From mines, through Three Seas to the glass ceiling. A summary of the last day of the 9th European Economic Congress

Katowice, 12 May 2017 – Climate policy, energy security, the Three Seas initiative, sports infrastructure management, women in business, local government investments and industry 4.0 were but some of the interesting issues addressed on the last day of the 9th European Economic Congress (EEC) in Katowice.

The third day of the international debate on European and global economics picked up on many issues of great importance to the Silesian region. A session entitled “Coal in Europe and Poland” was specifically devoted to climate policy targets and regulations. Invited experts discussed the energy mix as a bone of contention in European politics and pondered over the areas and methods of finding a possible compromise. They also considered the future prospects of black coal in the light of recent developments in the European energy sector. An important theme of the panel concerned the restructuring programme for Polish mining.

Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Polish Deputy Minister of Energy, emphasised that black coal mining had undergone a profound transformation in the previous year.

“No other sector in Poland has made such a huge leap forward as the mining industry. Mines are an efficient tool of coal extraction. We need to keep in mind, however, that conditions in some facilities are getting harder”, he commented, adding that the restructuring process had helped raise coal output from 640 to 760 tonnes per miner. He also announced a new plan for Silesia designed to facilitate the activities of other industries, emphasising that it was meant to supplement, rather than liquidate, the black coal sector.

“The mining sector is frightened by the EU proposal to decarbonise the energy industry, but can count on the full support of the Polish government. We may be swimming against the current, but remember that only healthy fish can do that”, he emphasised.

During a debate on energy security in Central Europe, Aleksandra Gawlikowska-Fyk, Director of the International Economic Relations and Energy Policy programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, raised the issue of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

“The European Commission has taken a different approach to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline: it has proposed a common negotiation mandate. This poses many issues. While Nord Stream 1 was just another gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2 is meant not as an addition to the existing infrastructure, but as its integral part. Unlike Nord Stream 2, Nord Stream 1 was exempt from the EU regulations”, she commented, adding that the decision of Western European consortia to co-fund the pipeline finally makes it feasible.

The changing political environment in Europe and the world provided the context for a debate on the Three Seas Initiative, a new project with a sound political dimension and tangible economic implications. Krzysztof Szczerski, Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, argued that the initiative perfectly matched the ideas of the European Economic Congress.

“We can observe clear infrastructure deficits along the north-south axis and a key approach to address this issue is the Three Seas initiative. Europe has three different gates or windows that give out onto the wider world: the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea. We want to connect these basins with each other with an infrastructure network for energy, transportation, telecommunications and the environment in order to ensure that the countries of Central Europe can enjoy easier access to partners from beyond. Governments need to be encouraged to take action on a supranational level. In the long term, the initiative is expected to benefit entrepreneurs, and politicians will pass the baton to them in due course”, Krzysztof Szczerski said.

During a debate on sports infrastructure management in the context of business, regional promotion and healthy lifestyles, panellists focused on the issue of public image and corporate responsibility.

“Business will never get really involved unless Polish sports unions and organisations increase their transparency. This is not about trying to curb their autonomy; the goal is to improve their management. We offer solutions based on Western models, and sports circles expect them”, said Witold Bańka, Minister of Sport.

 

The last day of the EEC also featured a debate devoted to the “Role of women in business”, which touched on subjects such as the low proportion of women among company leaders in the media and the technology sector, reasons for gender inequalities in promotion opportunities, and the glass ceiling.

“What have you done to be among the 12% of female company managers in Poland?”, Zuzanna Ziomecka, editor of Wysokie Obcasy journal, asked the panel’s female participants.

The speakers shared their personal strategies and examples of how to get ahead in corporate environments that do not favour women.

Kinga Nowakowska, Member of the Management Board at the Capital Park Tandem Group, observed that management positions were more frequently staffed by women, but company boards continued to be male-dominated. “A male-female tandem always stands a better chance of success than a female or male monolith”, she summed up.

The communal investments of Polish local governments and their limitations were discussed during a session entitled “Local government investments – a new perspective”. Important issues included the results of bold local initiatives, strategy-building and the maintenance of facilities built as part of ambitious projects.

“We are gradually running out of funds from current EU subsidies and the new financial perspective will provide us with few, if any, resources. Add to that the prospect of Brexit and we really don’t know what to expect after 2020”, said Andrzej Maciejewski, former president of the local government committee at the Sejm.

Olgierd Dziekoński, former minister at the Chancellery of the President of Poland, pointed out, however, that only 30% of infrastructural investments carried out by local governments relied on EU funds – the rest were funded from local resources, primarily taxes.

“We are not going to build roads and bridges and rest on our laurels after 2020. Everyone in the world, including the rich, continues to build, and so will we”, he commented.

 “I agree that the local government model needs to be improved, but it does not require a complete overhaul. Current proposals, however, shake its very foundations. Examples? Marshals are now going to lose control of Voivodeship Training Centres for Drivers, which will be taken over by Voivodes. When we wanted to join the debate, we were told that we were not a party to the issue. I object to the very manner in which local government reform is being prepared”, commented Adam Jarubas, Marshal of the Silesian Voivodeship.

In his contribution to the debate on the future of local government, Andrzej Dera, Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of Poland, also underlined a need for reform, but emphasised that no debates on the local government model were currently underway in the Sejm.

During a session devoted to “Industry 4.0 – facets of the new industrial revolution”, panellists discussed developments we could expect in the field of technology and digitisation.

“In a competitive league table of industrial production, Poland ranks 15th in the world. Nearly 15% of our manufacturing plants are already fully automated, and the rest have introduced at least some elements of automation. Not bad for a start”, said Jacek Łukaszewski, CEO of Schneider Electric Polska, “The most important change has occurred in the mindset, and changing technology trends affect us all to a greater or lesser extent. We constantly talk about mobility and expect nearly unlimited communication opportunities; cloud solutions enable co-operation between people and devices from any corner of the world; we are able to measure an ever-greater number of physical parameters; and new advanced smartphones come fitted with several dozen different sensors. All of these trends have already been tapped into by industry, and the boundary between what is and what is not considered cutting-edge technology keeps moving as we speak. Vacuum-cleaning robots are all the rage today; 15 years ago, laundry machines and dishwashers were the yardstick of progress”, he commented.

The agenda of the last day of the European Economic Congress in Katowice also featured topics such as culture and urban development, the leisure industry and the drone market.

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The European Economic Congress (EEC) in Katowice is a three-day cycle of debates, meetings and accompanying events, with the attendance of over 7 thousand guests from Poland, Europe, and the world at large. Almost 100 sessions are attended every year by several hundred panellists, including EU commissioners, Prime Ministers and representatives of European governments, the CEOs of the largest companies, scientists and practitioners, and decision-makers who impact on economic and social life in real terms. Among opinion leaders, in the form of open public debate, discussions are held on issues which are crucial to Europe's development.

The European Economic Congress has been recognised as a forum for the most-representative discussions on Europe’s future. The theses from presentations by the most-important participants are often quoted and widely commented on.

The European Economic Congress has been organised by the PTWP SA Group since the first edition in 2009.

For more information on the European Economic Congress www.eecpoland.eu

For more on the organiser – PTWP SA Group – www.ptwp.pl

 

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