Europe after Brexit: one of the key issues at Gaidar Forum

The panel discussion, Europe after BREXIT, took place on the first day of the Gaidar Forum 2017.

The discussion was attended by Chief Economics Commentator of The Financial Times Martin Wolf; Vice-President of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff; President of Václav Klaus Institute and former President of the Czech Republic (2003-2013) Václav Klaus; Director of the Centre for Globalization and Governance at the NOVA School of Business and Economics Jorge Braga de Macedo; President of the European Forum Alpbach and former  European Commissioner for Agriculture and Fisheries (1995-2004) Franz Fischler; and Director of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) Daniel Gros.

The session was moderated by Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of Russia in Global Politics magazine who said that the changing political landscape in Europe is to a certain  extent the result of Brexit.

The experts used the discussion platform to explore the current situation in the euro area and to debate on its near future.

Martin Wolf of The Financial Times began by listing some of the political and economic reasons for Brexit, including the financial crisis and the fact that about a third of the UK population did not share the EU’s stance on many issues. According to Mr. Wolf, efforts should have been made to support the everyday stability and prevent populist sentiment.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff fully supported this view, adding that Brexit was a unique event, because no country has yet withdrawn from the EU, and this should serve as a wake-up call for the euro area authorities. “But at the same time, Britain has not left its island, it still is 30 kilometers away from France and our economies are still integrated,” he concluded.

Former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the outcome of the Brexit referendum had actually filled him with joy, and added that the central question was Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, not migration problems or something. “I think it will turn a new page in the history of the euro area,” he said.

Globalization and engagement in international integration are important for Europe at this stage, Jorge Braga de Macedo noted. “I hope that the euro zone will survive,” he said.

Former European Commissioner Franz Fischler fully agreed with Mr. Klaus, adding that, although many different decisions are being made in the euro zone now, their weight and importance have been declining. “Europe needs to awaken as soon as possible,” he said.

The last speaker, Daniel Gros of the Centre for European Policy Studies, gave a brief vision of the economic situation in Europe. He noted that, from the economic point of view, the euro area is even in a better position than was planned when it was created; however, it is experiencing some problems with its image. He also mentioned significant demographic changes in Europe. “On the whole, the European economy feels good today,” the speaker concluded.

The experts concluded during the discussion that Brexit was a unique event in the modern history of the euro zone. It should be clearly understood that qualitative changes are needed to avoid similar situations.


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