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The Warsaw Voice » Business » May 7, 2008
Economic Forum
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In Search of Europe's Identity
May 7, 2008 By Andrzej Ratajczyk   
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More than 1,000 politicians, businesspeople, scientists and cultural leaders from Poland and other countries attended the 15th Economic Forum in Toruń April 21-23.

The event was held by the Integration and Cooperation Association, and participants discussed topics such as the power sector, strategic reserves, agriculture, and genetically modified food, in addition to issues related to banking and the cooperative movement. The motto of this year's forum was Europe-In Search of a Lost Identity.

"A meeting like this is an excellent opportunity to talk about Poland's role in Europe and to make an attempt at redefining Europe's economic interests in a globalizing world," said Jerzy Buzek, a Polish MEP and former prime minister. "In the coming years, we should make a great leap forward to make sure that, while playing in the major league, we do not find ourselves at the bottom, but in the middle of the league table or even in the lead. This opportunity is opening up, but our presence in the European community is crucial."

At the first plenary session, entitled Are Europe and the World Facing a New Geopolitical Rivalry, Buzek spoke about a European project that "rejects the strategy of profit as the only mechanism driving the world." He also said that the European Union's influence on global politics did not measure up to its economic potential. According to Buzek, the reason is that the EU does not have a single foreign policy but 27 different policies.

Stanisław Ciosek, former Polish ambassador to Russia, said a country of Russia's size and economic potential "must not remain in a political vacuum for too long because this could lead to unnecessary conflicts and unpleasant incidents."

Apart from Buzek and Ciosek, the plenary session attracted Justice Minister Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski; former Prime Minister Józef Oleksy; Andrzej Arendarski, president of the Polish Chamber of Commerce; and Jacek Janiszewski, head of the programming council of the Integration and Cooperation Association.

The idea behind the Economic Forum emerged more than 10 years ago. The first such conference was held in the coastal resort of Międzyzdroje by the Poland-West Forum. The Integration and Cooperation Association has been the organizer of the event since 2001. The association moved the conference from Międzyzdroje to the health resort of Ciechocinek in central Poland. This year, the event was for the first time held in Toruń.

Since the beginning, the mission of the forum has been to create opportunities for debate and an exchange of experience and views in Central Europe, the Integration and Cooperation Association says. Contacts established in this way contribute to the development of economic, political, scientific and cultural cooperation. According to the association's Jacek Janiszewski, the Economic Forum has become a platform for the promotion of the Polish economy and the regions of Kujawy and Pomerania. "Meetings of this kind provide an excellent opportunity for cooperation and an exchange of experience," Janiszewski said. "We want to organize the Economic Forum in Toruń so that this city becomes European Culture Capital in 2016." This explains why this year's forum included many cultural events.

At the same time, Toruń played host to Slovak Days, an event that included a concert by Slovak pianist Elena Letnanova and an exhibition at the Children's Gallery and Art Center.

The Integration and Cooperation Association was established in Toruń in 2000. It aims to spread knowledge about the history of European integration and contemporary development trends. The association takes measures designed to counteract social exclusion and promote the integration of rural and urban communities.
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