Euro-summit in Baltimore

December 01, 1992

An unusual conference is taking place in Baltimore. Some 400 emerging political and economic leaders from 40 European countries are meeting with their American counterparts. They are pondering topics ranging from entrepreneurship, economic conversion, housing and health. They are also visiting sites and institutions of significance in the Baltimore-Washington region.

The American Center for International Leadership, which moved its headquarters to Baltimore two years ago, has sponsored dozens of East-West exchanges since it was founded in 1985. But never anything quite like a meeting where participants cover the whole European alphabet soup of countries from Albania to Ukraine. "This kind of conference wasn't possible until the Cold War ended," says Steven Hayes, the non-profit organization's president.

This six-day conference comes at a time of changes. While the United States may finally be emerging from a prolonged recession, most European countries are still mired in difficulties not encountered since the end of World War II. Some of that continent's hardships were triggered by the American economic downturn. But most of them are consequences of the end of the Cold War era. The European map has been redrawn, economic and political alliances have been re-formed.

In the United States, the end of the Cold War has brought about a sweeping structural change. Conglomerates that for decades thrived on manufacturing arms-related technologies have downsized and refocused their missions. A similar, but even more wrenching retooling is being attempted by countries that once belonged to the Soviet sphere.

Meanwhile, nations that once thought they would show the world a "third way" -- as an American pundit put it -- have been rudely awakened to the realization that their carefully crafted social welfare safety net is too expensive to maintain. Sweden, for example, is trying to figure out what to keep, what to scale down. In neighboring Finland, trade unions that had threatened the country with a paralyzing general strike decided in the end that their members would rather pay higher taxes than accept skimpier benefits.

As this indicates, there is a lot to talk about during these six days in December. And we haven't even mentioned the problems of the former Soviet Union or the transition in Washington!

If the Baltimore conference can sort out common problems, good. If it can establish useful networks and promote Maryland's trade with Europe, even better. The world is increasingly an interconnected global village, where all the neighbors are affected by what all the others do.

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