Events > Conferences > WWWforEurope conference: Europe in a long-run perspective

Karl Aiginger (WIFO) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Domenico Rossetti di Valdalbero (DG RTD, European Commission) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Marianne Thyssen (European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Video conference with Jeffrey Sachs (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Karl Aiginger and Marianne Thyssen (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Roger Liddle (Policy Network) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Elena Flores (DG ECFIN, European Commission) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Józef Niemiec (ETUC) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Jeroen van den Bergh (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Marina Fischer-Kowalski (Institute of Social Ecology) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Kurt Kratena (WIFO) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Georg Licht (ZEW) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Reinhilde Veugelers (KU Leuven) (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Social and Environmental Progress: Europe in a Long-Run Perspective

WWWforEurope Conference on

Social and Environmental Progress:

Europe in a Long-Run Perspective


Brussels, Belgium, February 24th, 2015


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Conference programme overview

Jeffrey D. Sachs: The "European Model" and Global Long-Run Development from WIFO on Vimeo.

"There is a genuine European model for economy and society and we have to develop it further", European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen emphasised in her keynote at today's stakeholder conference "Social and Environmental Progress: Europe in a Long-Run Perspective" in Brussels. At this conference researchers from the European wide FP7 project WWWforEurope presented the results of their work to representatives from European and international institutions, social partners, academia and NGOs.

Karl Aiginger, director of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) and co-ordinator of this ground-breaking project, put the results in a nutshell, "The only chance for Europe in the globalised world is to go for a high-road strategy, based on quality, innovation and skills. The final proof of competitiveness is the ability to achieve welfare goals, while low wages and social and environmental standards - elements of a low road strategy - lead away from beyond GDP goals, and can easily be outperformed by emerging countries. The main contribution of WWWforEurope is to define instruments which make ecological ambitions and social inclusiveness compatible with economic dynamics. This includes innovative strategies to decouple resource use from growth, to improve education and to establish activating labour market policies, as well as good governance."

Jeffrey Sachs (The Earth Institute), member of the Scientific Board of WWWforEurope, strongly approved of this strategy: "In the Age of Sustainable Development we need a holistic approach, including economic progress, strong social bonds and environmental sustainability."

Roger Liddle from the Policy Network, Atilim Seymen from the Deutsche Bundesbank and Elena Flores, director at DG ECFIN, discussed social policy in the short and long run. Liddle's main point was that EU economic governance today fails to address the economic and political risks of social imbalances. The consequences of ignoring such issues become more and more obvious in southern EU member states. Deepening integration while respecting political diversity could benefit all EU members quickly. Seymen presented his results on labour market reforms: Analysis of the German Hartz shows that they had positive effects on the German labour market but due to system differences and overlaying effects these reforms cannot easily be used as best practices for other European countries. But there is one general lesson to be learned: Distributional effects of labour market reforms can have detrimental effects on the reputation and therefore on the effectiveness of such reforms.

Jeroen van den Bergh from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Marina Fischer-Kowalski from the Institute of Social Ecology and Kurt Kratena from WIFO presented their research work on a panel dealing with long-run growth and decoupling of resource use. In this panel, a discussion with Monica Frassoni (Co-chair of the EU Green party) about the consequences of an increasing scarcity of energy and raw materials took place which highlighted that an absolute decoupling of growth and resource use is urgently needed. Jeroen van den Bergh listed a number of challenges for this endeavour, from rebound effects to social-political feasibility. Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Kurt Kratena showed that by implementing intelligent models of green taxes and/or environmental fiscal devaluation a socially fair and sustainable decoupling might be possible.

Georg Licht from the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW Mannheim) and Reinhilde Veugelers from KU Leuven added another perspective to this discussion on their panel on "Innovation, Employment and the Environment". Green innovation helps to reduce emissions and/or creates low-carbon technologies, at the same time it spurs growth and makes economies more resilient. And contrary to some fears green innovation is not a "job killer" but creates employment. Policies incentivising green innovation, for example by defining stricter standards, therefore need not lead to employment losses.

Additional to the presentation of research results, the conference hosted a high level policy panel with Karl Aiginger, Miguel Gil Tertre from the European Commission, Janneke Plantenga from Utrecht University, André Sapir from Bruegel, and Frank Vandenbroucke (KU Leuven and former Belgian Minister for Social Security, Health Insurance, Pensions and Employment). Europe may be still struggling with the aftermaths of the crisis, nevertheless there should be no time lost to set the course for the socio-ecological transition outlined by the scientific panels. For this a deeper European integration is needed in which gender issues play a vital role as well, and European institutions have to be reformed. Growing Euro-skepticism should be countered by a credible policy towards a "better" Europe, towards a high-road strategy for Europe and for the benefit of all its citizens. This is a key objective of the Horizon 2020, the € 80 billion research and innovation framework programme of the EU.

The stakeholder event was attended by more than 140 representatives from the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee as well as other European based institutions, e.g.: the European Commission, DG Environment, DG Research and Innovation, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, DG Employment and Social Policy, DG Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid, DG Education and Culture, the EESC Europe 2020 Steering Committee, the European Environment Agency, the European Trade Union Confederation, Friends of Europe, the Club of Rome, the European New Towns and Pilot Cities Platform, the International Labour Organisation, the European Green Party, the EU Office of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour - Brussels Office, as well as the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management.


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Kurt Kratena, Marianne Thyssen, Domenico Rossetti di Valdalbero (click to enlarge) © WIFO

A question from the audience (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Panel "The Short- and Long-Run Policy Agenda in Europe: The Social Dimension" (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Policy Panel: The Future of the "European Model" and the Aftermath of the Crisis (click to enlarge) © WIFO

René Höltschi, André Sapir, Janneke Plantenga (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Janneke Plantenga, Karl Aiginger (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Miguel Gil-Tertre, Frank Vandenbroucke (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Panel "Long-Run Growth and Absolute Decoupling of Resource Use" (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Kurt Bayer, Monica Frassoni (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Panel "Innovation, Employment and the Environment" (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Kurt Bayer, Kumi Kitamori (click to enlarge) © WIFO

Georg Licht, Thomas Wieser (click to enlarge) © WIFO