International Conference organised by Projekt: Polska
March 1 – 2, 2014
During the conference, experts from different disciplines and from different countries gathered in order to discuss the history and the future of the European Union. Economists, politicians and think tank representatives had an opportunity to discuss the politics of the EU in detail: from the labour market, through the foreign policy of the European Union, to the possible developments of the EU 2030 – a wide range of topics were reviewed.
With the participation of a young and numerous audience, interested in European issues, this conference was an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge. Through a review of the EU history in the last 25 years, and especially since the enlargement of 2004, participants could understand the role that the European Union played in the democratic transition of 1989 and in the critical years that followed the collapse of the USSR.
The first panel was dedicated to the current situation of the labour market in EU.
Mrs Kazlauskyte and Mr Filinis, experts from Vilnius and Athens respectively, presented their analysis of the difficulties on the European labour market. Encouraged by many questions from the participants, they explained what solutions seem sustainable in order to solve the current problems. According to Austeja Kazlauskyte, from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, limiting national and European regulations could lead to a simplified access to the labour market for young graduates – their numbers having grown up increasingly during the last ten years – but also for people without qualifications. Boosting the flexibility of the labour market would necessarily lead to an improvement in the unemployment figures in Europe. Kyriakos Filinis, Ph.D. in political economy of the labour market reform, presented an analysis of the structural reasons for unemployment and the difficult environment faced by young people in Greece and more generally in Europe.
The discussion also branched into the role of trade unions, and the speakers identified gaps and inconsistencies in the current trade unions’ system. Mrs Kazlauskyte analysed the negative factors that explain the loss of confidence in the trade unions these days. In her opinion, some union leaders are increasingly disconnected from the realities of the workers. It is essential to reform the trade unions in order to have more representatives.
The second panel was dedicated to the role of the European Union in the democratic transition of 1989.
In 1989, at the dawn of the democratic transition in Poland, the European Union was perceived as an unattainable paradise. Although unaware of the realities of the EU policies, Polish people associated the European Union with a level of development that should be achieved in order to live a better life. Recalling the importance of freedom in the European construction, Sascha Tamm, German expert from the Naumann-Foundation for Freedom (FNF), emphasized the prominence of the liberal values – not only democracy, but mainly economic liberalism – in the different steps that were taken after 1989. Not only in the German reunification process, but also in the development of the countries that had until then been ruled by communist governments. Beyond the desire for freedom and democracy, new governments immediately realized the necessity for a true economic opening. Aware of the efforts and reforms that had to be done in the field of economy, nobody could have imagined that such an enlargement as the one of 2004 would take place only 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After 10 years of European integration, it is uplifting to see that Poland experienced remarkable growth. Speakers stressed that, despite the difficulties that occur in these times of economic crisis, it appears that the majority of Polish people remain pro-European and expect European solutions.
The third panel was dedicated to the future of the EU and its perspectives for 2030.
This panel was held just after the Russian aggression in Crimea escalated. Therefore, it was oriented on the EU-Russia relationships and Ukraine’s current situation. Paweł Kowal, Polish MEP and expert in Ukrainian issues, Marcin Święcicki, former OECD expert in Kiev and member of Polish-Ukrainian Parliamentary Group, and Łukasz Jasina, journalist and expert in Eastern policy, shared their reflections on the current situation and possibilities for the future.
All panellists agreed on the fact that the EU should take a step forward and impose sanctions on Russia. In particular, the negotiations about EU-Russia Economic Cooperation should be stopped and postponed till the end of the crisis. However, some panellists noted that the difficulties faced by the EU and the US might be linked with the Iraqi and Afghan’s interventions, for which international law basis could easily be challenged.
This Conference has undoubtedly been a successful one for panellists and participants. Everyone had an opportunity to express their views and to deepen their knowledge of the European mechanisms. This event was also a great place to launch interesting research on the future of the EU in the international environment in perpetual change. In a warm atmosphere, conducive to dialogue, the most general and specific questions were raised in order to define the contours of the European Union, which must adapt to contemporary challenges, as it had adapted to the changes of 1989.