Climate policy, funding, electromobility. Important themes of the second day of the European Economic Congress in Katowice

Katowice, 11 May 2016 – The second day of the 9th European Economic Congress (EEC) was devoted to the most important questions concerning the current state and prospects of the European economy. 65 sessions brought together nearly 400 panellists. At the same time, the second edition of the European Start-up Days was inaugurated at the Spodek Arena.

Participants in the second day of the largest business event of Central Europe discussed climate policy, infrastructure investment, investment financing and EU funds. They also touched on issues related to mining and industrial regions, electromobility, and the conditions for further business growth.

A press conference with Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission for the Energy Union, Michał Kurtyka, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Energy and Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament, addressed important issues related to mining and industrial regions in the European Union.

“We have drawn up a new assistance scheme for mining regions that have been undergoing social and economic transformation and we want Silesia and Lesser Poland to benefit from it”, the commissioner said, “We also want the transformation of mining regions to adhere to social justice; our goal is to ensure that their inhabitants are well treated”.

The commissioner explained that the programme would be financed from various sources, including EU assistance funds, but also proceeds from the CO2 emission trading system.

“I take an optimistic view of this initiative. The programme makes it possible to find a place for coal-based technologies in the energy mix and the economies of individual EU Member States. In Poland, we have been working on the implementation of new coal technologies, as evidenced, for instance, by an agreement between Tauron and the Azoty Group that provides for the construction of coal gasification facilities. Another innovative project proposes to extract methane from coal deposits before exploitation”, commented Michał Kurtyka, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Energy, “It is crucial that not only companies become involved in energy transformation and the development of new technologies; an important role should also be played by local communities and governments relying on local conditions and opportunities”, he emphasised.

“Coal will continue to be used as an energy source in Poland for several dozen years to come, there is no doubt about that. Its use, however, will require cutting-edge technologies, such as gasification”, observed Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament, “We want to re-industrialise Europe by transforming mining regions. This is also one of the goals of the initiative”, he explained.

Thursday’s debates also focused on the issue of climate. A panel on “Climate policy – continuations and corrections” addressed the future of the EU climate policy. The session was attended by Jos Delbeke, Director-General for Climate Action at the European Commission, who emphasised the importance of diversifying energy supplies.

“Supply diversification in the EU is crucial for the future. Of course, this applies to various energy sectors, because we don’t really know what the future has in store in the long run. If we look at what’s going on in Asia, or across the Atlantic, we must conclude that the world is increasingly competitive in terms of supply diversification and the strategy of not putting all your eggs in one basket seems extremely important”, Delbeke said.

Paweł Sałek, Secretary of State, Government Plenipotentiary for Climate Policy at the Ministry of the Environment, commented on the participation of the United States in the Paris Agreement.

“Global climate policy is in trouble because of the role and position of the US, but I think that the COP 24 in Poland in 2018 might help save the Paris Agreement. Poland has come up with an idea of how to make the parties stay on board after all. I do not want to reveal the details now, but I believe that it is possible for the US to continue as a party to the Paris Agreement”, Sałek said.

The energy sector was a special focus of the session called “Electromobility and electrical energy”, attended by Michał Kurtyka, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Energy. Panellists discussed the Polish electromobility programme in the context of global and European trends; due attention was also given to necessary infrastructure investments and the role of the fuel sector.

“Clean air is an obvious advantage of electromobility. An electric vehicle does not emit noxious substances, which is important in cities such as Warsaw, where up to 60% of the total pollution is generated by traffic”, observed Kurtyka, “Every year, tens of billions of euros in Poland are spent on petroleum, so its replacement with locally-generated electricity would greatly benefit the economy”, he added.

A panel devoted to “Funding investment and EU funds” was attended by Jerzy Kwieciński, Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Economic Development, and Patrycja Klarecka, President of the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. Panellists addressed the issue of co-financing investments from EU and other sources, put their heads together to identify the most effective methods of acquiring funds, and touched upon the EU framework after 2020.

The Deputy Minister of Economic Development announced that the government had still not formulated an official position on the new budgetary framework (2021-2027), but he emphasised that Poland had certain expectations.

“We expect that the EU budget will not be reduced”, Kwieciński said, “It was designed to enhance the competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole. The current cohesion policy should be continued in the EU”, he added. He also expressed his hopes for greater support to the agricultural sector.

In a session entitled “Investment conditions – a debate among entrepreneurs”, panellists discussed various factors that may have a positive impact on business growth. Speakers relied on their own experience to describe circumstances that attract and deter investors. The debate was attended, to name but a few, by Gérard Bourland, General Director, Veolia Group in Poland, Maciej Dyjas, Co-Managing Partner & Co-CEO, Griffin Real Estate Sp. z o.o. and Tomasz Misiak, President of the Supervisory Board at Work Service SA, who moderated the meeting.

The second day of the European Economic Congress was also dedicated to issues concerning infrastructure investments, especially various joint projects carried out by EU Member States. In a session on “Transport infrastructure in Central Europe and Poland”, the speakers referred to the chief obstacles to co-operation in the area.

The main barriers identified by panellists included different needs, standards and experiences in investment management, as well as lack of a common source of funding. A case in point mentioned during the session was the construction of Via Carpatia, a route designed to connect the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea. Its potential impact on the development of neighbouring regions has still not been utilised. For the time being, only seven regions, or as little as 4% of all regions located along the route, have decided to join the European Grouping of Territorial Co-operation.

“Even though it’s been ten years since Poland came forward with the initiative and despite various meetings at the ministerial level, little progress has been made thus far”, said Julianna Orban Mate, Director at EGTC Via Carpatia.

Michael Gschnitzer, Vice President of Kapsch TrafficCom for Central and Eastern Europe, observed that the problem of poor co-operation on joint infrastructure projects was a besetting issue for the continent at large.

“We have adopted laws, standards and procedures, and yet it often turns out that the interests of individual European countries clash with one another and projects get bogged down”, said Gschnitzer. A case in point is the plan to unify the road tariff system across Europe, which remains on paper despite various attempts to reach regional agreements on the matter.

Przemysław Gorgol, acting Director at the EU Transport Projects Centre, pointed however to several positive examples of international co-operation; for example, the work of directors who manage individual sections of TEN-T corridors or the building of the Rail Baltica train route that goes from the Baltic countries through Poland to Germany.

“Thanks to the concerted lobbying effort of its participants, the project can now count on EU support not only at the planning stage, but also during its implementation”, Gorgol said.

Mirek Topolánek, Member of the Board at eustream a.s., Czech Prime Minister in 2006-2009, commented on the current plan for international co-operation in the gas market. He emphasised that it was not an easy field, because EU Member States were not only different, but also pursued divergent interests.

“Gas co-operation within the EU is a dream that has not come true. There are many internal differences between individual Member States; we are also divided by interests”, said Topolánek.

“Having decided to close down its nuclear plants, Germany can secure its energy supplies in one of two ways. It can expand sources of renewable energy or increase the share of gas in the power sector. This is why Berlin is so interested in Russian gas”, said the former Czech Prime Minister.

The second day of the EEC also featured panels on Polish-Chinese relations and the economic co-operation between China and Central Europe.

Accompanying events included, to list but a few: the Siła Polskich Marek contest; the presentation of the finalists of the Teraz Polska 2017 competition; the results of the poll for the Manager of the Silesian Voivodeship 2016; the awards ceremony for the 11th edition of the Ranking of Responsible Companies; the awards ceremony for VISIONARIES 2017; the Polish-Czech Economic Meeting; and the awards ceremony for the Top Communal Investments competition.

The second day of the 9th European Economic Congress in Katowice also witnessed the commencement of the second European Start-up Days at the Spodek Sports and Entertainment Arena, the largest Polish event that serves as a platform of dialogue between start-ups, corporations and business support organisations.

Alongside presentations by the best young companies, the first of the two European Start-up Days also featured debates concerning, for instance, co-operation between start-ups, corporations and the state, biotechnology, medicine and ecology. The event gave participants an opportunity to meet mentors, experts and representatives of the business environment. Speakers at the European Start-up Days included, to name but a few: Arvind Bali CEO of Videocon; Guy Hilton, CMO, Start-up Nation Central, Israel; Eliza Kruczkowska from the Polish Development Fund; Robert Ługowski from CobinAngels; Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commissioner for the Energy Union, and Mariusz Turski from Business Link Poland.

A panel entitled “How is business born? From an idea to a company. Synergy between start-ups, corporations and the state”, which inaugurated the second edition of the European Start-up Days, was attended by Brunon Bartkiewicz, President of ING Bank Śląski; Julia Krysztofiak-Szopa, CEO of Startup Poland and Dariusz Żuk, CEO of Business Link Poland.

“What start-ups need at every stage is inspiration and motivation. These are our tickets to success. It is important to have faith in what you do”, Dariusz Żuk said during the opening ceremony. He also spoke about important priorities that young entrepreneurs should keep in mind. “It is crucial that you focus on your work. It’s not the image part that matters, but efficiency and results”, he advised.

“Corporations are increasingly eager to tap into the ideas of young entrepreneurs. A promising start-up is one that has no time to waste on long meetings. In corporations, we can afford to spend hours talking about nothing. We can, but they can’t! That’s a huge difference. In addition, start-ups are under financial pressure. We do the same within our organisations when we cut down on spending. Why? Because lack of money is a great motivator”, said Brunon Bartkiewicz.

Nearly 200 young companies applied for this year’s edition of the Start-up Challenge that formed part of the European Start-up Days. The top 100 submissions selected by the jury were presented in Scale-up Alley, a special zone at the Spodek Arena dedicated to business visionaries. They included projects developed by Beta Bio Technology, Sky Tronic and Waterless.

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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

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