A Lunch Conversation on the State of Europe with Commissioner Bienkowska

On September 14, the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council hosted European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska, who was accompanied by Ambassador of the European Union David O’Sullivan as part of the Atlantic Council’s EuroGrowth Conversation Series. The off-the-record roundtable- moderated by Andrea Montanino, the Director of the Global Business and Economics Program- brought together representatives from private companies, the US Department of the Treasury, the US Department of Commerce, and the International Monetary Fund.

The roundtable was gathered to discuss European economic recovery and the medium and long-term prospects for European growth. In her remarks, Commissioner Bienkowska emphasized three areas:

  • The general outlook for the European economy and reasons to be optimistic
  • The critical role of TTIP in Europe’s economic future
  • The importance of sustaining small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially through better financial tools

In assessing the outlook for the European economy, the Commissioner made it clear that the crisis is over and Europe has turned the corner towards long term growth. With exports, private consumption, and investments all on the rise again, the participants of the roundtable largely agreed that there is reason for optimism about the European economy going forward. While significant economic challenges still remain, especially with high unemployment in many countries and long-term investment- especially in new technology- low. This is why the European Commission has made investment, jobs, and growth its top priority.

The Commissioner also pointed to TTIP as an important part of Europe’s recovery and future growth. She further stressed its importance in deepening transatlantic relations and increasing exports, which would bring significant economic gains to both the US and the EU while improving options for consumers. Participants mostly agreed that there should be significant determination to complete TTIP in the coming year.

Finally, the conversation turned to the Commissioner’s focus on SMEs. SMEs make up ninety-nine percent of EU businesses and provide most private sector jobs. The Commissioner made it clear that SMEs must be at the heart of TTIP and Europe’s future economic growth. In light of this, the Commissioner highlighted her work towards improving financing options and information available to SMEs, as well as work reducing the regulatory barriers they often face.

While Europe faces a number of issues, the participants of the roundtable largely agreed that there is political will in Europe to address the crises Europe faces, move forward with economic reform, and conclude a good TTIP agreement for consumers and for businesses, both small and large.

To read Commissioner Bienkowska’s full speech, please visit the Commission’s website here. http://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/bienkowska/announcements/putting-our-smes-heart-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-agenda-remarks-atlantic-council-washington_en

The EuroGrowth Conversation Series is a recurring discussion series at the Atlantic Council analyzing the prospects for European economic recovery and a forum for new and innovative ideas to be shared among leading policymakers, academics, and the private sector.