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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 30, 2009
Krynica Economic Forum
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Pressing for European Solidarity
September 30, 2009 By Andrzej Ratajczyk   
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More than 2,000 politicians, businessmen, academics and journalists from 60 countries took part in the 19th Economic Forum in the southern Polish spa town of Krynica Sept. 9-12.

This year's forum was entitled European Solidarity-20 Years After the Revolution, a theme chosen to stimulate debate on two decades of political and economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Forum participants also evaluated short- and long-term forecasts for the region and discussed the latest developments in European Union economies and the bloc's solidarity with other countries in Europe.

Jerzy Buzek, the former prime minister of Poland who recently took over as president of the European Parliament, said that greater solidarity among member states was needed for the European Union to become a serious player in the international arena.

"In recent years, the European Union has undergone an unprecedented enlargement, but this does not mean that the bloc is already integrated," Buzek said at the opening session. "The common EU policies, including regional, agricultural and now also energy policy, are a symbol of European solidarity. In the last case in particular, we need a common policy to have a stronger position in negotiations with our external partners."

According to Buzek, the current crisis does not threaten the EU's foundations because in the course of its history the bloc has seen "both weaker and stronger moments when it developed rapidly."

Jose Maria Aznar, former Spanish prime minister who was a special guest at the forum, said, "It is impossible to fight the crisis by increasing interventionism. Instead, this should be done by giving people more freedom. More stability, competitiveness and energy security, less taxes and broader privatization-this is the key to transforming Europe's economy. This will help us overcome the crisis."

As every year, energy security was one of the main topics discussed at Krynica. "Building a European energy security system is a must," said Paweł Olechnowicz, chairman of Polish fuel group Lotos, during one of the panel discussions. "But this will only succeed if the system is balanced and based on partnership."

Waldemar Pawlak, the deputy prime minister and economy minister, said Poland and its European partners should work together in negotiating energy deliveries and make joint efforts to ensure transit security. "This is part of building a system of regional support and responsibility," Pawlak said.

Forum participants discussed the latest developments in Poland's banking sector and the state of the Polish economy. They agreed that Poland compares favorably with other countries in the region, even though Central and Eastern Europe is among the regions that have suffered the most from the crisis.

"Poland is a green island in the troubled sea of global turmoil. Thanks to the commitment of the Polish people, our economy is growing," Pawlak said. "But we must not forget that we need to continue reforming the country, including public finance reform."

Experts taking part in the forum agreed that the global economy will eventually overcome the crisis, but some time will have to pass before that happens.

Krzysztof Rybiński, an economist with consulting firm Ernst & Young, said that government interventions will be successful and although the recession will be deep the world will emerge from it without high inflation.

According to Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski, democracy will prove to be an important factor supporting the economy. Even though China's economy is expanding rapidly at the moment, Rostowski said, in a few years it will turn out that only democracies are efficient economically.

Forum participants agreed that the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, which will be held in Poland and Ukraine, will give a major boost to the Polish economy. Estimates suggest the tournament may contribute zl.26.6 billion to Polish GDP by 2020.

More than zl.70 billion is expected to be invested in Euro 2012-related projects in the run-up to the tournament. Most of this money will be spent to expand and modernize infrastructure, economists say.

Sports and tourism minister Mirosław Drzewiecki said that Poland will carry out the Euro 2012 project according to plan. "The only thing we cannot guarantee is the weather during the tournament and the form of the Polish national team," Drzewiecki said.
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