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The Warsaw Voice » Business » August 29, 2013
Business & Economy
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Where to now, Europe? How to renew the Old Continent?
August 29, 2013   
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Business leaders on the future of Europe
Despite its short track record, the European Forum for New Ideas (EFNI) is already considered to be one of the most prominent events of its kind in Europe. At the end of September, over 1,100 guests from across the world will arrive in the Polish northern coastal resort of Sopot, including leading lights in business, public administration, culture and science.

On Sept. 25-27, Sopot will play host to an international congress of business communities. Its main motto is Where to now, Europe? How to renew the Old Continent? A business perspective.

“Europe’s role on the international arena is becoming marginalized. We are losing our authority and the admiration of the rest of the world, which were built on the success of an unprecedented political and social experiment better known as the EU. The only way to reverse this trend is to renew Europe. The EFNI aims to serve such a purpose. The forum is significant contribution to the debate on the future of Europe,” says Henryka Bochniarz, President of the Lewiatan Polish Confederation of Private Employers, which is organizing the forum.

Key issues
The forum focuses on the problems of the European economy. What exactly needs to be done to increase its competitiveness? Why is Europe behind in global rankings of innovation? Where do companies run into the biggest regulatory barriers hindering their growth? These are just some of the questions that will be posed by the organizers.

On the agenda are ideas and approaches to overcoming the crisis, the relationship between new technologies and democracy, society and markets. Panelists will examine ways of ensuring that institutions, governance and regulations foster growth. Also debated will be matters such as unlocking innovation in the European economy, the paradoxes of climate policy, demographic problems, the next stage of European integration, energy security, limitations stemming from EU regulations, and the role of public media.

The EFNI also features Night Owl Debates—late-night, informal debates with panelists; premieres of special reports; promotions of books authored by panelists; and breakfast and dinner debates. Residents of the Tricity area can attend the Bays of Dialogue—an opportunity for direct meetings with panelists.

Prominent figures
The EFNI is not just about the program. It is also one of the few events in Europe that brings together leading experts from the world of business, politics, science and culture. Over 100 panelists have already confirmed they will attend, including: Benjamin R. Barber, an outstanding political thinker; Henri Malosse, EESC Employers’ Group President; Emma Marcegaglia, President of Businesseurope; Mario Monti, ex-Prime Minister of Italy; Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair; and José Ignacio Torreblanca, one of Europe’s leading political analysts.

EFNI and beyond
Poland is climbing the rankings as the most popular location for meetings in Central and Eastern Europe. According to ICCA, over 150 international congresses were held here in 2012, earning Poland the top spot in the region and 25th position internationally. With this comes the question about the quality of these debates and what happens afterwards. In the case of the EFNI, the answer is clear. The forum program and its list of panelists are a guarantee of high quality debate. Prof. Paul Dembinski, Director of the Observatoire de la Finance, confirms this by saying, “It is heartening to see that Poland is making an intellectual comeback, in European terms and internationally. The EFNI is a place that encourages and stimulates everyone to critically assess their way of thinking.”

What about the results? EFNI director Zbigniew Gajewski says, “One of the assumptions of the forum is that it will draw up concrete solutions for Europe. Hence it is concluded with the signing of the Sopot Declaration, the basis for recommendations which are sent to the authorities of the EU and member states, institutions and the media.” What conclusions will be contained in the 2013 Declaration? To what extent will they influence the shape and situation of Europe? The answers to these questions are still ahead of us.

“Europe has found itself at a turning point in its history. It needs an injection of optimism, swift and effective action, and faith in the power of integration. The European Union has immense potential, but in order for it to fully take advantage of it there is a need for unity. The EU will be put to a very serious test. It is important to remember the meaning of the words ‘solidarity,’ ‘together’ and ‘unified,’” says Maciej Witucki, President of Orange Polska.

Jacek Krawiec, President of PKN Orlen, says, “Europe is losing out compared with other regions—losing jobs, failing to utilize the potential of the young, and is not innovative enough. Regaining its competitive advantage requires many changes. During the EFNI we will be considering what role regulations should play in this process. Considering the new economic environment, should we not redefine the underlying assumptions so that they first and foremost foster growth?”

Andrzej Klesyk, President of PZU SA, adds, “Each year at EFNI we discuss the most important trends and perspectives for business and politics. The most important ones are the internet and social media, are how they are creating a new global reality. Hence, together we will be striving to find answers to questions about how these influence democracy and the development of a civil society, as well as what they are changing in relations between the company and the consumer.”
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