The Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies


Newsletter #60

Summer 2017

The Pučnik Institute Prize for Ljubo Sirc
The 10th Pučnik Symposium was held in March by the Institute Dr. Jože Pučnik (IJP) together with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung to commemorate the birth of Dr. Jože Pučnik, who was a Slovenian dissident, scientist and father of the Slovenian independent state.

At the Graveside

Matej Kovac giving his acceptance speech for the Pucnik Prize

After the symposium, the Pučnik Prize was presented posthumously to Dr Ljubo Sirc for his contribution to the development of democracy in Slovenia. The Prize, presented by Dr Andreja Valič Zver, was accepted by his friend, the economist Matej Kovač. Ljubo Sirc was nominated or the award by Lisl Biggs-Davison, the executive director of the London Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies, founded in 1983 by Dr. Ljubo Sirc.

Andreja Valic Zver writes: “The Pučnik Symposium was a great success. The hall was crowded, fruitful discussions took place. At the gala ceremony at the end of the day I gave a speech on Ljubo's life and work, and Matej Kovac gave an excellent speech on his friendship with Ljubo”.

Lisl Biggs-Davison’s Nomination:
“There could be no more appropriate person to receive the award as like Dr Pucnik Dr Sirc stood up to communist totalitarianism in his country, for which he was imprisoned. He spent the majority of his life in exile in Britain, where he continued to fight against communism in those countries afflicted by it. He was one of the few people to understand and believe in free markets, in a time when socialism was popular, fashionable and in the ascendancy. Together with a few colleagues such as Ralph Harris of the Institute of Economic Affairs, he disseminated these ideas in books, journal articles and in his lectures at the University.

He founded the Centre for Research into Communist Economies (later, Post-Communist Economies). There was no other institution quite like it. With remarkably little funding (never from the state), and a tiny staff, Ljubo Sirc and his Centre became remarkably influential. Ljubo Sirc met young reformers throughout Eastern Europe and Russia and encouraged them. Later, most became ministers in their respective governments.

Simultaneously, he fought for his family's confiscated property, thereby illuminating the fundamental importance of private property, together with the rule of law.
It was my privilege to work with him for over 30 years. Ljubo Sirc was a very courageous brave and a most remarkable man.”

Farewell to Good Friends

Jan Winiecki
(21 June 1938 -7 June 2016)

Jan Winiecki remains one of the leading Polish economists of the late 20th century and the early 21st century, who made a lasting international contribution to comparative economic studies. His work has been widely recognised, andThe Distorted World of Soviet-Type Economies (Routledge, 2013), became a classic text that explains the functioning of the command economy, and offers a thorough critique of the system; a critiquestill relevant as Marxist ideology continues to appeal to some economists and politicians in the West and elsewhere. At the same time, his research shifted gradually from the analysis of the Soviet system and its dynamics, to the wider issue of the economic role of formal and informal institutions, and therefore also to questions on sources of development and growth. Winiecki delivered his final statement on development in Shortcut or Piecemeal: Economic Development Strategies and Structural Change,Central European University Press, 2016.

His first publications in the West and in CRCE in particular appeared in late 1980s’, when Winiecki worked at the newly restored Economics Department of the Lublin Catholic University, a small, independent place, which nevertheless became a forum where privatisation and liberalisation was discussed by leading Polish economists, anticipating the final implosion of the Soviet economic system, which happened in 1989. At that time, publishing under his own name in the West required some degree of courage, something that Winiecki never lacked.

Shortly after the Soviet system fell apart, Winiecki came to London to work at the European Bank for Reconstruction of Development (EBRD). At that time he became involved in some critical debates on the liberalisation policies, or as it became to be known, in debates on the economic transition. Returning to Poland, he shared his activities between Warsaw and Frankfurt on the Oder, where he joined the faculty of the Viadrina University, restored in 1991 in the former East Germany.

In Poland, he helped to establish the economic faculty of the school that became one of the few most successful private outlets of higher education: the Higher School of Informatics and Management in Rzeszów. There, he trained a generation of economists who, alongside IT specialists, helped to turn the city located in a remote corner of South East Poland into a high technology hub. Thanks to Winiecki, the school also became a forum for economists interested in overcoming the Soviet centralising heritage and in restoring the conditions of economic freedom.

Between 2010 and 2016, in recognition to his contribution to economic policy and economics, Winiecki was invited to join what is probably the most prestigious and influential body of the Polish economists, that is the Monetary Policy Committee.

Jan Winiecki was a long-standing friend and contributor to the CRCE activities. His sharp wit and uncompromising thorough assessment of policies, in light of their implications for human freedom was something that always true attention to his contributions. The CRCE annual seminars in Slovenia would not be the same without him. CRCE was also lucky to be able to publish his articles in Post-Communist Economies; they remain amongst themost cited.

Professor Tomasz Mickiewicz

At the Graveside

Helen Szamuely
(25 June 1950-5 April 2017)

Helen was a dear friend and a great supporter of the CRCE over many years. We also had plenty of adventures in our Eurosceptic activities, and it is rather splendid that she lived to see last year's Referendum result.

The Centre's first Chairman, the late Lord Harris of High Cross, introduced me to Helen after she had translated from Russian Moving the Mountain by Abel Agenbegyan. Interestingly, some years later Professor Agenbegyan provided CRCE and its Russian partner, ICRET, with its first Moscow office.

Helen was co-author with Bill Jamieson of the CRCE book on EU enlargement A 'Coming Home' or Poisoned Chalice. This book, published in 1998, caused quite a stir, as universities and institutes would never think of criticising the EU.  In fact co-author Bill was astonished we would publish this critique.  He was the Economics Editor of the Sunday Telegraph at the time and very popular with the readers. He wrote about the book one Sunday and it was sold by the Telegraph bookshop, which kept requesting box after box.  Bill was astonished and remarked that people must have confused it with a cookbook!

She contributed to many CRCE meetings, some of which were published in the Briefing Papers series. Do read the excellent obituaries of her in the Daily Telegraph (15.5.17) and The Times (21.4.17). Both capture Helen so well. She will be remembered not only for her incisive comments but also for her delicious Central European Snacks Unlimited,the most popular part of the CRCE's events. She died far too young and we miss her. We send deepest condolences to her daughter Katharine.

Lisl Biggs-Davison

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