Corporate views on the European Union

As a contribution to the discussions regarding the upcoming elections to the European Parliament the French and the British Chambers of commerce together with EY organised on May the 13th a panel discussion on the theme “Corporate views on the European Union”.

The panel was composed by representatives of Swedish, French and British business and Karl Isaksson, Managing Partner, Kreab Gavin Anderson, Brussels, was the moderator. On the distinguished panel we had:

Jan-Eric Sundgren, Senior Adviser to the CEO Volvo Group

Nils Lannefors, Country Manager Alstom Sweden

Ian Harcourt, Head of RBS Nordisk Renting, The Royal Bank of Scotland

Niklas Bergström, Director EU and International Affairs, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

The main question for the panel was “Is the EU good for business?” and what the EU should do to improve its competitiveness and also how business can support the EU to move in the right direction.

Some of the conclusions were that the EU is mainly positive for business but there are both positive and negative aspects. The positive are the big internal market and the fairly aggressive trade policy of the EU. The negative sides are the too many regulations, the high unemployment and economic stagnation, the north/south imbalance and the huge institutional challenges within the EU.

The single market has been very good for business but now it has to be completed also in areas such as energy, transportation, mobility etc. The EU framework and harmonisation has been positive for operations across borders and long-term projects.

Innovation framework programs have also been very beneficial to business. Such innovation cooperation does not exist anywhere else and the structural funds for innovation increase the competitiveness.

Jobs and growth have been the main concerns for very many years and they are today even more important. The global pressure is very strong and EU should not focus only on the internal market but always consider the global context. EU can lead global development, as it has done for legislation of CO2 emissions for instance. Strong legislation has forced business to develop and become more competitive and others then have been obliged to follow.

The target of EU is that 20% of GDP come from industry. Most countries are far below, including Sweden at 15-16%. In order to reach this target some production must be moved back to Europe. Production and services are strongly interlinked so without production very little services. Legislation must be coherent for the companies and trade negotiations are very important since increased trade leads to jobs and growth.

It seems as the companies, whether they are Swedish, French or British, agree on most issues regarding the EU and that the European Union is a good thing for the European companies and their business.

We thank the panellists, the moderator and our host EY for the interesting debate and the nice mingle cocktail that followed the debate. And don’t forget to vote!

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