EUROPE'S CONSERVATIVES GRAPPLE WITH THE ECONOMIC CRISIS...In Budapest I am participating in and speaking at a two-day, invitation-only conference, "The Crisis in Europe: Re-inventing EU Policies Delivering Growth and Fighting Poverty." This conference is hosted by the European Ideas Network, a think tank associated with the center-right European People's Party (which holds the largest number of seats in the European Parliament). In other words, these are the leading conservatives in Europe. Yet interestingly these conservatives do not sound much like the Republican Party in the United States. Whether the issue is healthcare, social spending in general, the economy and the current crisis, military interventions, immigration, security or virtually any other major issue with which governments deal today, these "conservatives" sound remarkably like their opposition, the various Social Democratic parties in Europe. Indeed, with conservative leaders like Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaking eloquently about the need to preserve "social Europe," the center-right in Europe in most ways is to the LEFT of the Democratic Party. That's why these "left-right" terminologies don't translate well across the Atlantic.
Speakers at the conference include two prime ministers (from Hungary and Belgium), the president of the European Parliament, various Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament, various former European Commissioners (like Obama's cabinet members at the EU level), national ministers, and leaders of a host of NGOs and think tanks. It's quite an impressive group, a broad cross-section of Europe's elected and political elites, and it will give me a clear window into what the leaders of the European People's Party are thinking at this stage in the post-crisis. I will be speaking on a panel about the financial crisis and how it has affected Europe and the US. Given the recent proposals from the European Union, featured in the Wall Street Journal (European version) yesterday to crack down on derivatives, hedge funds, short sales and the like, as well as the recently concluded Basel III negotiations which call for banks to quadruple the amount of its capital reserves as a step towards preventing bank insolvencies, it's bound to be a lively event. Just this morning, pre-conference meetings were occurring in the breakfast room at the Four Seasons Budapest, with hushed whisperings back and forth as the political elites renew the face-to-face contact that no doubt already had been occurring on the Internet and by phone.
—Steven Hill 9:00 AM
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