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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 2, 2011
Business & Economy
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European Dilemmas
September 2, 2011   
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Zygmunt Berdychowski, chairman of the Program Council of the annual Economic Forum held in the Polish mountain resort of Krynica, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk.

The Krynica Economic Forum, organized by the Institute for Eastern Studies for more 20 years, is already an established international brand. It has a reputation as a major meeting of political and business leaders as well scientists and media personalities from European countries, especially those in Central and Eastern Europe. What topics will be discussed in Krynica this September?
This year’s forum will revolve around the theme “European Dilemmas—Partnership or Rivalry?” This motto invites debate about how new EU member states, especially Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries, partner with the founding members of the EU in resolving the key problems of the community.

This applies to both economic issues and international relations. The events of the past several weeks show that it’s difficult to expect that any EU country will emerge from the crisis unscathed if it acts alone and is focused on competing with others. Only if Europe stands together will it have a chance of quickly dealing with the crisis and ensuring sustainable and rapid growth while increasing competitiveness, especially with regard to countries such as China and the United States. Forum participants will discuss these and other topics during more than 120 panels, sessions and lectures planned.

Has this year’s forum attracted a lot of interest?
We expect that this year’s event will be attended by about 2,500 people, 10 percent more than last year. It seems that when it comes to the number of participants, the forum is slowly approaching its optimal format. Our objective is not to increase the number of guests, but make sure that this is an increasingly interesting and significant mix of people capable of contributing more and more to the debate on European and global issues.

How many countries will be represented at this year’s forum?
As last year, about 60 countries worldwide will be represented. In this respect not much has changed. However, the proportion of foreign guests continues to grow with each year; this year foreign guests will outnumber Polish participants. Another trend, in place for the past four to five years, is that the number of guests from Western Europe and the United States is growing. These are politicians, administration officials, businessmen, and media personalities. And their involvement is becoming increasingly visible.

This year’s forum will be held for the 21st time. When you were organizing the first meeting, did you expect that the event would gain such momentum and status over the years?
When organizing the first few conferences, which were quite low-profile, we did not even dream that 20 years later the Krynica meeting would become such a grand international event. This was unimaginable at the time, as was the path Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries have traveled to become full-fledged members of the EU. We didn’t think about that at all. Poland was not part of the European Community, and our contacts with European institutions were not very intense. This unmistakably means that we have achieved considerable success over those 20 years.

I think the economic forum in Krynica is quite an exceptional event. Our book of forum participants has more than 800 pages and is a veritable compendium about the political and business who’s who in this part of Europe. Another feat is that we have expanded the infrastructure—including the intranet, conference materials, and so on—available to conference participants.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the organizer of the Economic Forum in Krynica, the Institute for Eastern Studies, also organizes other specialized conferences focusing on selected topics and regions and attracting politicians and experts. These include the Europe-Russia Forum, Europe-Ukraine Forum, Energy Forum, the Europe-U.S. Forum in Washington, and the Innovation Forum.

For several years, the Krynica forum has been accompanied by various fringe events targeted at investors and local government leaders. What accompanying events are planned this year?
Some of the events accompanying this year’s forum will be quite special on account of Poland’s turn at the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Undoubtedly, among the events that are part of the official agenda of the Polish presidency, the most important will be the Conference of Economy Ministers of EU and Eastern Partnership countries, organized by the Polish Economy Ministry. Another event as part of the Polish presidency agenda will be an Investment Forum in Tarnów, to which all those who are responsible for privatization processes in Central and Eastern Europe have been invited. A third top-level event will be a meeting of parliamentarians from mountainous regions, called the Europe of the Carpathians.

In addition to formal debates, the forum organizers have also prepared a range of cultural and sporting attractions for participants. Among sports attractions of special note is the Running Festival, which is being organized for the second time. Where did the idea to organize such a competition come from?
Our intention was to enable all those coming to Krynica for the economic forum to become part of the positive experience that comes with sports. Last year the Running Festival of the Economic Forum figured prominently among the most important sporting events in Poland and met with a warm reception among participants. We expect that the number of entries for this year’s event will exceed 3,000, which is almost three times more than last year. The organizers have prepared a number of running competitions, including a marathon and a 100 km ultramarathon. Those who do not yet feel up to joining the marathon can take part in one of the many shorter runs that are also planned.

The Running Festival is not only about sports competitions, but also about meetings with famous people with whom one will be able to talk about business, sports and health. We want to showcase Poland as a place where one can meet to hold debates on issues important to Europe and the world while being able to have a great time afterwards.
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