Europe needs to go back to the real business, with citizens at the center

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Is economy about numbers or about people? These days we easily get the impression that our economy thrives through numbers and money alone. Higher GDP numbers are proudly announced as ‘economic growth’ while at the same time there is no prospect for millions of jobless people, a number that still is increasing. Also at the same time poverty has risen in Europe to unprecedented post-war levels.

Of course, often job growth lags behind and follows after growth in production and investment. There is a widespread assumption that this will again be the case. Perhaps, but this is quite uncertain since the causes of the crisis seem not really to have been addressed.

In my opinion the economic crisis is a moral crisis, a crisis of trust and a crisis of ownership. The greed in the financial capital markets has been a major cause of the crisis. The dominance of capital markets has also lead to a crisis in ownership. People feel disempowered, they have the strong feeling that they have no real influence over the economy in which they are working and living. The overemphasis on the stock markets has given the message that the economy is indeed about numbers and money and that people can only follow the developments.

How to change direction? 

Our economy cannot exist independent from people and culture. We cannot put our economy in a separate box. Our economy is a whole that is based on relations and improves if these relations are just and fair. If people feel that they relate to their work, their company, their managers, their colleagues, than that creates a long-term sustainable economy.

Europe needs to go back to the real business, with citizens at the center. 

This means first and foremost that SME’s have to be front and centre in economic policy. SME’s are the main employer and the best guarantee for long-term employment. The majority of the new job opportunities that arise in Eu­rope, are created by the small and medium sized businesses, nearly 4 million jobs each year. All that can be done to encourage entrepreneurial spirit and the involvement of SME’s needs to be done. The EU ‘s “Small Business Act“ initiative needs to get much more emphasis and when preparing new initiatives and EU-regulations, an assessment of planned actions’ impacts on small enterprises should be carried out. But we also need to encourage the renewal of entrepreneurial spirit and an inclusive economy.

Investing in education

We need an approach that connects young people to experts and professionals in any field. This can range from seasoned craftsmen to expert technicians. Only if we are able to include as many young people as possible in our economy we will have an economic future. For all young people who have entrepreneurial potential there needs to be support and encouragement in that direction.

It is time for an economy in which free market is completed with important fundamentals of our economic life like ecological sustainability and inclusive economic growth. It is time for a system that allows no reward without responsibility, no investment without involvement and no profit without participation.