The EU is one of the world’s largest trading blocs – yet too often we view it as a collection of nation states, in competition with each other rather than collaborating with each other to create a truly competitive European economy.

Europe generally has very liberal and progressive attitudes to social partnership, to health and well-being at work, to workplace innovation. Sometimes these are seen as being a drag on competitiveness because they ‘cost money’.

However, well-cared for, safe, empowered employees aree more likely to be ‘good’ employees, capable of effective participation in continuous improvement programmes.

Europe should be proud of its social innovations and, indeed, should build on them to create innovative, flexible, responsive organisations that can exceed the ‘value’ created by low wage, low participation economies.

Yet at this time we are seeing a fall in the popularity of social democratic political parties. In ‘tough’ times, the weak seem to want to act tough – to break down the social structures that could be the building blocks of a new European competitiveness.

In tough times, it often pays to keep your nerve and maintain your values. Let’s hope ‘Europe’ can do so.