Aspen Romania Annual Economic Conference on Competitiveness

Aspen Romania organized the 2011 Annual Economic Conference entitled "The Hunt for Red Herrings - Towards an Evidence-Based Approach to Competitiveness" with the aim to continue the series of debates regarding the future of the European economic governance, hosted by the Aspen Institute Romania. The event brought together 150 experts and high-ranking representatives from both the public and the private sector.

The 2011 Annual Economic Conference organized by the Aspen Institute Romania follows the success of last year's edition - "Europe Competitive and Resilient: The Way Ahead for Economic Governance in Europe. An East to West Perspective". The event initiated a substantive debate on the causes of EU's current state and the perceived vulnerabilities of its Eastern members' economies. Also, it gave new momentum to the evaluation of competitive advantages and the role these countries have across the EU economy.
The international conference in Bucharest addressed the issue of competitiveness, starting from the recognition that it is a notion that is as ill-defined, as it is overused. As the conference title states, we are keen to stay away from woolly jargon, aiming instead to focus on the most precise dimensions of this complex topic. With that goal in mind, we have divided the conference into three panels - legislation, regulation, and public policy. We seek not only to bring to light best practices in the area of competitiveness, but also to expose the all-too-frequent "red herrings" that have contributed to associating the topic with endless talk, as opposed to concrete results.

Ideally, the conference and the debates will contribute to the development and the shaping of a new approach towards making Europe more competitive in terms of enhancing its ability to deliver better standard of living for current and future generations. The debates took place in accordance with the Aspen method, on the basis of information material which was distributed in advance to guests.

8:30-9:00                         Registration of participants and welcome coffee
9:00-10:00                       OFFICIAL OPENING
Welcome remarks:         Mircea Geoană, President of Aspen Institute Romania, President of the Romanian Senate
Keynote Speakers:        Leonard Orban, Minister of European Affairs, Romania
Tomislav Donchev, Minister of EU Funds Management, Bulgaria
10:00-10:15                     White paper on competitiveness - Aspen Institute Romania
10:15– 11:45                   SESSION 1: Ahab’s Whale - The European Legal Framework
On paper, the EU has no reason for not being an economic superpower: it has the scale, it has the skills, and it has the money. Its first attempt to translate these advantages into economic advancement and tangible benefits in the lives of citizens, the Lisbon Agenda, was long on rhetoric and short on achievement. In order to avoid confronting its failure, most of the Agenda’s content was recycled into Europe 2020. Worthy though its goals may be, Europe 2020’s future looks none the brighter in the absence of decisive and targeted actions from member states in order to unlock the economic potential of the EU. An examination of the legal framework in the most successful economies – in the EU and beyond – will set off an analysis of the key ingredients required for a jurisdiction in order to have a promising foundation for growth: Is Europe’s failure to reach its potential the result of gaps in its legal framework, or is the application of the existing legislation the culprit? What does a legislative agenda for competitiveness look like?
Chair:                              Vasile Iuga, Country Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers Romania
Luca D’Agnese,
Country Manager, Enel Romania   
Tomislav Donchev, Minister of EU Funds Management, Bulgaria  
H. E. Mr. Marek Szczygiel, Ambassador of Poland to Romania
Varujan Vosganian, Chairman of the Economy, Services and Industries Committee, Romanian Senate
11:45 – 12:00                  COFFEE BREAK
12:00 – 13:30                  SESSION 2: Islands in the Stream – National Regulatory Framework
Contrasts abound across the EU, and not always in a good way. They point to seemingly-intractable discrepancies between the economies that “just work” and the ones that do not. At first blush, the flow of investments is determined by cheap labor and low costs. Upon closer inspection, however, companies’ choice of where to incorporate or where to litigate contracts points towards a more complex answer about what makes for an attractive investment destination. Experience shows that investors do not simply prefer minimalist regulations, but functional ones. They do not shun taxation if they receive value for the money they pay in taxes. At the same time, regulations that work in some economies fail to produce the same result in others. Is the European quest for uniformity counterproductive for the goal of making the EU more competitive? Are there ANY universally-applicable regulations or do they have to be tailored to more specific circumstances?
Chair:                             Alexandrina Gătej, President, American Chamber of Commerce in Romania
Gabriel Biriş, Managing Partner, Biriş Goran
Marius Ghenea, President, IT Fit Distribution
Doru Lionăchescu, President, Capital Partners
                                         Liviu Voinea, President, Voinea Business Development
13:30 – 14:30                  LUNCH
14:30 – 16:00                  SESSION 3: Bouillabaisse - Governments’ Public Policy Framework
The best-intentioned laws and regulations yield no benefits in the absence of well-crafted and well-executed policies to put them into practice. From taxation to education, from permit issuance to insolvency procedures, public policies vary across the EU with a mind-boggling degree of complexity. A discussion on competitiveness is incomplete without examining what works and what fails in the realm of public policies, seeking to identify best practices and the context that brought them into existence. Also, the link between public policy, business culture and investors’ perception creates functional or dysfunctional models. What role does the predictability of a government’s policy plays in supporting competitiveness? Can a government ultimately model competitiveness via public policy beyond the basic legal tax and incorporation framework? What are the education and workforce strategies that work? Can a government via the means of industrial policy effectively influence competitiveness? Finally do large infrastructure investments justify costs with regard to relative competitiveness gains across economies and sectors?
Chair:                              Dragoş Pîslaru, General Manager GEA Strategy and Consulting
Maria Eugenia Barna,
President of the Committee for Budget, Finance and Banks, Chamber of Deputies
Dinu Dinulescu, Vice President & CEO, Forum Invest
Viorel Dobrescu, Director of the Directorate for EU Strategies and  Post-Accession Monitoring, Ministry for European Affairs
Milena Messori, Head of Office- Romania, European Investment Bank
Matei Păun, Managing Partner, BAC Romania
Jean Valvis, CEO, Valvis Holding
16.00 – 16.30                   CLOSING REMARKS

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