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Economic Forum, Europe in the Face of New Challenges

31st Economic Forum Karpacz From reconstruction in Ukraine to sustainable mobility, what was discussed at the 31st edition of the Economic Forum, this year hosted by the city of Karpacz, Poland, from 6 to 8 September.

The EU Commission proposes additional € 5 billion of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine

Three days of conferences, over 300 debates and 4 thousand guests from Europe, Central Asia and the USA. These are the numbers of the 2022 edition of the Economic Forum of Karpacz, the most important conference in Central and Eastern Europe that for 30 years has brought together political, economic and social leaders from over 60 countries around the world.

The event, organized by the Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, was held around the theme 'Europe in the Face of New Challenges' with more than a dozen thematic paths, including: the war in Ukraine, security, energy, health care, international policy, innovation and sustainable development.

Ukraine, EU prospects for recovery and reconstruction

Although the war in Ukraine is far from finding a useful path to an end, the international community has begun to think about how to organize the reconstruction of the country. With the end of the conflict, in fact, a phase will be undertaken during which it will be necessary to rebuild damaged cities, houses, hospitals and schools. These priorities will go at the same pace with the need to guarantee new opportunities for the development of the affected regions.

The panel 'Reconstruction of Ukrainian Cities and Regions' started from an important assumption: the road to the recovery and the reconstruction of Ukraine also passes through the use of European funds. As explained by Grzegorz Puda, Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, there are two possible solutions in the short term to implement reconstruction, "the first is new European funding and the second is the management of EU funds, that have to be allocated in specific regions". Thinking about strategies to be implemented in the long term, the Minister stressed the importance of "becoming independent of the cost of aggression".

Victor Liakh, Chairman East Europe Foundation, also spoke on this issue, and in his speech he stressed the importance of a widespread management of EU funds, not only at national but also and above all at local level. For Liakh it would also be useful to raise awareness of the issue, with tools such as "e-consultation" and open data platforms. 

Young people for a participatory democracy

General Director Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Department of European Policies, Francesco Tufarelli, spoke about the involvement of citizens, especially young people, during his speech at the panel 'Together for a better future: new leaders and civil society'.

According to Tufarelli, young people should be called to share choices about the future from the age of adolescence, through adequate preparation in school and university, but also through appropriate political initiatives.

If, therefore, the Conference on the Future of Europe "has been an important example of participatory democracy urging especially young people", in Italy the Department for European Policies has decided to "strengthen this exercise, organizing debates in schools, universities and in general in study centres, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commission and the European Parliament".

"Taking advantage of the success of the experience - said Tufarelli - we are thinking, always in collaboration with CNG and CNEL, to involve young people also on the choices and policies regarding the EU funding programmes 2021-2027. The timeline and the overview of the funding opportunities financed for 21-27 make the young protagonists of the future already today", without forgetting that the 'Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza (PNRR)' already "devotes a lot of resources to strengthening education services from kindergartens to universities" and has among its main objectives "the reduction of school drop-out rates, the expansion of technological and linguistic scientific skills of students, teachers and lecturers; the reform and increase of PhD programmes".

The EU's Sustainable Mobility Strategy

One of the most interesting and cross-cutting themes of the entire Economic Forum has been that of sustainable mobility. As we know, Europe is committed to become climate neutral by 2050. Therefore, the transport sector will have to undergo a transformation that will require a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring affordable solutions for citizens.

From the Green Deal to the 'Fit for 55' package, the European strategy for achieving the climate goals includes a number of proposals for revising EU legislation, including in the transport sector. In this regard, on the second day of the event the panel about 'Perspectives of Sustainable Transport in Europe' was held.

Pino Musolino, President of North-Central Tyrrhenian Sea Port Authority, has underlined the weight of the experimentation in terms of change of the models of business. About the ports in Italy, it has been placed in light as each infrastructure is different with its own specific "context, industrial complexity and geographical situation. Some business models can be tailored, but it is important to study the territory and the industrial context".

Both Arnold Bresch, Member of the Management Board, Director of Investment Implementation PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe S.A., and Andrzej Olszewski, Member of the Board Polish National Railways, have deepened the topic of the intermodality like key for the resumption and the sustainable development. The multimodal logic allows passengers and goods to travel quickly, effectively and in an integrated way through a wide range of transport modes, including by air, sea, rail and road.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have a strong impact on transport and connectivity in the EU, and as a consequence there have been repercussions on the entire EU economy. According to Maja Kiba-Janiak, University Professor Wroclaw University of Economics and Business, both extraordinary events have forced Europe to change, and the direction to take would be that of a "reorganization" of the value chain.

Fostering internalisation in Europe

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have severely impacted international trade. During the emergency, global supply chains were disrupted, leading to a debate on domestic production in European countries. Subsequently, the war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions against Russia worsen the situation on international markets. 

During the panel 'The New Reality of Trade within the European Union' speakers talked about the possible solutions that the European Union had to develop to maintain the dynamics of business and trade and security in the production of goods.

In the opinion of Mariusz Jan Radlo, Head of the Department of Global Economic Interdependence SGH Warsaw School of Economics, "Europe has been unable to defend areas of interest" and the priority at the moment is to internalize the production of most products.

By speaking of domestic production, Artur Kuczmowski, Member of the Board Polish-Estonian Chamber of Commerce, shared the position of Jan Radlo, so adding a relevant parenthesis about the need for "solidarity in the European market".

On the national front, Valerio Salomone, Lawyer Rome Bar Association, explained how Italy is committing its resources to connect professions and businesses: "it is important to take up this challenge with the companies of the European Union at this difficult time". In this context, the amendments to the Temporary Framework to authorise Member States to adopt aid to the economic fabric, in derogation from the ordinary State aid guidelines, are extremely important.

The future of the European space sector

The new space economy was the protagonist of the panel 'Can We Afford Further Space Exploration?'. On this occasion we talked about the many fields of application and technologies that today we use daily, thanks to research carried out in space and that we can use in future.

Speakers at this round table were: Alexander MacDonald, Chief Economist NASA; Grzegorz Wrochna, President Polish Space Agency; Volodymyr Taftay, President State Space Agency of Ukraine; Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General of the Norwegian Space Agency; Mauro Piermaria, Head of Innovation and Space Economics at the Italian Space Agency; Paul Flament, Head of the Satellite Navigation Unit Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS), European Commission.

Among the topics of interest were the critical issues of the space world - including the interaction between sustainability and space waste -, the need to have a greater contamination between the world 'space' and the 'non-space' and the urgent need to direct technology transfer towards real and practical applications.

Ukraine and the EU strengthen their cooperation in digital, tax and customs sectors