Istanbul prepares to host WEF summit

Istanbul prepares to host WEF summit

Istanbul prepares to host WEF summit

Stephen Kinnock (L) is seen with his wife in this file photo. Kinnock shapes the WEF Istanbul program. AFP photo

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is preparing to return to Istanbul after four years June 4-6, with a historic summit backed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which will bring together Europe and the East.

The last WEF summit in Istanbul was in 2008, said Stephen Kinnock, the Europe and Central Asia Director of the forum, who is in charge of shaping the Istanbul program, talking to the daily Hürriyet recently about the summit.

“Now we are really happy and excited to return to Istanbul. Turkey’s role on the global stage is very different in 2012,” Kinnock said. A dedicated WEF staff is working hard to organize the organization’s Europe, Middle East and Central Asia Summit.

As one might guess from his surname, Kinnock is the son of famous British Labor Party politician Neil Kinnock, who made a history in U.K. politics, becoming the longest-serving opposition leader. Stephen Kinnock has also been married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, now prime minister of Denmark, for 15 years.
This is the first time the WEF will hold a summit to handle both Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the 42 years of its history, Kinnock said. The main theme of the Istanbul summit will be “Roadmaps for Reform and Growth.”

“The common ground for these three regions is reform. Take a look at the European Union. It has to materialize reforms to survive the crisis and increase productivity,” said Kinnock. “Likewise, Russia under Vladimir Putin’s leadership and the Middle East need reforms to accelerate change and modernization.”

In parallel with reforms, growth and unemployment in these three regions will be discussed in Istanbul. The power of the social media, which the world witnessed during the Arab Spring, and which brought tens of thousands of people out into the streets to protest Putin in less than half an hour, is also likely to be on the table in Istanbul.

Energy is another main subject to be discussed in Turkey, which stands at a point of intersection for energy lines from the Middle East to Europe. “Along with geopolitics, we will be discussing new energy strategies, their contribution to growth and pipelines like Nabucco,” Kinncok said of the summit’s energy agenda.

Kinnock also said Erdoğan supports the event despite the “one minute” occasion in 2009, Kinnock said. Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bağış, who is the chief negotiator with the union, is responsible for coordination between the WEF and the government, he added.

The seven co-chairs of WEF’s Europe, MENA and Central Asia summit are Sabancı Holding chairwoman Güler Sabancı, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, Russian VTB Bank President Andrey Kostin, Italian Eni’s board chairman Giuseppe Recchi, Denmark’s Vestas’ President and CEO Ditlev Engel, National Bank of Kuwait board chairman Ibrahim Dabdoub, and Frederico Curado, CEO of the Brazilian Embraer.

Kinnock emphasized that it was important to attract Brazil, the world’s sixth largest economy, which bids to become a global player just like Turkey, to “this part of the world.” Turkey and Brazil, the two countries which acted together to make the “Tehran Declaration” to prevent sanctions against Iran, are already cementing their mutual ties.

Some 1,000 people will gather in Istanbul for the summit, according to Kinnock, who expects great attention for the summit from Russia. The strategic partners of WEF’s Istanbul summit are 47 world-famous companies, said Kinnock. “We have faced no difficulties in finding strategic partners as Turkey’s unique position connecting East and West is itself very attractive for global companies.”