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Europe: Crans-Montana Forum Draws To A Close

Crans-Montana, Switzerland; 29 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The ninth annual Crans-Montana Forum in Switzerland closed yesterday, following four days of talks focusing heavily on European economic and political union.

European Commission President Jaques Santer said the forum's nearly 1000 leading business men and women, politicians, and experts had taken to the Swiss Alps to breathe some fresh air into ideas of how best to work in a world he called increasingly confusing.

Santer said that after the fall of communism many business and political leaders thought world economic life would become easier, but in fact he said they are now confronting a myriad of new problems, from the collapse of Russia's economy to the Asian financial crisis.

Still, Santer said he had no doubt that Europe is well placed to meet a process of globalization. He stressed that union is a long term process, and that a single currency alone is not enough to support unity. Santer also sought to assure Euro-skeptics that integration was not aimed at building what he called "a fortress Europe," but in building a Europe open to all.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports that aside from corridor conversations clearly aimed at securing new business, forum participants busied themselves with round table discussions aimed at building cohesion. One such session was on fighting corruption, which everyone agreed was a basic requirement for international credibility and foreign investments.

Grant Taplin, deputy director general of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that in the most recent decade corruption has increased enormously, affecting markets as well as public sectors. Taplin said if countries want to fight against corruption, they must establish market confidence.

Bulgaria's Minister of Finance Muravey Radev stressed that beyond market confidence, definitive rules and regulations against illicit activity were urgently needed. He said such measures for control were vitally important and that fighting crime was the Bulgarian government's primary goal.

Gramoz Paschko, Albania's minister of economy, acknowledged that corruption in his country during the past few years was linked to political leadership, and thus had provoked a kind of anarchy and chaos in the country. He said now Albania has focused on institutional reform and liberalization of its markets in order to reduce fiscal deficits and spur confidence.

A parallel discussion entitled "Towards a Transparent Management of Public Affairs," stressed that good public management constitutes a key element of economic prosperity. IMF Deputy Managing Director Alassane Ouattara said IMF analyses show that increased corruption leads to an increase in taxes and a fall in foreign investments. He said the international community and the IMF would only help governments that have taken, as he put it, "the right way."