Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Weighing the Van Rompuy years of EU

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-28 07:19

The German think tank also says that, while social injustice in countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy and Hungary has increased since 2009, the Nordic countries - Sweden, Finland and Denmark - lack equal labor market access opportunities for migrants. Besides, the efforts made by Sweden and Finland to reduce the high rate of unemployment among youths have not been successful. In Sweden, 23.5 percent of the youths are unemployed; in Finland, 19.9 percent. With such high unemployment rates, Nordic countries also face the problem of brain drain.

An article in the latest issue of Washington-based Foreign Affairs talks of a potent major problem: a catastrophic skill shortage. Despite an extremely underutilized labor force, about 27 percent of the jobs created in the major European economies each year lie vacant because of lack of skilled workers. The article also says that by 2020 the continent's digital sector alone would be short of 900,000 professionals, whereas the dynamic German economy would face a shortage of 1 million workers skilled in science, engineering, mathematics and technology, because skilled professionals have chosen to leave the continent amid the financial and debt crises.

Europeans are facing difficulties also because their politicians have conflicting views on fiscal and monetary policies. While France, Italy and some other countries insist on expansionary fiscal and monetary measures to stimulate the economies, Germany still swears by austerity. European politicians have been trying to strike the right balance between their one-size-fits-all policy and the diverse situations faced by the 18 eurozone countries, which have individual fiscal sovereignty.

Externally, the EU's biggest challenge now is the sanction- and anti-sanction game with Russia because of the Ukraine crisis. European leaders should not forget that the EU is a peace project, and if not dealt with carefully, its eastward expansion - which includes Ukraine's entry into the bloc - would ignite a regional conflict with Russia because of geopolitical concerns.

But instead of trying to deal with all the challenges at the same time, Van Rompuy and his colleagues have created a European Stability Mechanism, EU's version of the International Monetary Fund, to deal with financial and fiscal challenges. With the capability of issuing 700 billion ($887 billion) in loans, the ESM can respond to any financial crisis in time and reduce the EU's dependence on the US dollar. It is this mechanism that will go down in history as the greatest achievement of Van Rompuy and his colleagues in the "stormy" five years.

The author is China Daily's chief correspondent in Brussels.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News