europe. It was here that Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, received the Charles V award from Prince Felipe. The award was granted by the Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste for “his trajectory and his commitment to external relations and his work towards peace and democracy”. As stated by the President of the European Commission, Durao Barroso, Solana is "a Spaniard of the world."

Against the backdrop of this impressive ceremony, I got to thinking about Europe’s role in the world, particularly from the perspective of the Spanish and European family entrepreneur.

Clearly, the common European project provides a market which is rich in opportunities. It is also true that common European policies, and especially the existence of the euro, afford us important macroeconomic stability. In the case of Spain, moreover, the EU has been a source of considerable revenue which has contributed significantly to the country’s progress. On a more human level, the EU has secured an unprecedented prolonged period of peace. The concept of a more humane Europe has been introduced under the pretext of being a social Europe which promotes values, human rights, welfare and universal health care, to name but a few of the concepts that are related to this common European project.

However, the crisis has also thrown up serious concerns about the future of Europe in a world which is subject to the transfer of power, to different world views and frenetic change. This year is the 25th anniversary of Spain´s entry into the EU so let’s make a quick assessment of how our world has changed during this period: there have been periods of progress, it is currently undergoing a profound crisis; there have been extraordinary advances in technology, science and health; and abominable terrorist activity (11 March, 11 September ...). The feeling that Europe’s prominence is waning as Asian and American giants develop is now becoming a reality. The Pacific axis plays more of a leading role than the Atlantic axis.

What future lies ahead for Spanish and European family entrepreneurs? Does the mega concept of "More Europe" actually help us? Is Europe ready to take decisions at breakneck speed as is required today? Is the welfare state as we know it today compatible with the concept of competitiveness and productivity which global markets demand?

I am a staunch supporter of Europe and still believe in Charles V’s vision. However, this new world requires different forms of governance, management styles and strategies. The ruling class needs to take bold steps and work towards building a more solid European civil society which will help develop the notion of “More Europe”.


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