Most interesting statements of EEC 2015

The 7th European Economic Congress (EEC) in Katowice was attended by 7500 representatives of economic circles from around the world, 700 panelists and 550 representatives of the media. Selected statements made by the most prominent experts form one of the summaries of the largest business event in Central Europe.

The 7th European Economic Congress in Katowice (20th – 22nd of April 2015) was inaugurated by Bronisław Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland, and participants in the congress included European commissioners and ministers from European, Asian and African countries, as well as numerous representatives of business and expert circles. As usual, participants in this business meeting focused on issues of crucial importance to the future of Poland and Europe. The debaters discussed the necessity of reinvigorating investments through such initiatives as the Juncker’s Plan, the entry of Polish enterprises into global markets and the project of imparting an innovative dimension to both Polish and European economies.

Below are presented the selected statements made by the most prominent guests of the 7th European Economic Congress in Katowice as thematic issues:

The future of Europe. Investments

Jyrki Katainen – Vice-President of the European Commission, European Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness

„The European Commission is aiming at an increase in private investments, which is to be helped by such initiatives as the Juncker’s Plan. We look at investments in Europe in the long term – we talk here about the amount of EUR 300 billion. The plan comprises three main parts, among which the most important one includes deepening and harmonization of the EU internal market. This year, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska is to present the strategy for the development of the EU free market.

Another objective is energy security in the EU and the Energy Union. Europe needs more interconnections, especially with regard to gas, because many countries still have to depend on just one supplier. The last objective is to conduct a capital market reform so as to improve access to financing. This goal is to be served by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, which will focus on the support for both private investments and other types of investments which will be implemented as part of the public-private partnership formula.

The European Commission focuses on structural funds that will harmonize the market and help the private sector to invest in Europe. Moreover, they will also help to finance risky projects. We need to remember that it is the entrepreneurs who change the market.”

Elżbieta Bieńkowska – European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

„We all focus on money and every country of the European Union believes to have the best projects to be financed. However, we often forget that these projects need to be good not only from the point of view of particular EU Member States, but also from the point of view of the European Union as a whole. Moreover, they also need to trigger the interest of private equity.

Every country has regulations that protect its internal market, but we need to realize that such practices weaken the European Union as a whole because it is the common market that constitutes the core European value. Europe! If you fail to understand that the common 500-million market is our greatest asset, you will enter the road to defeat and lose your competitiveness.

Neither administration nor bureaucracy creates jobs. It is the entrepreneurs who should show us the direction in which the regulations need to be changed in order to make the free market more open and let investments develop. It is not true that Brussels always knows better.”

Markku Markkula – President of the European Committee of Regions (CoR)

„We need investments that would be implemented using cutting-edge technologies which take on the risk of pioneering a given field. It is necessary to motivate European regions in order to ensure “bottom-up” support for these initiatives.

The aim of doing so is to ensure that the planned investments work to the best effect for particular regions. The investment potential must translate into the everyday lives of EU citizens. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to utilize local resources, include small projects and project clusters in the investment scheme, and innovatively combine various elements, such as modern start-ups, and more traditional ones, such as infrastructure projects.”

Innovation and economic growth

Carlos Moedas – European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

„The European Fund for Strategic Investments will increase our possibilities of financing innovative projects and can be a key tool for supporting innovation after 2020. The fund will help us remove one of the barriers that impede investments in innovations today, namely the aversion to taking risks.

At present, Europe suffers from the lack of investments. It is a result of uncertainty concerning economic prospects, which is otherwise a perfectly understandable phenomenon, taking into account the worst economic crisis for years we have emerged from recently. Therefore, it can hardly be expected that investments in innovative solutions, which are more risky by their very nature, will become popular. Uncertainty is only one factor. Another one is the significantly worse financial situation of many European enterprises. The financial crisis entailed cutting of research and development budgets, which complicated the situation even more.

If we do not do something in Europe, if some projects are not implemented, this simply means that entrepreneurs do not have suitable conditions for the implementation of their goals. We simply have to reduce the barriers to innovation in EU Member States and it is the duty of the European Commission to persuade them to do so.

I am saddened to look at young Europeans who say they have had to leave Europe in order to implement their innovative projects. We have to deal with both regulatory barriers and barriers to financing, which currently prevent us from achieving our goals.

Innovations are perhaps the most important, albeit not the only element of establishing the competitive advantage of the economy. However, it is certainly an element most vulnerable to over-regulation and financial instability. We should change the investment and economic climate in Europe through structural reforms – we will then be able to head in the right direction. We already have the power of thought at our disposal and now we need to answer the question why it is not involved at the subsequent stages of our actions and why there are no inventors who would work for enterprises.”

The state, the economy and freedom

Leszek Balcerowicz – Chairman of the Council of the Civil Development Forum Foundation (FOR)

„The countries that were more consistent in heading towards economic freedom and the rule of law have achieved better results in terms of economic growth and this growth is strictly necessary for poor societies.

Poland has more than doubled the size of its economy. However, it is never so that past success guarantees future success. The thing is that without a higher dose of reforms, Poland will permanently slow down its economic growth. Most importantly, we did not waste our time and we managed to introduce economic freedom and competition on a broad front. There is no competition in a small and medium-sized country without foreign competition.

In every political system, state ownership means that entrepreneurs are controlled by politicians, which is destructive to economic freedom. Nothing can take the place of competition in the economy.”

Jan Kulczyk – Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kulczyk Investments, Founder of the CEED Institute

„Entrepreneurs are being accused of wishing to have political influence. They should not have it. However, more often than not it is the state that crosses the border in economic areas, while frequently not having sufficient competence to do so. (…)

The objective of a private entrepreneur is not only profit, but also long-standing development, sometimes over many generations. By contrast, in the case of state enterprises, just as in politics, there are terms of office and the development horizon is shortened to the period of four years.”

Horst Köhler – President of the Federal Republic of Germany between 2004–2010, German economist

„There is no ideal model for all countries. Every country has to find its own balance between economic freedom, private ownership and state’s intervention. However, it is important to stick to a clear rule which says that in case we have any doubts as to the presence of the state in the economy, we should always take the side of market freedom.”

Europe and the world. New markets

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma – Chairperson of the African Union Commission

„Until recently, Africa was referred to as a continent of despair. For over ten years, however, it has become one of the most dynamically developing regions of the world. It is a place of great opportunities and a continent of the future due to its young population and the emerging middle class.

Forecasts indicate that such a dynamic development fosters an increase in demand and that, over the course of the next decade, Africa will become a continent with 300 million middle-class consumers, which means it will be on the same footing as Europe today.

However, we do not wish to be just an output market for various goods or a place from where natural resources are acquired. We wish to be a place of a high level of industrialization and well-developed services. We wish to diversify the economy and shift towards industries that are able to derive higher added value from the use of those natural resources.

Among many needs of Africa, it is worth noting the necessity of developing the potential for energy production in order to address the needs of the countries where energy demand is growing in relation to the development of industry. However, it should be an energy mix based on renewable sources to a greater extent, which requires investments and technologies. Africa also needs to build energy corridors modeled after the one organized by the countries of the eastern and southern regions of the continent. (…)

At the beginning of 2015, a document styled Agenda 2063 has been adopted as the framework programme aimed at motivating the African countries to develop. The Agenda places special emphasis on the development of human resources in general and health education in particular. We strive to awaken a revolution of skills, especially as regards science and engineering. We are searching for the development of new technologies through public-private cooperation.

Another area of possible growth is agriculture, which still achieves results well below its potential. This requires the development of technology, especially in the areas of irrigation, warehousing and transport.

We wish to change the situation on the continent; therefore, we invite various enterprises, including Polish ones, to cooperate with us on multiple levels. In May, a Polish tyre factory will open in Ethiopia and we are also very close to the planned opening of a Polish fertilizer factory in Senegal.”

Energy, industry and climate

Dominique Ristori – Director-General of Directorate-General Energy, European Commission

„The EU energy policy cannot be reduced to the sole dimension of industry and CO2 emissions. Reindustrialization should be low-carbon and competitive, whereas energy, industry and climate should strengthen one another. It is possible to pursue the energy policy, taking into account all the above aspects, for they drive one another. However, we should also pursue it with the energy consumers in mind.”

Rokas Masiulis – Minister of Energy, Lithuania

„The EU does much to increase the share of renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions. A fresh and modern approach to the energy industry – yes, but first we should take care of its foundations.

We hear so much about emission costs, for instance, but here, in Lithuania, the first question that crosses our minds is this: Is energy available at all? It comes as no surprise that the most expensive energy is the one you lack when consumers need it. Lithuania is perhaps one of the countries most vulnerable to energy risk.”

László Szabó – Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary

„We need to see the issue from a broader perspective, thus including the countries outside the EU in the picture, in order to ensure that the European Community is connected with the outside world in an appropriate manner. We need infrastructure and energy interconnectors because the energy price in the EU is twice the US price and something has to be done with it if the European economy is to stand a chance of competing in the global market in the future.”

Surojit Ghosh – Member of the Board of ArcelorMittal Poland

„The steel sector is an important element of industry – steel is needed everywhere. However, the steel industry in the EU is experiencing trouble because electricity prices in Europe are nearly 50 per cent higher than it is the case in the United States, whereas gas prices are higher by approx. 33 per cent. Our clients do not want to pay more only because energy is more expensive in the EU than elsewhere. If someone is able to manufacture steel cheaper than they do it in Europe, the clients will buy it there. It is the politicians who are to decide whether steel will be manufactured in Europe or somewhere else in the world.

We often hear that reindustrialization is very important for the EU, but we also have the impression that these are just empty words and no action. We can see the contradiction between those declarations and the EU climate policy.

Both EU and national decision-makers should listen more to the voice of business. European industry needs safe, available and affordable energy, just as the rest of the world does.”