The European Business Group (EBG) hosted on last Monday, April 12th, its first European Conference, that gathered some of the most outstanding European and North American leaders of the political and corporate world under the theme “Exploring Challenges and Opportunities for EU/US business”.
One of the guest of honor at the conference was Mr. Jose Maria Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain, who opened the event with a speech about the importance of transatlantic relations for the future of Europe. Mr. Aznar lamented that the current US administration is giving lower importance to this relation with Europe in favor of other regions of the world, in particular Asia and Middle East. Mr. Aznar also placed special emphasis on the necessity of creating a free market without transatlantic trade barriers and do not fall into the old temptation of protectionism as a response to the current economic crisis. Mr. Aznar explained that the liberalization of the transatlantic market regarding services, capital and knowledge is necessary to improve the competitiveness of the European Union. According to Mr. Aznar, these political and economic reforms must be accompanied by a strong commitment to the defense of freedom against the threat of totalitarianism, global terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this sense, NATO must take a leading role in the fight against terrorism.
The conference then hosted three panel discussions and a lunch keynote. The topic of the first panel discussion of the conference, Messrs. Alessandro Motta, Martin Rouine, Javier Ruperez and Dirk Willen Schiff, respectively Consul Generals of Italy, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands in Chicago, discussed about the particular features of the economies of their countries, and identified the major weaknesses of the EU’s lack of a genuine common fiscal and economic policy.
The next panel focused on Innovation and Competitiveness, included representatives from the Case New Holland / Fiat Group, DSM Desotech, NAVTEQ, Aviva North America and the EU Delegation to the US. After the panel, Mr. Abe Tomas Hughes, Vice President Director of Business Development of Case New Holland / Fiat Group for the Americas made a keynote speech about “International Business and the
MBA – A Hands-On Perspective”.
The third panel addressed the Future of Transatlantic Finance, where executives of Deutsche bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and JP Morgan Securities, Inc. made a thorough analysis of the current financial panorama in Europe and the US.
Mr. Yiannos Papantoniou, former Minister for National Economy and Finance of Greece, was in charge of closing the conference with a speech and a round of questions about the Euro Crisis. According to Mr. Papantoniou, “The absence of a central supervisory authority for the financial system has created doubts as to the ability of the weaker member-countries to bail out their banks. Credit risks spread sharply so that over-indebted countries such as Greece started to borrow at much higher interest rates in relation to Germany. This tendency, reinforced by negative ratings by international agencies, may lead to credit crises, even to default. The Greek crisis has highlighted the fact that the euro is a monetary union but not a political union. It does possess a central bank, but not a Treasury. The central bank can provide liquidity in times of crisis, though only a Treasury can address problems of solvency.”
Finally Mr. Papantoniou highlighted that the Euro Crisis does also represent an opportunity for a leap forward in the integration process. “Difficult as it may seem today, unification should proceed to higher levels so that Europe attains a stronger position in the international system”, Mr. Papantoniou said.
For the European Business Group, the organization of Chicago Booth European Conference 2010 required a considerable amount of time and efforts. Organizing the first European Business Conference has been a challenge, and we would like to thank all the speakers, our sponsors; The Case New Holland / Fiat Group, Deutsche Bank and DSM, the professors, volunteers and participants for helping us to make it happened. It is the wish of all of us to see this conference become better every year, and that’s why we have already started to work on the next year edition. There are still many challenges and opportunities for EU/US businesses to explore, and we look forward to meeting you again next year!
The European Business Group: