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Jonathan Holslag on the difficult situation in Europe and Asia:

"Asia's golden age is almost over"

Jonathan Holslag spoke about the importance of Europe's repositioning during the Freshfel Europe's Policy Meeting. "Europe is at a new crossroads." Jonathan Holslag is the president of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies and also teaches at the Free University in Brussels. As a specialist in Asia and his connections to the EU he has a good insight in European politics and the changing role of Europe in the world.

During his speech he gave insight into the future role of Europe in the world over the next five years and its challenges and chances. He indicated that the fruit and vegetable sector had a lot of tough points. "Fruit and vegetables aren't that handy, that tasty, that cheap and that sexy."

He emphasizes the disadvantage that vegetables aren't cheap and that it is very difficult for the fruit and vegetable sector in this world of crisis. "How can you expect people to spend more on fruit and vegetables when their purchase power is going down? Households have a lot less to spend than they did a few years ago. We are in a crisis on various levels, so not just economically, but also politically. European consumers have little faith in the government and their behaviour towards the rest of the world. And this is not just in Spain, Portugal and Greece, but also in western Europe. Europe hasn't been this affected since the Second World War and is losing economic power. We have also become 'addicted' to the import of fossil fuels, such as gas and oil. We also spend more on critical products such as software, royalties and hardware. Another problem is that Europe, outside of state debt, has more and more foreign debt. We still have the mighty Germany at the moment, but even there it isn't going as well. We're not at the end of the crisis yet. There are new soap bubbles popping up all over Europe. We clearly haven't learned anything from the last crisis."

Asian golden age almost over
According to Jonathan it seems that the demand for European products isn't growing. "Europe is looking for new markets, and many are focusing on Asia. But Asia is in trouble too, like Europe. Unemployment is threatening the economic growth in Asia. The idea that profit margins in China are rising hugely isn't true, they tend to be very low. So let's not expect too much from China."

"And we shouldn't expect too much from India either," he continued. "India's advantage is that there is an increase in the population, but there are also a lot of difficulties. India has small companies, a bad infrastructure and there is violence and corruption. We have to be very careful with our faith in Asia. Their golden age will soon disappear and is almost over. We will have to come up with a Plan B. I also know that the fruit and vegetable sector sees chances in Asia, the rich middle class seems especially attractive. But this group is shrinking. I can't predict how the situation will continue to develop. I would like to be able to give clear answers on how to change the situation, but I don't know."

Click here for the Freshfel event photo report

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