Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Focus

Van Rompuy: Europeans too depressed to be innovative

  • A first assessment of innovation policies and country-specific recommendations will be made at the EU summit in June (Photo: Valentina Pop)

If Europe is to remain relevant as an innovative economy, people need to be more positive and entrepreneurial and not let themselves be depressed by the economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures, EU council chairman Herman Van Rompuy has said.

"Innovation has a lot to do with behaviour, risk taking, motivation and education. You can't have a society of very creative people only based on financial stimulus," the former Belgian premier said Wednesday (4 May) during a conference organised by Ernst&Young on innovation and the role of government in supporting it.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Van Rompuy said that "societal problems in Belgium and elsewhere" in the EU mean that people "live in a climate of despair and are depressed."

But in order for Europe to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in areas ranging from energy to agriculture, services and digital technologies, "we need a dynamic and positive society," based on competition "but also on generosity."

The financial and subsequent economic crises "can help," he said, noting that in the past year, EU institutions have evolved a lot.

"But crisis can be very depressive. Only negative messages from leaders are the wrong message coming out of the crisis. The positive outlook is key for a dynamic society," he stressed.

Noting that according to the EU's own estimates, the bloc will fall behind Asia and the US by 2025 in terms of innovation, Van Rompuy said he will not let EU leaders hide behind nice pledges, after they agreed earlier this year to give priority to areas such as education, innovation and energy.

"We will not allow this process to become a slow bureaucratic exercise, but we will follow it closely," he said.

At an upcoming EU summit mid-June, a first assessment of these policies and country-specific recommendations will be made.

"Early 2012, I want to know what member states concretely did in the one year period to boost innovation, even in harsh times of austerity. What did they do to increase the share of innovative products and services in public procurement, to stimulate green growth, to prove the use of EU funding allocated to research and innovation," Van Rompuy said.

His remarks on lack of innovation in Belgium was echoed by the CEO of the country's national railway company (NMBS), Marc Descheemaecker.

In a video interview for the EUobserver, Descheemaecker said: "Innovation is very important for us, because although we are a classical industry – transport industry – we have to do more – move more people and goods – with fewer means."

"In Belgium we need incentives, partnerships with the government, in order to develop an innovative platform. We have to be more entrepreneurial, we need more new businesses starting up, we need young, fresh, creative people starting up their own businesses – that's a bit lagging behind at this point in time," Descheemaecker said.

When asked why, the CEO said because Belgium has a high standard of living and comfort.

"Need also drives creation. If you are too comfortable, well installed in your sofa, you don't feel the urge to go and start creating, start innovating things," he noted.

His view of the government being an important driver of innovation was however contradicted by Geert Noels, a leading Belgian economist and author of "Econoshocks."

"If innovation would depend on public stimulus and subsidies, it wouldn't be called innovation. It wouldn't be change, because change comes from the people, not from the government," he told this website.

In Noels' view, Belgium has to create an environment "in which people are open to change, and educated to manage that change. But I am a disbeliever that you can subsidise innovation."

Key note speaker Herman Van Rompuy at the Ernst & Young Innovation conference

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS (4 MAY 2011) How can Europe be more innovative? At the first ever Government and Innovation Summit in Brussels on 4 May organised by Ernst & Young, the President of the EU council Herman Van Rompuy offered his views. A survey conducted by CEPS revealed that the EU is putting enough money towards R&D projects, but that this money could be better spent. Innovation expert Charles Leadbeater explained what Europe really needs to boost innovation.

Watch more EUobserver videos here

Watch webcast: here

Innovation

As the EU continues to struggle with the effects of the economic crisis, the importance of investing in innovation and research is increasingly been emphasized. But how much money is enough and where should it be spent? EUobserver investigates.

EU innovation efforts unknown

The efforts of the EU to turn the old continent into an “innovation union” are largely unknown to business leaders, according to a survey by global accounting firm Ernst & Young.

The Acta debate - will innovation be stifled?

Opponents of Acta, the controversial anti-counterfeiting treaty up for vote in the European Parliament in July, say, among other things, that it would stifle innovation. Advocates say the exact opposite.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us