Speech at the debate “Growing Europe: The Economic Vitality of Central and Eastern Europe”
Speech by President of the Republic of Poland
Mr Andrzej Duda
at the debate
“Growing Europe: The Economic Vitality of
Central and Eastern Europe”
22 January 2020, World Economic Forum, Davos
Dear Madame President,
Dear Mr President,
Distinguished First Lady of Latvia,
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests and friends,
It is a pleasure to be here with you. I am grateful for the invitation. My special thanks go to the Polish House and our partners – the Polish Insurance Company (PZU) and PKO SA bank for organizing this event. It gives me a wonderful opportunity to talk about my own region, which is the fastest growing market in Europe, and perhaps around the world.
Identifying the sources of economic vitality of our region and potential tools to foster its economic growth has been one of my priorities over the last 5 years.
It is my honour to open this debate along with my dear colleague and friend President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who has been my reliable and active ally in this process. Thank you very much, Kolinda.
It is also my pleasure to be here with friends and partners President of Latvia Mr Egils Levits, as well as Prime Minister of Estonia Mr Jüri Ratas.
Almost five years ago, our joined effort to develop economic potential of Central Eastern Europe resulted in an idea of launching the Three Seas Initiative – a platform aimed at fostering integration of infrastructure and the economy of twelve countries located in the territory between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea.
This geographical closeness, along with cultural affinity, convergent economic interests, as well as similar challenges stimulate us to plan deepened cooperation in infrastructure, energy and economy. The results are visible, as the economic role of Central Europe is on the rise.
Since the nineties, the countries of Central Eastern Europe have undergone remarkable socio-economic transformation, and the region has become an important growth engine for the whole European Union.
The consequence of this spectacular path of development has been our accession to the euroatlantic institutions, including NATO and the EU. As a result of three enlargement waves in 2004, 2007 and 2013 countries of the our region became the members of European Union increasing EU’s potential by more than 110 million people, expanding its territory by 28%, yet generating only about 10% of its GDP. But times are changing.
Today we are one of Europe’s most dynamically developing regions. Between 1996 and 2017 economies of our region have recorded 114% increase in GDP per capita, compared to just 27% in western countries. We are one of the most attractive regions to invest in. Put together our countries represent 1.4 trillion euros of GDP.
Our economies are steadily and constantly catching up with their western counterparts in terms of the most important economic indicators. We are still able to offer relatively low labor costs, strong human capital with well-educated people, friendly tax environment, large consumer market and the best locations for foreign direct investments.
The engine of the economic growth and our biggest competitive advantage is a diversified economy. There are various sectors operating in the region both traditional and innovative, such as: auto industry, IT services, agriculture, wood industry, real estate, food processing, electronics and finance.
As you all know, Poland is the largest economy among the Central Eastern Europe states and one of the European growth champions. I am very proud that during my term as President, my country was able to join the club of EU’s largest economies with a GDP of around 500 billion euros.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite all positive developments, countries of the Three Seas still face the economic and infrastructural backlogs that require significant investments.
According to the surveys, the investment needs for the modernization of the transport, energy and digital infrastructure in the twelve countries of Central and Eastern Europe require over 1 trillion euros. The Three Seas Initiative is our response.
Being one of a co-founder of this platform, I am strongly convinced that this instrument will foster economic convergence of the region with the western part of the European Union. This is already happening through developments in infrastructure, economic and social cooperation and interconnectivity.
Three Seas countries combine high growth with high stability. Therefore investors can achieve high yet safe rates of return from their investments. Our strategic goal within the Three Seas Initiative is fostering the development of the North-South communication, road and rail networks, inland waterways, energy interconnectors and digital infrastructure (fibre-optic networks, 5G networks, e-commerce logistics hubs).
This goal cannot be achieved without the participation of private capital. That is why, last year, as a result of successful cooperation of development institutions from Poland, Romania, Czech Republic and Latvia, Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund was established to bring together both public and private investors. Its capital will be used to co-finance priority infrastructure projects in the region.
The Initiative and the idea of strengthening our cooperation meets with growing interest of business entities. Last September during the Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdrój, so-called “Polish Davos”, a joint stock exchange index CEEplus was created. The collaboration of the Warsaw Stock Exchange and other local stock exchanges opened the region to the companies and investors from all over the world.
I would like to focus your attention on yet another instrument of boosting cooperation in the region, that is being established today. I am talking about the “Growing Europe Business Council”. Its role is to promote the Central and Eastern Europe as an attractive place for investments and support economic activities in the CEE region.
I am very proud of these initiatives. The Fund, the CEEplus index, and the “Growing Europe Business Council” represent a modern business model introduced by the Three Seas countries. This is how we see economic growth of our region. This is a vision that is shared by our strategic partners.
Last, but not least, I want to express my gratitude to Estonia, who is organizing the 5th Three Seas Initiative Summit in Tallinn this June. Mr Prime Minister, good luck with the preparations. You can count on us. I hope to see you all in Tallinn.
Thank you very much.