NFU Blog

Brussels Economic Forum – a green and digital transition must be a fair transition

On May 17, I attended the Brussels Economic Forum with approximately 200 other participants. The theme for the annual conference, hosted by the Commission, this year was The future is now: which economy for the next generation?  It was very nice to see that the forward-looking theme attracted a very young audience.

Challenging times ahead

The day was opened by Janet L. Yellen, US Secretary of Treasury. She gave an inspiring talk about the challenges of today for the economy (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the green transition, and financing the development of the world). Of course, a great amount of focus was given to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effects of the war on the economy. We live in challenging times, but she lifted the positive effect of the war: the merger of cooperation between Europe and the US. Interesting enough, her speech did focus a lot on this relationship, giving less focus on China and Russia.

Madam Yellen praised the cooperation between the EU and US, especially in the advent of the war in Ukraine, but she did also criticize some of the regulation and measures that the EU are posing, as she stated, on US companies and the taxation of these companies. She praised the EU for its initiatives on sustainability and the green transition and emphasized that when we look into the economy of tomorrow, we must make sure that we also bring the developing world into that.

Not much news – important emphasis on a just transition

In the following panel discussions, presentations and debates, the clear focuses when addressing the economy of the future are the green transition, digital development, and innovation, and how to safeguard good economic policy in a time of crises. There was not much new brought to the discussions, but it was nice to see that there was consensus on the need for addressing the future challenges now.

The green transition was a red thread throughout the panels. I was happy to see that the trade union message that a green transition must be a just and fair transition was given so much room in the discussions. It was also great to see that not only trade unions and NGO’s raised it but also companies, governments and the Commission.

The digitalisation of our society and our economy was also a topic that was brought up in all discussions and it was seen both as an important tool for a green transition, but also addressed as a challenge and potential risk of a digital divide. The skills gap was also addressed in relation to the digital development and something that must be dealt with already now.

The last discussion of the day was focused on future economic policy with the Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, First deputy managing director of the IMF Gita Gopinath, and Member of the European Parliament Marek Belka. The discussion was for obvious reasons dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also the green transition and its effects on the economy. On a question from the audience, the Commissioner was not foreign to more integration and cooperation on economic policy in the union.

Even though the day did not bring much news, it was a great event and so nice to see the Commission put so much effort into it and that they brought so many high level speakers. A great opportunity to mingle and networking for me as well now when Brussels is back to normal again.

Simon Jernberg
Policy Advisor, NFU

Full programme and recordings from the day can be found here: European Commmission – Brussels Economic Forum 2022 (europa.eu)

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