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Former European leaders offer solutions to eurozone crisis
WKF2012 | 2012.09.17 | File : -

(Clockwise from top) Martin Wolf,
Jose Maria Aznar, Christian Wulff,
Willem Wim Kok, John Bruton

This year’s World Knowledge Forum (WKF) will be offering the session titled ‘Listening to European leaders: How to Overcome Eurozone Crisis’ featuring Martin Wolf, Financial Times Columnist and Chief Economics Commentator as a moderator. Martin Wolf, the world’s most renowned economist, will lead the session and ask former leaders of European countries to provide solutions to the ongoing eurozone crisis. This session is scheduled from 08:00 to 09:40 at Vista Hall on Thursday, October 11th.

Having attendance in former heads of major European economies, this session will be offering in-depth discussions on the ongoing eurozone crisis. Surely, the session will offer you precious time in that this is a rare opportunity to gather leaders of major European economies, which are the epicenter of the eurozone crisis, and Martin Wolf will leads the session by shining new lights on how to surmount this global economic crisis with other leaders from European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The session especially holds significance because it is expecting to produce genuine analysis and ideas regarding the world economic crisis as European leaders will engage in in-depth discussions over the diagnosis and solutions to the global crisis from the perspectives of European countries not the US. In addition, the session will be particularly grabbing audiences’ attention considering contrasting views between Martin Wolf and participating former European leaders. From Martin Wolf’s perspectives, The ‘United States of Europe’ is an improbable idea while those leaders were once committed to achieving the unification of Europe. These contrasting figures and sharp criticism against each other will no doubt make the session more intriguing and be the focus of your attention.

Martin Wolf once said in an interview with Maeil Business News “the ‘United States of Europe’ is an improbable idea. The ‘United States of Europe’ is a logically possible, but improbable idea. The very different histories, culture and languages of the European continent make such integration very unlikely to happen and very unlikely to work if it did happen. The tensions caused by the current crisis make creation of such a politically integrated Europe less likely than it was before. Even if a treaty to that effect were agreed among governments, it seems unlikely that it would be ratified. To put it simply, the eurozone will inevitably collapse. The chances that all members will remain inside the euro are less than 50-50. And if the euro is to survive, Germany will have to help more than it has been willing to do so far.”

Such views are in stark contrast with European countries which agreed to a package of measures to promote European growth at the recent EU summit. Surely, these contrasting ideas and perspectives will be unfolded at this intriguing session and this will be no doubt the focus of your attention.

Distinguished panels in this session include former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar who earned respects by making Spain the world’s eighth largest economy with the adaptation of neo-liberal polices such as offering tax cuts and reducing welfare benefits. In the session, he, as an ardent proponent of the market economy, will be speaking about the need to slash down welfare policies for Spain that is suffering a severe fiscal crisis caused by snowballing sovereign debts. Jose Maria Aznar will be also lecturing on solutions to economic crisis haunting Spain.

Jose Maria Aznar was born in Madrid in 1953. He is currently Executive President of FAES Presidente Ejecutivo de FAES (The Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis), Distinguished Scholar at the University of Georgetown where he has taught various seminars on contemporary European politics at the Edmund A. He became Prime Minister of Spain in 1996, following the electoral victory of the Partido Popular. With the party’s subsequent electoral victory in the year 2000, this time with an absolute majority, he led the country again for a new term. His term as Prime Minister lasted up until the elections of 2004, when he voluntarily chose not to run for office again.

Throughout his two terms as Prime Minister of the Government he led an important process of economic and social reform. Thanks to various liberalization processes and the introduction of measures to promote competition, along with budgetary controls, rationalized public spending and tax reductions, almost five million jobs were created in Spain. The Spanish GDP (Gross Domestic Figures) figure grew each year by more than two percentage points, at an average of 3.4 percentage points in fact, featuring an aggregate increase of 64 percentage points over eight years. Throughout this period, Spain’s average income increased from 78 percentage points to 87 percentage points of the average income of the EU. The public deficit decreased from an alarming six percentage points of GDP to a balanced budget. Furthermore, the first two reductions in income tax that democratic Spain has ever known took place during his two terms in office.

Such Spain is now asking for an international bailout to rescue its debt-laden banking sector. Spain is struggling through a recession and its banks are burdened with bad loans from a collapsed housing bubble. With over €5.7bn (£4.5bn) of debt maturing before the end of the year, Spain’s wealthiest - but also most heavily indebted - region had very little chance of paying its bills without some form of external assistance.

Jose Maria Aznar blamed this devastating situation for excessively relying on populism.

Christian Wulff, former President of Germany, will also join this session to voice his opinion on how to navigate the eurozone debt crisis. He has been noted as a political rival to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Wulff served as the 10th Federal President of Germany, and the youngest ever to be elected into this office. He said he will be discussing on economic solutions to the eurozone debt crisis at the WKF. From 1980 to 1986 Christian Wulff studied law, specializing in economics, at the University of Osnabrück. In 1986, Christian Wulff became a CDU - German conservative party - member of Osnabrück council, and from 1989 to 1994. He was the leader of the CDU. After the 2003 elections in Lower Saxony, Christian Wulff was voted Minister-President by the members of Lower Saxony`s parliament.

As Premiere of Lower Saxony, he took the lead in frustrating the world-renowned carmaker Porsche’s plan to take over Lower Saxony-based carmaker Volkswagen, and successfully led Volkswagen to acquire Porsche, garnering considerable support from citizens of Lower Saxony. Although he stepped down from the presidential post early this year, Christian Wulff is evaluated as a reasonable and soft leader. Concerning the eurozone issue, he criticized at a conference held in Germany last year the European Central Bank (ECB), which has entered a second round of bond buy-ups from heavily- indebted eurozone nations, saying that "I regard the huge bond buy-ups of individual states by the ECB as legally and politically questionable," according to German media Spiegel.

Willem Wim Kok, a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, will be coming to the session to share his ideas about the eurozone debt crisis. “The current economic and political situation in Europe is complex and challenging; there are no easy solutions for bringing it to an end smoothly,” said Willem Wim Kok in an email interview with Maeil Business Newspaper. While admitting that the current situations in the eurozone are not simple, Kok still remained optimistic about the future of Europe. “Indeed, tensions between South and North are growing nowadays and the impact of this should not be ignored. But I am sure that in the end common sense will prevail. Because people will realize that the price they and their children would have to pay for a European breakdown is far too high.”

Willem Wim Kok is regarded as a politician who led reconciliation and cooperation in the Netherlands` society. During his tenure as Prime Minister from 1994 to 2002, he was highly praised for his Third Way and Polder Model philosophies and his success in leading his Purple Coalitions. He was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives in 1986 and became Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister serving from 1989 to 1994. In 2003, he was granted the honorary title of Minister of State. After his premiership, Kok became a lobbyist for the EU and presided over several ‘high level groups.’ He also occupied many posts in industry and seats on numerous supervisory boards (ING Group, Koninklijke TNT Post, Royal Dutch Shell, KLM, Stork B.V., the International Crisis Group and the Anne Frank Foundation). Kok is the current president of the Club of Madrid, organization that promotes democracy and change in the global community.

John Bruton is former Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), who helped transform the Irish economy into the “Celtic Tiger,” one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Bruton will be talking about the Irish economy, which has been witnessing rapid economic growth, and its indication in solving the eurozone fiscal crisis. During his time as Prime Minister (1994-1997), the Irish economy grew at annual average rate of 8.7 percent, peaking at 11.1 percent in 1997. Ireland, which is the first country to get bailout fund, has satisfied the standard of austerity plan by sincerely fulfilling the bailout program.

Before Briton served as Prime Minister, he held a number of top posts in the Irish government, including Minister for Finance (1981-1982 and 1986-1987), and Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (1983-1986). He became leader of Fine Gael in 1990. John Bruton was also deeply involved in the Northern Irish Peace Process leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, under whose terms a conflict of allegiances dating back to the seventeenth century was resolved. In his term as Prime Minister, Bruton presided over a successful Irish EU Presidency in 1996 and helped finalize the Stability and Growth Pact, which governs the management of the single European currency, the euro. Also, Bruton, a passionate supporter of European integration, was chosen as one of the two Irish Parliament Representatives to the European Convention which helped draft the proposed European Constitution. He served as the Ambassador of the European Union to the United States from 2004-2009, and is a former Vice-President of the European People`s Party (EPP).

[ⓒ Maeil Business Newspaper &, All rights reserved]
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