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Brussels Economic Forum 2023: Promoting Sustainable Growth and Social Cohesion

This article was written by Paula Montero and Aitana Ramirez – Policy and Projects Interns

The Brussels Economic Forum (BEF) is an annual event that brings together a range of speakers from political and economic agencies to discuss new ideas and solutions to contemporary economic challenges. The 23rd BEF, which took place on May 5, 2023, aimed to address how digitalisation and sustainability could work together to promote social cohesion, and explored the impact of climate change on macroeconomics.

EURADA participated in the forum as a representative of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) across Europe in order to showcase RDAs’ vital role in promoting balanced growth, fostering competitiveness, reducing disparities, and enhancing cross-border cooperation. Their involvement ensures that regional perspectives are considered, leading to more comprehensive and effective strategies for economic development in Europe.

Sasha Vakulina, TV journalist and presenter of Euronews, welcomed the attendees and highlighted the importance of the BEF in promoting innovative solutions to economic challenges. The event was introduced by Maarten Verwey, Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs at the European Commission, who emphasized the importance of the BEF as a platform to bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss pressing economic issues.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, delivered the opening address as part of the Tommaso Padoa Schioppa lecture. Tommaso, one of the founders of the EU, was remembered for his contribution to the economic development of Europe. Georgieva focused on the current global economic situation, highlighting the risks of economic fragmentation and financial vulnerabilities. She also noted the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine on global tensions and called for a renewed focus on sustainable economic growth and social cohesion.

The event also featured a panel discussion with Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy at the European Commission, Nadia Calviño, First Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for the Economy and Digital Transformation, and Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation. Panellists discussed the challenges of promoting sustainable growth while ensuring social justice and inclusivity. They highlighted the need for investment in vocational training and digital skills, as well as incentives for female and labour worker participation.

Gabriel Zucman, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics and the University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the EU Tax Observatory, stressed the importance of new forms of cooperation to achieve sustainable goals. He also noted the negative impact of tax competition on inequality and called for increased funding in education to address labour market questions.

During the "Green Transition and the EU Labour Market" workshop, the impact of the transition to a greener economy on the labour market was explored. The shift in demand and skill requirements from the transition could result in some friction in labour reallocation. Studies suggest that the positive and negative effects of the green transition on the labour market are short-lived and recoverable. Furthermore, to offer support to its member states during their transition, the EU has taken several actions including policy guidance, financial support, and the involvement of regional development agencies.

Taras Kachka, Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture and Trade Representative of Ukraine, delivered the keynote address, highlighting the importance of restoring normal supply chains and integrating Ukraine's energy market into the European market. The event concluded with a networking lunch, which provided an opportunity for attendees to connect and share ideas.

Overall, the 23rd BEF provided a platform for diverse stakeholders to discuss pressing economic challenges and explore new ideas and solutions. The event emphasized the need for investment in vocational training and digital skills and highlighted the importance of sustainable growth and social cohesion. As the global community faces ongoing economic and geopolitical challenges, events like the BEF will continue to play a vital role in promoting innovative solutions and fostering greater economic cooperation.