Interview with Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, President of Businesseurope : Head of European Employers' Federation Sounds the Alarm

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French-born Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, President of BUSINESS-EUROPE, the Confederation of European Business, told Europolitics in an interview that "2009 would signal the fall of Europe" if no changes are made before then, clearly pointing to several institutional reforms that need to be implemented. His warning follows hard on the heels of his organisation's decision to change its name - yesterday UNICE, today BUSINESS-EUROPE (see Europolitics 3232), a symbolic gesture to underline that the employers' federation wishes to ensure that the voice of business' is heard loud and clear.

Why is the business world asking for more Europe?

Faced with the big guns such as the United States, Japan, China, India, Russia and Brazil, we as businesses cannot accept that Europe carries no weight in dialogue on key issues such as energy, the environment, currencies, trade, intellectual property, health, demographics, fundamental social rights - problems which are becoming increasingly global. Unless we can achieve net growth in terms of constructing Europe, we fear that we will not be able to maintain our acquis and that past achievements will be brought into question. How will it be possible to move forward with the Single Market, the euro or the common policies if the energy and political drive has gone?

What do you say to heads of state and government?

We, ourselves, are not able to undertake diplomatic negotiations. We told the former presidents of the Union - Blair, Schussel, Vanhanen - and more insistently to Angela Merkel, that we, businesses, cannot accept that all the effort that has gone into setting up the European Union should be undermined for domestic political reasons or relations between member states. If this were to happen, we would find ourselves at the end of European construction and in a sort of free trade area, which would ultimately lead to the decline of Europe.

What institutional changes would you like to see?

Firstly, the majority rule, which should be applied as much as possible. With 27 member states, there is no other way. …