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The Warsaw Voice » Business » August 2, 2010
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Europe After Lisbon
August 2, 2010   
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Zygmunt Berdychowski, chairman of the Program Council of the Economic Forum in Krynica, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk

The 20th Economic Forum will be held in the southern mountain resort of Krynica on Sept. 8-11. What topics will be discussed by the European political and economic leaders taking part in the event?
The motto of this year’s forum is “Europe After the Lisbon Treaty—Strategy for the Future.” Politically, this is a question about how the European Union is functioning after the Lisbon Treaty, with institutions that didn’t exist before, with a president and a foreign affairs minister. In economic terms, we will consider how the European economy will work in the post-crisis reality. To counteract serious economic threats resulting from the global crisis, governments have had to make decisions on state intervention in the economy on a scale unheard of until now. For example, there had to be a decision on an extraordinary bond issue to set up a stabilization fund to save individual EU countries.

Following these decisions, demands emerged for further economic integration, new institutions and mechanisms ensuring greater effectiveness of rescue measures, on the one hand, and significantly accelerating Europe’s political and economic integration, on the other. These issues are sure to be discussed at this year’s conference.

Almost every year, the Economic Forum in Krynica draws a growing number of participants. As last year’s forum showed, not even the financial and economic crisis slowed this trend. Will this year bring a new record in terms of attendance?
We will be happy if interest in the forum this year is no smaller than last year. In fact, the conference is still developing, both in terms of the number of participants and in terms of the subject matter. The first conferences attracted just 120-150 people, while last year there were over 1,800 participants. I think further growth in attendance, to 2,000 or even 2,500, is possible without harming the conference.

Foreign guests at the first few Economic Forums came mostly from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Later, participants from Western Europe as well as North America and Asia started to attend. Last year those in attendance represented almost 60 countries. What about this year, where will the greatest number of participants come from?
For several years now, there has been a continual increase in the number of participants from Western Europe. When we started holding the forum, this region was not represented at all. This gradually changed with each new event. Last year the number of foreign participants far exceeded the number of participants from Poland. The number of guests from Western Europe was greater than the number of guests from the eastern part of the continent. This trend will continue, if only because Western European economies have a great impact on what happens in this part of Europe. In addition, since we joined the EU we have to invite our partners from other member countries to talks about the future.

This year will mark the 20th time the Economic Forum in Krynica has been held. This anniversary is a good opportunity to sum up the event’s history so far, its transformation from a small local event into one of the most important meetings of politicians, businesspeople, scientists and the media in Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe. How is it that at a time of dynamic political and economic changes in this part of Europe, this event, organized by the Eastern Institute, has not only survived but gained prominence with each year?
I think the main reason behind the forum’s success was the initial idea that this would be a venue for discussing issues related mainly to Central and Eastern Europe, and that it would be attended by anyone interested in the region and what went on here. With each year this topic range turned out to be more and more important to European politicians, managers, and intellectuals. First of all, this was due to the rapid growth of the Central and Eastern European region’s economic potential, and also its political potential. After the collapse of communism, nobody had any idea that the region’s importance would grow so quickly. Finally, another major element was Poland’s growing political and economic role during this time, not only in the region but in Europe as a whole. As soon as Poland joined the EU, our neighbors started showing an interest in what Polish people had to say on key European issues.

Another reason behind the forum’s success is that we have always done our best to make sure the discussion is non party-political and that we have participants from different communities and professional groups. The forum is a meeting place for people from different worlds who share the same belief that Poland should play a special role. I think this has been a major factor in the forum’s success.

In recent years the Economic Forum in Krynica has been accompanied by numerous fringe events, such as the Investment Forum in Tarnów or the Regional Forum in Krynica and Muszyna. Do you have any new events in store this year?
This year is the first time that we are holding an Innovation Forum in Rzeszów. The organizers’ intention is to establish an initiative bringing together selected entrepreneurs from Poland and Central and Eastern Europe, representatives of governments and parliaments responsible for running and promoting programs of technological development and innovation in Central Europe. On the one hand, this meeting will attempt to summarize what has been done in innovation management around the world so far; on the other, it will show what opportunities exist for individual regions, companies and organizational units in terms of innovation and economic growth. If this initiative is successful, we will want to hold this event at a different time, as a separate meeting.
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