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Combating Europe’s mood of decline: in pursuing growth, the EU is a good starting point

“The European dimension is the most immediate one, and the most appropriate, in which to pursue growth”. This was the message sent out by Foreign Minister Emma Bonino during the conference on “Combatting Europe’s mood of decline. A new vision for Italian business”. The event, which took place at the Acquario Romano premises, was organised by Rete Imprese Italia, an Italian business network. Rete Imprese, and more specifically its President, Ivan Malavasi, voiced an appeal to policy-makers and to the European economy: an appeal to change direction. And an appeal to follow the goals of rigour, growth and fairness, taking the “small, medium-sized and very small enterprises that have never stopped reacting” as a model.

A return to nationalism is not the way to improve Europe, says Bonino

In her address, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino echoed Rete Imprese’s appeal and urged participants to seek economic growth in Europe first and foremost. “I don’t like this Europe either, but leaving it and returning to nationalism would hold nothing positive”, she explained. The Minister underscored that, in emerging markets like those of the southern Mediterranean, the Gulf states and China, we need to “exploit the human and pioneering heritage which, luckily, we have not yet lost”.

Destinazione Italia and Expo 2015: launch pads to exploit and showcase our assets

Turning to Italy itself, Minister Bonino expressed her conviction that “for our economic fabric of SMEs, and given the current situation of domestic demand, we need to intercept demand wherever it is located”. Moreover, we need to “make our country more attractive to Italian and foreign investors” by emphasising the role of “Destinazione Italia”, the plan approved to create a more favourable legislative environment for foreign investors in Italy.

However, the time has come to shake off the “outlet syndrome” that sees foreign buyers as coming here merely on the look-out for knock-down prices. Italy should, rather, focus on “exploiting and showcasing its assets”. In this respect, we must ensure that Expo 2015 in Milan is seen as a “not-to-be-missed” event by creating the most favourable conditions possible for it. Good initial steps would be a “solution for visas” or improvements to our airports, added the Foreign Minister.

Rete Imprese research: Italian SMEs’ turnover higher than that of major British and French companies

Figures presented during the conference, from the “Italian companies – away from the clichés” research, show that combatting the decline is a “winnable” challenge. Italian SMEs’ turnover, at 1,995 billion euros, is higher than that of all of the major companies in Britain (1,834 billion) or France (1,458 billion), and corresponds to 76.4% of the added value of major German companies.

The research, which was illustrated at the conference, also shows that Italy is the leading European country for micro-, small and medium-sized manufacturing companies specialising in hi- and medium-high-tech. It leads the way, too, in terms of exporting businesses and those engaging in the more complex forms of internationalisation. A good starting point therefore exists for that much-needed change of direction. In Europe, but in Italy too.