The European Commission’s Economic Outlook 2017, published on 14 February, was unexpectedly positive with the European economy showing resilience in the face of numerous challenges and uncertainties, and all member states expected to see growth over the period of 2017 and 2018.

This projected upturn is the most positive in almost a decade, but although the forecast is clear, it is against a background of “higher than usual uncertainty”. According to the Commission, the balance of risks to the European economy remains on the downside, although upside as well as downside risks have increased. Against this environment of uncertainty, we have set as a theme for the 2017 FERMA Forum: steering risks in turbulent times.

The Forum will take place from 15-18 October, seven months away. We can safely predict that many changes during that time will affect European companies, but we are far from being able to say exactly what they will be. There are the still-to-be-clarified intentions of the new US administration in key policy areas, especially trade, numerous elections taking place in Europe this year and the upcoming “Article 50” negotiations with the United Kingdom. Brexit negotiations, combined with changing leadership in France, Germany, the Netherlands and maybe Italy, could divert attention from other issues such as the Greek debt crisis and economic reforms.

The new European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani (Italian, centre-right European People’s Party) was elected on 17 January and will hold the position for the next two and a half years, succeeding Martin Schulz, who is heading for German politics. A former spokesman for Silvio Berlusconi and EU commissioner, Tajani is described in Brussels as industry-friendly and supporter of businesses. As Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, he led plans to support demand for EU-produced steel and advocated the re-industrialisation of Europe to drive growth and jobs. To some commentators, Tajani’s influence is likely to be extremely limited, because he cannot initiate legislation or get involved detailed legislative discussions in committees. Others believe his election could strengthen the role of the EU Parliament.

The implications for businesses are unclear and likely to be complicated. FERMA will update its member associations with information to assist business continuity and risk managers steer through these turbulent times.

Typhaine Beaupérin