While several countries of the world's periphery have now succeeded in triggering a sustained process of economic growth, East Germany and Southern Italy have failed so far to meet such a target. This is particularly appalling, since none of the emerging economies has been able to rely on financial transfers comparable to those received by these two Mezzoggiorno's of Europe. Geographically disaggregated employment data show that East Germany and Southern Italy can represent a significant opportunity for enhancing economic growth. In Sicily, for example, the rate of employment is only 27 per cent for women, while it reaches 77 per cent for men in the North-East of Italy. The main reason of the very low level of employment in East Germany and Southern Italy seems to be ascribed to a lack of competitiveness. The next annual conference of Italian industrial economists will try to explore feasible policy interventions apt to enhance competitiveness in these two large European regions, so to switch their dramatic social problem of unemployment into a significant opportunity for growth.