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11 June 2013

We need a Euro-messiah

Europe needs a Lady Thatcher figure, writes Marianne Abib-Pech.

Author: Marianne Abib-Pech, venture capitalist and writer

The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, has faded away and with her the traumatic memories of the mass social move- ment that led the UK to a standstill in the 1970s. Her death calls for some introspection, about the UK economy of course, but more importantly about leadership, and more specifically leadership in Europe.

Thatcher broke the perception that a leader needed to be loved. She put to the forefront of leadership the need for vision, courage, and the ability to face consequences and get the job done. She had in mind the need for a complete makeover of the British economy and managed it for better or worse – 40 years later in the current economic climate, this remains evident.

Purpose, vision, resilience, impact, courage, inspiration and results are attributes springing to my mind when I think about leadership. Sadly no name fits that bill when I think about Europe leadership.

Why is there no such thing as European leadership? Is it a question of size? The increasing size of the Europe Union (EU) can have a significant impact on decision- making. More time is required influence a bigger group. This encourages a more consensual approach and makes tough decisions either impossible or excruciatingly slow.

Is it a question of vision? The EU gives a lot of leeway to member states. They can choose what they do or do not do. Such freedom paired with little enforcement power make it difficult for member states to build a shared vision and even more difficult to drive a common agenda.

Is it a question of model? The European model might already be dead – after 60 years of trying not to push a strong agenda on integration, in a world more complex, uncertain and fast, it has become impossible not only to reconcile individual member states’ vision and ambition to the bigger group, but also to be agile in execution.

The world is in a state of transformation – and so is Europe. There is a strong need for a new purpose, for rec- onciling capitalism and social justice. It is imperative to find new ways to tackle not problems but dilemmas – and age- ing population, increasing energy needs, climate change, technological development, a faster and more connected world ... you name it.

Times of change are times for leadership, and of new leadership. As a European citizen I am worried about the future of the continent, and I am looking for a new type of

leader. I am thinking of a man or a woman of his or her times, an individual fully aware of the needs of the future – the youngest-ever workforce, digital natives, a purpose- driven crowd questioning the very model of capitalism and dreaming of a different world – a leader at ease with tech- nology and new ways of both decision-making and com- municating, someone with curiosity and an openness not only to what they do, but how problems can be solved, a person with wide experience and cultural connections.

I am calling for that person to have both humility and a strong vision, be ready to recognise that he or she may not have all the answers.

Such a person would seek diverse and controversial ideas by accessing different sources of data – economical, political – from various groups – experienced and young professionals, established member states, new entrants – and making a point of listening to all. He or she would embrace cognitive diversity, embrace a vision of excel- lence and progress, be committed to fighting complacency and, more importantly, antiquated systems, and dare to be different so that something new can emerge.

I dream of a man or a woman of courage and inspiration, who will know how to cut through complexity and denounce the secular systems of alliances, codes and politics to build a stronger Europe. Such a leader could deliver results by influencing others, but also by pushing relentlessly for progress, fighting red tape and drawn-out decision-making.

I cannot help but think that it might be time for a stronger push towards a complete integration in education, financial systems and politics. It might be time to cave in to the US-based model and push for member states to relinquish their sacrosanct national independence for the greater good. It is time to take Europe to the next level, and give it a chance to become the nation of the future. 

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on New Europe 

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