An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will give the keynote address at a daylong ‘Future of Europe Conference’ in Croke Park Stadium. Other speakers include Peter Sutherland, Doris Peschke, David Begg,Nuria Molina, David McWilliams, Alan Dukes, Brigid Laffan and Dan O’Brien.
The conference is organised by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (CFJ) and Studies, the Jesuit quarterly journal. According to CFJ director Eugene Quinn “Europe is at a crossroads. The vision and values it chooses will have huge implications for each person’s welfare particularly for the most vulnerable in European society – the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and the poor. Achieving the twin goals of optimising economic growth and employment, while maintaining social protection, presents Europe with perhaps its most important modern challenge.”
To this end the conference brings together a host of international experts with differing perspectives on how to tackle this question.
Speaker Nuria Molina of the European Anti-Poverty Network reports that 69 million people in Europe are facing poverty. David Begg, ICTU General Secretary, says that we are being pushed to adopt an American model for our economy but this “liberal solution which favours the labour market and welfare ‘reform’ – actually a euphemism for worsening employment security – has the effect of making people uncertain about the future and less willing to spend money. As such it is self-defeating.”
Dan O’Brien, Senior Europe Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit counters, “While Europe is not in crisis, it does need to change and adapt. On balance, the market must play a greater role and state intervention should be reduced. This should not be seen as the thin end of a “neoliberal” wedge or a foot on the slippery slope to a society without state-provided welfare – the role of the state will remain central both to improving economic efficiency and social provision.”
Addressing the issue of European identity in an enlarged Europe Peter Sutherland says “We and others now have a capacity to work together to influence constructively a world full of both opportunities and threats. If we fail to do so together even the largest states will reduce their influence over their own destiny and the distinctive European viewpoint will be increasingly marginalised and ignored internationally”.