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The Warsaw Voice » Business » October 1, 2010
Discussing the Future of Europe
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Discussing the Future of Europe
October 1, 2010   
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More than 2,300 prominent politicians, businesspeople, scientists and reporters from 60 countries took part in this year’s Economic Forum in the southern mountain resort of Krynica in early September.

The main topic of this year’s forum, which was held for the 20th time, was “Europe After Lisbon—Strategies for the Future.”

Organized annually since 1991 by the Warsaw-based Eastern Studies Institute, the Krynica conference has evolved into one of the most important economic and political events in Poland and all of Central and Eastern Europe. Every year, Krynica hosts presidents, prime ministers, EU commissioners and the CEOs of some of the largest companies and financial institutions in Europe. This year’s conference focused on opportunities presented by the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force earlier this year.

“We are confident that the Treaty of Lisbon, in force for several months now, will make the EU more efficient and function in a way that meets people’s expectations,” Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, said during the opening session of this year’s forum.

In order to live up to new challenges, the EU needs a new development strategy, conference participants said. “The financial crisis showed us how much we have to depend on each other in Europe and worldwide,” said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who also took part in the forum. “The debt of one country can have an influence on all of Europe.”

According to Barroso, the economic crisis has showed that the EU is part of a global system and needs to become better integrated in order to more effectively compete with other markets.

“We need a monetary union, but also an economic union,” Barroso said. “I hope that during the Polish presidency of the EU, which begins next year, the single EU market will strengthen. The single market is still unavailable in areas such as energy and innovation. The entire EU needs a common reform strategy.”

Polish President Bronis³aw Komorowski said during the opening panel discussion that Poland is determined to help strengthen European integration in terms of common foreign policy and contacts with non-EU countries. “We believe that [cross-border] solidarity, which is the foundation of the EU’s value system, can help us deal with future challenges, creating a sense of shared responsibility for all,” Komorowski said. Specifically, he mentioned energy solidarity. “Energy solidarity is a real challenge and a practical test that will show whether or not, by opening energy markets, we can make European products more competitive internationally,” said Komorowski.

Energy solidarity and the security of energy supply in Europe were also mentioned at a number of other panel discussions and meetings during the conference.

Poland’s Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad said, “Energy security necessitates solidarity within the EU and an honest approach to this idea so that this kind of security is not understood as applying exclusively to one’s own country. In Poland, energy security is pursued through projects such as the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal under construction in ¦winouj¶cie and planned nuclear power plants.”

Executives from companies interested in building Poland’s first nuclear power plant said their companies were able to complete the project by 2020.

Poland is pinning a lot of hope on shale gas whose domestic deposits are estimated at 1.5-3 trillion cubic meters. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said, “I believe this time next year we will be able to say if there is shale gas in Poland and how big the deposits are. Let us remember that any extraction on an industrial scale will only be possible in seven to 10 years from now.”

The Polish government has so far issued 70 licenses to companies that want to drill for unconventional gas deposits. Of these, 20 licenses have been granted to Polish companies.

A large part of this year’s conference focused on financial issues. Participants pondered the causes of the global crisis and discussed ways to overcome the crisis and the prospects of the European banking sector.

During a panel discussion entitled “Where Is My Money…? The Future of the Banking Sector in Europe,” well-known Polish bankers wondered who was responsible for the crisis. “In part, banks themselves are to blame, as the way we managed risks was a mistake,” said Krzysztof Kalicki, president of Deutsche Bank Polska.

Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, ex-prime minister of Poland and former vice-president of Bank Pekao SA, was less eager to blame the banking sector for the crisis. Bielecki currently chairs a team of economic advisers to the prime minister.

Polish central bank governor Marek Belka, who took part in several panel discussions at Krynica, said that, unlike many of their counterparts around the world, Polish banks had not gone overboard in giving out loans without carefully checking whether borrowers were able to pay off debt. However, 70 percent of Poland’s banks are subsidiaries of international banks, which were not entirely free from such problems, Belka said.

During the forum, bankers also talked about whether Central and Eastern European countries need a common strategy. Mark Allen of the International Monetary Fund said the region could hardly be seen as one whole, as the situation in Poland, for example, was far better than in other countries in the region.

According to Andrzej Kopyrski, vice-president of Bank Pekao SA, Central and Eastern Europe needs a common strategy in order to raise its profile.

Kaspar Richter of the World Bank said he believes in the strength of the region. He added that countries in Central and Eastern Europe could help improve the economic condition of the EU. Central and Eastern European countries have vast potential, Richter said.

Andrzej Ratajczyk, Krynica
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