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Address of the President Dr Drnovšek on the second day of the 12th Meeting of Presidents of Central European States (unedited version)

Zagreb, 10/15/2005  |  press release, speech

Click to enlargePresident of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek has participated in a debate which took place in the framework of the second day of the Meeting of Presidents of Central European States. In the discussion the presidents and some of the European economists discussed, which socio-economic model is appropriate for integrated Europe.

"Mr President, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. President Mesič, you evoked very interesting issue and discussion. I think these are the most essential questions that we face nowadays in Europe, not only in Europe but also in world. There is no clear idea or concept how to go further. But there is a general feeling that something should be done, something is going wrong. There are tensions; there are social tensions in Europe and the world. There is globalisation, which is needed. There is no chance to avoid it. But globalisation can be in the same time positive or negative. Globalisation can produce new growth, development, prosperity, but on the other side globalisation can increase imbalances, tensions in the world. If it is unfair, if more than half of humanity suffers then there is no future for this kind of globalisation. We must find the way to ensure that globalisation will be an opportunity for everybody in the world, not only for some. It means we must ensure a decent life and perspective for every human being in the world. It can be modest, but every human being must have an opportunity to live and to survive in a decent way. This must be the ultimate, underlying goal or value that we pursue in our economic social and political endeavours.

Click to enlargeWhat should be the social-economic model for Europe? I think Europe in developing its social-economic model and its values is the most advanced in the world. It is very clear that we must be economically efficient and compete with others, that we must perform, give more and more results in order to maintain necessary social network and to maintain our role in the world. From this point of view Lisbon strategy is very positive. I heard very interesting elements in all four previous discussions, elements I agree with. Education is extremely important. We must educate people in order to perform well in business and economy, in order to be sure that they can use that knowledge and develop initiative in the best possible way. But they must also be socially conscious, environmentally conscious. We must educate them the necessary human values. This is the basis. Then everything will come out from this point. Of course we must develop on the basis of good education, we must and we can develop science further. We can integrate efforts in the education, science and business, find synergy and new development. We must regulate or deregulate in Europe. We must make our labour markets more flexible. We need social network. We must find a way that our social policy will be efficient and that everyone who is in some kind of a trouble would get some assistance from the society where he lives.

On the other side our labour markets must be flexible; the business must find qualified workers and use them in the way that is necessary to achieve better results. We must ensure that our bureaucracy will not expend too much. This is a real danger in many of our countries and even in the EU itself. Overregulation, too much bureaucracy means problems for business at the end and for every European citizen in developing his initiative and in exploring all the possibilities that exist. We must have some regulations, business, market, in order not to allow monopolies or oligopolies, and to allow normal competition. But we certainly do not need overregulation, which would be a burden for business and also for the citizens and would complicate their work and life. We organise Europe, European Union in this way then we look at the world.

What is the problem today? Why do the European citizens feel unsure today? Prosperity is very high; it is the highest in our history. But if we for example look at the recent referendums in France and Netherlands about European treaty, there are many analyses about what happened, but there is a general feeling that citizens are not satisfied, they feel unsure. They have good life but they fear for their jobs, they fear the competition, and they fear cheap labour coming form Asia and other parts of the world. They have fears for their future. This is one of the fears. Another one is the fear from immigrants. There is constant influx of immigrants and this will continue if things go on in this way in the future. This brings all kinds of problems. Europe cannot be a fortress and somehow isolate itself from others. I am not sure that we can succeed this way. But what can we do? We must ensure that labour, social and environmental standards will be respected all over the world. Today we still have a kind of slavery work in some of the Asian countries. Why should they have this kind of slavery work? We must use our influence in the international organisations, in the world context to ensure that labour, social and environmental standards – they destroy their environment in some of those countries – will be respected. And then they would not be so extremely cheap and competitive as they are now. This way there will not be a possibility to destroy the jobs in Europe. We have a double problem, now. On one side with this kind of, we could say, slavery work they make very cheap products and destroy the competition elsewhere. So elsewhere they cannot maintain their social and environment standards if they want to compete with them. On the other side they produce very poor people, a lot of poverty in their countries, there are not enough earnings, people are living in poor conditions. The pressure from these countries towards the richer countries will continue, people will try to come to the west, to Europe and so on. It is not only the problem with this kind of competition caused by the slavery work. There are also problems that we Europeans cause to the others in the world. I will mention our famous common agriculture policy of the European Union. We subsidize in Europe for example cows. Each cow gets 2 dollars of subsidy a day, which is more than half of what the humanity lives of. We subsidize European cows, we subsidize especially the reach part of European farmers, to maintain the extensive production in agriculture, to produce the surpluses and sell them cheaply in the world market and they destroy the agriculture in the developing world. This is something that we have to change in order to ensure that people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America will have the opportunity to develop their agriculture and to live from their product; not to impoverish them totally and then try to penetrate somehow to the reach world, immigrants causing all kind of problems and fears.

These are two directions. The reach developed world must have in mind that trade rules in the world must be fair and that everyone has to have the opportunity. On the other side we must insist when we give them fair trade possibilities in order to survive they must ensure labour, social and environmental standards in their countries. I think this way we can gradually come to something we can call "just globalisation", globalisation which would be positive, there would be opportunity for everyone and we would not cause poverty and tension in most of the world. I think that today many companies, especially European and also some others know that they must have in mind that living standards in that region or cities where they produce must be somehow acceptable for people there. They must ensure them decent wage, they must be also environment conscious. They try to do something for the community. I think this kind of approach is very positive. It must be supported in businesses and multinational companies, but of course we must pursue it in the international organisations in order to have the world rules going in this direction. Thank you, Mr President for giving us the opportunity to exchange our views on this very important issue."
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