31 (126) 2017
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European Forum of New Ideas

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The annual get-together of Europe's sharpest minds, from business and goverment, organised by employers' confederation Lewiatan, took place in Sopot in late September for the seventh time.

A large number of top people came together to discuss key issues concerning our continent's future, in the attractive surroundings of Poland's premier seaside resort.

Among the burning issues was Brexit; president of the Confederation of British Industry, Paul Dreschler was one of the panellists to talk about the concrete challenges facing business as the British government and the EU negotiate terms of UK withdrawal. Mr Dreschler, also chairman of Bibby Line Group, parent company of BPCC member Bibby Factors, said that in the national discussion surrounding Brexit, politics would always end up trumping economic issues. The panel also considered the role the media played in the run-up to the referendum and the future of the million of so Poles currently living and working in the UK.

A star speaker at the event, George Friedman, founder of strategic think-tank Stratfor and author of book The Next 100 Years, talked about the prospects of peace in the continent. In his book, he sees Poland as one of the countries that would develop into a regional power, as Germany and Russia both wane in influence. Although he sees war as an innate part of the human condition, he said that he didn't think that Russia would launch an all-out war against Europe in the near future, rather it would continue behaving aggressively and meddling in our affairs.

While an A-list of European politicians and former presidents and premiers gave their views about the challenges facing the EU and the instutional changes required to meet them, the most interesting panels were those that peered into the future.

Tesco organised a fascinating panel – all too short at 90 minutes – dedicated to the future of food. With speakers representing the cutting edge of food production and the latest industry trends, the challenges of feeding the malnurished while improving the health of the overweight in the developed world were discussed. Technological change is coming to the way we produce, process, deliver and sell food, some of these changes will be revolutionary. Matt Simister, CEO of Tesco across Central and Eastern Europe, was on the panel and talked about the responsibility of retailers to fight food waste. Tesco, was the first among all retailers to publicly state how much food was wasted at its shops. He said that its aim was to cut it as far as possible, working with food banks and charities – but also with food producers and consumers (where the most waste occurs) to reduce waste to a minimum. Tesco has stopped multi-buy offers ('buy one, get one free') on food with short shelf-life, he said. Future trends, such as functional foods that have a medicinal element in them, were also discussed.

Situated at the interface between politics and business, EFNI can become slightly introspective at times, but the future-facing discussions looking far beyond today's day-to-day issues are without.

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