Earlier this month i travelled to Brussels for the fifth edition of the European Parliament of Enterprises: the largest exercise at European level in economic democracy.
Joined by entrepreneurs from across Ireland, we had the opportunity to address key EU figures, including Trade Commissioner, Cecelia Malmstrom and Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier. Together, we spoke about the priorities of Irish entrepreneurs and how to make European policy more business-friendly.
While Irish businesses have paid most attention to the future EU-UK trade relationship from an EU policy perspective, there are many other EU initiatives which will have a big impact on future growth opportunities for business of all sectors and sizes.
The Parliament of Enterprises aims to enhance understanding between decision-makers and the real economy, by stimulating discussion and asking attendees to vote on current European policies.
1. Future of Skills
More needs to be done to bridge the gap between education and work for European education to correlate with work opportunities and employer requirements.
Greater efforts to gather better data on future skills needs to inform curricula and teaching methods are required by all parties; educators, employers and policy-makers. Initiatives to bring future employees and employers together should start much earlier, and schools and local business communities should foster closer links.
Voting results on the skills session included: The skills mismatch problem is more acute than 5 years ago an alarming 84% stated.
As expressed by MEP Martina Dlabajova: “Soft-skills are misnamed as they are the hardest to get.“
2. Future of Trade
Over 600,000 SMEs employing at least 6 million Europeans export beyond the EU. Yet, with more than 2 million SMEs in Europe, only a fraction are taking advantage of the opportunities that open foreign markets offer. In other words, the economic potential of free trade agreements remains largely untapped.
Too few entrepreneurs know what trade is doing for them and how they can profit. Considering that 90% of world growth will be generated outside the EU, it is imperative for Irish business to make the most of market liberalisation to remain competitive and successful.
Voting results on the trade session included: 99% believe that the EU must do more to help SMEs benefit from free trade agreements.
3. The Single Market
2018 marks 25 years since the European Single Market officially came into existence in 1993. Four freedoms underpins the Single Market: Goods, people, services and capital transactions.
Was the Single Market fully functional, any business could commercialise its goods or services in any other EU member state with little or no additional legal or administrative complexity or cost. This means access to a market of 25 million other companies and 500 million consumers.
Completing the Single Market and digital market could generate efficiency gains of over €1,000 billion per year, according to research by the European Parliament. Feedback from European business, however, suggest the single market is far from fully integrated. Notably in relation to the services sector and cross-border labour mobility.
Voting results on trade included: The Single Market not fit for business according to 69%. Another 93% voted that the integrity of the Single Market and EU unity take precedent over a favourable Brexit deal with the UK.
Your Vote Matters
Next year is an election year and your vote matters. European Parliament elections take place in May 2019. This is your opportunity to influence the future of business in Europe.
Voting is open to all European citizens.