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European policy makers call for tough reforms

05-12-2010 11:05 BJT Special Report: Europe's Debt Crisis |

French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks to the media following an emergent euro zone summit, at the headquarters of the European Council in Brussels, capital of Belgium, May 8, 2010. Leaders of the 16 euro zone countries have pledged to ensure the stability of the area by all means amid mounting concerns that the Greek debt crisis will destabilize the currency. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks to the media following an emergent euro 
zone summit, at the headquarters of the European Council in Brussels, capital of 
Belgium, May 8, 2010. Leaders of the 16 euro zone countries have pledged to ensure
 the stability of the area by all means amid mounting concerns that the Greek debt
crisis will destabilize the currency. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)
by Shang Jun

BRUSSELS, May 11 (Xinhua) -- European policy makers called on Tuesday for tough and even unpopular reforms to reinvent the continent's economic and social model in the wake of the Greek debt crisis.

"We need brave, honest national politicians who are ready to say that to protect that welfare system, we should work longer and work harder. It is either reform or decline," Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgian minister of economy and reform, said at the closing session of the World Economic Forum on Europe here Tuesday.

Over 400 leaders of businesses, governments, academia and civil society from over 40 countries discussed the future of Europe under the theme "Renewed Leadership, New Vision" at the two-day forum.

The recent Greek debt crisis, after spreading to the eurozone, threw into question the European economic and social model, which has been marked by extravagant welfare for its citizens and criticized for being less competitive.

The events of the past week forced policy-makers, politicians and citizens to face the tough challenges Europe needs to overcome to get back on a growth trajectory.

With an annual economic growth of 1 or 1.5 percent and an aging population, Europe simply could not afford the costly welfare system and is doomed to lag behind its main competitors in the future, Quickenborne warned.

His view was echoed by a participant at the forum.

"We cannot continue in the old rhetoric. It is totally inadequate to the challenges ahead. We need to redesign the European social model and the social market economy. To do this, we need the language of blood, sweat and tears," he said.

Although leaders from both old and new Europe agreed at the forum's closing plenary session that the only way forward is reform, they conceded the reform would involve tough, unpopular choices for politicians and citizens.


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