Of DEF “new realities”, of Mitsotakis rediscovering “Europe” and of recurring challenges

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

For the better part of last week, the imposing scenery of Delphi – at times majestic, at times magical – was home to the yearly event of the Delphi Economic Forum. After an absence of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when this interesting blend of analysis, prospecting, discussion and reading of the leaves in a wide range of issues was banished to virtual or hybrid form, DEF made again of Delphi a real get-together. One marked by the realities of the Ukraine crisis and the ensuing consequences to all aspects of life in our global village – from the comeback of inflation to the reinstatement of the West-East divide. But this DEF comeback was marked in an unmistakable way by the Ukrainian crisis.

“Ukraine” was there in all ways conceivable as a unifying  spin to analyses and forecasts concerning the global economy, investment flows, monetary policy, the future of value chains, shipping; the new reading of climate change as a priority; the future of international relations, the next steps of Europe, the Balkans the Eastern Mediterranean; the morphing back of countries opposing the Russian invasion into “the West”, the new-era relations with China – whatever!

An interesting moment with some potential practical impact was Greek PM Mitsotakis’ exhortation towards his fellow European leaders, to meet the challenge that households and businesses face in this time of cost of living getting out of hand following the Ukraine crisis, lest populist approaches gain ground – once more. This might sound like empty entreaties to ‘Europe”, if one did not dissect the Mitsotakis call as a well-worked proposal of conciliating South European needs with “frugal” North Europeans’ demand that no additional EU funds be raised and allocated to face the fiscal burden – less-resilient countries will be asked to bear. That is, he proposed that the unused balance of Next Generation EU funds – some 230 bn euros worth of loans – be redirected to that effect. Not easy, but doable…

Maybe the only part of the DEF-VII event that remained untouched by the Ukraine situation was the session “Delphi Classics” that ran in Latin and Ancient Greek, one would think as a way to pay respects to the ancient gods and to the timeless values that haunt Delphi. Or else the call to unlock the full potential offered by the LGBTQ+ community’s full integration in economic and social life.

Were one to try and distill an end-product of the DEF VII event, one would most probably end up with a feeling that dealing with unpredictability would now be the way ahead. Either in the form of known unknowns: both the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion to Ukraine fall under this heading; as they were “there to see” for all, whatever astonishment they were met with once they surfaced like monsters of the deep. Or then in the form of unknown (or: unmanageable) unknowns: under this heading one would have to deal with the kind of reactions such events bring forth in social or political attitudes – or of the deeper, psychological sort.

What will DEF VIII consist of? The question is real.