World leaders reflect on the challenges facing Europe at San Telmo Business School

Questions about Brexit, immigration, the financial crisis, the rise of populisms, climate change or the digital society were some of the topics discussed in the round tables

On Sunday October 13 and Monday October 14, it took place the fourth meeting of the International Advisory Council on Business Policy at San Telmo Business School headquarters in Seville. The meeting was held in the framework of the Conference: "Politics, Business and Society: New Questions and New Answers from the Old World."

The event was organized by San Telmo Business School and The International Academy of Management, and sponsored by the Junta de Andalucía (the Regional Government of Andalusia), Fundación Cajasol, Iberia and Banco Unicaja.

World-class speakers, such as Alfred Gusenbauer former Chancellor of Austria, Luca Garavoglia President of Campari Group, Peter Löscher Chairman of Sulzer AG and member of the Telefónica Council or Peter Brabeck-Letmathe Emeritus Chairman of Nestlé, among others, reflected on the new geopolitical map of the world that is taking shape and the role that Europe will play in the coming changes.


Challenges of Top companies

One of the Council’s aims and objectives is to find out what are the challenges facing Top companies today. For that, during the meeting, the attendees talked about the challenges they deal with in the companies that they are running.

According to Peter Löscher, the main challenge facing European companies today is to not lag behind in the digital society. “We have to increase the portfolio of services. If we don't do something, China and the US will be leaders in artificial intelligence and technology, winning the digital battle.”

The Chairman of Sulzer AG emphasized the need to adopt a European industrial policy by integrating technology and the commitment on climate change.

On the other hand, Seamus Mckeague, CEO of Creagh Concrete, spoke of one of the main obstacles to a Brexit deal: the partition of Ireland. A hard border would paralyze the economy, a disaster that would damage the peace process. Anton Colella, CEO of Moore Stephens International, continued in the same line. He said that if Brexit occurs, with or without agreement, uncertainty scenarios open up, for example, with Scotland, since support for Scottish independence rebounds shyly.

Luca Garavoglia, President of the Campari Group, spoke from the Italian point of view and pointed out that the rise of populism in Europe impacts on economic growth. We are the old continent but we have young leaders, said Löscher, so we must listen and find a way to reach an agreement that works for everyone. Antonio Vázquez, Chairman of IAG, argued that in Europe we are so aware of our internal problems, without reaching agreements, that we keep missing great opportunities. 

Jaime Mayor Oreja, Former Minister of the Domestic Policy and Former Deputy of the European Parliament, said that the crisis is not in politics or in the economy, but in society. "We have failed in managing economic well-being." On the other hand, the President of the Garrigues Foundation spoke of the need to beat pessimism. "We must convey that problems have solutions." According to Antonio Walker Garrigues, the issue of immigration drives negative perceptions, however, the growth of the United States is due, in part, to immigration.

The Council members agreed that Europe must remember its founding principles: the need to forgive each other, to eradicate wild totalitarianisms and rebuild peace. The brand Europe has been damaged by the latest circumstances, but still it has a solid image that we must keep and strengthen. As Peter Brabeck, president emeritus of Nestlé commented, "The basis of Europe is a set of common values and it is an entity found on the sharing economy.” Each member of the European Union must feel that their voice count and create a cohesive dialogue involving all members.