Europe feeling the economic winds of change

Is the eurozone crisis almost over?
Is the eurozone crisis almost over?


    Is the eurozone crisis almost over?


Is the eurozone crisis almost over? 03:38

Story highlights

  • Spain and Greece are both struggling under the weight of 56.1% an 62.9% youth unemployment respectively
  • Pirelli CEO Provera said that Europe must work closer together to compete with the likes of India and China
  • European Commission VP Tajani prioritizing new jobs for young people by creating a new education policy in Europe

What a difference a year makes. Last year, delegates at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy had a lot to contend with. The economic crisis was in full bloom and they had urgent concerns: Will Greece leave the eurozone? Will the euro survive? Is the project doomed?

A year on, it seems those worries have eased; the mood has lightened and the crisis is finally over.

Even if you don't feel it, the latest economic numbers show the eurozone is growing again and confidence has returned to the continent.

Read more: Rail expansion plans bring fractured Europe closer together

Despite the optimism, concerns remain and I'm told time and time again here that Europe still faces a mighty task.

That much I'm aware of, but what do the captains of industry feel needs to be done to get Europe growing and competing on the world stage?


Andrea Marescotti, the Managing Director of Brembo, one of Italy's leading manufacturer of automotive brakes, tells me over an espresso that unemployment is his biggest worry.

He tells me job creation should be Europe's priority "to have stable growth, with growth of consumption, you need to create jobs. If you don't produce, you don't buy. So the question is how we can foster a stable increase in jobs."

Read more: Spanish exports are bright spark for economy

Antonio Tajani, the Vice-President of the European Commission is of the same opinion. In fact, he tells me this is his project: building new jobs for young people by creating a new education policy in Europe.

To do this he says, we need to build "a link between schools and small and medium- size businesses. This exists in Germany and Austria. We need this in every European state." It's refreshing to see youth unemployment hasn't been ignored, after all, Spain and Greece are both struggling under the weight of 56.1% and 62.9% youth unemployment respectively.

Read more: Royal Delft unfazed by copycats

But whilst the talk is promising, I find it rather strange that the discussion is being led by a group of middle-age men who know little of the challenges young people face. I know it, because I too have had to deal with student debt, job applications and random jobs on the side. But now I'm veering off-point.


Alongside talk of unemployment, growth and competitiveness, key words crept up time and time again to my surprise: cohesion and political union.

Marco Tronchetti Provera, the Chairman and CEO of Pirelli, felt strongly about this subject, arguing that to grow again and compete with the likes of China and India, Europe must work closer together.

Read more: The Netherlands: A nation under water

He candidly told me: "We have a Europe that needs a project that refines more deeply the countries. We have a Europe that doesn't have enough cohesion, there are no common projects on the many issues such as energy."

His words echo those of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who this week called for a "Europe that is united, strong and open." It all returns to his famous quote: "we swim together, we sink together."

Stability and Complacency

This year at the Ambrosetti, there is definitely a sense that Europe is thinking together; acknowledging that there can be strength in their numbers.

But for all the talk of Europe's economic achievements, of green shoots of recovery, there were reminders, alarm bells of sorts of the risks of complacency.

Read more: Recession leaves bitter taste for Italian coffee makers

Francesco Caio, the CEO of Avio Group, was perhaps the most pessimistic on Europe -- warning about political instability and complacency "there is still a need to be very alert. Stability is a competitive factor. We don't need a government crisis right now, " he told me.

Four days later in his State of the Union address, Barroso touched on the same subject when he said that the biggest downside risk to Europe's recovery is political.

Of course, Barroso didn't single out any particular country, but the warning could have been directed at Italy whose coalition is facing an uncertain political future after the country's top court found former prime mnister Silvio Berlusconi guilty of tax fraud.

There is no doubt that Europe is breathing a bit easier again. The crisis has abated and our politicians are smiling once more.

But let's not start popping the prosecco, cava or Champagne just yet. The work is just beginning and the scars have yet to heal.

Still, what a difference a year makes.

      Marketplace Europe

    • spc marketplace europe latvia valdis dombrovskis_00021207.jpg

      Latvia's economic prospects

      CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration africa_00002118.jpg

      Asylum seekers in Malta

      Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration vox pops_00001419.jpg

      Maltese concerned over migrants

      CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
    • spc marketplace europe malta george vella_00032005.jpg

      Malta's migrant struggle

      Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 what went wrong_00020426.jpg

      What went wrong in 2013?

      Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 defining moments bob parker intv_00010826.jpg

      2013: The year of tapering

      CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
    • spc marketplace europe estonia energy_00000923.jpg

      Estonia's dirty energy drive

      The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
    • spc marketplace europe nani beccalli falco_00041005.jpg

      GE Europe exec's jobs warning

      Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
    • spc marketplace europe greece petros christodoulou_00002025.jpg

      Is Greece on the mend?

      Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe euro jim cloos_00012617.jpg

      Don't blame euro, says pioneer

      One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
    • spc marketplace europe maastricht eu_00002401.jpg

      The birthplace of the euro

      Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
    • spc marketplace europe spain working hours_00010525.jpg

      Spain may turn clocks back

      As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.