Christian Ulbrich: Europe returns to centre stage – and why the EU has a great story to tell

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christian-ulbrichArtificial intelligence (AI) is certainly a hot topic at this year’s Davos conference with numerous sessions and discussions exploring its implications for how we will all live and work in the near future. It would be easy to paint a gloomy picture of how many jobs will be lost and the risks in computers controlling more and more areas of our lives. I would rather focus on the benefits, many of which are already visible with others progressing rapidly. First and foremost, AI is enabling huge advances in identifying illnesses, analysing scans and developing the best treatments, significantly enhancing general health and wellbeing. New sophisticated and highly efficient uses of infrastructure and transport also come to mind. Do I deny the risks? Not at all, but isn’t it our daily task, as businesspeople, to manage risk and focus on opportunity?

For the first two days of this World Economic Forum annual meeting, China and the US dominated most of the discussions. Today, Europe returned to centre stage, with Brexit again finding the spotlight. Following UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech, I couldn’t find a single European from the many I spoke with, including numerous Brits, who were not very disappointed with her messages today. At best, her remarks could be called pragmatism – but if the UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn had given the same speech people would have called it populism.

If you put it together with the recent comments from the President-Elect in the US, there are strong reasons to believe the EU will respond by moving even closer together. Despite all the challenges and disappointments, the EU is still a great success story. We just have to improve our storytelling, re-enthuse people with all the positives of free movement, no border controls, free trade, aligned education systems and – most importantly – a free press, clear rule of law and independent justice. All this in a safe and peaceful environment protected by a common European defence policy embedded in NATO. If we can maintain and continuously improve this wonderful union of European people it will benefit the whole world. Europe is a place to nurture optimism where businesses can thrive. This is a story worth telling.

Christian Ulbrich
Global CEO