One of the best ever events of its kind that took place last month in London’s Hellenic Centre for nearly two decades! We have referred to this event immediately it happened (10 Oct 2013) during our 11th of October live interview at SBC TV, but pictures and texts have been lost in perpetuity… Lilian Evgenides reports:
With the Great Hall bursting to its seems and given the importance of the theme due to the five or so years of the unending European and specifically Greek Economic-crisis saga, this was the best time to present such an event and address some home truths. Academics, Bankers, Diplomats, Economists, Lawyers, Journalists, Political representatives, Shipbrokers and Students where the majority of the 200 strong audience.
This British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce annual event and conference was also in collaboration with the London School of Economics’ Hellenic Observatory and the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE).
The European Union – and the Euro-zone, in particular – are today said to be in something of an existential crisis- besides the real world’s worst economic crisis looming in the background. The debt crisis has led to extensive austerity programmes, large ‘bail-out’ loans have been arranged – with more to come, and an unprecedented monitoring of domestic compliance with them is underway. Design faults have been identified with the original formulation of the ‘euro’ and the rules are being altered. Fundamental questions of purpose, direction and values have arisen as a result – together with issues of solidarity and national responsibility. For many, Greece has been seen as the extreme case, but around Europe problems of adjustment are all too evident, in our view, even worse.
Certainly, the southern European countries face major domestic challenges in the context of the current crisis. The conference tried to explore what kind of challenges Southern European countries are faced with, their performance so far in tackling them, and the prospects for an exit from the crisis. It brought together expert speakers with a range of views and experiences. The presentations and discussions shed some light on the Greek and southern European dimension of what is the European Union’s biggest-ever crisis. It is already clear that Greece and the other southern euro members have made Herculean efforts, at much domestic cost. The task now is to examine future scenarios.
The opening address was delivered by the BHCC’s Greek co-president Harris Ikonomopoulos who then invited the Greek Government’s keynote speaker, Miltiades J. Varvitsiotis to tell the audience where Greece stands and in particular its prospects, the effort of the Greek people and the promising shipping field to all intents and purposes. Varvitsiotis also invited international investors to invest in Greece’s excellent human recourses, a really rare species in Europe stressing Benjamin Netanyahu’s point that smart money should be invested in Greece, following Varvitsiotis’ visit to Israel with Greece’s prime minister the previous days. Pity that no one from Greece’s opposition accepted the open invitation, travel to London and tell us his views…
Peter C. Nomikos, the founder and operator of “Greece debt free”, a non-profit organisation, gave an excellent account on the organisation’s activities as did Marcos C. Kiosseoglou, general director of “Reload Greece”, another organisation formed by young Greeks in London just before the London Olympics and still going strong!
Then the first session on “The European Crisis – a domestic threat and a challenge” begun chaired by Prof. Kevin Featherstone, LSE and head of the Hellenic observatory, who recently was decorated as Commander, Order of the Phoenix of the Hellenic Republic medal. Speakers included Dr. Platon Monokroussos, head of Financial Markets Research, Eurobank – an excellent slides presentation; Rudi Bogni, Chairman of Medinvest – an excellent performer with a very down to earth delivery and George Dimitrakopoulos, former vice president of the European Parliament with some very touchy issues.
Few questions followed and same continued all through the coffee break, warming up the audience for the second session’s crucial theme: “Can the Euro-zone survive?” chaired by Howard Rosen, immediate past president and chairman Public Affairs Commission COBCOE. The Speakers, Prof. Paul de Grawe form the European Institute of the LSE, Josef Janning, Mercator Fellow, DGAP German Council of Foreign Relations, prof. Albrecht Ritshl and Athanassios Vamvakidis, MD and head of European G10 Foreign Exchange Strategy for BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, each gave an excellent account to their respective field.
Five questions were enough to trigger a heated discussion leading to the last
session of the crucial “European Banking Sector, ECB and European Monetary Policies”. Interesting presentations by prof. Charles Goodhart from the LSE, our familiar professor Gikas Hardouvelis, Professor at the Department of Banking and Financial Management at the University of Piraeus and Group Chief Economist at Eurobank, who was more than honest with the Greek banks’s stress tests and Constantinos Vousvounis, the general manager Group Corporate and Investment Banking and member of the Executive Board and Management Committee at Eurobank. Six questions where enough for yet another heated debate and whispers that this session as well as the entire event should be televised live down in Athens and or repeated.
Concluding remarks by Harris Ikonopopoulos, prof. Kevin Featherstone and Howard Rosen. So interesting was the event that it continued all through the buffet lunch creating the preamble of a more wider forum to take place; watch this space! The event was sponsored by Eurobank, The National Bank of Greece and EYDAP; supported by Greece Debt Free and Reload Greece; Communicator Sponsors where ELEFTHEROTYPIA, EnetEnglish, now both published by Harris Ikonomopoulos in an effort to turn around X.K.Tegopoulos SA ASE listed media group, Oikonomiki Business life and Sofokleousin, the Greek Financial e-press.
Congratulations to all contributing as well as to the Secretariat of the BHCC and in particular to Janice Bass, not to mention the silent man behind all these events, Harilaos Goritsas the Honorary President of BHCC and the events team of London’s Hellenic Centre.