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The Warsaw Voice » Business » August 13, 2008
Economic Forum in Krynica
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Debating the Role of Central Europe
August 13, 2008   
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Zygmunt Berdychowski, chairman of the program council of the Economic Forum in Krynica, a major annual event in southern Poland, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk.

This is the 18th time that the Eastern Institute is organizing the Economic Forum in the Polish mountain resort of Krynica. As the forum's initiator, what do you think has been decisive for the event's success?
Frankly speaking, I cannot really say. If we remember what happened in Poland and the whole of Central and Eastern Europe during those years, it's actually hard to believe that an initiative like the Economic Forum has survived. You could almost say that it's a miracle. But seriously, at the organizing office, we tend to reply to this question as follows: We have survived because we were never financed by the government. Throughout this time no national or local administration has ever contributed more than 1-2 percent to the event's budget. For example, last year's contribution was about 0.5 percent of the budget. The initiative has survived all those years because different commercial, business partners have financed the forum's development since its inception.

Has the forum's mission changed over the years with all those political and economic changes in the region?
In terms of fundamental issues, absolutely nothing has changed. Unvaryingly from the very start, the first and most important foundation of the forum has been maintaining impartiality and working for dialogue and communication to replace prejudices and stereotypes. As an institution we have never been politically committed, believing that our partners are both those in power and those forming the opposition. This is the only way we have a chance to fulfill our fundamental objective, which is to develop business contacts as a means of stabilizing the political situation, and to support social and political transformations in the countries of the New Europe.

This year's forum will be held under the motto "European Dilemmas. Central Europe: An Active Partner or a Passive Spectator?" Why was this topic chosen as the main theme of the debate?
It seemed to be the right moment to start asking loudly about the role of Central Europe, both politically and economically. Actually there is already an ongoing debate on this. About a year after Poland's European Union accession, we witnessed a situation where our EU partners suggested that they expected our policies to give more consideration to the interests of the "old EU." It seemed to come as quite a surprise to our partners that upon joining the EU Poland wanted to contribute its own political and economic ideas to European policy, and wanted to see them implemented. The debate on Central Europe's role in the EU is giving rise to growing emotions and that's why this subject is worth discussing at the forum.

What other topics will the forum's participants discuss?
As in previous years, we will talk about important issues related to the system transformation in Eastern Europe, the relations between the EU and its partners from the East and South, and many other matters of importance to the EU. These include issues such as fuels and energy, security, regional policy, and globalization.

How many guests do you expect at this year's forum?
I believe that like last year, over 1,500 guests from several dozen countries in Europe, Asia and America will take part. Our ambition as the organizers is not to increase the number of participants; what we do want is to have more and more interesting people come here each year, contributing more to the debate on both European and global problems.

The Economic Forum is not just about debates and discussion panels in Krynica, but also includes fringe events organized in other localities, doesn't it?
That's true. These additional events stem from our desire to take the fullest possible advantage of the presence of so many important and influential people in Krynica. This is a unique opportunity to organize meetings between these people and, for example, local governments or investors.

The Forum of Regions is an integral part of the Economic Forum. It will be held for the second time in Muszyna, 10 km from Krynica. This is an annual meeting of local government officials from Poland and neighboring countries who can discuss problems that bother them.

This is the first time that we are holding an Investment Forum in Tarnów, which will bring together selected investors from Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries as well as government officials and parliamentarians who are responsible for the progress of privatization in Central Europe. On the one hand, this meeting will attempt to sum up the results of economic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, while on the other it should provide an opportunity to present privatization policies for the coming years. The forum sessions will be accompanied by a presentation of privatization proposals from individual countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We are holding the Investment Forum mainly to provide the key investors and financial institutions with optimal conditions to talk about where and in what they can invest in the Central and Eastern European region.

A regular part of the Krynica forum in recent years has been the presentation of New Europe. Report on Transformation, an analysis of political and economic changes in 27 countries in Central and Southeastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Will such a report be published this year as well?
There won't be a report like the one presented in previous years because we decided that most countries in the region that have officially joined the EU have completed the transformation process. This led us to conclude that we should prepare reports on individual countries as well as those sections of economic life that awaken the greatest interest. That's why we have prepared reports on Ukraine and Russia, and are about to finish a report on the power sector.

This year's 18th Economic Forum in Krynica will be held Sept. 10-13.

Organized by the Eastern Institute foundation, the event started off as a small local conference that has grown into one of the most important economic and political events in not just Poland but the whole region. Every year the forum attracts national presidents, prime ministers, ministers, senior executives from the largest corporations and financial institutions in the region.

The Warsaw Voice is a media patron of the forum.
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