Between 31 May and 2 June 2012 Wrocław hosted Wrocław Global Forum 2012, co-organized by The Atlantic Council of the United States. This year’s edition was entitled “Reinventing the West: Prosperity, Security and Democracy at Risk?” For three days experts, politicians and economists were discussing various issues in numerous panels.
After welcoming remarks by Rafał Dutkiewicz and Frederick Kempe, Wrocław Global Forum was initiated by speech given by Lech Wałęsa, who underlined need for political and economic reforms aiming at boosting entrepreneurship. He said that current generation is the biggest hope for change and contemporary world is undergoing enormous transformations – suffice to mention Arab Spring.
First panel entitled “The Path Forward for the Eastern Partnership” consisted of speeches given by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Valeriy Korostyshevskiy and by Moldavian Minister of Defense Vitalie Marinuta. Both speeches were focused on praising the countries for reforms and big changes that were implemented by the authorities, not only in the context of the European Union, but also because of internal interests. The controversial issue of detaining Yulia Tymoshenko was addressed only after question from the audience but Valeriy Korostyshevskiy avoided giving clear answer as to how to solve the problem.
Panel under the title “The Transatlantic Partnership: Global Superpower or Fading Giant?” led to conclusion that even though both Europe and the US are now struggling with serious problems, they remain the biggest actors on the international stage. Panelists pointed out that even though experts worldwide recommend strengthening transatlantic cooperation, politicians on both side of the ocean do not do enough for that cause. Jiri Schneider, Czech Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, compared Europe and the US to catamaran on stormy waters – still sticking together, but slowly drifting apart.
Hanna Herman, adviser to the President of Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko, chairman of the UDAR party and former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski participated in the panel entitled “Ukraine: Teetering on the Edge”. Interesting discussion focused on criticism on current government in Ukraine – accusations dealt mainly with corruption, lack of democracy and Tymoshenko’s issue. When it comes to Euro 2012, Vitali Klitschko said “there have not been any boycotts of sporting events in recent memory. This event was not boycotted in Moscow nor Los Angeles; only people lose in boycotts. The Euro 2012 is a huge chance to change something for Poland and Ukraine. This is also a business card into the world. In a week the whole world will be watching us.”
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Thomas R. Nides, underlined that “in our diplomacy, the United States and Europe have never been more closely aligned” adding that the US values especially partnership with Poland as NATO ally. Deputy Secretary of State added also that “the U.S.-European economic partnership is key to everything we want to do together around the world.” – for this the US and Europe need to encourage more investments in respective regions and to promote economic values of this partnership. However, the biggest attention was paid to the part of his speech in which he declared working on getting rid of visas for Polish people travelling to the United States until the end of the year. When pressed to be more specific, Thomas R. Nides admitted that he is not sure if the Congress would agree to that proposal until the end of the year.
The speakers in the panel “Future of Europe” included Elmar Brok, Štefan Füle , Anna Palacio and Quentin Peel. Panel focused very strongly on eurozone, but not exclusively in economic context, taking into account also political and existential crisis. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain Anna Palacio underlined that Southern Europe needs decisions to be made quickly and decisively, instead of Europe just “giving homework” to the Southern countries. Speakers agreed that euro crisis is not only about single currency, but also about future of the whole European Union. It was agreed that there is hope for the EU to overcome current crisis, but measured need to be taken immediately and as Quentin Peel underlined, European leaders have to realize that the dilemma between spending and saving is false right from the beginning, both are prescriptions for the crisis.
“Future of Europe” was followed by a panel entitled “Expect the Unexpected: CEE’s Rise in an Unstable World”, in which Norman Davies, Danuta Hübner, Horst Köhler and Jan Kulczyk participated. Surprisingly panel was dominated by discussion about Africa, brought up by Jan Kulczyk, who stated that instead of saving Greece by bailout mechanisms, Europe should be more oriented towards Africa, where bigger potential for investments is. This hypothesis was opposed by Danuta Hubner, who claimed that European entrepreneurs do not know African reality yet and for now on it is safer and better for Europe to invest within its own circle.
Lively discussion was initiated by Quentin Peel, who moderated the panel entitled “Democracy and Prosperity: The Inevitable Link?”, attended by Radosław Sikorski, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hedi Ben Abbes, Secretary of State to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, Lee A. Feinstein, US Ambassador to Poland and Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy. The panel started with Radosław Sikorski’s speech, in which he compared relations between Poland and the United States to staying next to a hippopotamus: first it is nice and warm, but when hippopotamus decides to turn, he crushes everything that is on his back without even realizing it. Moving to the key issue of the panel, he expressed the view that even though sometimes it might seem that not democratic governments are able to carry out economic reforms leading to prosperity more efficiently, in the longer run democracy always wins and has to clean the mess that dictatorship made. This thesis perfectly illustrates what is happening now in Tunisia – democratic authorities have to carry out painful reforms. Both Hedi Ben Abbes and Carl Gershman talked about links between democracy and religion underlining that societies should not give up traditional values rooted in the history.
Various discussions took place also during the break out sessions and press conferences. Wrocław Global Forum ended with gala, during which the Atlantic Council Freedom Awards were given to Władysław Bartoszewski, the National Endowment for Democracy (represented by Carl Gershman), Emma Bonino and Moncef Marzouki on behalf of the people of Tunisia.
More information here.