John Moore hosted the CRCE's 2006 conference, "The Problems for Post-Communist Countries in the Context of the European Union", at the Vila Bled. Beautiful weather, an Alpine panorama and a lake warm enough for swimming welcomed guests from a dozen countries; old friends and new acquaintances in equal measure.
Professor Victoria Curzon Price was the first speaker, talking on the "Scope for further privatisation in Old Europe with lessons for New Europe". This presentation, with the following discussion, covered subjects including; the importance of giving countries the freedom to make their own mistakes; the erosion of privacy that has occurred in all countries, save her own Switzerland; why some small countries manage to become so rich.
Later speakers (Krassen Stanchev of Bulgaria; Tim Congdon of the UK; Raul Eamets of Estonia; Jan Winiecki of Poland) followed Victoria's lead of acknowledging the vital importance of establishing the rule of law as a precursor to developing a successful, prosperous society.
The final session, "Progress Reports from Transition Countries", perhaps proved the most educational. Sadly, observations of the progress – or lack thereof – was often not the cause for optimism. Matej Kovac of Slovenia, Sebestyén Gorka of Hungary, Miroslav Prokopijevic of Serbia and Natasha Srdoc and Joel Samy of Croatia were in agreement that reforms in their respective countries had been hindered by a lack of political will, resulting in often superficial, insufficient progress towards free-market societies. Sebestyén concludes the current protests in Hungary have been the inevitable result of successive dishonest governments, unwilling to tackle the fundamental problems affecting the economy. Petr Mach of the Centre for Economics and Politics, based in Prague, provided a most welcome positive conclusion, following his analysis of recent trends in the Czech economy.
Conversation over dinners and drinks (whether wine in Tito's old Vila, or a green snops in a treasured, five hundred year old house) provided further insight and analysis. Many new friendships were formed.
Tito, should he have been listening, would be turning in his grave.