The former Vice-President of the European Commission, Joaquín Almunia, was the keynote speaker at the December Leadership Lunches, organised by Deusto Business School and Icade Business School on the Leadership and Entrepreneurship programmes (PLPE and PLCE). After the welcome address by the Director of Deusto Business School, Iñaki Ortega, and the presentation by the PLPE student, Teresa Pardo, deputy of Ciudadanos in Andalusia, Joaquín Almunia took the floor. He wanted to share with those present some of his thoughts on the future of Europe and the main challenges ahead. He not only referred to Brexit to say that we must be vigilant to avoid discrimination against Spanish companies investing in the United Kingdom, but also addressed other current issues such as the fight against climate change, the need for Europe to rethink its defence strategy and the importance of maintaining democratic values and the protection of human rights.
Almunia acknowledged that the world, almost in its entirety, suffers from tension, turbulence, and the spread of populist voices. He denied, on the contrary, that we are in an economic crisis, "nor do I think that we will see a recession in the near future and much less that we will see a crisis in the coming years of the depth we suffered in the past decade".
He highlighted that Europe has a role to play in the world and advised that rather than being afraid of what might come, we should work to build a better world. He referred, for example, to the crisis in the international order or the climate emergency. Regarding the latter, he pointed out that it is essential to embrace the technological change needed to combat climate change, assuming that there will be transition costs and avoiding these falling on the most disadvantaged.
According to Almunia, the world is currently facing a debate on the problems of the market economy. Moreover, it is a debate led not only by some renowned intellectuals but also by the US business roundtable and media such as the Financial Times or The Economist. All of them warn us that it is important to undertake very deep reforms to avoid its deterioration and to be able to maintain the democratic political system on which we are based and which, in turn, is based on a series of principles and values that make the market economy human.
Against this background, the EU is entering a new cycle with new leaders who are announcing the new strategies to be adopted in Europe. In this context, the former vice-president of the European Commission considered that it is important to rethink our defence system beyond NATO membership.
Almunia ended his speech by answering questions from the audience on issues such as competition policy or his opinion on the pension reform in Spain.