Europe in Crisis: The Chance to Stop Our Fingers from Pointing
In today’s blog we will look at how the Euro crisis brings an opportunity to cease finger-pointing and focus on working together.
Last night I attended the third annual AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) Business Day, hosted by AmCham Germany and Bridgehouse Law. This event opened my eyes and confirmed a motto I’ve been a lot lately: How much of the world could be set right just by talking to people. I’d like to continue on this theme and explore how we can collaborate more effectively on a global scale to solve the economic crisis.
The AmCham event, which took place at Emory Goizueta Business School, consisted of a panel of distinguished speakers (click here for the speaker list http://www.bridgehouselaw.de/en/aktuell.html#1). The moderator, journalist Katja Ridderbusch, posed questions about the state of the “transatlantic relationship,” with a focus on Germany and the United States. Needless to say, much of the discussion centered around the Euro crisis; after all, what could affect our relationship more?
The speakers and moderator lent so much depth and substance to the subject of the debt crisis; I only wish I had a recording to share with you. Here are some of the lessons learned that I took away:
- Historically, Europe and the United States have been at a low ebb before; Germany is economically robust now, but even ten short years ago they were called “the sick man of Europe”. The U.S. had has its share of the same. We can come out of this crisis, but only if we work together and eliminate finger-pointing.
- Germany and the United States are tied together through strong bonds. In the U.S., German companies directly employ one million Americans; millions more are employed indirectly. Germany is the largest investment of American capital outside the U.S. We only stand to gain by strengthening ties.
- Although the Euro created a common currency, what we are seeing now are divergent fiscal behaviors among the different countries. Neither Europe nor the U.S. can afford another twenty years of living beyond our means. The individual also has the chance to make an impact by eliminating debt and practicing fiscal restraint. We should model what we want to see our governments do.
- Germany and the U.S. dealt with the economic downturn in different ways which point to their cultural roots. In Germany, rather than downsize the workforce, the government implemented reduced hours and other trimming measures. This kept people working, which proved important. Studies show that the longer you are unemployed the less likely you are to get a job.
- All of the speakers highlighted the friendship between the United States and Germany. Hopelessness can contribute to the economic spiral, but this can be countered by collaboration. As Peter Fischer, Minister of the Economic Department of the Germany Embassy stated, Germans and Americans share the values of “liberty, pluralism, tolerance, and democracy.” Those seem like powerful tools against hopelessness, but only if we seek to understand rather than compare cultures.
Last but not least I offer my own interpretation. I wish both Europe and the United States a speedy recovery, but I hope we do not miss the opportunity that lies in this bad situation. We are “in the same boat” now. From that common boat, let us generate empathy for each other and put our fingers down. Let us seek greater cross-cultural awareness and skills so that Europe and the U.S. may leverage their collective resilience and capacity for imaginative solutions. After all, look how far we have come since 1945. Forgive my American optimism here, but if we can make it through that, we can make it through anything. I return to my theme — How much of the world could be set right just by talking to people. Now, I rarely assign homework in my blog, but this is an exception.
Your Assignment: I invite you to write to a colleague, client, or friend in Europe and ask their opinion about the Euro crisis. Let’s start the dialogue. And let’s listen well.