EFNI 2015 – Ideas how to comprehend the world

Once again Sopot hosted a meeting of eminent guests from the world of politics, media, and science. They searched for notions which may prove the most valuable in the constantly changing reality.

The European Forum for New Ideas has been attracting the greatest names ever since its first edition in 2011. The central objective of the attendees over the course of these few debate-filled days in Sopot is to find solutions to the most urgent problems of today’s world. Since both the previous and the current year have provided for much excitement, strong words were in abundance.

Moderating the panel devoted to the future of the global economy, Andrzej Olechowski remarked with a sneer that we are witnessing the onset of the time of madmen. He blamed the financial crisis for upsetting the balance of the global economy and the world of politics for being incapable of dealing with the Islamic State and the war within European borders. Henryka Bochniarz, president of the Polish Confederation Lewiatan, stated outright during the Opening Gala that she could not fathom her own country. Statistics are telling us that we are experiencing rapid economic growth, that we managed to escape recession, that the inequalities are diminishing and that the poor are becoming rich faster than the rich. And yet, we keep hearing that Poland is in decay. ‘We are becoming a nation of frustrated and excluded people,’ added Bochniarz in her conclusion on the situation of Polish economy. Leszek Jażdżewski, editor-in-chief of Liberté!, sounded an even more pessimistic note. The entire Forum ought to be held in a solemn atmosphere, because ‘game is over’, said Jażdżewski about the modern world.

Professor Magdalena Środa devoted her speech to economic growth, comparing it to a narcotic drug of the world that is undergoing modernization. Progress renders us dependent, therefore it must be subject to limitations. They have to be wise, humane, and tailor-made for the current social needs. Leszek Jażdżewski recalled the words of Professor Marek Góra who said that Father Christmas is dead and we are going to face a breakdown of the financial system.

One of the key themes of this year’s EFNI was China. The condition of the Chinese economy and the forecasts for its near future were debated ad infinitum. The conclusion was paradoxical: not long ago it was feared that the Middle Kingdom would overshadow world markets; today it is a collapse on Chinese stock exchanges that generates anxiety. Henryka Bochniarz therefore appealed for more reserve towards forecasts and statistics. The plenary sessions were also dedicated to new business models, improvement of capitalism, and European-Russian relations.

Another subject raised in Sopot was the establishment of the energy union, strongly promoted by Poland on the European forum. Bronisław Komorowski, former Polish president, attended the panel discussion devoted to the EU’s relations with Russia. He criticized the inability of the West to develop a common stance towards Moscow when it comes to the Ukrainian conflict. The Forum was also an opportunity to listen to Jeffrey Sachs, an economist who gains equally much praise and criticism. It was his advice that Leszek Balcerowicz followed when designing reforms of the Polish economy. Today Sachs promotes lifting countries out of poverty with the use of financial assistance and appeals to the wealthier states to take an active part in improving the condition of the poorer ones. During the Closing Gala Sachs recalled the year 1991, when Jacek Kuroń asked him to design an economic plan for Poland. Sachs was allowed to put in anything he wished, but the first sentence had to be: ‘This is a plan for Poland’s return to Europe.’ ‘No one could imagine a united Europe back then, and today here I am, saying that we can unite the world,’ Sachs added.

The fifth edition of the European Forum for New Ideas brought together 1 176 guests from 28 countries. Five plenary sessions, 13 panel discussions and 7 round tables made up over 68 hours of the main program events. Another key aspect of the Forum is its international character. EFNI attendees discussed the issues of the transatlantic partnership (Forum Business Meeting of the Weimar Triangle), the media’s position in the context of growing radicalism (European Publicists’ Forum), transport corridors under the supervision of the Baltic Initiative, and the potential of Ukrainian reforms. The pavilion erected specifically for the occasion on the beautiful Sopot beach hosted outstanding  personalities, including Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Energy Union; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, University of Toronto; Salvatore Babones, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sydney; or Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs.

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