A guide to the top conference and after dinner speakers on Europe and its politics.
Every four years the nation is gripped by the excitement of the European Parliamentary elections. Unifying the peoples of the continent in a way no sporting competition or war has ever done, we gather around screens and newspapers for vital clues as to the outcome and what it might mean and why we should care. Eurosceptics and Europhiles alike want to know what to expect, as does business.
JLA, Europe’s largest speaker bureau, work with a range of conference speakers and after dinner speakers who offer an insight (both serious and light-hearted) into Europe, EU politics, inter-state relationships, and the commercial and political implications across the continent. With potential conflict to the east, financial collapse in the south, anxiety and uncertainty in the north and west, and states wanting to join whilst established members contemplate leaving, who better to guide us through this labyrinth that guest speakers who have served on the front line and make the apparently dull fascinating.
Paddy Ashdown led the pro-European Lib Dems for ten years and negotiated with key players in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. He provides an insight into international relations and Westminster built on a life in the military, diplomatic and political spheres. Also with a pro-Europe view Peter Mandelson who served as EU Trade Commissioner and makes both the business and political case for Europe.
Whilst on the more sceptical side of the debate, Michael Portillo combines a cultural affection for Europe with a mistrust of European bureaucracy and governance. With the financial implications of the EU and the Euro playing a lead part in any conversation, Norman Lamont served as Chancellor when Britain was forced out of the European Exchange Mechanism and maintains an eye on the situation. More controversially, Nigel Farage, who needs little introduction, delivers an unconventional, unapologetic demolition of European politics from the inside.
Conference speakers delivering a perspective from the continent include politicians and journalists such as former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, now a leading European parliamentarian and a vocal supporter of a federal Europe. Jean-Claude Trichet was one of the most powerful people in European and world finance as president of the European Central Bank and remains an influential voice in global finance. Goran Persson was both PM and Finance Minister in Sweden, and is famed for his successful plan in tackling the country’s huge deficit in order to qualify for European Monetary Union. Ana Palacio served both in the European Parliament, as Spain’s Foreign Minister and as Senior Vice President and General Counsel at the World Bank. Her compatriot Jose Manuel Campa served as the country’s finance minister during the crisis, a professor of finance and economics, he still advices states and institution on macroeconomic and global financial issues. Also on economics, Hans Teitmeyer was president of the German Bundesbank when the Euro was introduced and he remains one of the foremost figures in world and European finance.
The commentariat provides a rich source of guest speakers such as the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau, one of the most respected writers on European business who has covered the region for over a decade at the Financial Times, currently as one of the paper’s Associate Editors. For a look at the workings of the European Parliament and its infamous bureaucracy, the Press Association’s Geoff Meade offers on-the-ground insight into what EU states really think about each other, the power-plays, the politics and the possibilities. He also looks at some of the myths that have grown up around Europe and delivers a surprisingly entertaining look at European politics.
For an even lighter look at Europe, stand up comedian and Mod-in-exile Ian Moore takes a look at the difference between Brits and his adopted France. Germany’s unofficial comedy ambassador to Britain Henning Wehn plays with stereotypes of both nations observing British people tend not to worry when their credit card payments exceed their income, and whilst the Germans revel in efficiency and a job well done, Brits prefer incompetence, indifference, and After Eight mints.
These are just a few highlights from a vast array of journalists, business people, politicians (past and present) and commentators available to offer various and varied perspectives on the politics, economics, society and commerce of Europe. They may not be able to tell you who’ll win on the 22nd, but they will tell you what it means and why it matters.