By Martin Banks - 30th June 2011
European council president Herman Van Rompuy says that despite concern about its long term future the EU "is still sexy".
Latest polls show the popularity of the EU is at an all-time low with many predicting the "death" of its flagship, the single currency.
But, speaking at a high-profile Brussels conference, Van Rompuy, a self-professed federalist, made a strong defence of the EU.
The former Belgian PM said, "As long as a club attracts new members it means it is in good shape."
His comments came as over 500 business leaders met at the first 'state of the EU' forum at the Egmont palace in Brussels to discuss how to revitalise the European dream.
The one day conference had speakers including Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former president of France, ex-commissioner Mario Monti, now president of the Bocconi university, and former UK Europe minister Denis MacShane.
Opening the event, Giscard likened the EU to a turtle saying, "it moves very slowly".
The conference was given the results of a survey which revealed that despite the recent economic and financial difficulties, 28 per cent of respondents report that they are positive about the current situation in Europe.
The majority (61 per cent) say that they believe that by 2030, the EU will be a major global power.
"It is important to note that these business leaders are able to take a longer-term view of the potential of Europe, despite the current environment," said Per-Ola Karlsson, managing director of the survey author, Booz & company, Europe.
"The study shows that people doing business in the EU believe that Europe is undergoing a fundamental shift".
The poll said that in terms of competitive advantage, business leaders strongly agree that innovation, SME activity, budgetary discipline and exports are key to fostering high growth.
Business leaders clearly favour EU leadership on monetary and budgetary issues and, while they believe that EU members should share a common social model, opinions diverge on the form such a model should take.