On May 12-13, 2022, some 230 individuals hailing from 39 different countries gathered in Warsaw, Poland, for Atlas Network’s annual Europe Liberty Forum, co-hosted by Civil Development Forum and Economic Freedom Foundation. Before the Kremlin’s invasion, the forum had been scheduled to take place in Kyiv, Ukraine. While the event was successfully relocated, no one in attendance could forget the reason for the change of plans. Audiences heard from speakers and panelists on the opportunities and challenges ahead in areas as far-reaching as our partners’ response to the invasion of Ukraine, authoritarianism in Europe more broadly, government responses to the pandemic, rising housing costs, and much more. Read on for the highlights from the two-day event.
Europe Liberty Forum 2022 opened with a welcome from Joe Lehman (Atlas Network, United States), followed by remarks from Agata Stremecka (Civil Development Forum, Poland), who expressed her firm conviction that next year’s Europe Liberty Forum will be held in a free Kyiv. These welcome remarks were followed by Cornerstone Speakers, whose presentations anchored the tone and themes of this year’s event. Nataliya Melnyk (Bendukidze Free Market Institute, Ukraine) spoke on the ways in which Atlas Network partners are continuing to work for freedom and the protection of human life. Dr. Tom Palmer (Atlas Network, United States) argued for the central role of ideas in the Kremlin’s invasion and why the right ideas must be a part of our response. Zoltán Kész (Civitas Institute, Hungary) addressed the rise of authoritarianism in Hungary, which propelled Victor Orbán into power. Marek Tatała (Economic Freedom Foundation, Poland) explained how Poland has benefited from an expansion of freedoms since the end of the Soviet Era, and Sierž Naurodski (CASE Belarus, Belarus) talked about the future of Belarus and why it must break free of Putin’s orbit.
Concurrent breakout sessions followed, allowing attendees to choose between two panel discussions addressing recent challenges for freedom in Europe. The “Emergency Powers and What We’ve Learned So Far” session featured Ana Fotev (Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies, Serbia), Jonas Herby (CEPOS, Denmark), Daniel Kaddik (European Liberal Forum, Belgium), and Joakim Nergilius (Örebro University, Sweden) discussing government responses to the pandemic, where they overreached, and how they can be reigned back in. Featuring Matt Warner (Atlas Network, United States), Juan Pina (Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad, Spain), and Medeni Sungur (Digimar Institute, Turkey), the “Atlas Network’s Human Dignity Collaboratory” panel discussion focused on how partner organizations are centering the principles of human dignity in their development efforts.
During lunch, Ivan Mikloš (former minister of finance, Slovakia) and Leszek Balcerowicz (former deputy prime minister, Poland; Civil Development Forum Foundation, Poland) joined Lyall Swim (Atlas Network, United States) on stage to discuss “Seeking Peace and Liberty in Europe,” what they accomplished during their tenures in government office, and which situations create opportunities for freedom-minded reformers.
That program then transitioned into the “Keeping Ukraine Free and Independent” session. Sophia Hnizdovska and Sviatoslav Hnizdovskyi (Open Minds Institute) presented their methodology for cutting through the Russian propaganda machine to reach the Russian people with the truth about the Kremlin’s invasion. Nataliya Melnyk, Oksana Kuziakiv (Institute for Economic Research, Ukraine), Alina Poliakova (Economichna Pravda, Ukraine), and Maria Repko (Center for Economic Strategy, Ukraine) joined Dr. Palmer on stage to discuss Ukraine’s future and how Atlas Network partners are already working to ensure it’s a free and prosperous one.
Following this discussion, two more concurrent breakout sessions opened. The first, moderated by Andy Mayer (Institute of Economic Affairs, United Kingdom) and featuring Jacob Lundberg (Timbro, Sweden), Roxana Nicula (Fundalib, Spain), and Christian Nasulea (Institute of Economic Studies Europe, Romania), addressed the rising costs of housing, the strictures of zoning regulations, and the free-market response. Chris Barnard (American Conservation Coalition, United States) moderated the second, where he joined John Hart (C3 Solutions, United States), Carlo Stagnaro (Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy), and Jakub Wiech (Energetyka24.com, Poland) to discuss how Europe can reach energy independence.
The Europe Liberty Awards Dinner capped off the first day of Europe Liberty Forum 2022. Maryan Zablotskyy, member of the Ukrainian Parliament and founder of Atlas Network partner Institute for Economic Leadership, gave brief remarks on why freedom is central to the fight for Ukrainian independence. Author and historian Johan Norberg followed, delivering an address on why it’s more important than ever to continue carrying the torch of individualism against the tide of collectivism and authoritarianism. “I don’t think the Ukrainians are putting up such a brave fight despite them being individualists,” said Norberg, “I think they do it because they are individualists.”
After dinner, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips and Chair of the Board Debbi Gibbs welcomed to the stage representatives of the three finalists for the 2022 Europe Liberty Award: Fundacje Liberté! (Poland), KEFiM (Greece), and Liberalni Forum (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Fundacje Liberté! was named the winner of this year’s award for their annual Freedom Games event, which gathers friends of liberty from across Poland, Europe, and the world.
The second day of Europe Liberty Forum opened with “Breakfast with the Authors,” an opportunity for audiences to hear from Dr. Rainer Zitelmann (Germany) on his latest research into economic literacy and attitudes around the world, as well as participate in a question-and-answer session between Dr. Zitelmann and Dr. Eamonn Butler (Adam Smith Institute, U.K.). A question from the audience spurred discussion on the relative value of continuing to use the term “capitalism” over other less-divisive descriptors like “free exchange,” “free market,” or “entrepreneurship.”
After breakfast, Adam Bartha (EPICENTER, Belgium) moderated a breakout session on “Free Trade in Europe and Beyond.” This panel consisted of Dr. Matthias Bauer (ECIPE, Germany), Glen Hodgson (Free Trade Europa, Sweden), and Victoria Hewson (Institute of Economic Affairs, United Kingdom). They weighed in on how institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the European Union will help or hinder the growth of trade. In a concurrent session, John O’Connell (U.K. Taxpayers Alliance, U.K.), Juan Pina (Fundalib, Spain), Elena Leontjeva (Lithuania Free Market Institute, Lithuania), and Matthew Lesh (Institute of Economic Affairs, U.K.) discussed whether tax reform is a “race to the bottom” or a chance to unleash latent potential. Pointing out the value of gatherings like Europe Liberty Forum, Leontjeva reminded that “ideas cross borders without customs.”
Two more concurrent breakouts met before lunch, “Refugees and Asylum Seekers: What Is the Free Market Response?” and “Inspiring the Next Generation of Think Tank Involvement.” Maria Chaplia (Consumer Choice Center, Ukraine), Mikolaj Pisarski (Mises Institute, Poland), Roman Waschuk (former Canadian ambassador to Ukraine), Marcin Chmielowski (Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation, Poland) lent their thought to the panel on refugees, especially in light of the influx of Ukrainian refugees to Poland. Clemens Schneider (Prometheus–Das Freiheitsinstitut, Germany), Alexander Skouras (KEFIM, Greece), Guillem València Caballero (Institut Ostrom Catalunya, Spain), Lasse Pipinen (Libera Foundation, Finland), and Alexander Zibzibadze (Franklin Club, Georgia) spoke on their experience in the think tank movement and how the market can attract young talent to the freedom movement.
The Think Tank Shark Tank Lunch opened with a brief address from Rafał Trzaskowski, mayor of Warsaw, who described how Poland has welcomed Ukrainian refugees and why it’s more important than ever to defend democratic values in the face of autocracy. The competition itself began with a pitch from Guillem València Caballero, who presented his plan to convince the Spanish government to allow compensation for blood plasma donors. Countries that allow such compensation make up the vast majority of the world’s plasma supply, despite making up just a fraction of the global population, he pointed out. Caballero was followed by Glen Hodgson, who pitched his initiative to approach European lawmakers with a reform plan to allow gig and platform workers greater freedom and opportunity. İsrafil Özkan (Freedom Research Association, Turkey) explained to judges his plan to promote the consumption of alcohol as both a right and a responsibility for the Turkish people. After much deliberation, judges decided to award the US$10,000 grant to Özkan.
Europe Liberty Forum 2022 closed with the final two concurrent breakout sessions. Ellen Saakashvili (Atlas Network, Georgia) moderated the panel “Feminism and Classical Liberalism.” She was joined by Isidora Kolar (Ayn Rand Center Europe, Serbia), Brittany Davis (Institute of Economic Affairs, U.K.), and Justyna Piątek-Pawłowska (Liberty International, Poland) to discuss both the role of feminism in classical liberalism and how to approach gender issues in a public policy setting. At the “Rising Inflation and the Change of Economic Cycles” discussion, Mateusz Benedyk (Mises Institute, Poland), Admir Čavalić (Association Multi, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Medeni Sungur, and William Hongsong Wang (Fundalib, Spain) addressed the causes and consequences of soaring inflation. “We have to remember that inflation and monetary injection is a violation of property rights because money is our private property,” noted Wang.
For more highlights from Warsaw, check out our social media feeds, and be sure to join us at a Regional Liberty Forum near you later this year or at Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2022 in New York City!