On Thursday afternoon, the 2nd east forum Berlin concluded with an impassioned plea to the responsible politicians in East and West to do their utmost to bring about a peaceful solution to the Ukraine conflict and avert the threat of damage to the European economy. Approximately 300 representatives from business and politics from 20 countries gathered for the two-day conference on 9 and 10 April, which included presentations by 16 embassies at their own stands; the forum was organised as a joint project by UniCredit and the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, with the support of the State of Berlin. Ministers from ten countries attended the east forum Berlin, including the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and the Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, who addressed the east forum Berlin at the opening, together with the Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit and a video message from the EU Commissioner Günter Oettinger.
"In these critical times, the East Forum Berlin underlines industry's determination to contribute to joint political solutions by way of common economic interests", Eckhard Cordes, Chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, summed up at the conclusion of the two-day debate. "The forum aims to pave the way for more dialogue and take a stand against confrontation."
Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Head of Public Affairs at UniCredit, added: "The experience and the knowledge shared at the East Forum shows that the only sensible thing to do is to hold parley and negotiate, and that’s precisely what we did during these two days”.
Particularly remarkable was the attendance of Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Pavlo Sheremeta, who both took part in a roundtable discussion on future trade relations in Europe. One of the main causes of the Ukraine conflict was the competitive situation between Ukraine's EU association and its integration in the customs union founded by Russia. An analysis carried out by Berlin Economics, which was presented during the forum, demonstrated that there may be ways of overcoming this either-or situation. Contrary to popular belief, the analysis found that the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia may practise free trade with both the EU and with the customs union set up by Russia.
The central concept of the east forum Berlin and subject of its debates is the creation of a united European economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok. "Both sides stand to gain a great deal from a free trade agreement between the EU and the customs union", said Committee Chairman Cordes. "The EU would increase its exports to the countries in the customs union and the customs union countries would reduce their dependence on the energy sector, while modernising their economy."
Media contacts at the east forum Berlin:
Director of Communications
Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations
Tel: +49 30 2028-1441