Main topics and conclusions raised during EEC 2014

Over 6000 guests from Poland and abroad attended 102 theme-based sessions, debates and accompanying events during the three-day European Economic Congress, which took place in Katowice for the sixth time.

During this year’s edition of the most important economic forum in the Central and Eastern Europe much attention was given to negative and positive aspects of migration, infrastructure and energy security.

Migration in contemporary Europe

Participants of the discussion raised questions about the situation in the Polish labour market and key regulations connected with the same, the unemployment among the young, the education of next generations and potential changes that may arise from cooperation between education and business. Among the speakers were representatives of science, politics and business.

„If we do not shift the emphasis in our thinking from the state-country approach towards larger organizations, then it will be extremely difficult to resolve the migration-related problems” – recapitulated this part of congress debates Lech Wałęsa, President of the Republic of Poland within 1990-1995, ambassador of CEED Institute.

„The issue of migration, especially in the era of globalization, is the most urgent matter that needs to be resolved. The problem is that in our mentality the non-economic aspects are more significant that the economic ones” – emphasized Jan Kulczyk, Chairman of Supervisory Board at Kulczyk Investments.

„We saw the wave of emigration from Poland, particularly during the years 2004-2008, but it was not followed by the wave of returns. Now we may say that the labour market has benefited from that but in a long-term perspective we will experience adverse effects of that phenomenon” – said Maciej Duszczyk, Deputy Director of the Institute of Social Policy of the University of Warsaw.

Laszlo Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, underlined the significance of the baby boom of the 80’s as the capital for the economic growth. At the same time participants of the discussion stressed the large scale of migration among representatives of that generation and spent much panel time to discuss how to reach the Poles abroad and offer them favourable alternatives, thus encouraging them to return.

„During this European Economic Congress were are trying, among others, to find an answer to the question on why we are unable to provide the young with good living conditions here, in Poland. Why do they have to leave?” – stated Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament, former Chairman of the European Parliament and Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Honorary Chairman of the Patronage Council of the EEC.

Władysław Kosiniak Kamysz, Minister of Labour and Social Policy was of the same opinion: „Poland must try to make the Poles want to stay in the country. Poland needs to fight for a Polish citizen. And that is a good thing as such situation strongly motivates to further efforts (…) Today probably no matter is more important than provision of jobs to the young. That is an objective for the entire Europe” – he stated.

Participants of the discussion were also trying to show that the subject of migration may be viewed from many different perspectives: „It is better that we are talking about the problem of migration inside and not outside the European Union. The common labour market improves effectiveness of capital allocation within the European Union, which is certainly a positive phenomenon for the EU” – noted Artur Walasik, lecturer at the University of Economy in Katowice.

„People move to places that offer better living conditions. It is natural – everybody wants to be better off. Migration is unavoidable and let us think whether we want to prevent it or whether – in contrast – we should support it” – stated Tomasz Hanczarek, President of Work Service.

Common energy market in Europe

During the official opening of European Economic Congress, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Donald Tusk, highlighted the significance of energy security as well as the political security determined by it. „We have been affected by a global financial crisis caused by a temptation to maximize profits alienated from the real economy, the temptation leading to a dramatic end. The crisis revealed that part of the human nature that can turn against interests of the community. We can see that the notion of “community” is not archaic in Silesia. That does not mean that we should give up enterprise. However, profitability in the economy does not have to be an outcome of a merciless fight for short-term financial results. The lack of responsibility for the public interest in business activity leads to critical phenomena. Here in Silesia, as a liberal and a firm supporter of a free market economy, I will say: energy security and responsibility for the economic, social and national community mean the necessity of competent creation of boundaries for individual egoism and pursuit of profit. They mean the rehabilitation of not only the Polish coal but also the need to rehabilitate those who work hard so that we can put the slogan of energy security, and thus the political security of our community, into practice” – Donald Tusk said.

During the session Common energy market in Europe, that was dedicated to this subject, the participants discussed, among others, the perspectives for uniform energy procurement policy in EU, impact of climate protection policy on the power market or the investments required to build the common energy market.

During the debate the role of gradual levelling of the differences in the process of shaping the energy policy was emphasized: „We cannot allow a situation in which the price of energy in EU is the highest one in the world. It should not be the case that in USA 1 MWh costs EUR 67, and in the European Union EUR 171. (…) It seems to me that there is one reason for all these problems, and namely that still in the EU we have 28 national energy policies” – diagnosed Jan Kulczyk, Chairman of Supervisory Board at Kulczyk Investments, Deputy President of the Board of Directors at CEEP.

An important thread of the discussion turned out to be the issues of energy security related to the current political situation in Ukraine: „I would like to strongly encourage to implement to the full extent the provisions and regulations that are already agreed upon, but that are still not fully implemented. What happens now in Russia and Ukraine is a kind of a warning, showing that we need to faster implement the agreed regulations on the energy market” – said Mari Kiviniemi, Prime Minister of Finland within 2010-2011, adding that EU states should increase energy efficiency and energy savings as well as promote renewable energy sources and test new technologies in this area. Participants of the debate also mentioned the fact that the issue of energy security emerges on a cyclical basis, at the time of greatest political crises, whereas it requires to be resolved with comprehensive solutions.

The speakers also commented on the proposal of establishing energy union, articulated by the Polish government: „One of the outcomes of the Crimea crisis will be the emergence of new levels of cooperation in the field of energy. I think that in this respect the proposal of Donald Tusk is extremely important. This may give rise to the discussion in Europe on how we can better coordinate energy policy and how EC as European government may have a stronger role to play in formulating and exercising common energy policy” – stated Ian Brzezinski from the Atlantic Council.

Infrastructure in Central Europe

During the panel on Infrastructure in Central Europe, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Development of the Republic of Poland, underlined the significance of the infrastructure sector for the Polish economic system: „A huge effort has already been made to make the Polish infrastructure catch up with the western standards. Until 2020 Poland needs to have a complete network of fast road connections, especially that the EU budget for 2014-2020 will be the last so large injection of EU funds for us. Major infrastructural investments are the driving force of the labour market and the anti-crisis mechanism for the economy. Under the EUR 27.5 billion worth of the Operational Programme ‘Infrastructure and Environment’, the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is to receive EUR 18.5 billion” – she said.

The discussions conducted during the sessions covered, among others, specific impacts of the transport infrastructure development in Central Europe, the role of EU funds supporting the infrastructure development in the past and current financial perspectives, national programmes for infrastructure development and implementation of tasks connected with the construction of the European network of TEN-T transport corridors and the coherence of new and modernized railway routes and roads in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy stated that the Community wants to blur the differences in the level of the European transport infrastructure, created in consequence of the political division of Europe after the World War II. „During the past seven years EU subsidized investments in the transport infrastructure with EUR 82 billion, where half of that amount was allocated to the TEN-T network, thus significantly enhancing its quality and safety” – he indicated.

„We have announced over 50 tendering procedures for the construction of new road sections, while one of them – referring to the S19 route – has already been closed and the contract was awarded to the winning consortium. Presently our tendering procedures are attended by over 90 contractors” – informed Ewa Tomala-Borucka, acting CEO of the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways.

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The PTWP SA Group has been the organizer of the European Economic Congress since its inception in 2009. Each year, several hundred panellists take part in nearly 100 sessions and the Congress is attended by European Commissioners, Prime Ministers and representatives of governments of European states, presidents of the largest enterprises, scientists and practitioners, as well as decision-makers, who exert a real influence on economic and social life.

based on press releases of EEC’s press office