• For policymakers and politicians, it’s easy to discount the millennial generation as lazy, footloose and obsessed with social media. In Italy, a whole generation are now derided as bamboccioni (big babies) who prefer to lounge at home with their aged parents, rather than embrace a more financially independent lifestyle. But such easy stereotypes belie a much harsher economic reality. And nowhere is this despondent realism more evident than in an Italy seemingly on the verge of perpetual economic and societal collapse.

    Italian millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have confronted the 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing Corona crisis. But even these crises are mere bookmarks in the longer story of Italian economic fragmentation which began with the recession of the early 1990s. This is a stagnation which has already resulted in a whole generation of young Italians being without steady employment, bereft of economic independence and increasingly without hope for the future. 

    This millennial disenfranchisement has caused frustration, distrust of government and a tendency to vote for populist parties. This is a society where young women are still exposed to the ridiculously discriminatory and illegal ‘dimissioni in bianco’ (blank resignation) letter which allows employers to dismiss workers on account of any future pregnancy or marriage. An economy where the richest 1% of Italian adults increased their share of total personal wealth from 17% to 24% in the two decades up to 2016 notwithstanding a stagnating economy.

    Although Italian millennials are more educated and skilled than their parents, two out three workers with a short-term contract are under forty. As a result, young Italian adults are poorer than the previous generation. A 2018 study showed that Italians in their thirties earn 17% less than their parents did at the same age. This had led to reluctance to start a family (Italy has one of Europe’s lowest birth rates) and a gradual decline in the size of the traditional middle class.

    Closing this dichotomy – between the struggling younger generations and their often affluent parents and grandparents – is the biggest obstacle to fundamentally rebooting Italy’s economy.

    But to give millennials a fighting chance at success means confronting two bedrocks of Italian society: an antiquated education system and a reorientation of political power away from well-heeled middle-aged and retired Italians.

    The Italian education system is exacerbating millennial struggles. Highly theoretical and based on the acquisition of general background knowledge but few practical skills, the Italian teaching system at the post-primary level is not attuned to the realities of the 21st-century labour market. The results are either abstract or controversial. Italy (the third largest economy in the EU) has no university in the top 100 globally. This compares to eight from Germany and seven from the Netherlands.

    Closing this dichotomy – between the struggling younger generations and their often affluent parents and grandparents – is the biggest obstacle to fundamentally rebooting Italy’s economy.

    Perhaps even more importantly, giving young Italians a fair opportunity at economic independence requires challenging the stranglehold on policymaking held by older Italians. Italy has become the Florida of Europe with the conservative (and often regressive) economic policies to match. The oldest population in the EU (22% of Italians are aged over 65) benefit disproportionally from a welfare system designed to protect their interests over all else.

    Over 77% of public social spending in Italy goes to retired people while only 3% of total expenditure is targeted on working families and children. Remarkably, Italian retirees enjoy the highest net pension replacement rates in the EU (nearly 92%) notwithstanding Italy having the largest public debt in Europe.

    It’s a retirement heaven for older Italians. But it’s deliberating sabotaging the prospects of millennials. It is also – very obviously – totally economically unsustainable.

    A country famous for putting family at the heart of society is in fact dressing up this wealth grab as a continuation of traditional norms. Witness the mass hysteria when former Prime Minister Mario Monti attempted to reform the unaffordable public pension system in 2011. The reforms were subsequently rolled back and the Italian retirement gravy train (just like Snowpiercer) is still speeding around and around the tracks.

    So what can Italian millennials do?

    The first thing is to realise that neither a naive EU nor its much-heralded Economic Recovery Plan will save Italy. Such initiatives will only facilitate existing Italian policymakers clinging to power while the money flows from Brussels. Tens of billions of euros of investment in combatting climate change and digitalisation, while very welcome, will change nothing if more deep-seated structural reforms are ignored.

    Second, Italian millennials should refuse to accept the current status quo as the only available path for Italy. This will mean confronting the older generations (including parents and grandparents) about the illogicality of such generational inequality. It means the young need to inject a sense of urgency and positive disruption into their approach to mainstream politics. It’s time for a productive movement of change that is not just the same old negative messaging stuck on repeat.  For all the noise they generate groupings like the Movimento delle Sardine (Sardines Movement) are devoid of tangible reform proposals.

    Italy needs a generational awakening dedicated solely to pursuing the interests (and rights) of young Italians. Unburdened by history and unfettered by the conservatism of wealth preservation, this movement should work towards fundamental economic and social reform by working for young Italians across the political spectrum. Only then will Italian millennials have a fighting chance.

    Existing politicians are incapable of reforming Italy because that would mean compromising their own tightly held privileges. That’s why only its ‘big babies” can save Italy now.

    Eoin Drea Alessia Setti Economy Education EU Member States Growth Leadership

    Eoin Drea

    Alessia Setti

    Only its ‘big babies’ can save Italy now


    20 Jul 2020

  • Watch our surprise guest of the week answering Roland Freudenstein’s questions on teleworking, digital Education, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, tourism and China.

    Žiga Turk Roland Freudenstein China COVID-19 Education Technology

    The Week in 7 Questions with Žiga Turk

    Multimedia - Other videos

    05 Jun 2020

  • This online event aimed to examine how the pandemic will affect the future of Education in Europe and beyond. Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology and digitalisation came to the rescue of policymakers and teachers alike who had to develop plans for the continuation of education through alternate methods during the period of social isolation, with virtually all teaching taking place online.

    Along with our distinguished speakers, we will discuss what steps can be taken to mitigate the educational impact of the pandemic and the role technology will continue to play in educating future generations. We will also try to answer whether Coronavirus-related disruption can give governments and educators time to rethink the sector.

    Anna Nalyvayko COVID-19 Education

    Online Event ‘How Covid-19 Shapes the Future of Education’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    14 May 2020

  • It is difficult to estimate how many Roma live in Slovakia; when the census is taken many Roma say that they are of Slovak or Hungarian nationality. In 2013, a special census by the UN Development Programme produced the Atlas of Roma communities in Slovakia 2013, which estimates that there are 400,000 Roma living in Slovakia, representing 7 %–8 % of the total population of 5.4 million.

    Furthermore, the Atlas indicated that Roma communities live in 1,070 municipalities and towns in Slovakia, approximately 37 % of the total number. Some Roma live in impoverished groups in settlements, while others form part of the majority society. According to sources, in many municipalities today Roma represent the majority of the population, and in many districts Roma births form the majority. Overall, the Roma population represents close to 15 % of the working-age population in Slovakia.

    Yet despite the relatively high presence of Roma in Slovak society, their representation in the different levels of politics is very low. A Roma representative was elected to the national Parliament of the Slovak Republic for the first time in 2012. At the local level, fewer than 2 % of the elected deputies are Roma, the result of the most recent local authority elections in 2014. The level of participation of any minority—in this case the Roma—mostly depends on the circumstances (in terms of education, communication and societal tolerance and acceptance) determined by society and by politicians. How should society respond to this situation, and what might be done by government?

    The journey of Slovak Roma towards political and legal equality

    The first systematic attempts to organise the Roma go back a long time. A pan-European Roma conference took place in Kisfalu, Hungary as early as 1879, but, even then, such activity was not welcomed by the government.

    Read the full FREE article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Marek Degro Education Integration

    Marek Degro

    Engaging the Roma community in the political party process in Slovakia


    08 Sep 2019

  • Last week’s Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth, also known as the Gothenburg Summit, was a success. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker obtained the endorsement of the Heads of State and Government to his proposed Pillar of Social Rights, while the Swedish presidency promoted at the European level a theme that is at the heart of the Swedish model back home.

    The EU has started a difficult process of reflection on how to reorganise itself as a successful multilevel union in the next decade. It is therefore only natural that its possible future role in social policies should be carefully considered. I would like to make three points which seem to have received little attention in the debate so far.     

    The EU welfare we already have 

    First, in anything but name there is already an embryo of EU welfare, albeit a very dysfunctional one. The Common Agricultural Policy makes up around 40% of the EU budget, and in essence it is a programme of income support to farmers explicitly designed to grant them a safety net. The ground for this policy to be so sizeable – in fact the ground for it to exist at all, at least at the European level – is far weaker than it was fifty years ago, but here we are.

    The Common Agricultural Policy is in essence a programme of income support to farmers. 

    Cohesion policy – another big item in the EU budget – is strictly speaking not a welfare programme, as it addresses inequality between regions, as opposed to individuals, but it has redistributive effects. It has financed many worthy projects in the EU’s poorest regions – sure, many unworthy ones too – but it seems to have miserably failed to foster convergence.

    Then there is the European Social Fund, which is modest (10 billion) but it exists, and that’s its main merit. It would be useful to see these programmes as elements of EU welfare – perhaps suboptimal and in need of reform – but to be included in an overall debate on social Europe.  

    The two fundamental weaknesses of the European Pillar of Social Rights

    Second, there is now a European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). Its twenty principles are structured around three broad goals – equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection. A scoreboard will be used to assess the relative performance of Member States (MSs) against these principles under the European semester, providing a solid governance framework to encourage the achievement of the set goals.

    As with many similar EU ideas, it is interesting and well-structured. As with most similar EU ideas, it suffers from at least two fundamental weaknesses. To begin with, there is a clear abuse of the rhetoric of rights, sadly common to so much contemporary public policy.  

    What does it exactly mean to say, for example, that ‘young people have the right to continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship or a job offer of good standing within 4 months of becoming unemployed or leaving education’?

    Or that ‘everyone has the right to timely and tailor-made assistance to improve employment or self-employment prospects’? Whose obligation is it to grant those rights? And who’s going to enforce compliance if, for example, a young person does not receive ‘a job offer of good standing within 4 months’?

    When words still meant something, every right had a correlative obligation. 

    When words still meant something, every right had a correlative obligation which was legally enforceable and backed by public powers. This is clearly not the case anymore. Now declarations of wishes and desires whose realisation is largely beyond the reach of public authorities are solemnly proclaimed as ‘rights’, inevitably fueling popular and populist anger when it becomes clear that they cannot be enforced.  

    The second weakness of the pillar is all political. As the inglorious Lisbon strategy and the – admittedly more glorious – Europe 2020 strategy, the EPSR is largely made up of non-binding commitments by MSs within what was once called an Open Method of Coordination (OMC), i.e. a soft governance system that tries to foster convergence through peer pressure, benchmarking and supranational monitoring.

    True, the EPSR will be more institutionalised than previous instances of OMC, but the essential political point is the same: once more the EU is committing to a grand vision of something – social Europe in this case -, without having the slightest control over the means and initiatives necessary to deliver it, which largely remain in national hands.

    If there is any success, it will be a national success. If there is no progress, it’s the EU that will have proved to be ineffective. Nothing new under the sun – well, the clouds – of Brussels.

    It’s subsidiarity, stupid!

    There is a final, important point that deserves close scrutiny. Bluntly put: I suspect that arguments for social Europe are ultimately bound to be arguments for harmonisation – possibly for total harmonisation – and against subsidiarity. 

    To illustrate my point, let me take the one piece of European welfare that seems to make most sense in the EU context: a federal unemployment insurance scheme. This sounds very plausible and sensible, as it would provide much needed automatic stabilisers in a very suboptimal currency area constantly exposed to asymmetric shocks. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Unemployment is not only a function of the economic cycle but also of domestic policy factors. As long as national policies differ, any federal unemployment insurance scheme is bound to subsidise bad policies in countries with high unemployment, at the expense of countries with good policies and low unemployment.

    As with many similar EU ideas, the EPSR is interesting and well-structured. As with most similar EU ideas, it suffers from at least two fundamental weaknesses. 

    The only way to eliminate the differentiation created by domestic policy choices is – logically enough – to eliminate domestic policy choices, i.e. to progressively harmonise social and labour market policies through binding benchmarks at the European level. Unsurprisingly, such benchmarks were supported for the long-run by the five presidents’ report of 2015 and featured as one scenario – perhaps the favourite scenario? – of the recent Commission’s reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe.

    To summarise: social Europe deserves to be seriously discussed in the context of the future of Europe debate. When doing so, let’s remember to include in this discussion EU social policies that already exist, as well as to go beyond mere symbols and rhetoric.

    Most importantly, let’s remember that in a union of states that wish to retain their identity and policy differences, arguments for social Europe cannot be made on purely technocratic ground. They must be assessed against an overriding commitment to subsidiarity.

    Federico Ottavio Reho Education Growth Jobs Social Policy

    Federico Ottavio Reho

    The social Europe no one is talking about


    22 Nov 2017

  • Watershed. Earthquake. Tectonic shift: the hyperbole is palpable in Berlin, on the morning after a memorable election. But let’s be clear: this election will remain memorable not because of a change of Chancellor. Angela Merkel will lead the next government as much as she has led the previous one. But this election will be remembered for three other reasons:

    • First, both big tent parties, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Martin Schulz’ Social Democrats (SPD), have dramatically lost votes. Most of the smaller parties have gained in strength, and the new Bundestag will have six parliamentary groups (i.e. seven parties, because CDU and CSU have a common caucus). While there is no desire for radical change in Germany – the economy is doing very well – there seems to be a certain unease with the way both big parties have been running things.
    • Second, Germany now has a very self-confident right-wing populist party, AfD, which will be the third strongest force in the Bundestag. That means there will be more provocations, more passionate debate, but also more nonsense in Parliament.
    • Third, in a refreshingly clear and early move, right after the first exit poll, Germany’s Social Democrats have taken themselves off the map for coalition talks, saying they will have to rebuild themselves in opposition, and also in order to prevent the AfD from being the strongest opposition party.
    Source: The Federal Returning Officer

    Here are the three most important takeaways from this election:

    1. The only coalition option for the moment seems to be ‘Jamaica’ – a four party coalition of CDU, CSU, Liberals (FDP) and Greens

    Even before the election, everyone knew that coalition building would be tricky. But now that the SPD has clearly ruled out remaining in government, there is only one option left. Its nickname refers to the colours of Jamaica’s flag – black (CDU/CSU), yellow (FDP) and green. It also implied, until now, a certain outlandishness which is now gone. But coalition talks will be excruciatingly difficult. In immigration policy, energy and environment, as well as family and gender questions, conflicts between the Greens and the others (especially the CSU) are obvious.

    The FDP may turn out to be difficult in questions of the Eurozone. And at the end, any coalition deal will have to be approved by the members of both Greens and the FDP: by no means a foregone conclusion. If this coalition option fails, either the SPD will have to join the government against its will, or there will be snap elections. Both options sound unpalatable, hence ‘Jamaica’ may well be condemned to success.

    2. The right wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD’s) success is news for Germany, but will not revolutionise German politics

    Contrary to what many of Germany’s scandalised bien-pensants are now saying, Germany is getting what other European democracies (France, Austria, the Netherlands and many others) have had for a long time: right wing populists in the national Parliament. Some in the AfD rehash elements of racist nationalism, and many others are Eurosceptic conservatives, but most of them bear a fundamental grudge against Chancellor Merkel’s migration policy since 2015.

    According to all opinion polls made around the election, people did not vote AfD because of economic fears or income inequality. They did so as a protest vote against what they perceived as a government losing control of our borders, a rise in crime and terrorism, and against a very centrist drift of the CDU in recent years. New infighting between and inside CDU and CSU about identity politics and the right amount of social conservatism will be unavoidable.

    As to the AfD, there will be ugly scenes in the Bundestag when its politicians claim that Germany’s coming to terms with its past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) belongs to the past. But the one million former CDU/CSU voters that voted AfD in 2017 will not be impressed if they’re labelled Nazis by everyone else. We will have to live with this paradox for the time being. It makes no sense to frame European politics primarily in terms of ‘open vs. closed’ instead of left vs. right, which is another reason why the SPD’s decision to join the opposition benches is probably a good idea.

    3. Changes in Germany’s foreign and European policy will be only gradual – but they will be in the right direction

    In a ‘Jamaica’ coalition, Chancellor Merkel will most likely determine foreign affairs even more than in recent years. She will continue to represent the steady hand at the helm in turbulent times, as she emphasised time and again on election night. In the Franco-German couple, the ideas will mostly come from Emmanuel Macron (he has announced a major speech this week) and Angela Merkel will accept some and reject others.

    The FDP’s staunch opposition to a transfer union in the Eurozone will limit her maneuvering space. She will definitely reject the notion of a two-speed union, but together with EU institutions uphold the rule of Law in Europe, against individual governments such as Poland’s and Hungary’s. But she will want to avoid the impression of a new East-West conflict between old and new member states.

    On European defence, a ‘Jamaica’ coalition is likely to push forward together with France, but incrementally and within NATO, not replacing the Alliance. Sanctions against Russia are set to remain in place – the Greens’ disdain for Putin will likely help Merkel against any appeasing steps that CSU and Liberals might have in mind.

    Whether all this is really enough to respond to the urgent need for leadership in Europe, in times of Anglo-Saxon withdrawal through Brexit and Trump, and mounting insecurity in the EU’s neighbourhood, that is the question. But if she wants to form a legacy beyond the 2015 refugee crisis, Angela Merkel will have to push Germany to a more active role in European and international security.

    Finally, on this bittersweet election night, most observers agree that Angela Merkel’s fourth term as Chancellor will also be her last. But if she wants to leave her successor, whoever it may be, a fair chance of proving themselves in power, she might have to leave the stage a year or so before the election in 2021.

    At the moment, nobody can really imagine a CDU without Angela Merkel, or Germany or Europe without her. And yet, that moment will come. The complicated coalition talks of the next few weeks, and the difficult government afterwards, may yet look harmless compared to the bumpy times of 2020 and beyond.

    Roland Freudenstein Education EU Member States Leadership Political Parties

    Roland Freudenstein

    Angela’s bittersweet victory: takeaways from Germany’s election


    25 Sep 2017

  • Technological change was never as fast as it is today. This is not a cliché, this is a fact: previous technological revolutions, such as the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution provided humanity with abundant food, energy and industrial products.

    ICT innovation is supporting the innovation process itself. Never before did so many people have such an easy access to so much knowledge and never before was it so easy to connect with other educated, empowered people.

    The end of work?

    There may be one downside to all this: the pace of innovation is killing jobs faster than new ones are being created. Indeed, if we were satisfied with the 1930s standard of living, we could have a 4 hour workweek and produce all the goods and services we need.

    However, work is not just about satisfying material needs, it is about establishing a meaningful place of a person in society. Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief stated as early as 1983:

    “the role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors.”

    The fancy term for this is “machine induced human redundancy”. The usual answer to this problem is that creativity and education might prevent that. We hope that the answer to accelerating technological change is better education, more creativity, so that we can be the ones that are leading change, and so that our jobs and lives are not being destroyed in the process.

    How to thrive in this new environment

    I believe we have reasons for optimism rather than panic in this new environment. First, we are flexible: there are many different things that we can do and we can learn. This is why education, especially life-long education is so important. Machines too can do many different things, but machines can also help a not so perfectly skilled human to do work he/she alone would unable to do. Therefore, a key thing to learn in the future is man-machine teamwork!  

    Second, we are not only those who work, we are also the customer. As customers, we will always have new desires and demands. Humans will always be guided by the ambition to better their lives and new work will always be generated as a consequence.

    Demands are shaped by values and culture and we need to educate these. Appreciating the local and the particular, as conservatives, creates more jobs than finding satisfaction in the global and the general. We need to preserve the innate feeling that humans like to deal with humans! And we need to reward the desire of people to feel useful. Being useful towards our fellows creates the interdependencies and the fabric of human society. The issue is not so much about jobs as it is about being of use to others, in one way or the other.

    Education: learning what makes us human  

    Currently, school systems are ignoring or suppressing what makes us human. We learn how to be like machines: memorize facts, learn recipes and formulae. This is, as Andreas Schleicher from OECD likes to point out, easy to teach, easy to test, easy to replace by machines. Instead, learning should encourage us to preserve and develop what makes us human and what is uniquely human, things like curiosity, creativity, empathy and critical thinking. And, most importantly, social interaction and building communities.

    Education will have to focus less on “just-in-case” topics, learning something in school in case we might need it later in life, and more on “just-in-time” learning, such as learning while working. It should be less about how to serve machines and computers, and more about how to control them; less about how to answer questions, and more about what questions to ask.

    Currently, school systems are ignoring or suppressing what makes us human. 

    Education should focus less on how to solve problems, and more on how to define problems; less on how to obey decisions, and more on how to make decisions; less on how to make stuff, and more on how to sell stuff; less machine skills, more people skills; less how to be smart, more how to be good; less how to treat people like objects, more how to treat people like humans.

    This calls for a major overhaul of school curricula and pedagogy, whose effects will only start to reap results in fifteen years at the earliest. Therefore, a major effort is required on all kinds of life-long learning approaches and on opportunities for experimenting with creative ideas.

    More education is not a panacea

    Education is not a panacea, though. Too often, when faced with a problem, politicians’ answer is “more education”. As if better educated people are a solution to everything. The “more education” mantra is politically un-controversial: who could be against more education? Who could be against better educated people? Who could argue with the fact that having better educated people in the right places would solve all of our problems?

    Well, Hayek had already argued against that. More precisely, his argument is that we cannot expect to have perfect people everywhere; rather, we must create systems and institutions that work with imperfect people and yet produce optimal results.

    Education is about perfecting people, but it is not the only tool that governments have. Rather than only focusing on (the non-controversial) education, governments should keep a 360 degrees view on other tools available in their toolbox.

    The infrastructure of innovation

    States should provide the right infrastructure for curiosity, creativity, empathy and community building. This would include technological infrastructure, human-human networking, modernized IPR legislation, flexible employment mechanisms, social safety nets, all in order to allow people to experiment with new ideas. Innovation should be permission-less. Legacy institutions and legislation should not stand in the way of inventing new ways of working.

    And states should put in place a responsive market economy that will recognise and reward the winners of this permission-less innovation. It is not likely that politicians and civil servants will find a solution to the future of work, but people will, as providers and as customers. The role of the state is to provide an infrastructure for innovation, for the generation of ideas, and then recognise the winners.

    By innovation I do not only mean technical innovation, but also innovation in business, institutional and social models. The role of the EU is not to enforce, from the top down, a new social model for the digital age, simply because the civil service in Brussels is unable to come up with such a model. Instead, Brussels should allow states to experiment with different solutions and then facilitate best practices to spread.

    To sum up, humans will always survive and thrive by adapting, learning, and creating new demand and supply. If we were happy with our current standards of living, less and less work would be needed to achieve it; however, human nature will always aim for more and better and newer! Thus, we should never be afraid of running out of work, but of running out of being human, running out of ideas, running out of fertile ground for ideas to develop into businesses and running out of mechanisms that tie individuals into a community.

    The text is an expanded version of the author’s introduction and closing remarks on the panel “Tomorrow, How Will We Learn and Be Creative” at the 2016 Economic Ideas Forum.
    Žiga Turk Economy Education Innovation Jobs

    Žiga Turk

    The end of work? It just isn’t in our human nature


    25 Jan 2017

  • Technology is, undoubtedly, disrupting the world as we know it ­at a faster pace than we’ve ever seen before. It is reinventing society in ways we could have hardly imagined just a few years ago.

    Technologies such as cloud computing, mobile apps, e­commerce or wireless communication have helped democratize information and give access to knowledge at a larger scale than ever before. We now live in a ‘network society’ ­always connected, always changing and always redefining itself.

    This digital revolution has taken by storm all aspects of our daily lives ­ and the way we work is one of the areas where disruption will be the strongest. It is not only the ‘how we work’ that we need to rethink, but also the ‘when’ and ‘where from’.

    Coping with such disruption is already proving to be very challenging across industries, for both employers and employees in the public and private sectors. But it is up to us to face the challenges and make sure that the workplace environment is keeping up with the technology surrounding it, instead of trying to ignore for as long as possible (which, on the long term, would have disastrous consequences).

    First of all, I strongly believe that for the world of work to keep the pace with the technological revolution, our paradigm around what work is and how it should happen need to change. For the past 150 years, throughout the industrial revolution and until today, very little has changed in the way we design organisations and jobs.

    Just like in Henry Ford’s time, today’s workplaces are following the factory­model organisational design ­ shaped around structured hierarchy, heavy bureaucracy, overwhelmed by control and rules, adverse to change. As much sense as this model might have made in the industrial era, today it is making less and less sense to apply these same principles to our working environments.

    Given the opportunities that technology is providing, it is now the time for us to start rethinking the meaning of work so that we can start redesigning the workplace. Organisations need to become flexible and adaptive in order to survive ­ and because of technology, we now have the opportunity to make it happen.

    Less hierarchy, more autonomy, simplifying bureaucracy as much as possible and involving employees more in the decisional process should become the norm of the organisation leading the way forward in any kind of industry or sector.

    New models of organisation design such as holocracy, wirerachy, freedom centered or distributed (remote) have challenged the status quo of the world of work. And though none of these models have proven to be perfect, they all have one thing in common: maximising the impact that technology has within the workplace, taking full advantage of how it can help an organisation thrive (and improve the flow of information, communication, learning and development of employees, productivity etc).  

    In addition, technology is also redefining the physical environment of the workplace. Remote work is becoming more and more the chosen solution, as for an organisation this means lower fixed costs, significantly decreasing commuting times and also being able to tap into a global talent pool ­ without being limited by the physical space to look for the most talented employees living in the proximity of the workplace.

    And even for companies for whom remote work is not the solution, the office space is being redefined. It is making its transition from the cubicle to becoming a hub for collaboration where employees can spend time connecting with each other rather than the place where they need to be between 9am and 5pm.

    But for all of this, the shift of paradigm needs to happen also as organisations need to drop the idea that efficiency and performance is directly tied with the rules of the physical offices  fixed working hours and long commutes. Instead, remote working working organisations and coworking offices rely heavily on collaborative technology and digital tools to help employees thrive in their work.  

    Secondly, another aspect of the world of work keeping up with technology is the fact that digital workplaces will need digital employees. In other words, emphasis needs also to be put on developing digital literacy both within current generation in the workplace as well as younger generations who will enter the workplace in the upcoming years.

    At the moment, there is a high percentage of the workforce (mostly represented by Generation X) across the world with real difficulties in using digital tools within the workplace ­ and this is impacting in a negative way both productivity and the workflow within the organisation.

    Developing learning programs that help them gain digital skills will be critical in the next years, as the requirements of the modern workplaces and the transformation of many of today’s jobs could lead to a stron technological unemployment trend which might leave heavy marks on economies and the society. 

    And even if today’s younger generations have been heavily exposed to technology since very early in their lives and they are true digital natives, they still need training and education about using digital tools purposefully in the workplace. For this, attention needs to be brought to education systems across the world to integrate digital literacy within the curricula of schools as an essential part of the learning process.

    At the moment, the gap between skills taught at school and skills required in the workplace is becoming higher and higher ­and most of it because of this lack of focus on digital literacy.

    Last but not least, government policies need to be more open to regulating new ways of work supported by technology. On one hand, it is the rise of the digital nomads and of the remote workers (who are either working on a freelance basis or as part of remote or flexible working companies).

    At the moment, it is legally quite difficult for such workers to deal with paying taxes or finding legal ways of justifying their work (since the are huge gaps in legislation related to such regulations of remote or freelance work).

    On the other hand, technology offers the opportunity to help close the unemployment gap for vulnerable groups of people (the disabled, the elderly, ethnic discriminated minorities etc). With the help of digital tools, they can be much more easily integrated in the workplace (both on physical or in remote working environments, depending on the needs).

    But in order for organisations to create employment opportunities for these vulnerable groups, government policies play an important role in advocating for such approaches, reducing the bureaucracy of these processes and maybe even incentivising organisations for adopting such policies.

    To sum up, I believe the impact that technology will have on the workplace will have a massive impact on shaping tomorrow’s society and it is our duty right now to try to foresee the changes coming along in the workplace and the forces driving it so that we can adapt to them in the best possible way.

    The Romanian version of this article has been previously published in the Romanian news portal Ziare.com.

    Ana Marica Economy Education Industry Innovation

    Ana Marica

    The Digital Revolution Within the Workplace


    10 May 2016

  • The discussion about strengthening the European economy is very timely. Although the EU is facing urgent challenges now, we have to learn to tackle more than one crisis at a time. We still need to make efforts to improve the competitiveness and thus resilience of our economy when facing shocks, I have asserted today in the debate “Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU”, organized within NET@WORK Forum of the Martens Centre. The completion and strengthening of the Economic and Monetary Union is essential to ensure the stability of our common currency. In order to strengthen our economies, we have to tackle the root causes of the current crisis: Too much debt and too little competitiveness. It is necessary that the banking system returns to its mission of supporting the real economy, like financing entrepreneurship and SMEs. Progress has been made regarding the governance of the Eurozone, where the ECB monetary policy has been constructive. However, this help is limited and can only function as a bridge. There is no way around improving competitiveness through economic and political reforms, and I believe an appropriate tool for this can be a fiscal capacity of the Eurozone. The capacity should incentivize reforms especially in good economic times, when it makes sense to implement them, such as reforms already laid down in the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). An evaluation of the CSRs implementation rate could steer us towards reforms whose transposition require financial incentives through the fiscal capacity. What kind of reforms do we need to make our economies more competitive? On the one hand, we have to reduce deficits and limit public debt, return banks to their initial function, allocate more financing to research and innovation, further invest in roads and railway infrastructure as well as improving energy and digital markets. On the other hand, we need to reform labour markets to be more flexible in order to offer more opportunities to young people. We have to support entrepreneurship, start-ups and SMEs, further develop the single market, provide predictable and reliable tax and legal systems as well as insuring the functionality of the rule of law. In addition, there is need to reform the budgets. The limited financial resources we have at public level should be allocated to those areas which strengthen our economies. The budget should be a reflection of our political priorities. Moreover, we must invest in education. Schools and universities have to prepare the students with the necessary skills to be successful in the labour markets of the future. Many jobs of the future will require new skills, such as digital and e-skills. Furthermore, the development of the governance of the Eurozone is necessary, but more important is the impact on the real lives of the citizens. We have to show how our actions in Brussels really help the economy, and more specifically, how they benefit entrepreneurs and SMEs. European citizens are rightly interested in the final results. As pro-Europeans we have to talk about the achievements of European integration and present the EU as something which is still responding to the present and future needs of the citizens. In the past, the most urgent need was peace. Today, the challenges of the future are manifold, including the refugee crisis, increasing Euro scepticism and international conflicts. If the European idea is challenged and questioned by populists, it is our obligation, besides defending the European idea, to improve and further develop it. [originally published in Siegfried Muresan’s blog]

    Siegfried Mureşan Economy Education EU Institutions European People's Party Innovation

    Siegfried Mureşan

    Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU


    20 Apr 2016

  • The West has exercised international hegemony since the Middle Ages. The European states, until 1918, and the US, up to the end of the Cold War, proved capable of imposing their leadership through their military and economic dominance. Today, however, the Western nations are not the only world powers. China, India, Russia and some Islamic countries share global leadership with the US, while Europe is struggling to find a way to be relevant in the twenty-first century.

    Merely constituting a massive common market is insufficient. In this endeavour Europe is not taking advantage of its most valuable asset: its rich cultural legacy, rooted in thousands of years of history. Ironically, the young US has thus far done a better job of projecting power globally by exploiting its soft power. Placing the humanities back at the centre of education would be the best way for Europeans to recover both their identity and an important role on the world stage.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Bruno Aguilera Barchet Education EU-US Globalisation

    Bruno Aguilera Barchet

    Europeans: don’t be afraid of your culture!


    23 Nov 2015

  • I  have been in Hangzhou in the past week attending a Global Investment Conference organised by Euromoney. Hangzhou was for a time the capital of China and the biggest city in the world. It is about 200 km from Shanghai, or an hour’s journey on the high speed train, a trip that I was told costs only 10 euros. Hangzhou was a centre of the silk business and was visited by Marco Polo. Silk from Hangzhou went along the ancient Silk Road all the way to Europe, thereby making Hangzhou one of world’s first globalised economies.

    I spoke in Hangzhou just as the Asia Europe Economic Meeting (ASEM) of heads of Government was taking place in Milan. As the President of the European Council, I attended the first ever ASEM meeting in Bangkok in 1996. I met the Mayor  of Hangzhou and key commercial and political figures.

    Since 2010 there has been a huge surge in outward investment from China in the rest of the world, jumping from 6.1 billion euros to 27 billion euros in just three years. This investment is going into  buying high tech companies, companies with globally known brands, and tourist resorts (like Fota in Cork). Just as China’s export drive enabled it, not only to gain income but also to gain market knowledge, this wave of investment is also designed to strengthen China’s global competitiveness and sophistication.

    Children in the Shanghai are getting the highest test results in Maths, Science and Reading comprehension in the global PISA tests, which shows that they will provide strong competition for European and Irish children in the global economy. Irish Universities are accepting Chinese students and also investing in developing University facilities in China. This will help China to become a high income economy, its people enjoying lifestyles that will make similarly exorbitant demands on global resources, to the ones already being made by  European and American lifestyles consumers.

    Wage levels are rising fast in China, as demand for workers is beginning to exceed supply, partly thanks to the one child policy.  China is losing low cost jobs to Vietnam and Mexico, so it has no choice but move higher up the value chain.

    There is a shift in the allocation of credit away from big, relatively inefficient, state owned heavy(and often polluting) industries, towards privately owned businesses in the consumer goods sector. While the raw GDP growth rates in China may decline as a result, the life style enhancing quality of future GDP will improve.
    China is becoming a middle class country, with middle class tastes and material aspirations. With wealth has come anxiety, with many Chinese wanting to invest some of their savings overseas. This provides opportunities for the Irish international financial services industry.

    While I was in Hangzhou, the protests in Hong Kong were still under way. The protesters wanted anybody to be eligible for election, not just candidates approved by a single nomination committee. I read an article on this controversy in the “China Daily”, by an Indian Professor, M D Nalapat,  entitled  “Hong Kong must avoid the democracy trap”, which challenged the notion that, at every level of economic development, democracy is a guarantor of economic success.

    He also said: “ Political chaos can act as a speed breaker for rising Asian economies, dampening the challenge they pose to western counties. Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Ukraine are examples of countries where hundreds of thousands of youths believed that replacing of existing structures through street protest would result in a better life. Instead what they have got are deteriorating living standards and  increasing insecurity.”

    This is unfortunately a fair comment, and demonstrates the danger of making exaggerated claims of automatic economic advantages from any change of governmental system. Democracy requires patience and self restraint, sometimes absent in recently liberated societies.

    Professor Nalapat went on: “Hong Kong is still moving upward, when the present generation in the US and the EU are worse off than the generations preceding it”

    This  is a  superficial comment. Mature economies will never have, or need to have, the same rates of economic growth as economies, like China, which are in the “catch up” phase. Indeed, there is a case to be made that, beyond a certain level of economic development, diminishing returns in human wellbeing and environmental quality set in. 5% plus annual growth rates cannot continue to infinity…..anywhere in the world.

    It is not surprising that an article like Professor Nalapats’ should appear in the “China Daily”, but is troubling that it should be written by an Indian, an inhabitant of the world’s largest democracy, a country in which there are 3 million freely elected  legislators at differing levels of government, with real competition between parties unlike the tightly controlled system obtaining in China.

    But Professor Nalapat is showing that people in the developing world are watching European and North American democracies, as we squabble about how to restore dynamism and optimism in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, and are drawing conclusions about our systems of government, and the capacity of those systems to enable us to get our economic act together, and democratically to reconcile citizens expectations with economic realities.

    John Bruton Democracy Development Economy Education Trade

    John Bruton

    Reflections from the Silk Road


    20 Oct 2014

  • ‘You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.’ – Jim Rohn


    The real issue of the jobs crisis among young people is not the lack of income but the erosion of skills. Not being in the jobs market, dealing with daily tasks and problems, results in loss of ability to do things. Ultimately, you don’t gain new knowledge or skills and lose competitiveness. Less employers will take you on board as a result.

    Staying outside the jobs market is not only detrimental to young people and their future but it is harmful to employers and to the economy as a whole (lower tax contributions and increased social welfare payments). Prior to the crises, many EU member states performed well in the job matching process. Throughout the crises both unemployment rates and job vacancy rates increased.

    Our earlier research (http://ces.tc/1p898xg) showed that Europe is experiencing a long-run negative trend when it comes to youth employment. At the same time it revealed that the rate of young people not in education, employment, or training (NEET rate) remains unchanged in the long run. These two elements are sustained by the skills mismatch and vice versa. The research also revealed growing divergence across the EU as some member states are performing relatively well while others lag behind in youth employment and NEET rates.


    In 2011 Eurofound estimated that the cost of jobless young people amounted to 1.21% of EU GDP. This translated into annual loss of €153 billion. In the long run much larger cost would incur due to the lack of skills in the EU.

    An important piece of the puzzle is the issue of education and training reform with regards to skills. But there is a catch. Reforms should be implemented at national level because education policy interventions are reserved for member states, not the European Commission. An observation is that reforms are painfully slow across the EU, despite the urgency of the crises. This fact is revealed by the study on the implementation of Commission’s 2011/2012 Country Specific Recommendations. Only 18% of the measures were implemented while 43% were not implemented at all (as of March 2014).


    If Europe wants to reverse decreasing youth employment, lower NEET rates and match skills supply with skills demand, key items need to be incorporated in education curricula: Problem-solving, financial literacy, self-learning, critical thinking, creativity, digital literacy, and communication skills.

    Problem solving and critical thinking relate to the ability to identify, approach and solve a wide range of issues at work or in life. OECD’s 2012 PISA study in problem solving reveals a shortage of such skills in Europe when compared to Asia. Financial literacy is an essential life skill about managing your own money. Research indicates that youngsters’ knowledge in this area is very limited. Digital skills are a must-have in every office but many young people don’t know how to work with office-related software products. Communication skills are needed when conveying ideas and getting your point across – even creative and innovative ideas are doomed when they are poorly communicated.

    Self-learning is probably the most important component and it is the short cut to being more competitive on the labour market. Knowledge is now freely accessible online (Massive Open Online Courses) and young people should take advantage of that.


    In addition to the new set of skills, already in high school, young people should be trained to follow an idea-to-income culture. This relates to self-employment practices and entrepreneurship as effective tools to improve youth employment. Such courses should help young people walk the path to establishing and running their own business, dealing successfully with regulatory environment and funding issues.


    Finally and most importantly, teaching should always mean motivating, mentoring, engaging and communicating. Acquiring the previously mentioned skills requires innovative teaching approach, not only hi-tech class rooms. Training in such skills should be in the form of interactive sessions and projects, involving students and getting them used to applying the knowledge in everyday situations.

    The Martens Centre, in cooperation with the Kós Károly Academy (KKA) and the Hungarian Youth Conference of Romania (MIERT), organised the 2014 EU Camp held from 8 to 13 July in Romania. A panel dedicated to the skills issue, education reforms and youth employment attracted more than 150 young people and provided answers to their questions.

    Kalin Zahariev Education Jobs Youth

    Kalin Zahariev

    Avoiding the cost of no skills


    16 Jul 2014

  • The real reason for youth unemployment is structural incompatibility between the attained education and the needs of the labour market. Among Slovenian 24-29-year-olds, who have successfully completed their education, 24% are unemployed. This percentage is growing faster than unemployment rates in other EU countries. How is this possible, and what can we do about it?

    An explanation can be found in two developments. The enrolment into tertiary education in Slovenia is about 70%, the highest percentage among all member states. The recommendation of the European Commission was 30% and was raised to 40% in Agenda 2020. Also, Slovenian graduates majoring in social sciences and liberal arts outnumber those who major in engineering and natural sciences by 2.68 to 1.

    This structural incompatibility is of course interwoven with the economic crisis and it is obvious that the economic crisis increases the number of unemployed persons. However, there are professions which despite the economic crisis offer vacancies but for which young graduates with suitable education cannot be found. In Slovenia one should speak about two crises: the economic crisis and the crisis of human resources. Full or near full employment of young graduates is possible only if the economy is expanding and when new graduates match the needs of the labour market. We should have two goals: to establish an equilibrium between the educational structure of future generations and the labour market, and to find the solutions for unemployable graduates. Therefore, I recommend three distinctive measures.

    The first measure, which is a starting point for all others, is to provide early and correct information to young people and their parents about the situation in the labour market. Without the necessary information they cannot make well-balanced decisions according to labour market needs. It is absurd to expect that the labour market and the choices for studies will automatically harmonise. Clear information is needed and it should come from an institution or non-governmental organisation enjoying the trust of the general public.

    The second measure is an administrative restriction of enrolment in study programs, which should reduce enrolment from 70% to 40%. The restrictions should be introduced very carefully and on the basis of the largest possible political consensus. On the one hand, we should be aware that it is in the public interest that public financing only supports those study programs which are expected to produce graduates that can be employed within a reasonable amount of time after graduation. On the other hand, the basic right of each person to obtain the education he desires should be respected.

    The third measure should be to introduce special study programs for young graduates to make them more employable. Unemployable graduates represent a social burden, a significant loss of talent and is a cause of social instability. As it is in the public interest to retrain them, the government should provide some assistance.

    The crisis of human resources represents a serious threat to our economic development and social stability. The exit out of the economic crisis, and our future in general, depends a great deal on how we will address the human resources problem.
    It is clear that a deeper analysis on the structure of professions and educational levels in member states with high youth unemployment and how the structure will be employable by 2030 is needed. Based on this study measures could be enacted that would coordinate the younger generations’ educations with the demands of the labour market.

    Andrej Umek Education Jobs Youth

    Andrej Umek

    Youth Unemployment: A Crisis of Human Resources


    04 Apr 2014

  • The Centre for European Studies (CES) has been ranked 35th in the Top 150 Think Tanks worldwide, consolidating its position as a leading provider of fresh ideas and policy alternatives. More than 6,800 think tanks were considered for the ranking, using the largest and most comprehensive global database of think thanks.

    The results were released by Pennsylvania University as part of their annual Global Go To Think Tank Index. The 2013 Index, a result of an international survey of over 1,500 experts, has become the gold standard for think tanks around the world and is widely cited by governments, donors, journals and policymakers as the foremost profile and performance indicator of think tanks globally.

    The CES also ranked 14th among Best Government Affiliated Think Tanks, 18th in the category Think Tanks with the Most Significant Impact on Public Policy and 23rd in the Top Think Tanks with the Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program. Commenting on these results, CES Director Tomi Huhtanen said:

    ‘Our mission and activities are aimed towards two main target audiences. On the one hand we have European policy-makers, who we provide research projects that are infused with policy recommendations to, while on the other side, we have the European citizens, where our aim is to raise awareness and stimulate debate about EU policies. I think these results are recognition of our efforts to impact European policy-making and reach European citizens, in cooperation of course with our ever-growing network of like-minded member foundations.’

    Furthermore, the CES also ranks 15th in the category Best Use of the Internet, acknowledging the online efforts of a young, dynamic organisation that applies the latest communication and engagement tools to reach wide audiences.

    Several CES member foundations, including the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS) from Germany along with Fundacion para el Analisis y los Estudios Sociales (FAES) from Spain also ranked highly in several categories.

    The full rankings are available online at http://gotothinktank.com/rankings/.


    CES Ranks High Among Top Think Tanks Worldwide

    Other News

    30 Jan 2014

  • A random Google search for ‘sustainable development’ scores over 220 million search results. The world is talking about sustainability. From financial and economic policies to baby diapers – it could all be branded as sustainable (and it is). This has almost turned sustainability to a cliché.

    Sustainability, however, isn’t about things. It all comes down to individual behaviour that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (the Brundtland Commission, 1980s). Currently, unsustainability is a lifestyle. The environment and resources serve us here and now without a long-run perspective. The unsustainable economic model collapsed and burdened future generations with the consequences. And societal challenges such as demography, employment, education and skills are undermining the stability of our communities.

    The big question is how to establish the sustainable mind-set and encourage sustainable behaviour in order to turn away from unsustainability. A very good answer is through the process of education. Higher education has a major role in shaping individuals because it is a transition period to real life. Higher education institutions (HEIs) facilitate personal development and change. Universities form micro communities where institutional environment could foster creativity, productivity, social responsibility and environmental awareness. On the one hand, university campuses have the potential to become a model for environmental, social and economic sustainability. On the other hand, students bring along high motivation, energy and fresh thinking. Thus, higher education is a stable platform for ideas that belong to younger generations.

    The challenges:

    The idea of sustainability relates to HEIs in a simple twofold way. One vector is the concept of a sustainable university. The second vector covers the idea of integrating sustainability in the actual curricula. However, there is a catch – a list of pending obstacles to sustainability is to be ticked off:

    • The risk of running sustainability as a marketing technique. Words and phrases that have to do with sustainable have become taglines. Simply put, painting a building green does not make it sustainable.
    • Limiting the perception to an environmental concept only, excluding the two other pillars – society and economy.
    • Introducing sustainability in higher education curricula requires plenty of efforts for HEIs and a small number of them are willing to invest time and money in it.
    • Sustainability principles are not compulsory for HEIs and their curricula. Thus, some HEIs are true pioneers in the field while a large group of the organisations lag behind.
    • 40 years after Stockholm Earth Summit in 1972 no sustainability strategy is being implemented in the field of higher education. Thus, there is no path to follow and no strategic approach in setting goals and measuring their implementation and impact.
    • UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005 has not influenced significantly policy making at EU level due to the fact that higher education is still heavily dependent on strictly national policies and 28 different policies are implemented.


    Despite the fact that the Europe 2020 strategy has set a target to achieve sustainability, a limited range of tools is available when it comes to higher education. The variety of crises (financial, economic and debt crises) that clouded over the EU made the process of introducing sustainability to higher education even slower.

    The idea of sustainable development is a horizontal process that involves different governmental agencies and levels of governance – local, national, and European. Sustainability is a bottom-up process and it requires commitment and leadership. This is why all stakeholders should equally contribute to achieving the goal.

    The long-term outcome from integrating sustainability in the higher education is the establishment of a mind-set and values that will be embedded in all fields of our lives. Through education, our social, economic and environmental behaviour could become sustainable by default.


    To higher education institutions:

    • Include the three pillars of sustainability in the organisations’ mission statements and strategic goals.
    • The sustainable development education requires multidiscipline approach. Instead of being a separate isolated subject (where it exists), it has to be an integrated part of large number of subjects such as economics, finance, strategic management, human resources management, engineering, medicine, etc.
    • Introduce sustainability policies based on standard frameworks such as the Environmental Management Systems and ISO 14000 / ISO 14001. The framework should focus on several aspects – facilities, waste, transportation, energy, administration, etc.
    • Develop sustainable campuses because they create a micro environment capable of shifting students’ mind-sets. More HEIs should establish sustainability information desks/centres at their campuses in order to generate further interest among students.
    • Form partnerships on sustainability with local governments, businesses, NGOs and foundations. This will provide access to additional research capacity and funding.
    • Aim at project-based learning and practical involvement in sustainability initiatives. Universities could recruit volunteers among the students who have good knowledge on sustainability. They could form groups for generating sustainability ideas, activities and cause a snowball effect for many other students.

    To the EU member states:

    • Focus on translating sustainability to HEIs and students so they could “buy” the idea. Currently there is no big demand for sustainability, since most of the HEIs and students do not appreciate the benefits of it. Universities consider it a burdensome budget item.
    • The EU Member States should be encouraged to bind accreditation and evaluation of higher education institutions to sustainable development. A special set of criteria could be established that would influence the accreditation and ranking of HEIs.
    • The 2014-2020 programming period should play a vital role in funding schemes for sustainable development in higher education through operational programmes at national level.
    • Funding for public HEIs should include sustainability research grants, awarded for sustainability projects. Budgeting should shift to performance based, taking into consideration sustainability criteria.

    To the European Commission:

    • The next European Commission should work even closer with the member states to achieve a harmonised approach in integrating sustainability in higher education across the EU.

    Kalin Zahariev Education Environment Sustainability

    Kalin Zahariev

    Sustainability? Teach them how!


    29 Jan 2014

  • On 16 December, a delegation from the Centre for European Studies (CES) met with officials from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. In a meeting with Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD, a range of areas including economic, social and industrial policies were discussed as priority fields for both organisations.

    Tomi Huhtanen, CES Director elaborated on the activities and priority topics of the CES. He noted that both the CES and the OECD share the belief that implementing reforms will lead to growth and sustainability in the economy. During the day, further meetings took place with key OECD experts including Monika Queisser, Head of Social Policy Division and Eckhard Wurzel, Senior Economist where the topic of the European welfare state and the issue of competitiveness were discussed.

    The role of education in economic growth was discussed with Simon Field, Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills while Andrew Wyckoff, Director of Science, Technology and Industry, alongside Alistair Nolan, Senior Economist provided their insight on innovation and industry as new sources of growth. Finally, the topic of entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises was discussed with Sergio Arzeni, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the OECD.

    Economy Education Growth Jobs

    CES meets OECD experts

    Other News

    17 Dec 2013

  • What would your employment ad sound like, young man? The variety of crises (financial, economic and debt crises) that clouded over the EU triggered intense youth employment debates. At the Centre for European Studies we carried out in-house research that paves the way to solutions.

     Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
    Figure 1: Employment rate, age 15-24 years, EU28 and Turkey, 2002-2012 Source: Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
    Youth employment (age 15-24) in EU-28 shows a downward trend ever since 2002. There was an increase to 37.3% between 2004 and 2008 when the economic boom created higher youth employment rates. When the system plunged into crisis, youth employment rates decreased by a large margin. The crises aggravated a structural problem of youth employment. In 2012 youth employment rate in EU-28 (32.8%) come close to the rate in Turkey (31.5%).

     Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
    Figure 2: Employment rate, EU-28, age 40-64 years, 2002-2012 Source: Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
    Our analysis shows as well that elderly employment increased rather steadily since 2002 (from 62.6% to 67.6% in 2012). The pre-crises economic development boosted the employment rate to 67.5%. The 2012 numbers indicate a clear recovery path for the EU-28. This shows that young people took the burden of the crises. In addition to that, more and more elderly people remain active in the labour market. This is a key achievement of the active ageing policies.

     Eurostat, extracted Nov. 2013
    Figure 3: NEET rate, EU-28, 2002-2012. Source: Eurostat, extracted Nov. 2013
    EU-28 NEET rate (young people not in employment, not in formal/informal education and training) shows no improvement since 2002. Again, the pre-crises economy delivered some relief. In 2002 the NEET rate (age 15-29) was 15.6% and 15.9% in 2012. The number of young people that are not employed or do not participate in a training has remained unchanged. This indicates that more and more young people stay in education and training programmes to compensate for not finding a proper employment.

     Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
     Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
     Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013

    Figures 4, 5 & 6: NEET rates, selected countries, 2000-2012. Source: Eurostat, extracted Sep. 2013
    When we zoom in at individual countries, growing divergence in the EU surfaces. We distinguish three groups.
    The outperforming Denmark, Germany, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden where we see a clear recovery trend in terms of NEET rates.

    The average Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia where NEET rates are high (especially in Bulgaria). The lagging Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal where NEET rates increased sharply and are still increasing.

    The negative youth employment trend and continuously high NEET rates is one thing but there is more to it. Our research points out few other burdensome trends – labour mobility, unpaid internships and temporary employment.

    Labour mobility within the EU rests very low, according to OECD data. Important causes for this are bureaucratic procedures, the burdensome recognition of qualifications and language barriers. These issues lead to the bigger problem – the incompleteness of the European labour market.

    Unpaid internships are the second chunk of the youth employment issue. A survey by the European Youth Forum reveals that approximately half of the internships in the EU are unpaid. Without remuneration, fewer young people will be able to afford a traineeship due to the cost of living. Thus fewer youngsters will stand a better chance of being employed. Another effect of unpaid internships is that there are no contributions to the social security and tax systems.

    Temporary employment rates for young people in the EU are very high, soaring over 42% in 2012, according to Eurostat data. The main issue here is the lack of sustainability and high uncertainty among youth. This for instance prevents many young people from establishing families.


    • The crises were a wakeup call. The EU youth employment rate is a long-term negative trend and a result of structural problems.
    • NEET rates today will hit back on EU’s economy like a boomerang. Simply put, the economy will be held back by the growing size of the EU’s lost generation.
    • Europe is like a car with wheels spinning at different speeds. There is a great country-to-country difference within the EU in terms of youth employment and NEET rates. Instead of convergence, we witness divergence.
    • Labour mobility, unpaid internships and temporary employment are overlooked topics. However, these are crucial bits of the youth employment issue.
    • Blame-it-on-Brussels attitude was and still is a popular excuse for many governments. However, social, labour and youth policies are foremost in the hands of the Member States.


    • Implement reforms. Southern Europe and especially the former Socialist countries should address the low youth employment rates and high NEET rates. The 2014-2020 Programming Period offers funding tools for such reforms.
    • Bridge business and universities. Start-up platforms and initiatives, spin-off companies and clusters should be prioritised by governments through public and private investment (risk capital).
    • Update education and skills. Introduce: 1. Vocational training to the bachelor’s and master’s degrees; 2. Entrepreneurship education and training in secondary and tertiary education; 3. Digital literacy and transversal skills such as creativity, critical thinking, self-learning and communication.
    • Support youth labour mobility. 1. Cut the labour mobility red tape through labour legislation. 2. Revision of national labour regulations should be encouraged more by the European Commission. 3. Full implementation of the European Qualifications Framework. 4. Improve the foreign language skills of the young Europeans.
    • Restrain unpaid internships. There should be more tax relief for companies that employ interns but no unpaid internships.
    • Limit temporary employment. There are two main priorities in this field – ensuring more, permanent but flexible work contracts and deepened social partnership.
    • Proactive young people. Knowledge is widely and freely accessible nowadays – the internet. Accumulating skills and knowledge makes you more competitive with a better chance of being employed. This is not a front row ticket to employment but at least you are getting closer to it.
    Kalin Zahariev Economy Education Jobs Youth

    Kalin Zahariev

    Young, never employed, under qualified, looking for a future. Hire me!


    12 Dec 2013

  • The Centre for European Studies (CES) has launched an exciting new initiative to gather the best ideas from the youth across Europe. The “Up2Youth” public opinion survey is an interactive, online initiative for young Europeans to express and exchange ideas on the issues that matter the most to them. From education to jobs, and from social policy to foreign affairs, the survey allows participants to address a wide range of issues, but in a quick and user-friendly way.

    European People’s Party (EPP) President Joseph Daul praised the initiative: “The Up2Youth survey is a fantastic opportunity for young people across Europe to make their voices heard, and the EPP is proud to be the first European political party to offer the youth the chance to share their ideas in this way. In view of the May 2014 European elections, politicians must listen to the youth, hear their concerns, and consider their ideas and solutions to the challenges we face. We look forward to the feedback we will receive and I can assure all participants that their ideas will be taken seriously by leaders throughout the EPP family, especially as we finalise our political platform for the 2014 European elections.”

    The President of the CES, Mikuláš Dzurinda, also applauded the Up2Youth project. “This survey will allow Europe’s youth to tell EU leaders what is most important to them. I am confident that there will be no shortage of great ideas, and we are especially pleased to further the political process by serving as a platform for debate and discussion.”

    The ten participants offering the best policy ideas will be invited to the EPP Congress in Dublin, Ireland on 6 and 7 March 2014 to meet and share their ideas directly with EU leaders, including the EPP’s candidate for President of the European Commission, who will be chosen in Dublin. Furthermore, the participant offering the very best idea will also be offered a paid, six-month internship at the CES in Brussels.


    To see the aftermath of the initiative, watch the reactions from the ten participants selected to attend the 2014 EPP Congress in Dublin:

    Education Elections Jobs Social Policy Youth

    CES launches the exciting ‘Up2Youth’ initiative

    Other News

    11 Dec 2013

  • The monument commemorating the Soviet army in the centre of Sofia has long been a popular meeting point for Sofia’s youth. And if you, like me, happen to wonder where is the link between the communist relic of the Soviet army and Bulgaria’s juvenile skaters, the answer is simple: they both know nothing about each other.

    This is confirmed by a recent project of CES in cooperation with KAS Sofia and Hannah Arendt Centre on “The education on the communist regime and the European democratic values of the young people in Bulgaria today.” A survey which is part of the project shows that 66% of Bulgarians aged 15-35 are not aware of the term ‘Iron Curtain’, 88 % know nothing about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, 85.5 % have never heard about Solidarność, and 33.3 % don’t know what the Berlin Wall was.

    Historical ignorance is shocking, especially for a country like Bulgaria whose stormy political and economic present is influenced so much by its recent communist past. The results of the survey however should not come as a surprise. The discourse on communist past has been well-hidden from the youth since the beginning of the 90s. As the debate after the presentation of the survey pointed, some of the reasons are educational gaps – programmes of history classes devote very little time to the topic and sideline it on the last pages of textbooks; state exams never include questions on the subject and as a result students have no incentives to learn about that part of history. At the same time, the little that is left in textbooks is totally de-personalised and presented as dry facts, making it extremely boring matter to read on. In addition, and as mentioned in the study, there are almost no memorials of the victims of the communist regime in Bulgaria, which to relate the scarce text in textbooks to real stories, events and places.

    The bigger factors however, standing behind the ignorance is the lack of consensus on the discourse about the legacy of communism in Bulgaria and the incapacity to face the regime as part of the country’s own history. This disagreement could be seen by looking at other reincarnations of the Soviet army monument in Sofia. Every 9 September (the day when the Russian army entered in Bulgaria in 1944) there is a small but consistent group of citizens that comes with flowers to commemorate the date. In contrast, another group requests the permanent demolition of the monument as a shameful artefact representing a regime which tortured and imprisoned its citizens in labour camps for political reasons. In 2011, the figures of Soviet soldiers were “dressed up” by a secret graffiti artist to represent characters of western superheroes featuring Superman and Santa Claus. In April this year (2013) the soldiers were painted again, this time in pink and subtitled in Czech: „Bulgaria apologises“(as a reference to the Bulgarian participation in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack the Prague spring in August 1968). Those incidents sparked polarized comments in the public and media.

    All this comes to show the deep discord in parts of Bulgarian society on the topic of communism, making it almost a taboo for everyone else. Such ambiguity and politicisation do not make the tasks of history teachers easy. How do you teach something that you do not agree on to your children? In addition, most of the elderly teachers have been practicing their profession from before the fall of the Wall and had been teaching history of communism as victorious times. Today’s lesson, in turn, puts them in a difficult situation, especially when it comes to personal and career integrity and even more, when they have to face inquisitive pupils and their questions.

    Reconciliation of painful histories is a task many nations had to go through, however differently from other Central and Eastern European post-communist countries, Bulgaria seems to be stuck in an impasse. The mature decision would be to face the topic and try to find a socially accepted understanding on it. Digesting totalitarian past would enable young Bulgarians to use it as a resource for future development and will foster a political culture of compromise rather than revanchism. On the contrary, it will be dangerous to keep it in the drawer and thus prevent it from entering into collective social memory and identity. Showing a low culture of remembrance and sending the dictatorial experience into oblivion for the next generations runs the real risk of history repeating itself in the future.

    Three processes can help in this respect:

    First, as the aforementioned publication suggests an educational reform concentrating on history teaching programmes to include more attention and tangible artefacts about the period. Teachers should be aided in their difficult task of teaching history of communism which has been very politicised and trainings could be provided. The lack of additional platforms on the topic should also be addressed: audio-visual media, interactive internet content, participative projects for pupils, etc.

    Second, it should be attempted to find social consensus about the discourse for teaching the history of communism. This is probably the most difficult to achieve since many of the people who lived under the regime have very emotional personal experiences – either very negative or very positive and nostalgic. Consequently, this would require a certain degree of self-censoring of emotions, however without hiding uncomfortable facts. Transparency of facts and accessibility for the society is essential. (In Bulgaria the opening of secret police dossiers was never completely conducted.)

    Third, and related to the second factor, stories need to be told in a personalised way to the new generation including narratives of dissidents, political prisoners, but also people who worked for the regime and were part of the ‘system’. This will allow for teaching of ‘histories’ (as opposed to the ‘history’) of communist rule in Bulgaria.

    Boyan Tanev Democracy Eastern Europe Education

    Boyan Tanev

    On communism, skating and education


    15 Oct 2013

  • According to a newly released prestigious ranking, the Centre for European Studies is ranked 31st in the Top 150 Think Tanks Worldwide. The results were released on January 28, 2013 by Pennsylvania University as part of their annual Global GoTo Think Tank Index. The project is the result of an international survey of over 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who helped rank more than 6,500 think tanks using a set of 18 criteria. The purpose of the rankings is to help improve the profile and performance of think tanks while highlighting the important work they do for governments and civil societies around the world.

    The CES is also ranked 24th in the field of internet and social media use, a result placing it first among political think tanks in Europe; other good rankings include external relations, public engagement and impact on public policy. The list was topped by Brookings Institution (United States) followed by Chatham House (United Kingdom) and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States). To find more about this project and to download the full 2012 report, please follow this link: http://ces.tc/VGOx9s.


    CES Ranks High in 2012 Global Think Tank Report

    Other News

    29 Jan 2013

  • In November 2012, CES welcomed its 26th member foundation as part of its expanding network of like-minded organisations in EU member countries. The Institute of Democratic Politics (Demokratinès Politikos institutas) from Lithuania was founded in 1999 by a group of Conservative and Christian Democratic politicians, analysts, essayists, and scholars. From the outset, its principal concerns have been the strengthening of the centre-right ideology and public defense of conservative values in Lithuania. The Institute’s aim is to accelerate the political and civic maturity of the Lithuanian society and to promote democracy and development in the European neighbourhood, seeking to contribute to security and stability in the region. CES’s newest member foundation is already involved in organising national and international conferences, seminars, round table discussions, as well as conducting research and producing publications. The Institute’s long-standing cooperation partners include the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Robert Schuman Foundation and its International Republican Institute, all of which are also CES partners.

    The CES and the Institute of Democratic Politics are already exploring ideas for collaboration and common activities for 2013. Every year, the Centre organises more than 100 common projects with its member foundations and like-minded third party organisations in all EU’s member states, including research, events and publications.

    Baltic Centre-Right Education EU Member States Party Structures

    CES Welcomes 26th Member Foundation

    Other News

    09 Nov 2012

  • It is necessary to accept the fact that there is a new political reality in the European Union and a pragmatic approach should be applied. The future of the European Union depends on an adequate response to the realities of the 21st century and on the ambitions how to move integration forward. Overcoming contradictions, disputes and differences on specific issues and challenges posed by the real life can only be achieved by a strong motivation to build a genuine union. In this sense, the future of the European Union depends on several basic preconditions, expressed in the ability to develop the economy of knowledge, to meet the challenges of energy dependence and population aging, the ability to compete on the global market, the ability to be flexible in order to find the right combination of active labour market policy, flexibility, effective training and social protection; the ability to strike the right balance between openness and protection, the ability to think big, not only in a European but also in a global dimension. We need to strengthen the Union, having a fresh look and new approach.

    Education Enlargement Future of Europe Neighbourhood Policy

    The Call for More Europe: Ambitions and Realities


    01 Dec 2021

  • Times are changing yet again. Families are becoming smaller, populations are ageing, fertility is declining and mothers are tending to be older. There are also changes in the structure of work, including outsourcing, casual employment, self-employment and zero-hour contracts. This policy brief argues that childcare is essential to enabling women to participate in the workforce. It underwrites women’s essential contribution to the economy and promotes gender equality. In an increasingly busy world, it provides families with a greater range of choices. Quality childcare also has positive benefits for the well-being of young children.

    Centre-Right Education Social Policy Society

    Putting Childcare at the Heart of the Social Market Economy

    Policy Briefs

    28 Oct 2019

  • This paper sets out ways to reform European education systems to  ensure  that  they  equip  Europeans  with  a  forward-looking set of key competences that prepares them for the workplace, but  also  helps  to  create  a  European  identity.  It  argues  that education and training—enhanced through mobility, transnational cooperation  and  structural  reforms—are  critical  to  boosting individual, economic and societal resilience; providing both basic and high-level skills and competences; reducing inequalities; promoting entrepreneurial mindsets; fostering inclusive, stable and democratic societies; and making a success of migration and globalisation. Furthermore, education should help to empower young people to engage with and shape the future of a Europe of democracy, solidarity and inclusion. The ultimate goal is to build a true European Education Area by 2025, which would, inter alia, improve students’ mobility, prepare the ground for the mutual recognition of diplomas and boost language learning.

    Education EU Institutions European Union Social Policy Youth

    Education in Europe: Towards a True Education Area by 2025


    27 Mar 2018

  • In its first part this publication contains a survey about the level of knowledge of young people in Bulgaria about the communist regime and the European democratic values. What significance does the educational system assign to the recent history of Bulgaria and what do young people know about the history of dictatorship in Europe as a whole? It turns out that 33 % of young people in Bulgaria have never heard anything about the Berlin Wall, more than 85% are unfamiliar with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact or Solidarność. According to the survey, 17.5 % of young people prefer to live during the time of the communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, and only 30.8% during the democratic period after 1989. The publication is thus intended as a methodological tool for history teachers and in its second part contains a compilation of best practices from different Central and Eastern European Countries for teaching the history of the communist regimes and their consequences. The aim is to provide a source of inspiration for people working in educational institutions, ministries and even administration and to improve the quality of tuition on the subject. The publication also offers a list of online information sources about this period of Bulgarian history which pupils and teachers can make use of.

    Democracy Eastern Europe Education

    Teaching the History of Communism – Compendium for history teachers


    15 Oct 2013

  • This report surveys recent works in political economy showing that trust—and civic capital more generally—matter for various aspects of economic well-being and presents new evidence from European countries showing that trust has deteriorated considerably in those European countries that have been affected the most by the ongoing economic downturn. We also discuss policy recommendations. The key message is that because trust and social capital matter crucially for economic and institutional development, countries must both monitor developments closely and pursue policies that cultivate civic social capital. Given strong inertia, changing people’s beliefs and promoting civic engagement will not occur overnight. Targeted policies can increase civicness and promote social capital considerably. First, promoting education seems crucial as, a higher level of education cultivates social capital. Second, countries where primary and secondary education are based on lecturing and memorising, should alter the curriculum towards more group activities, team projects, and critical thinking based on a dialectic method. Third, policymakers should continue promoting the outward orientation of the economy and the removal of administrative barriers to entry that fuel corruption and impede competition.

    Crisis Economy Education Ethics Values

    Trust(ing) in Europe? How increased social capital can contribute to economic development

    Research Papers

    10 Jun 2013

  • In 1961, a group of five students founded the “International Christian-Democratic and Conservative Student Union”. In 2011 this organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary as “European Democrat Students”(EDS). For decades, EDS, the largest political student organisation was the starting point of many political careers and could be proud to be the oldest pan-European organisation of the centre-right. By 2011, it became the biggest organisation of young people in Europe, representing 1,600,000 students and young people. The authors recount not only the complete history of the EDS since its foundation, but also describe and interpret the various reasons for its existence. By reading this book, the deeper roots of European integration become visible, outshining daily European business and creating a European identity EDS has contributed so much to.

    Centre-Right Education European People's Party Values Youth

    Students on the Right Way: European Democrat Students 1961-2011


    01 May 2012

  • Europeans and Americans have a lot to learn from one another when it comes to higher education. The US offers a wider and more diversified range of choice in higher education, and more Americans than Europeans attend higher education institutions. Conversely, European universities are more intellectually oriented, and European students generally are better equipped to analyse and adapt to new situations. This paper analyses the strengths and weaknesses of both systems and assesses how each can benefit from the other.

    Education EU-US European Union Transatlantic

    A Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: European and US approaches

    Research Papers

    01 Mar 2012