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The European trust issue

By Jip Samhoud, &samhoud media

Last week, I visited the FD Financial Dinner. There was a large audience, with the CEO’s of the largest and most influential Dutch organizations. Keynote speaker was professor of economics and prominent member of the European think-tank Bruegel, André Sapir. He presented his recent research on trust within the EU and concluded some interesting things. His major conclusion: we need a joint European vision executed by strong leadership.

First of all, he found a significant relation between people’s trust in their local government and the EU: higher trust in your own government means higher trust in the EU. A valuable lesson for pro-European politicians who want to convince the voter: be reliable yourself as a local politician before asking trust in an institution that lies further away from the public. Besides the relation, research also shows that in Europe the general trust in the EU is higher than trust in the local government.

Another interesting fact that Sapir showed us was that trust in the EU depends on the economic situation of a country. Countries which are still in crisis, like Greece and Spain, have little trust in the EU, countries which do better have more trust. Our own country can be found on a fourth or fifth place, depending on the specific topic. This means that, to gain trust, you need to deliver positive results.

Personally, I was disappointed to see that a study from PWC showed that the overall trust in the Netherlands is still declining. Despite the fact that the Netherlands, among other North-European countries, still have low faith in their governments and leading institutions, Sapir showed that we have no reason to be pessimistic. With the right actions –a change in our banking system to regain the trust of the people and to stimulate economic growth, combined with a renewal of the economies of the southern countries – we can still make up for the damages that occurred this decennium. Although he considers this decennium a lost one, the creation of a strong European vision, combined with strong and effective leadership, can save the financial future of our nation.

Surrounded by so many leaders, I caught myself gaining hope; the fact that at least 150 CEO’s attended this event showed that they are at least committed to the topic of trust. I expect we will see a shift within society that for a continent wide vision we cannot rely anymore on the politicians, but we will need a joint effort of politicians, CEO’s, media people and society as a whole. If these leaders can somehow contribute to the creation of a strong European vision, we have some strong ingredients for a brighter future.

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