2010 Transatlantic Leadership Forum
Sixteen members of SLLF’s Board of Directors and several of its Advisory Council members gathered with leaders from across Europe in the chamber of the Irish Parliament to discuss the economy of Ireland and the future of the Euro and the European Union. The European Union and the Euro: Prospects for the Future brought together policymakers from across Europe and the United States with experts on the economies and politics of Ireland and the EU. The discussions were informative and spirited.
Dr. John Fitz Gerald from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Dublin painted a hopeful, but challenging picture of the future of the Irish economy. He noted that economic growth had been inspired by universal access to education in the 1960’s and free market expansion in the 1980’s, but now was being stymied by a housing bust and increased pressure on the nation’s social welfare network. He suggested that the Irish government has made the difficult, but correct choices, but would need to continue to make those hard choices to see the country through this region.
Ernst Wehlteke, former President of the Deutshe Bundesbank , argued that the Euro and the European Union would not only survive its recent crises, but would emerge stronger and more agile if we shift our focus from looking at causes of the crisis to working towards solutions. Those solutions should include increased transparency in the international banking system, stronger regulation of hedge funds and a better managed credit rating system that did not give NINJNA (No Income, No Jobs, No Assets) Loans.
The Hon. John Bruton, as a former Irish Prime Minister and EU Ambassador to the United States, brought a unique portfolio to his presentation. In leading a discussion of Europe and the United States, he suggested three key differences that define the relationship: expectations of government, confidence in the use of force to address international challenges and the importance of state sovereignty and autonomy. Further, he noted that the Europeans nations and the United States have a mutual interest in the strength of the European Union. On Saturday, David Marsh of the London and Oxford Group and author of Europe and the European Union offered insights into where the EU came from and where it is going. Most interestingly, he indicated that because of different regional economic prospects, the future of the union may have to rely on two monetary units, one for Northern countries and one for Southern members.
In addition to these highly informative sessions, participants also enjoyed all that Ireland has to offer including a walking tour of historic Dublin, a trip to the countryside and a tour and dinner at the Guinness Storehouse. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was an official dinner in St. Patrick’s Hall of the famous Dublin Council (where England turned over power to Michael Collins in 1922 establishing Irish independence). It was, by all accounts, an amazing conference for one and all.