Table 2: How to strengthen the EU as a global economic player


The following issues were discussed in the workshop:

  • The Economic and Monetary Union and the role of the single market
  • The EU's industrial policy
  • The role of the EU in international trade and the WTO
  • Foreign Direct Investment Screening
  • Trade Defence Instruments
  • Multilateral Investment Court
  • Global Supply Chains, Decent Work and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Global Economic Governance
  • Development cooperation instruments
  • Lack of export promotion at EU level

1. Internal tools to strengthen the EU's economy

  • Deepening and enlarging the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) should remain among the top priorities in the EU's next legislative term-of-office. Strengthening the single market and the single currency are key European achievements and a necessary condition for economic prosperity. Further political momentum is needed to enlarge the euro area and complete its economic toolbox, including a common fiscal capacity, banking union and capital markets union.
  • The EU needs to be more integrated than it currently is in order to be a real global player. European and national political leaders should take responsibility for this process, in cooperation with civil society. To this end, social and civil dialogue must be much more developed. We need a Europe of cohesion, equality, balance, non-discrimination and solidarity. A two-or multiple-speed Europe can never become a relevant global player. Therefore, convergence between Member States should be ensured through targeted support for the lesser developed and economically weaker countries and regions.
  • Industrial policy, through coordination at EU level of its different sectors, would be a key factor in this. There are three basic elements for economic success: skilled people, money and infrastructure, and we need to ensure that all of them are put in place together. We must promote Europe's outstanding industrial sectors by investing in the necessary skills, university education, research and development, and by ensuring knowledge transfer from the campus to the market. A better enabling environment for commercialisation of research and start-up support could be the key to this. Venture capital, equity participation and securitisation are among the instruments that could be used to make the economic bio-system more conducive to new businesses.

2. External tools to strengthen the role of the EU as a global economic player

  • After 60 years of the EU, the question of how do we promote our organisation is often raised. Some elements that are at odds with this vision:
  • The EU's institutional set-up does not allow to have one single voice, i.e., there is not an institutional figure empowered to talk on behalf of the EU without the risk being overridden by a national leader;
  • The distribution of competences needs to be rethought: in exclusive competencies of the EU, the EU should have a single voice, this will also imply, for example, the EU having a single seat in international for a. At the WTO, the EU should act with a single voice, whereas currently Member States usually retain their power and/or interest.
  • Free Trade Agreements are a pivotal instrument of the EU's external policy; however, what do they bring to the EU's citizens? Sometimes the decisions taken are for the benefit of the few, sacrificing the will of the most. The way the EU negotiates needs to be rethought.
  • The question of federalist approach vs. intergovernmental approach remains decisive aspect of the role the EU wants to have in the world. Europe as a global economic player has many tools and many possibilities at its disposal to strengthen its role in the international arena, but it has not always been willing to use them, particularly in defending human rights, labour rights and European companies.
  • Trade defence instruments: the debate on the Multilateral Investment Court has yet to cover instruments for FDI protection. Moreover, in FTA negotiations, do we need a special mechanism defending multinational corporations? SMEs are very unlikely to benefit from these mechanisms.
  • There is a need for reflecting on how we can be global leaders in defending EU values though Global Supply Chains and CSR, i.e. binding instruments on due diligence and binding instruments on business and human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals are an instrument that is slowly attracting the interest of the EU.
  • The WTO is currently facing important challenges. Whereas the dispute settlement mechanism needs to be fixed, there is also a need for global reform of the WTO institutional set-up; which remains the same in a world that has changed.
  • Development Cooperation Mechanisms are an additional external instrument that plays an essential role in in promoting decent work and democracy in developing countries.
  • Change in human society and the role of digital transformation in delivering on SDGs and in social and economic developments needs to be acknowledged.

Overall conclusions

The participants in the workshop concurred that the EU's governance has not reached its full potential and noted the current challenges Europe is facing. The EMU, the Single Market, competition and industrial policy should be strengthened also with a view to enabling the EU to play an effective global role. There are significant external challenges, including encouraging global trade and maintaining Europe’s role as the leading global trading bloc, both at a multilateral and bilateral level, maintaining the EU’s position as a leading source of and destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and managing imbalances in the global economy in partnership with other countries and international institutions. Members States should create the necessary conditions to empower EU institutions and organised civil society to achieve these ambitious goals together.

Chair: Dilyana Slavova (EESC member)
Rapporteur: Alberto Mazzola (EESC member)


Work organisation