The World in the Making: A Presidential Perspective

Three former European heads of state discuss their experiences and their vision for the future, and offer advice for solving international challenges.

Featured Experts from the Natixis Investment Managers Summit:

  • Matteo Renzi, Italian Prime Minister (2014–2016)
  • Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic (2007–2012)
  • Gerhard Schröder, German Chancellor (1998–2005)
  • Moderators: Marie Drucker, Broadcaster & TV Host; Jean Raby, Chief Executive Officer, Natixis Investment Managers
“You change governments but you don’t change people,” said Nicolas Sarkozy. “In the end, it’s always people who are right.” The former French President was discussing the future of Europe in an extraordinary panel with former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. In a conversation ranging from Brexit to migration, the leaders sometimes agreed and were sometimes at odds. They did not hesitate to poke fun at one another – Schröder joking that it was impossible to be to the right of Sarkozy – and they rarely pulled punches.

As Jean Raby explained, this conversation was meant to reflect the varying perspectives of the Natixis Investment Managers Summit: “We thought that the perspective of a European leader – each in their own time, each in their own era, from different countries – was exactly embodying that spirit.”

Rethinking Europe’s future
The conversation opened with the elephant in the room, Brexit – which all agreed is a nightmare for Europe and a bigger one for the United Kingdom. But it is not a uniquely British problem, said Sarkozy. It is indicative of a greater malaise – that Europe is stuck in a model from the past: “You could have asked the same question in any one of the 27 other countries and gotten the same answer.” Sarkozy suggested we offer the British a new treaty, asking them “not to vote again on Brexit but to vote on whether they want to construct the future of Europe with us.”

Renzi noted that the battle for Europe is largely cultural. “It is a question of identity. What is identity today, what are the reasons for a feeling of belonging, why you are an Italian citizen, or French, or German, or European. What are your values?” For every euro spent on defense or policing, he explained the same amount should be given to schools, museums and theaters.

Migration and populism
Migration loomed large over the discussion. When asked what he thought of his successor’s immigration policy, Schröder responded that Angela Merkel should have discussed it with the rest of Europe first. “She had a lot of heart at that time but no plan or interior policy,” he said. “In Germany now we have a lot of problems with populist parties because of this decision.”

Renzi, the only one still practicing politics, explained that Italy’s current support for anti-migrant policies comes from a message of fear spread by the populist government – when in fact Italy has among the lowest percentage of migrants in Europe. Reality, he said, is the populists’ main enemy. And because this government won’t be able to fulfill its campaign promises, he predicts Italy’s populist experiment will end sooner rather than later.

“The migration crisis has not even started,” Sarkozy said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.” In 30 years, Africa’s population is expected to grow to 2.5 billion people, and if Africa does not develop, “we’re cooked.”1 Sarkozy said Europe must help Africa by building major infrastructure there, with the expectation that the continent do business with Europe rather than China in return.

Europeans standing together
In order to compete politically and economically with China and the United States, all feel that Europe needs to be stronger, more independent and more integrated. Of the current US administration, Schröder said, “We cannot accept in Europe that the US – friends, allies – tell us with which countries we can deal and do business.”

Sarkozy agreed, shocked to see French companies now refusing to do business with Iran out of fear. He said it’s primordial for Europeans to stand up and defend all that their parents and grandparents have built. “People are not easy to govern, but we can’t do anything without you. You have more power than you imagine.”

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1World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision". World Population Prospects, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2018.

Speaker opinions may not necessarily be those of Natixis Investment Managers. Not all speakers are employed by Natixis Investment Managers, but may receive compensation for their services. Content should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell any product or service to any person in any jurisdiction where such activity would be unlawful.

The Natixis Investment Managers Summit was hosted by Natixis Investment Managers. Natixis Investment Managers includes all of the investment management and distribution entities affiliated with Natixis Distribution, L.P. and Natixis Investment Managers S.A.