22nd Jan 2020


Can the Green Deal – and Europe – succeed?

  • The EU's Green New Deal will only work if the EU - the Commission, the Council and the Parliament - radically changes their way of working. On speed, on priorities, on results & and on the big bucks (Photo: Martin Fisch)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has unveiled the European Green Deal, and intends to make this the cornerstone of European policy over the next five years.

This sounds spot on. Von der Leyen has very correctly framed the vision. But who doubted that the EU should devote our efforts to the fight against climate change? This is not where Europe will be judged, but on the results.

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The catch, in fact, is that it will only work if the EU - the Commission, the Council and the Parliament - radically changes their way of working. On speed, on priorities, on results & and on the big bucks.

Time first. We keep forgetting, self-centred with European and Brexit affairs, that the world is accelerating at an incredible pace.

One month in 2019 is probably worth a year of 1999, in terms of geopolitical speed of change & technological progress.

The Union needs to go on steroids and shelve the usual European 'calls for proposals' that last six or 12 months, long public consultations that last over a year – and probably reform completely the seven-year Multiannual Financial Framework – a true Gosplan that impedes political agility and is insufficiently strategic.

Europe needs to experiment much more, start, stop, try unconventional ways and take bold risks. We are doing none of this today. Europe needs to enter the 21st century from an agility point of view, or risk being increasingly reactive and defensive – a losing strategy.

A clear vision requires clear priorities. And making priorities require hard choices. We cannot go ahead with budgets that are spread through thousands of individual projects – mainly to satisfy stakeholders from all parts of the Union.

Member states have a huge responsibility in this, which results into wasting huge amounts of taxpayer's euros, while achieving very little breakthrough results – as it is never clear whether the priority was wrong or not enough money was invested.

Yes, focus on results – and this means targets, intermediary milestones, and constantly measuring the quantified impact of European policies – not according to the money that flows back to members states, but in terms of progressing on Europe's strategic priorities, that need to be quantified when there are enacted.

As an example, one can wonder where the billions that have been invested in the digital strategy have gone – as no single European digital market exists yet, nor have we a single European company in the top 15 technology firms in the world. We need impact reports that measure not only the input – but what concrete results have been achieved – in digital, in transportation, in research….

PR stunt

Money finally – lets us avoid the obsession of the €1 trillion plan. That sounds exciting and bold, yes, but that's a PR stunt.

We already saw with the €410bn Juncker plan that this would make Europe great again. We muddled through the crisis, with no doubt, but have we achieved a breakthrough? How efficient were these funds?

We have invested €200bn in research and innovation since 1984, but have we achieved any leadership in quantum, semiconductors, storage, artificial intelligence? The simple answer is no.

We need – now, and not in one or two years – dramatically more agile, focused strategies, with quantified targets and milestones as well as the utmost sense of urgency.

Not doing so will be wasting massive amounts of money – and angering citizens even more about the inefficiency of Europe. Von der Leyen, the member states, the parliament have an incredible opportunity for a reset – probably the last train for Europe to do it right.

Or to live in the world shaped by the United States, China or emerging authoritarian regimes.

Author bio

André Loesekrug-Pietri is director of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI), founder of ACAPITAL, a European technology investment fund, and a former special advisor to the French minister of defence.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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