European Growth Initiative
The European Union is facing a number of key challenges: reducing unemployment, generating sustainable economic growth, building a European energy system, which secures supply and promotes climate protection. Additionally, the EU wants to gain back the European citizens’ trust, which it has lost over the years. Another point on the EU’s agenda is improving working conditions – especially in southern European countries.
During recent months reflections and propositions have increasingly been brought forward on how to stimulate investments in the European Union EU, in order to tackle a number of key challenges that the EU is currently facing. The European Investment Plan for Europe (commonly referred to as “Juncker Plan”) is the most prominent example. This plan consists of a package of measures to unlock public and private investments of at least 315 billion EUR over the next three years (2015 – 2017).
But simply providing public money and attracting additional private investments is not enough. The money must be invested in viable projects, with a real added value for the European economy and sustainable integration.
The European Growth Initiative’s approach and objective
Seizing the current dynamic in the discussions on these investment stimulations, such as the “Junker Plan” and other investment financing options, the Berlin-based HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform proposes a new way of identifying value-adding projects that will benefit the European Union in multiple ways.
The European Growth Initiative’s objective is very ambitions, aiming at the identification of investment options for a sustainable, citizen-friendly growth that lowers unemployment, protects the environment and climate, and improves labor relations. Thus, the initiative strives to tackle a number of challenges at once.
While this is a challenging endeavor, at the core of this initiative lies a rather simple but central question:
Which actors need to be included and which procedures applied in order to identify realistic and sustainable investment projects that are supported by a broad societal consensus on the national as well as European level?
- [+] The European Growth Initiative's key characteristics
Inclusive and participatory. HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA’s proven concept of inclusive and participatory discussions, so-called Trialogs, is the hallmark to identify answers to this central question. Trialogs bring together actors from all three stakeholder groups: the political sphere, the business sector and organized civil society (incl. trade unions) as well as academia, media. Their different functions, backgrounds, experiences and levels of power cover a wide spectrum of essential societal perspectives. It is crucial to understand their different positions and underlying arguments in order to identify solutions (i.e. investment opportunities) that are widely acceptable. Otherwise, solutions could be seen as top-down/government imposed, lacking the support or even triggering resistance of the wider public.
Stakeholder orientated. The actual investment projects will not be carried out in the power centers of the European Union, such as Brussels, but need to make a real difference “on the ground”. Thus, this initiative will focus on the municipal level, starting with municipalities in France, Germany, and Poland in the spirit of the “Weimar Triangle”. Building on existing cooperation, the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia, Nord-Pas de Calais and Silesia will be the initial focus. Due to the current situation, Greek communities are also included. This approach will stimulate cross-border and interregional cooperation, learning from each other, strengthening European solidarity and cohesion, and deepening the integration through common projects.
Focused on good labor relations. This initiative aims at identifying local investment projects that bring both economic benefits as well as high-quality jobs, safe workplaces and that establish trustful labor conditions. By facilitating the “negotiating processes” between all stakeholders a consensus is reached that embraces the most important interests. This setting creates more trustful labor relations, particularly in countries where non-communication and mistrust have traditionally been predominant between relevant stakeholders. For example, the character of social partnerships in the German labor relations has always been an important factor for successful economic activities and a predictable working environment. Other country’s experiences and academic studies confirm the importance of satisfying labor relations for economic success. Thus, the aspect of good labor relations must play a very important role in the reform process.
Bottom-up integration. The image of the European Union has suffered in recent years and many citizens are still pessimistic about the future of the 28-nations Union. Fostering cooperation between municipalities of different countries and enabling them to develop viable projects and demonstrate good practice and solutions to break through communication barriers, the initiative will contribute to European integration through a bottom-up approach.
Eventually, this initiative will establish “replicable models” for multi-stakeholder decision-making processes on the local level.
In short, the European Growth Initiative will
- bring multiple and often conflicting perspectives together, embracing differing societal positions and rationales;
- build a trust-based environment, ensuring that – despite divergent power positions – every position and concern is heard;
- go beyond the mere citation of often-heard status positions, extracting instead the underlying arguments behind these positions; and
- analyze different arguments, identifying common grounds for consensus and unfold alternatives and their implications before the actual (investment)
decision is taken.