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Founder's letter

A New ‘CEED' is born: A New Alliance for Central and Eastern European Development (CEED)

There is an old saying that goes like this - never let a good crisis go to waste. That means it is an opportunity to do important things you would not or could not do before.

I write at a time of crisis largely created by the West to invite you to join with me and a small select group of business leaders like yourself to create a new enterprise Solidarity movement for the second decade of the 21st century at the heart of Europe, where social entrepreneurs like you and me across Central and Eastern Europe − committed to democratic values, market freedoms and innovation, just like the activists in my country and yours of the 1980's − join forces to create a new leadership alliance dedicated to promoting free, flexible and competitive markets that produce improved living standards and new wealth.

Starting many years before the 2004 EU accession of our countries, social entrepreneurs like you and me invested our private capital, energy and enterprise at home, working with governments where we could and Western partners, to transform our economies, modernize our markets, and build up the democratic machinery of government. We learned a lot and also contributed a lot to the emergence of ‘New Europe' and the empowerment of our people and quality of our institutions. We share a common past and shared future that is of our own making and distinguishes us at the heart of Europe from any other place in the world.

Now, in 2011, a time of international crisis brings with it a moment for regional opportunity -enterprise solidarity - for us at Europe's hub. I am convinced we have not just an important role to play but an obligation as well to ‘pool' our talents, powers of leadership, and experience of risk and reward to once again drive transformation and resurgence—for our region but also for our friends in the East as well as Old Europe to the West. We know we can teach them a lot just as we continue to watch and learn from them.

A recent article in the Economist magazine (March 20) summed up the shared situation and ‘test' we face as business leaders and citizens of former communist countries well: "Through luck, judgment and friendly help, eastern Europe has staved off disaster. But to catch up on what the region missed when it was behind the Iron Curtain remains a mighty task."

The new enterprise Solidarity 2010 movement for regional development and growth that I am proposing to create in partnership with you is modelled and builds on the so-called BRIC countries for investment, output, reform and job creation for the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004. CEED, with your help, has the potential and promise to outperform BRIC and in the process bring new attention and renewed business and economic activity to our region.

I propose to call our new partnership, which will be underpinned by mutual interest and common cause, CEED—because we as business leaders in the region will be focused on improving market liberalization, innovation and competitive advantage, and where the D represents development, it represents not just economic and institutional development but also social advancement for our 75 million citizens as well.

That ‘D’ for development is a vital symbol and dimension for the further and future growth of our economies and countries. CEED, like the 1980s Solidarity movement and similar collective action that ended communism and paved the way for democracy and free markets, will become a model for renewal and resurgence, not just in the region but also as examples of entrepreneurship for east and west.

I quote again from the Economist magazine (March 20), ‘The east European economies, for all their faults, have shown more flexibility in both labor markets and in what they produce than have many older EU members. Greece and the other Mediterranean countries in the euro area-Spain, Portugal and even Italy-nowadays seem to be sicker than ex-communist Europe. They should look east for a cure.'

The so-called ‘PIGS’, Greece included, are in real trouble and risk dragging down further the euro, our currencies with it and indeed all of ‘Old Europe’. It is our job and shared responsibility (we who have learned and benefited in the past from our western neighbours) to first of all protect ourselves from further ‘contagion' and at the same time to make the reforms and changes that will strengthen us collectively and show outsiders what we can do when we work together.

So if the story-line for 2008-9 was one of recession, bailouts and crisis, then the story in 2010-11 for our region, according to figures being forecast by the EBRD, is for accelerated growth, stronger foreign investment and greater job creation, all key drivers for CEED.

CEED will be guided by the values and spirit that animated Solidarity in the 1980s and helped keep our countries and companies resilient in the face of unprecedented challenges and disruption these past two years. We will be guided by five core principles:

  • Entrepreneurial problem-solving
  • Innovative and competitive development
  • Market-based public-private solutions
  • Social investment and technology transfers with a emphasis on ‘green'/renewables
  • Rules-based adherence to the highest corporate governance and public standards

CEED's mandate and mission will be much bigger and broader than just producing reports and organizing seminars with interesting partners in Western capital cities. We will aim to speak with one voice, to become champions and advocates not just for the communities we represent but for the region as a whole. So the creation of CEE-D represents not just renewal at home but also nation-building across the 10 EU countries who share our history and destiny.

CEED is also being formed at a time just months before Hungary takes the EU Presidency in January 2011, to be followed 6 months later by my country.

It is our further intention and ambition to become an incubator of ideas and laboratory for innovation based on our shared experience and individual record, because the circumstances and outcome of the crisis have been different for each of us and the countries we come from. That is an important message for us to help our Western colleagues and governments understand, where too often in the past we have been victims of conventional thinking and stereotypes when it comes to how we are seen, what is said and reported about us, outside the region.

The formulation and delivery of new ideas, new and different attitudes, approaches and directions, combining the best from each of us and our collective achievements, is also a legacy of Solidarity, and will become CEED's mantra for further and greater development. I am also eager to talk to each of you about creating a new fund and award for innovation in the region, where CEED would identify and organize talent searches for solutions to social and economic problems, and honour individuals and institutions that showcase the best and brightest of a new generation.

Jan Kulczyk, Ph. D.