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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 24, 2008
Krynica Economic Forum
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Talking About Central Europe
September 24, 2008   
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Energy security, economic growth in Central and Eastern Europe, and the European Union's ties with its eastern neighbors-these were the main topics of the 18th Economic Forum held in early September in Krynica, a mountain spa in southern Poland.

Organized by a Polish nongovernmental organization called Instytut Wschodni (Eastern Institute), this annual event enjoys a solid reputation as a major meeting of politicians, business leaders, academics and the media from European countries, especially those from Central and Eastern Europe. This year's forum, held under the motto "Central Europe: An Active Partner or a Passive Spectator," brought together 2,000 participants from 60 countries.

Polish government officials included Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak, together with the ministers of the Treasury, infrastructure, regional development, justice and sports. There were also many parliamentarians. The Belarusian delegation was headed by Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov, while the Georgian delegation was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze. Government and parliamentary delegations from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Britain, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary were also in attendance. In addition, forum participants included Jiri Sedivy, assistant secretary-general of NATO; Danuta Hübner, EU commissioner for regional development; Polish ex-presidents Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwa¶niewski; the former president of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga; Wolfgang Clement, former German minister for the economy; and Roland Dumas, former French foreign minister. Also on hand were the CEOs of leading Polish and Central European companies.

A key moment at this year's Economic Forum was when Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk unexpectedly declared that his government would do its best to make sure Poland adopts the euro in 2011. The most time, though, was devoted to discussing energy security, relations between the European Union and its neighbors, and the latest financial turbulence in the world.

Central Europe was the focus of this year's forum. Participants discussed the region's economic and political problems. "Central and Eastern Europe comprises 12 countries with rapidly growing economies, nine of them European Union members. This shows what potential the region has," said Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak.

Good communication is the best guarantee of energy security in the region, Pawlak said. "That's why Poland is prepared to work together with its closest neighbors," he said, adding that the government was in talks with Ukraine and Belarus to "work together in the field of energy." Poland could take part in expanding Ukraine's Khmelnitsky Nuclear Power Plant, Pawlak said, and it could also help launch coal-fired power plants in that country.

The Polish government is also interested in "energy cooperation" with Lithuania and has already signed an agreement to take part in the construction of a nuclear power plant in the eastern Lithuanian town of Ignalina, Pawlak said. There are also increasingly realistic prospects for building a Polish-Lithuanian "energy bridge," Pawlak said. According to Vytautas Nauduzas, Lithuania's deputy minister of the economy, this project could be completed by 2016-2017.

Forum participants agreed that the Polish economy had resisted the effects of the latest financial crisis in the world so far. Other countries in the region are doing quite well too. "Based on my observations I can say that for now there has been no visible impact on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe," said Jan Juchelka, a member of the management board of the Czech Republic's Komercni Banka, which is part of the Societe Generale group. He added that the U.S. credit crunch was the most heavily felt in Western Europe.

Forum participants were especially interested in panel discussions on preparations for the Euro 2012 soccer championships in Poland and Ukraine. They agreed that the positive effects of this event would include increased investment opportunities, improved infrastructure and international promotion opportunities for both countries.

Beside economic problems, international issues were an important part of the forum. During the meeting, Georgia's Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze appealed to the European and Euro-Atlantic community "not to allow any compromise over" his country's independence and its territorial integrity. Baramidze said that the government in Tbilisi was prepared to strike a compromise with Russia. He added, however, that the compromise would not apply to his country's sovereignty or the inviolability of its borders.

Andrzej Ratajczyk
Krynica

The Warsaw Voice is a media patron of the Krynica Economic Forum


Forum Awards
Every year, a set of awards is handed out during the Krynica Economic Forum to outstanding individuals, companies and institutions in Central and Eastern Europe.

This year Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was named Man of the Year in Central and Eastern Europe. Czech energy giant CEZ was found the best managed company in the region, and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation was named the best nongovernmental organization. The award in science and culture went to Emil Brix from Austria, a historian and journalist and former Austrian consul-general in Cracow. Awards were also granted posthumously to former Polish foreign minister Bronisław Geremek and Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
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