European and international affairs

A forward-looking European Union capable of action – internally and externally – is of paramount importance for business. Over the last fifty years, the EU has been successful in securing long-term peace, freedom, prosperity and social progress. After several enlargement rounds and the advance of political integration, today almost 500 million citizens are united in a community of law and values. The European Union must now consolidate and concentrate in order to be able to come to grips successfully with the new internal and external challenges.

More European solutions are necessary in areas such as external and security policy, combating organised crime and terrorism, a fair regulatory framework for the global economy and migration, energy security and climate change.

Better solutions are necessary in order to address the democratic deficit, strengthen citizens’ rights and implement the principle of subsidiarity better. This involves a clear division of competences and a rebalancing of responsibilities between national and European level. Thus, for individual policy fields which do not absolutely require EU-wide regulation, there needs to be a perceptible roll-back of Community action so that the EU can hold its own in global competition: otherwise, new rules run the risk of piling additional burdens on companies and restricting rather than widening the urgently needed leeway for flexibility. To win back citizens’ trust, the EU must concentrate on its core tasks as set out in the Lisbon Treaty. Action by the Community institutions must be characterised by a change of mentality which once more accepts the concept of limitation inherent in the limited assignment of individual competences to the EU. Decentralisation for areas which better be dealt with at regional or national level must become the binding model for European policy. This is particularly relevant for social policy, an area where the European Commission has very frequently overextended its competences.

Lisbon treaty

Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was an important step towards a flexible and citizen-friendly Europe. The clear division of competences it lays down, the strengthening of subsidiarity, the strengthening of national parliaments and of the European Parliament as a legislator with the same rights as the Council, the extension of qualified majority voting in the EU Council of Ministers and the extension of EU external and security policy equip the EU with better instruments and mechanisms to deploy its political and economic strength in an optimal and responsible manner. German business also campaigned for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Because the new elements it contains have ensured that the EU is in a position to react more rapidly on decisive external policy questions and hence to give Europe a voice that is better heard around the world. That increases the confidence of companies and citizens in the European Union.

The positioning of the EU in the global context is similarly decisive for its ability to face the future. Only with a determined joint approach can the EU realise its interests in the transatlantic alliance and hold its own vis-à-vis China, India and Russia.

In terms of social policy, an effective European neighbourhood policy, the Asia-Europe dialogue (ASEM) and bilateral relations between European Commission and international organisations are important instruments in this area.

BDA flanks this external dimension of the EU through a range of activities of its own. It coordinates the group of European countries within the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), to which many non-European members also belong, and thus forms an interface between EU and international social policy. It is a member of Businessmed, the umbrella organisation representing business federations from all countries in the Mediterranean region and realises projects with its partners in the organisation. It has a seat on the administrative board of ILO and works for greater business relevance in ILO’s policies. Furthermore, it inputs employers’ concerns into the G20 process and takes part, inter alia, in meetings of G20 Labour and Social Affairs Ministers.