The inaugural Concordia Europe Summit ran June 6-7 in Athens. Launching the star-studded event, Concordia’s founders, Nicholas Logothetis and Matthew Swift, said Greece was a natural venue for the organization’s first Europe Summit and left open the possibility that it might become a recurring annual event hosted in Greece, although Concordia’s much larger “Annual Summits” are normally scheduled to coincide with the launch of the UN General Assembly in New York each September, filling a vacuum left by the now defunct Clinton Global Initiative.
Founded in 2011, Concordia is a U.S.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to enable public-private partnerships to create a more prosperous and sustainable future. As equal parts convener, campaigner, and innovation incubator, Concordia works to build cross-sector partnerships for social impact by leveraging its network of business, government, and nonprofit leaders.
The overarching theme that emerged in many sessions was a deep fear of the impact of a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from global affairs under the Trump Administration. Greek President Pavlopoulos expressed the hope in his June 6 welcoming address that the U.S. would not move to rapidly disengage globally on critical issues, but made it clear that the European Union was prepared go it alone on climate change, (where it already leads), if the U.S. wasn’t present.
The Barroso files
The first day of the Summit focused heavily on EU-related issues. A “fireside chat” June 6 with former EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (currently Non-Executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International), about EU-US relations, was extremely revealing and included nuggets we may not hear more about until he writes his book:
–Some are worried about the lack of US transatlantic commitment at the present time, and many would clearly desire a deeper NATO commitment from Washington and somewhat less friendship with Putin.
–President Trump is not the only American leader to have pressed Europe to increase defense spending under the NATO framework.
–“Brexit was a mistake,” but the European integration process has not stopped.
–Macron’s recent victory in France was important victory over populism by a pro-European informer
–Barroso recalled that once Brexit is complete, France will be the only EU member with a permanent UN Security Council seat (a P5 member). This is critical for the EU.
–Europeans need a sense of ownership in their system, and EU leaders need to stop blaming the Commission for everything that goes wrong.
–Barroso has never doubted Germany’s commitment to Europe and the Euro.
–Italy’s extremely creative approach to crisis management politics is impressive. Barroso thinks Italy is rich enough to manage its own banking system bailouts.
–Turkey is “the elephant outside of the room.” Neither Ankara nor Brussels are ready for another round of accession talks, and there are serious questions now about the future of pluralism in Turkey. That said, the Turkey-EU deal on refugees is working.
–On Greece, Barroso confirmed the IMF was brought into the Troika mechanism on Germany’s insistence. He said Berlin saw the Commission as too soft on the countries in trouble at the start of the crisis but that it also needed the IMF’s wide experience in bailouts as a guarantee mechanism.
–The primary danger point for “Grexit” was around the November 2011 G-20 Summit in Cannes. At that time, the contagion danger was still substantial, and Barroso worried Portugal could rapidly follow Greece into default if the process started.
–Grexit risk has largely subsided, but Greece is not completely out of the woods and a new reform-oriented government is seen as the next best step for Greece.