Chairman’s Column March 3

Gunnar Hökmark: Who came up with the idea that the European Union should celebrate 30 successful years of the internal market with decisive efforts to dismantle it?

The future geopolitical strength of Europe relies on our competitiveness and ability to be an economic and political center for global trade. Not on subsidies, protectionism and public investment funds.

More than other continents, Europe has seen the dramatic difference between on the one hand market economies and on the other hand planned economies. In the former, new and old companies compete on equal terms with their innovations and different business models aiming for higher productivity. In the latter, politicians try to pick the winners and rely on public investments and planning. The track record of each system has clearly shown which works.

Yet, The European Commission pursues dirigiste policies where Governments and bureaucrats try to steer the whole economy, instead of millions of consumers steering thousands of companies! What makes the Commission believe that it will work this time? That Europe’s economic future should lie in the hands of the Commission instead of in the invisible hands of 450 million citizens making choices?

Every minute of every day the market economy is under calibration and development while the dirigiste economies are wrongly balanced in plenary sessions of majorities far way away from consumers and producers and markets. The green transition, the white transition and the digital transition all require different ideas, ever new innovations and thousands of trial and error-processes, instead of one single idea voted by a majority of decision makers.

It is time for the Commission to rethink and consider what was the future 30 years ago, when the internal market was launched. Competition and competitiveness go hand in hand as do subsidies and subsidy industries. Free trade goes hand in hand with open markets and the alliances of the free world, as barriers go hand in hand with splendid isolation and the idea of being better off on your own. The problem of protecting yourself from competition is that you will not only be first, but also the last. On your own.

If the Commission wants the EU to be a geopolitical force, we need to be global, not on our own. The awful Russian war in Ukraine has shown the need for strategic alliances, for Europe to stretch out to the free world for strategical capacities and capabilities. This is the opposite of protected autonomy and the illusion of sovereignty when working alone.

Of course, Europe needs to be able to stand on its own. But with the approach chosen by the commission, we will not have the best companies in the world, only the best ones that politicians thought they could find in Europe. A globally strong Europe needs to be stronger than that.

The new public investments funds are the tools of planned economies, subsidized industries the tools of dirigisme, and bureaucrats deciding which industries to be supported the roots of corruption. This should all be stopped. Let’s celebrate the internal market by celebrating the internal market, not the ideas of failed planned and protectionist economies. Let’s get back to the future. It started 1993!


Gunnar Hökmark
Chairman, Stockholm Free World Forum