Bengt-Ake Lundvall: The Portuguese Manifesto Sends a Message to Europe’s Elite That Austerity Has Failed and “Project Europe” Must be Rethought
Interview of Bengt-Ake Lundvall by Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues © March 2014. Originally posted by Yanis Varoufakis on his blog
“We might be approaching a political breaking point where the widespread frustration among European citizens takes a more constructive and clear political direction.”
“As I see it, what appears to be feasible now brings us closer to the end of the European project. Therefore the only possible strategy is to ask for what seems to be out of reach. We know that history offers us surprises from time to time. Let us hope for a positive surprise.”
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The Danish economist Bengt-Åke Lundvall (born in 1941) is one of the 74 foreign economists that signed the Portuguese Manifesto for the Sovereign Debt Restructuring published March 2014 by other 74 Portuguese economists, including former Finance Ministers, from the right to the left in the political arena. Lundvall is professor at the Department of Business and Management at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Aalborg University in Denmark, since 1977, and at the Collège universitaire de Sciences Po in Paris, France, since 2007. He was also a visiting professor at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 2004-06. During 1992-95 he was Deputy Director at DSTI, OECD. Since 2002 he coordinates the worldwide research network Globelics. In close collaboration with the late English professor Christopher Freeman, he developed the idea of innovation as an interactive process and the concept of National System of Innovation in the 1980s. In the beginning of the nineties he developed the idea of the learning economy in collaboration with Björn Johnson, a Finance professor at Driehaus College of Business, DePaul University, in Chicago, US.
* * *RODRIGUES Q: Why did you sign the Portuguese Manifesto?
LUNDVALL A: I signed the petition primarily since the negotiations on a restructuring of Portugal’s debt would raise wider issues about changes in the political and economic architecture of Europe that I see as necessary to avoid that the next crisis will lead to a complete disaster for the European Project. Also it would signal a protest against the dictatorship of ‘the market’ and against what I see as misdirected austerity policies in Europe.Q: What do you mean by “wider issues” beyond the Portuguese problem?
A: Restructuring the debt of Portugal or other single countries now victims of Austerity policies will not by itself bring about necessary changes. But it sends a strong signal to the European Elite that there is a need to rethink ‘project Europe’.Q: So the Portuguese Manifesto is a kind of first move?
A: It could become a trigger for change. We might be approaching a political breaking point where the widespread frustration among European citizens takes a more constructive and clear political direction. That would make it more difficult for the political elite to define all critical reactions to the current European strategy as populist. But it requires that all those who want a Europe that is competitive, democratic and fair go beyond national self-interest and begins to work together for a different ‘project Europe’ where international solidarity goes hand in hand with protecting the weakest citizens in each single country.Q: What went wrong in “project Europe”?
A: The current architecture is dysfunctional but self-inflicted. For decades a common strategy among the European elite has been to move ahead with financial and trade integration without moving ahead with social and political integration. Federalists assumed that economic integration more or less automatically would be followed by the building if a political structure.The most risky step taken by the elite was the establishment of a Monetary Union bringing together economies with very different economic structure into one common currency area. It was the most extreme act of faith and political gambling by the federalists. Portugal is one of the victims of this hazardous step.
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