Where.ge 3rd in 2018 Tourism Campaign of the Year (Emerging Europe Awards)

The inaugural Emerging Europe Awards ceremony was hosted by the think tank which bears the same name at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's headquarters in London on 22 June.

No matter where you go in London, even at a fairly small awards ceremony focusing on Central and Eastern European business, it seems that Brexit has a tendency to become the main focal point of any panel discussion or speech.

Günter Verheugen, European Commissioner for Enlargement between 1999 and 2004, spoke on what he sees as the importance of further integration between member states to act as an economic bulwark against the USA and China. "When I spoke to European astronauts who had been on the ISS, they would first say how vulnerable the world looks from above, but they would also say that Europe does not look very impressive". Doubtless mindful of Europe's turbulent history, he issued a stark warning with reference to Brexit and current events in Italy and the Czech Republic, "we have to live together peacefully, or we kill each other". His proposed solution to what he sees as a rise in populism (whatever that may mean), was a common economic area stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. To my mind, it was unconvincing: popular disquietude over European enlargement is unlikely to be assuaged by yet more enlargement.

A slightly more optimistic view followed in the 'fireside chat' (read 'panel discussion'. There was - thankfully - no fire) between Peter Stracar, President and CEO of General Electric Europe, and Olga Grygier-Siddons, CEO of PwC Central and Eastern Europe. Despite getting themselves into difficulty when asked about potential opportunities Brexit poses for the region, with Stracar referencing the problems faced by Europe-wide production chains and Grygier-Siddons stating, “Europe will be weaker,” there was a reference later to PwC's role in Polish cable giant Tele-Fonika Kable's recent takeover of the British company JDR Cable Systems. Also noted was Poland's rapid rise as an IT hub; an industry whose survival depends a great deal on simply having an internet connection and is therefore more insulated from geopolitical turbulence.

Despite justifiable concern over a lack of clarity about Europe's likely direction in the coming decades, the panel members were perhaps more optimistic than they themselves realized. Businesses will always need input and skills from a variety of regions; cross-pollination between EU and non-EU countries is still happening organically, regardless of the direction that the EU's political wind blows.

As for the ceremony itself, Where.ge (part of the GEORGIA TODAY group) was third runner up in its category, “Tourism Campaign of the Year 2018”; We Care, the Georgian branch of the global group MenCare, came first in the “Equality Friendly Initiative of the Year 2018”; Invest in Georgia was a runner up in the “National Investment Promotion Agency of the Year 2018”.

The full list of winners follows:

Young Empowerment Initiative of the Year – Teach for Armenia (Armenia)

Social Impact Start Up of the Year – Deepdee (Belarus)

Equality-Friendly Initiative of the Year – WeCare (Georgia)

Tourism Campaign of the Year – Ljubljana ‘Plecnik’s Year’ (Slovenia)

City FDI Promotion Strategy of the Year – Wrocław, The Meeting Place (Poland)

Renewal Project of the Year – New Bazaar, Tirana (Albania)

Research and Development Initiative of the Year – Siemens (Czech Republic)

Global Market Champion of the Year – Solaris Bus & Coach (Poland)

FDI Project of the Year – Amazon (Slovakia)

National Investment Promotion Agency of the Year – Invest Lithuania (Lithuania)

Lifetime Achievement Award – Günter Verheugen

By Robert Edgar

25 June 2018 18:03