Tuesday, October 16, 2007

AmCham CEE regional Forum: Big Biz and Big Gov = Giant Hope

I attended the first AmCham First Regional Energy Forum in Budapest last Thursday night and Friday. Besides an impressive line up of politicians and business leaders, the conference can be considered a good kick off to an ambitious goal. I guess :-( that goal in the context of the conference could be defined as seeing regional cooperation to increase the security of supply in the CEE region. A broad and undefined goal, but I believe the point of this conference was to establish a starting point and work towards more substantive goals.

The region in the context here included Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, and the Ukraine. Now it can be debated what the region is (Austria will be involved next year), but as with all regional attempts drawing boundaries is difficult.

Overall, while there were big speeches the most useful speech was the final one, when many were not in attendance, Monika Michaliszyn, Commissioner of the Polish Prime Minister for the Regional Energy Cooperation for Baltic States, gave a straight forward speech about the difficulties in creating regional cooperation. She talked about her experience of the dealings between Poland and the Baltic states. Her key suggestion was to find a project - any project - and work on it between all regional partners. This will help to build a level of trust and knowledge among the participants. All I have to say is right on. That is exactly what is needed in the region, a clearly defined project that will allow the politicians and institutional staffs to work with each other.

I won't go into detail of the other impressive speakers. I listened to both PM Gyurcsany and Koka. While they said the right things for this audience and the need for greater regional cooperation, their current deeds of destroying the Hungarian electricity market , resulting in a 50 percent price increase for industrial customers and the lack of transparency on the energy markets do little for their credibility. A week ago, I was not this cynical about their efforts, but after looking into more and seeing other comments, there is no other way to be.

So in the end, the person with the most creditability and substantial words were from a person who has been through a regional cooperative project. Let's just hope that the leaders in the CEE region can act together and not against each other - even if they may be Hungarian or Slovakian.