Between April 29 and 30, at critical times for Europe's most pressing strategic and economic challenges, Aspen Institute Italia has hosted an International Conference in Berlin under the title Europe in the G20 World.
Key contributors included: Wolfgang Schauble the German Minister of finance, GiulioTremonti Minister of Economy and Finance of Italy and President of Aspen Institute Italia, JacekRostowski the Polish Minister of Finance, Mircea Geoana, President of Aspen Romania and the Romanian Senate, Lorenzo BiniSmaghi Member of the Executive Board Europea Central Bank, TommasoPadoaSchioppa, President Notre Europe, Josef Joffe Publisher of "Die Zeit", William Drozdiak President American Council on Germany, FerdinandoBeccali-Falco, President and CEO of GE International, Jean Pisani-Ferry Director Breughel Foundation, Mario Monti President of "LuiggiBocconi University" Milano, Thomas Mirow President of EBRD, Alessandro Profumo, CEO UNiCredit Group, Daniel Gros Director CEPS Brussels, etc. Participants in the International Conference were a diverse group including government, academic, and business representatives as well as reputed journalists and analysts from i.a. Italy, Germany, France, Russia, China the US, Romania, Poland, Spain.
Aspen Romania was represented by its president Mircea Geoana, President of the Romanian Senate. President Geoana has opened the session Positioning Europe: building a working triangle with the US and Russia. Some of the important questions raised during the panel include: How to adapt to a life after the old Atlanticisim: a Post-American Europe and a Post-Atlantic US? Starting form the challenge in EU-US relationship brought about by pervasive global forces as well as the acute impression of a Pacific centred policy perspective in Washington; Do we really need a European security architecture; Energy security: common issue or divisive issue?; Re-nationalization in Europe: the post-Lisbon paradox?
The conference was introduced by a general discussion asking a basic question: in the new international balance, Europe is destined to lose its relevance? Beyond the major international trends that reduce the weight on the EU (demographics, for example), we have identified various internal causes that limit its potential: first the difficult cohabitation of national prerogatives and the Brussels authority, and then the delicate relationship between the enlarged EU-27 and the 'deepening' of integration (although there is a broad consensus that the enlargements were necessary).
In other words, a purely deterministic reading of the current trends (the rise of Asia as a result of an inevitable decline of Europe) is not convincing. If Europe would reform itself and apply at the global level its particular model of "hybrid" governance, substantial comparative advantages would appear. Again, the problem is that only a more united will be recognized by other actors as a real interlocutor.
The central part of the discussion, dedicated to the implications of the Greek crisis and the future of the Euro, was opened by Wolfgang Schäuble and GiulioTremonti. Minister Schäuble gave details of the approach and focus to explain the positions of Germany, with the need to balance short-term cohesion of the Eurozone and its strength in the medium and long term: in this sense, the preservation of the Euro passes for compliance with the rules. The assessment of most participants was that a solution to the crisis in Greek now seems likely in the short term: crisis management based on cooperation between IMF and EU will work, but in the absence of basic reforms in the euro-zone management (including the creation of a Stabilisation Fund) will remain on the table the structural problems that this acute crisis has highlighted. The way to address and prevent such issues in the future is in fact to develop tools and procedures ex ante - and thus not only reactive - that make it clear collective commitments.
Other participants stressed that the political principle of solidarity is central to this debate, and goes even beyond the formal commitments made by members of the Eurozone. A certain degree of solidarity is necessary due to the high degree of interdependence between the economies of today and the extraordinary speed of possible negative effects: whether it is valid or not, this principle would reduce time and costs of the crisis in Greece.
In his keynote speech, Minister JacekRostowski illustrated the characteristics and specific policies that have enabled Poland - like some other new EU members - to respond better than other European countries to the economic and financial crisis. A strongly supported conclusion was that a sustainable and effective response to the crisis in Greece became a precondition for increasing the international credibility of the EU as a whole. Only from an internal solidarity can Europe have a significant role on the global stage. According to some participants, the current problems the Euro area might be a passing phase, followed by a strengthening of economic and monetary union and its fundaments in macroeconomic policy as well as political. A more solid integration could therefore come from this crisis: this is one of the hypotheses discussed.
The argument has emerged that the financial crisis has actually reduced the gap between major economic areas, with an increase in U.S. saving and a partial shift towards domestic demand of China (thanks to one of the most effective stimulus packages adopted), but was so far a readjustment largely spontaneous and not enough. To become a structural realignment, these trends need to become agreed policies - which are already discussed in the G-20 but remainsat the national level, difficult to implement.