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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 2, 2009
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European Solidarity
September 2, 2009   
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Zygmunt Berdychowski, chairman of the Program Council of the Economic Forum in Krynica, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk.

The 19th Economic Forum will be held in Krynica from Sept. 9 to 12. What will be the main topic of this year's meeting of European politicians and business leaders?
This year's forum will be held under the motto "European Solidarity-20 Years After the Revolution." The main aim of the conference is to discuss the present situation of European Union members in terms of whether or not they are helping one another and in what way. The forum also provides an opportunity to assess the 20 years of political and economic transition in the region.

There is also another focus of this year's event-European solidarity with our neighbors: Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in the region, which have suffered great losses as a result of the economic crisis. These countries expect the European Union to provide them with not only advice-although this aspect is very important-but also concrete assistance in solving the difficult problems they have to cope with. The key question is whether EU countries, including Poland, are ready to help their poorer neighbors today-just as they did 20 years ago at the start of transition. Additionally, it is worth asking how Europeans are doing after two decades of rapid change, how the EU entry of Poland and other countries has affected old EU members, and how this process has changed the new member states, which have joined a group of stable and affluent nations in Europe.

The world is now caught up in the most serious financial crisis in decades, a crisis that has affected many Polish companies and institutions. The crisis is bound to have an impact on this year's Economic Forum in Krynica in terms of its organization and subject matter.
Certainly. At a time when everyone across the world is saying that we are in a crisis, one has to take this fact into account when organizing an economic forum. This situation is a great challenge to us. And if, despite the crisis, we manage to hold an event that attracts the attention of many people, as was the case in previous years, if the organizational standards of the event are similar and if there's a comparable number of participants, we will consider this a great success.

The global crisis and all the financial and economic issues associated with it will be reflected by the topics that will be discussed during the forum.

Organized for 19 years by the Eastern Institute, the Economic Forum in Krynica has a well-established reputation as one of the most important meetings for European politicians, business people, academics and media, especially those from Central and Eastern Europe. What is the secret behind your success story?
Frankly speaking, I am surprised myself that we have been around for so long. One may consider it a great success that the political changes which the post-Soviet countries in Central and Eastern Europe have undergone over the past 20 years have not meant the end of the forum.

We are working hard to strengthen the role of the forum and make it even more popular across Europe because this ensures its further development. As with every kind of work, organizing the forum involves better and worse moments. At one time we had problems with registration, another time with transport and then with the IT system. But we managed to solve all these problems thanks to the determination with which we pursue our goal, which is to organize the forum in the best possible way. We know that it is impossible to achieve the desired result overnight-this has to be a process that will take many years.

Obviously, the Krynica forum would not be able to develop without the commitment and friendly attitude of many people from different communities. The forum is an initiative that brings together people who come from different worlds but share the belief that Poland should play a special role. Those who think so include former prime minister Jerzy Buzek, who is now president of the European Parliament, former president Aleksander Kwa¶niewski, and Jarosław Kaczyński, former prime minister and leader of the opposition Law and Justice party. The Krynica forum is one of the best places to build this special role for Poland, which I think is an important factor behind the event's success.

The forum would not develop if the people behind it were not open to the views of other people. In the past, especially in the early 1990s, this aspect of the forum-the fact that it is a place where various people, including those who are political and economic opponents, can freely express their views-was not as obvious as it is now. It is great that in those early days we managed to create in Krynica something that previously barely existed in Polish public life.

In recent years, the Krynica Economic Forum has been accompanied by many fringe events, including an Investment Forum in Tarnów that provides an opportunity for investors and financial institutions to talk about where and how to invest in Central and Eastern Europe. Will these events be continued this year?
Of course. The Investment Forum in Tarnów will be extended by one day. The same goes for the Regions Forum, which has been organized for several years and is intended mainly for local government officials. More people will be taking part in these events and more topics will be discussed. I should also mention the Forum of Young Leaders, which has been held in Nowy S±cz for many years. It is a unique undertaking that attracts many young people from Europe.

How many people will take part in this year's forum?
Last year, almost 2,000 people took part in the Economic Forum and fringe events including the Investment Forum, the Regions Forum and the Forum of Young Leaders. It would be a great success if we managed to attract a similar number of participants this year.

The Voice is a media partner of the event.
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