It is “Destination Davos” for the world’s global elite once again. They have donned their hats, scarfs and snow boots to attend the most influential gathering of the year.
As ever, the World Economic Forum has set the bar high and the event is taking place under the ambitious theme of reshaping the world. And for many who attend, 2014 represents renewed hope for mature economies. And in this special report euronews will focus on Europe taking its first tentative steps away from the economic crisis.
The high mountain peaks towering over Davos are a fitting metaphor for the EU’s lofty ideals – and, for some, how far it still has to go to reach them. The eurozone economy is forecast to grow this year.
But there is concern about the sustainability of the bloc’s recovery – as Lee Howell of the World Economic Forum explained.
“Crisis brings you together for a moment, but I believe in the year ahead that Europe really has to come together – to kick-start, jump-start, refresh that vision. That’s something I hope they can work on and sort out here in Davos,” he said.
One of the biggest worries for the eurozone in 2014 is unemployment, which is at a record high. In Spain and Greece around one in four people are out of work and the youth unemployment rates are far higher, leading to fears for a “lost generation”.
Euronews correspondent Sarah Chapell in Davos said: “This year’s World Economic Forum is boldly entitled ‘The Reshaping of the World’. Although the eurozone economy as a whole has finally returned to growth, Europe’s political and business leaders are bracing themselves for a year of new challenges.”
And it is not only unemployment that is of major concern; the OECD has been tracking the impact of Europe’s economic crisis. And to get more perspectives on this, euronews correspondent Isabelle Kumar spoke to Angel Gurria who is the Secretary General of the OECD
euronews: “What are your feelings as we enter 2014 and Europe tentatively emerges from crisis.”
Angel Gurria: “ It’s a mixed bag. First of all we have the legacy of the crisis still heavy on us and that’s low growth, that’s high unemployment, growing inequalities – a very important issue – and then the question of the loss of trust in the institutions – presidents, prime ministers, parliaments, multi-nationals, banking systems, political parties whatever.
euronews: “Are you relatively satisfied with the pace of reform in Europe in 2013?”
Angel Gurria: “I am satisfied that some countries – the ones which had more homework to do – did their homework. Reform is a state of mind, reform never stops, reform should go on and on and on. My concern is that in Europe it is a very asymmetric issue. Many of the countries have not done the structural things they needed to do because they have not been under market pressure.
“So do you really need to have a big push a big constraint to be under market pressure to take the hard decisions.”
euronews: “What countries are you thinking of when you say that?”
Angel Gurria: “I am including some of the larger, quote ‘more successful ones’ and that includes France, but I also include Germany. France has taken a few interesting decisions in the last few days that were announced by the president – going in the right direction, you know lowering the cost of creating jobs, lowering the cost of companies doing business.
“These things are part of the competitive recommendations we made to the French government repeatedly over the last 18 months since President Hollande came into office so we are happy they are moving in that direction.”
euronews: “ If we just go back to this issue of the pace of reform. As you know Europe is going to have elections that are most likely going to put the brake on reform. That must also be a major concern because you can’t keep the momentum going.”
Angel Gurria: “ I don’t think you can suddenly stop the reform process because you are going to have an election. I think if you now see who are the most successful leaders that really picked it up,- picked the ball up and ran with it – they are the ones who are inspiring their people, they are the ones who are leading who are having the courage to say, ‘we need reforms’.”
euronews: “If we also look at these inequalities, that has also helped the populist parties in Europe gain more ground. We have the European elections again. How do you see the integration process, the economic integration process in Europe, functioning with a harder right taking hold.”
Angel Gurria: “The harder right and the harder left I think are the result of the fact that people are not happy with what they are getting. I am a convinced Europhile and I always say the question with Europe is the scaffolding – there is always the scaffolding. You go to see the Dome or Notre Dame and you find scaffolding and you are very frustrated.
“But there is a lot going on under the scaffolding. Europe is re-inventing itself, re-constructing itself, re-designing itself and building institutions, building the banking union, building the fiscal union and there is alway a lot of discussion, a lot of noise, they take time. You can accuse the Europeans of everything except of being too fast, but they are building institutions and these are institutions that are there to last; they take time to put together but the question really is when you remove the scaffolding and you are in awe and this is what is Europe.”
Why are we here?
While figures like Angel Gurria arrive at Davos to raise awareness on some of the world’s most pressing issues others come to schmooze and to make lucrative business deals. So euronews has quizzed some of the Davos men and women to find out why the come here year after year.
Laura Liswood, the founder of the Council of Women World Leaders, said: “What’s brought me here – and I’ve had the great fortune to be able to come here several times – is to first and foremost understand what the zeitgeist is: what are people talking about this year? Is it going to be US engagement, is it going to be the financial crisis? Obviously, I’m also very interested in women’s role here.”
Lord Gus O’Donnell, the Chairman of Frontier Economics and a former UK Cabinet Secretary, gave euronews his reasons for attending.
“I’m here as chairman of the group on well-being and mental health, so I’m trying to get across to participants here the importance of the right kind of recovery. I think everybody feels that the euro crisis is not completely behind us by any means, but that we are past the worst. And as we go into the recovery, trying to make sure that the recovery benefits everybody and that we look after not just increasing GDP, but increasing the well-being of the population.”
Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah, Group President of FGV, agreed networking was high on people’s agenda.
“One cannot deny that it is a place to network, that’s a fact. What’s more important is the exchanging of ideas. So I see this as a platform where leaders can come together, exchange ideas and see how we can change the world for a better place.”
Euronews has several special programmes lined up when it will looking at emerging markets and the social impact of the global economic crisis. And don’t forget all our
Davos stories can be found here.