Lessons from 8th European Economic Congress

The European Economic Congress took place in Katowice over a week ago. For the eighth year running and for three days in a row Katowice were the venue for heated debates between experts, entrepreneurs, politicians and guests representing the world of business and academia. Apart from debates dedicated to specific sectors of the economy and industry, discussions on the development of cities and regions, social policy, healthcare systems, the labour market and trade were prepared. Here are the most interesting statements gathered by the organizer.

Opening session of the 8th European Economic Congress was held in Spodek
Opening session of the 8th European Economic Congress was held in Spodek

The EEC’s first panels revolved around the issues of the digitization of the economy and discussed the opportunities and dangers posed by the digital revolution. James Whittaker, a distinguished technical evangelist from Microsoft, painted an interesting vision of our economic future related to advances in autonomous technologies.

The first day of the largest business event of Central Europe also picked up on the question of how to efficiently manage state resources in the economy, businesses, agencies and funds. A panel devoted to „Energy and Climate – the Horizon 2030. Scenarios for the world and Europe”, on the other hand, focused on the current political and legal situation of the climate and energy package and the issue of European energy security.

„Poland heavily relies on coal” – said Krzysztof Tchórzewski, minister of energy, during the European Economic Congress. „Let me remind you that our strategy is not to eliminate coal as the foundation of the energy sector, but to reduce emissions. This is something we tend to forget.” The minister emphasized that the restrictions on coal energy imposed on Poland can cause our GDP to drop substantially before 2050, pushing us to the brink of ‘energy poverty’. The minister of energy noted that one of the priorities of his government is to promote citizens’ energy generated by so-called prosumers.

Aleksandras Spruogis, the Lithuanian deputy minister of energy, argued that European countries could only remain competitive provided that European energy policy takes into account the specific nature of individual member state economies. He emphasized that even though Lithuania continues to depend on fossil fuels, it has made investments in new energy solutions. In his statement on the European energy sector, Piotr Woźniak, the CEO of PGNiG, underscored the importance of the Energy Union currently elaborated at EU level.

Another panel of the 8th European Economic Congress concerned the issues relating to the global expansion of the European economy. One of the main themes raised during the talk was the cooperation between Europe and China. Panellists were particularly interested in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), whose negotiations have already reached a very advanced stage.

Panellists included Jerzy Kwieciński, secretary of state at the Polish Ministry of Development, Maciej Andrzej Libiszewski, CEO of PKP Cargo, Tomáš Novotný, Czech deputy minister of industry and trade in charge of EU funds, R&D support, investment and innovation, Maciej Witucki, president of Work Service, and Karol Zarajczyk, president of Ursus.

In his opening address, Jerzy Kwieciński emphasized that Poland is treading on precarious ground riddled with of economic pitfalls: „We need new, strong stimuli that will become the mainspring of the Polish economy. Polish citizens are ambitious. Our salaries are lower than in the EU and our development is supported by foreign capital. This needs to change. We need to build our own capital” – he said. He also added that another huge challenge comes from demography.

„I can see a huge potential for Poland and the Czech Republic to invest in basic infrastructure that will allow the development of more innovative sectors in the economy. We believe that the new EU perspective will help us to better fund new ideas” – commented Tomáš Novotný. He went on to suggest that examples to emulate could even be found in the other hemisphere; in this context, he mentioned the countries of Latin America.

Other, parallel panels of the European Economic Congress were devoted to the situation of young entrepreneurs in the economy and the job market, the „big problems of big cities”, the global expansion of the European economy and international cooperation for sustainable development.

During the panel devoted to „International cooperation for sustainable development” participants pointed out that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals are designed to contribute to the elimination of poverty. Ali Nur Ismail Ali, chief secretary, director of the State Department for Cooperatives at the Kenyan Ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade, pointed out that when we talk about sustainable development, we are interested in how our generation can satisfy its needs without prejudicing the situation of those to come.

Janina Ochojska, president of Polish Humanitarian Action, emphasized how important it is to cooperate with local authorities. „Our activities are geared towards development” – she said. Ochojska argued that it is crucial to cooperate with local authorities and village chieftains in order to create a whole system that can then continue to operate as smoothly as possible. „As for the targets of sustainable development, a few things are missing here. These targets focus on the leading role of Europe” – underlined Ochojska. „They even mention the need to build the competitive advantage of European companies. This whole sustainable development is a sort of European newspeak. What we need is real action” – she argued.

One of the panels was devoted to the issue of European industry. „Industry in Europe. A Decline or a Renaissance?” addressed the situation of key industrial sectors in Europe, the determinants of their global competitiveness, and the process of reindustrialization. Panellists included, to name but a few, Ludovico Alcorta from UNIDO, Jarosław Gowin, deputy prime minister, minister of science and higher education, Jerzy Kwieciński, secretary of state at the Polish Ministry of Development, and Beata Stelmach, president of GE for Poland and the Baltic Countries.

„At the end of the 20th century, the dominant view held that the future would belong to those who moved industrial production outside Europe. The first decade of the 21st century shattered that conviction. The Europe 2020 Strategy is our response to this challenge. It aims to increase the industry’s share of GDP to 20% in 2020” – Jarosław Gowin said in his opening address. The deputy prime minister emphasized that these goals will be realized in the years to come. He also mentioned the Juncker plan, designed to provide broad assistance to entrepreneurship based on the public-private partnership model.

According to Jerzy Kwieciński, secretary of state at the Ministry of Development, Europe has not forgotten the role of industry, but must change the way in which it has been used for development. “We, the Polish people and our companies, need to design new technologies that we can sell to the world” – the deputy minister said. „The issues of industry, industrialization and reindustrialization are very important to the economic plan of my government” – he stressed.

The panels of the European Economic Congress 2016 took place between 18th and 20th of May in the International Convention Center and the Spodek sport and exhibition hall.