‘Higher GDP decreases happiness’ says former EC President and Belgium PM, Herman van Rompuy

In his first public speech since leaving the Presidency of the European Commission in 2014, former Belgium Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, commented that individual nations’ increasing GDP are being matched by European citizens’ ‘stagnating feeling of happiness.’

Speaking at Regent's University London's International Partners' Conference (7-9 January 2015), an annual event which brings students, academics and employers from across the globe to debate global education and employment, Mr Rompuy said that modern societies and economies are too focused on money and self-interest.

Further quotes from Mr Rompuy in a wide-ranging speech covering political effectiveness, the reduction of stress in the workplace, and the need to combat political and corporate greed, included:

  • “Tackling the root causes of inequality means ensuring better education."
  • “One in three children in Flanders are struggling with stress. One of the reasons is their overcrowded schedule of activities. TV, mobile phones and social media mean children are exposed to so many stimuli they seldom feel at ease.”
  • “There is a link between unacceptable inequality and unemployment. The main reason for unhappiness is that people are constantly comparing their standard of living with that of others.”
  • “There is a strong demand for honest policies which produce results in terms of economic growth, fairness and jobs. I'm convinced that if we cannot show results in the next few years, political stability in a number of EU Member States will be at risk.”
  • “We've never really thought of Europe as a home or shelter, and today we are paying a price for that. For decades it worked well. Open borders brought huge opportunities for working, trading and studying abroad, and the impact was mostly cushioned by economic growth and the welfare states.”