By Marcus Leach

The 9th European Business Summit (EBS), a key meeting place and networking platform for the EU’s business and political elite, concluded on a note of optimism in Brussels on Thursday.

The summit discussed the internal and external challenges that lie ahead for Europe in maintaining its position in the global economy. Under the theme ‘Europe in the world, leading or lagging?’, the summit united over 1,500 prominent participants from the EU and its main global trading partners.

"Creating growth and jobs, protecting the environment and social inclusion
are key elements of our European model," stressed Van Rompuy. "We want to
maintain the European way of living in our globalised world, but other major
economies are racing ahead. Our businesses and workforce are facing major
challenges in competitiveness, innovation and labour participation. Only
together we will be able to ride new waves of growth."

In a keynote speech, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso
complemented a programme which included over 100 high profile speakers,
including European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Hitachi European Group Chairman Sir Stephen Gomersall.

Federation of Enterprises in Belgium President Pierre De Smedt - one of the
main initiative drivers behind the event - said: "According to the recent
FEB/Accenture survey, business leaders are more optimistic about growth
prospects in Europe than they were last year. They are convinced of the
EU’s growth potential but they believe that a major effort is still
required in order to remove remaining obstacles from trade and mobility
within the EU, stabilizing national budgets and removing uncertainty from
the financial markets."

Alluding to the European Commission's forthcoming agenda, De Smedt
explained: "As part of the collective effort to reinforce economic
governance, the European Commission needs to carry out an objective analysis of national reform programmes. On that basis, it should exert sufficient pressure on governments to speed up essential structural reforms that will boost competitiveness, in anticipation of shouldering the costs of an ageing population, and that will pave the way for conquering new growth abroad, especially in emerging countries."

With the worst of the financial crisis now behind us, the summit took place
at a time when corporate and government sectors are regaining confidence in
Europe’s future. Regional coordination and cooperation will be central to
picking up the pieces after the crisis, as well as seeking new markets and
opportunities.

"European companies are working hard to recover from the crisis. There are
still plenty of opportunities and talent in Europe that entrepreneurs can
and want to develop, provided the environment is condusive to business. EU
and national goverments on their side, must aim at structural reforms and
secure budget discipline," concluded BUSINESSEUROPE President Jürgen R.
Thumann.