Economic recovery in Central and Eastern Europe PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by James Wilson   
Monday, 28 September 2009 05:56
Economic Recovery The speed and depth of economic recovery for the leading companies of Central and Eastern Europe was top of the agenda for the 19th Krynica Economic Forum held early last week.
The Forum drew participants from governments and businesses across Europe, with a strong focus on Poland and neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus and all of the countries of the EU’s new Eastern European Partnership Programme, which is seen as a major achievement of Swedish and Polish diplomacy.

The Forum is now firmly on the EU institutional calendar for those seeking to feel the pulse of this vibrant centre of Europe’s economy and develop their business network in the New Europe.

This year it attracted more than 2000 participants from 60 countries and was hailed by the organisers as a great achievement that bucked the negative impact of the economic crisis. This year there were strong delegations from Spain and Sweden, and the Forum hosted a visit from the first Polish President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek - a native of Katowice and long time supporter of the Forum.

Poland is the fastest growing economy in Europe in 2009, albeit with modest growth in GDP so far this year of 1.1 percent. But it stands at an important strategic crossroads between the developing markets of Belarus and Ukraine to the east and the western European markets, and with a resilient domestic market also in its own right. These factors together with access to a strong regional talent pool of labour, and stabilised prices for locally sourced raw materials and commodities combine to give Poland a competitive edge, which will assist the economy to benefit rapidly from any upswing in global demand.

Speaking at the closing plenary on September 11 the Vice President of the European Commission Gunter Verheugen said, “I believe that the fact that we have enlarged the EU has brought advantages both for the old Member States and the new Member States like Poland in handling the current economic crisis. This has helped us both to cope with the financial turmoil that we are continuing to experience.”

“The economy is no longer in free fall,” he went on to say. “We are seeing some stabilisation now, and some of the EU’s new Member States with sound macro-economic policies like the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are in better shape. Poland has done well, and is now a driver for growth in the EU. This shows that Poland became stronger after joining the EU, and this fact is both good for the country and good for the EU.”

Chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko was also cautiously optimistic, “September 11 lat year  marked the date for Ukraine when the media started to talk about economic crisis,” he said.”The effectiveness of the global anti-crisis measures means that one year on, we can now start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a long haul ahead.”

Poroshenko appealed to Vice-President Verheugen for European solidarity. “We overcame the calls for protectionism in Ukraine, and this has helped to prevent a deeper downturn,” he said.”But we need to get out of this crisis together, and it is crucially important that we complete our work on the negotiations for a EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement, and also liberalise the EU visa regime for Ukraine.”

Commissioner Verheugen voiced full support of EU visa liberalisation for Ukraine. “Ukraine belongs to us,” he said, “It is in the EU’s interest to help Ukraine to come closer to the levels of stability that we enjoy in the EU. We need to have a deepening of relations with Ukraine. The lifting of visa requirements would have pragmatic benefits to business, but would also have a tremendously important psychological effect. I fully support it.”

The Forum closed on an upbeat note, with Czech Minister of Finance Marek Morat predicting that the G20 in Pittsburgh would see a collective endorsement from the political classes that economic recovery was now starting. “The politicians are keen to give a positive stimulus to public consciousness,” he said. You heard it first from the Krynica Economic Forum.

James Wilson is the founding Director of the Brussels based EU Business Council
Last Updated on Monday, 28 September 2009 06:03