Today, Europe is in trouble economically. Chronic debt crises, stagnating GDPs, staggering unemployment – all point to a bleak future. The future belongs to the Chinese, the Indians, and the Latin Americans.
But does it, really? Isn’t there an innate intelligence and resilience in the European way of life?
Europe cares greatly about keeping farmers in their villages, fostering a decentralized policy that encourages, through farming subsidies, a healthy, natural way of life that is rooted in sustainability and quality of life, not rampant and mindless urbanization.
As a result, if you go to the farmer’s markets at small Provençal villages like Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Nyons, and Grignan, they are full of both small producers and customers. You will find there great fruits, vegetables, cheese, fish, and meat – most of it local or at least regional. And the farmers are actively engaged at these markets.
Agriculture is a major force in France’s economy, and almost 25% of the EU’s total agricultural products are produced in that country. The government provides subsidies to the agricultural sector, and the development of this sector is likely to give export activities a further boost as a global food shortage looms. Further, as the rest of the world becomes increasingly sophisticated, the demand for products for which France is famous, such as cheese and wine, is increasing.
And then, of course, there is tourism. Apart from trade, tourism is also a big contributor to France’s GDP. Indeed, France rules the tourism industry: More than 82 million tourists visit the country each year for its rich heritage and culture, which are immaculately preserved by the government and beautifully packaged and marketed to the rest of the world.
And therein lie some of the answers and opportunities for the next European renaissance.
Whether it is in Silicon Valley, China, India, or Latin America – the lure of European destinations, the sites and sounds, the classical architecture, ruins, historical monuments, and for some, the way of life that so elegantly serves up arts, culture, food, and wine – will always be a powerful draw. If today 82 million tourists visit France, in a decade, that number will rise to 150 million. If today French wine exports are just getting back to prefinancial crisis levels, in a decade, as more Chinese and Indians learn to appreciate wine, the numbers will inevitably rise.
Bottom line, the wealth that is being generated in Silicon Valley, India, and China will need to be spent, invested, and enjoyed, and Europe will continue to be a major influencer in that process.
My real question, however, is: Can Europe be more?