Europeans Are Too Depressed To Be Innovative

According to the chairman of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the Europeans are too depressed to be innovative and come up with ideas that can create new jobs and help the economic recovery. That’s a statement I just can’t let pass me by without a few comments…

“Only negative messages from leaders are the wrong message coming out of the crisis. The positive outlook is key for a dynamic society.”

Herman Van Rompuy

If Europe is to remain relevant as an innovative economy, people need to be more positive and entrepreneurial and not let themselves be depressed by the economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures, EU council chairman Herman Van Rompuy said at a conference last week.

Innovation has a lot to do with behaviour, risk taking, motivation and education. You can’t have a society of very creative people only based on financial stimulus,” the Council chairman, and former Belgian premier minister, said Wednesday during a conference organised by Ernst&Young on innovation and the role of government in supporting it.

Adding that: “societal problems in Belgium and elsewhere in the EU mean that people live in a climate of despair and are depressed.”

But in order for Europe to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in areas ranging from energy to agriculture, services and digital technologies, “we need a dynamic and positive society,” based on competition “but also on generosity.”

“But crisis can be very depressive. Only negative messages from leaders are the wrong message coming out of the crisis. The positive outlook is key for a dynamic society,” Van Rompuy stressed.

According EU’s own estimates, the bloc will fall behind Asia and the US by 2025 in terms of innovation, the EUobserver.com writes.

Van Rompuy says he will not let EU leaders hide behind nice pledges, after they agreed earlier this year to give priority to areas such as education, innovation and energy.

“We will not allow this process to become a slow bureaucratic exercise, but we will follow it closely,” he says.

At an upcoming EU summit mid-June, a first assessment of these policies and country-specific recommendations will be made.

“Early 2012, I want to know what member states concretely did in the one year period to boost innovation, even in harsh times of austerity. What did they do to increase the share of innovative products and services in public procurement, to stimulate green growth, to prove the use of EU funding allocated to research and innovation,” Van Rompuy says.

I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt

Actually, I’m not quite sure to begin. So, let’s just take it from the top:

Innovation has a lot to do with behaviour, risk taking, motivation and education.”

Sure. But the main thing is trust, faith and confidence in our economy, and in  the authorities that supervise it.

And that’s exactly what is lacking at the moment, Mr. chairman!

When it comes to creativity based on financial stimulus, it’s totally irrelevant.

If people trusted the stimulus measures, they would use them.

Right now they don’t. No one is sure about how long the measures will be in place, if and when they will change, or perhaps disappear, or if more austerity is going to make it even more difficult to get loans and – in turn – get projects up and running.

That’s the real life!

Don’t Worry – Be Happy

“We need a dynamic and positive society, based on competition and generosity.”

Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

However, I raise a big question mark with the EU Council’s recipe for creating such a society, based on the following – all too familiar – statement:

“Only negative messages from leaders are the wrong message coming out of the crisis. The positive outlook is key for a dynamic society.”

This reminds me of some conferences I attended in January 2007. Amongst the speakers were some of the most prominent economist, investors and politicians in world.

Everyone – really, I mean everyone – predicted a so-called soft landing for the global economy, after 7 years of extreme economic growth.

The experts were convinced that we would see a very slow decline, followed by a cautious growth rate over the next 3 to 5 years.

No one even mentioned the possibility of a total meltdown that started just 6 months later with the collapse of 2 Bear Stearns Hedge Funds.

So much for the positive outlooks!

Sometimes I wonder if the EU leaders – and economists – are totally unfamiliar with the term “truth”?

“Competition and generosity” – please, Mr. chairman, can you give an example where the combination of competition and generosity have led to economic success?

Oh, what the heck! Sing along: “We all live in a yellow submarine.”


Van Rompuy says he will not let EU leaders hide behind nice pledges, after they agreed earlier this year to give priority to areas such as education, innovation and energy.

“Early 2012, I want to know what member states concretely did in the one year period to boost innovation, even in harsh times of austerity. What did they do to increase the share of innovative products and services in public procurement, to stimulate green growth, to prove the use of EU funding allocated to research and innovation.”

Well, I can assure both Mr. Van Rompuy and everyone else, I’ll be waiting too…

Meanwhile, here’s a little bit of creativity for you:

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2 responses to “Europeans Are Too Depressed To Be Innovative

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