President Constantinescu’s Speech at the 12th Eurasian Economic Summit, Istanbul, May, 2009

THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS – THE CHANCE OF A NEW DIALOGUE

 

         History has always taught us that a crisis is the chance for a change. The present global financial crisis represents a historic chance for a new political project. A political project meant to be as important as the crisis proportions and its global effects. What has to be changed? The system. What system? The system that represented the chance of the freedom of progress and of prosperity in the last decades: the western economic and political model. Why now? Because, during the last decades have been visible only the exterior negative effects made by the consumer society upon the natural and human environment. It is now taken into consideration the very core of the system – the financial and banking one - that provides its resources to operate in the right manner.

         At a first glance, the cause of the failure is the same one that has generated the end of all the empires in the history: the arrogance. The arrogance of the neo-capitalist financial and banking system proves to be as dangerous as it was the arrogance of the omnipotent and omnipresent state, arrogance which caused the fall of the communist system. Though, the recent crisis brings out an even more profound aspect: the break off between the present globalized political and economic system and the cultural model it consisted of in its early days.

         The break off between the real economy and the speculative one, on one hand, and the one between the bureaucratized administration and the citizens, on the other hand, affected an essential element both for the democracy as well as for the market economy: the citizen’s trust.

In order to regain the citizens’ trust, just restarting the social dialogue is not enough. It is necessary to bring a new cultural model, as no new political project can be successful if it is not preceded by and founded on a cultural model, dwelling on moral values. They are the only ones able to join the positive energies of the society.  To build a new cultural model we must reflect upon the history, in order to understand the present.

On Thursday, June, the 14th, 1325, the second day of Rajab 725 after Hejjira, the 21-year-old Abu Addullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta left Tangier.  He traveled for about thirty years, covered more than 75,000 miles, and then he returned to the court in Fez, Morocco, and recorded accounts of his journeys in “The Famous Travels of Ibn Battuta”. Through his stories we learn of the important role that Arab sailors and merchants played all over European and Asian seas, from The Mediterranean Sea to The Red Sea and the Sea of Arabia, and further on the Indian Ocean, and to the Chinese waters.  Ibn Battuta’s memories on the Black Sea and on the Byzantine Empire are a significant historical source for the early Renaissance history of my country, Romania, where the Silk Road linking Spain and China crossed the Amber Road descending from Scandinavia to Greece.

In Ibn Battuta’s day, civilizations dialogued through voyages of commerce, scientific discovery, and faith.  It was a time when the Arab traders did business in good faith in the Ports and Harbors of the Ancient World, trading furs from Finland, grain, livestock, and honey from Romania and Bulgaria. A time when Byzantine, Genovese, and Venetian ships carried both textiles from Flanders and pepper from the Far East.

Today, the men of medieval ages seem remote and unfamiliar. However, I believe that we can learn a great deal from our brethren of yore, since it was during their time that the first global economy and trade came to be. The Mediterranean global economy was a very rich and beautiful world full of cross-cultural exchanges.

 There was a time when Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory was contradicted by the reality.  

Today we face an economic, political, social and technological progress. But there are still some paradoxes: the sub-development does not exclude the armament, the democracy does not liquidate the corruption, and the market economy does not succeed to avoid the ecological disasters and the unemployment. After 50 years from adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is systematically defied, either due to ideological pretexts, or being subjected to the endemic burden of the poverty.

It would be unfit to leave out of this summary analysis what we may call the vice globalisation. The organized crime, the traffic with drugs, guns, radioactive substances or human organs, the infantile prostitution, the pedophily, the underground economy, the fiscal fraud and the forced emigration are the striking, but not even by far the only, aspects of a world evil to whom the governments, the law forces or, where the case, the humanitarian organizations, declare themselves un powerless.

The past teaches us that no civilization in the history has disappeared just like that, like the mythical Atlantis. The sources of the above mentioned evils is more related to the time that to the space. On a planet that becomes smaller and smaller, profoundly heterogeneous collective times are confronting each other. The western world had stepped into the so-called post-modern and post-industrial age. On the other hand, numerous of the present societies dwell their existence upon a pre-modern mentality.

The politics and the economy have succeeded to organise the planet space, but not its time, too. The phenomenon seems to me completely understandable as we know that space remains the preferential territory where the main actors of the political and economical life play. Through agreements, the governments may put as neighbors countries situated at enormous geographical distances one from the other. At their turn, the actors of the world economy can build infrastructures that may assure any kind of connection between the human communities. The physical distances become thus more relative; however, it would not be the case for the gaps of perception upon time, too.

If the diversity of perception upon time would involve only making a difference between our private ideals, no one would object. Unfortunately, from this point on both the personal choices and the community attitudes-conveyed through offensive political options- divaricate. All sorts of misunderstandings come out today especially because the different branches of the world live inside parallel histories. The big challenge of the next millennium seems to be connected to the question: what can we do in order for all the people on the planet can really become contemporary one with each other?

Unfortunately, no matter how many interventions we would undertake, the problems do not disappear. Maybe a few sick people recover but the diseases are still present in the world. That is why today more people claim that we need different rules of action. A change of the perceptions, from the humanitarian discussion about the effects into the concern of removing the causes, requires all the creative energies to collaborate. We need an unconventional thinking, a reform of the international institutions and of the educational systems, of the knowledge ones, a collaboration between the religious communities, new judicial instruments against intolerance and terrorism, reducing the economic differences, rational using of the technological progress and, particularly, inventing a new way of action that is not bureaucratic but just and efficient.

The accelerated development of the technology – economy relationship has shaken the end of the 20th century, announcing two kicks: globalization and knowledge explosion. They have both brutally amplified the incertitude. The accommodation crises are not new in the evolution of the human society, it is just that nowadays they carry on faster and involve wider spaces.

The fast change is a general process that increases the incertitude of a person, all around the world village. In my opinion, politics, as it is conceived and put into practice today, is not prepared yet to manage the huge defiance we face in the new century and millennium.

Managing the incertitude could happen only in an open society. Facing big steaks can let out a behavior that reply the reality challenges with the respect of the principles.

In order for common people to answer the questions and the challenges, it is compulsory to wonder: What do we globalize? Only the markets? Only the economy? We can regard the nations only as masses of producers or of consumers?  My answer is, definitely: no. The informational postindustrial society will bring new values in the center of the education and they will generate the progress and the welfare through creativity, imagination and, particularly, through culture.

The culture involves the existence of a dialogue from which each person can learn something.

Nowadays, we live in an open world, in a world of communication and continuous interaction, in a world whose continuous evolution can not be withhold. In such a world, closed societies have no chance. Globalization means much more than free economic trade, quality selection – within the free market – of some material goods but also competitive products. Globalization means knowledge, dedication to a fair system of norms and values and - why not? - a certain closeness tolerance and mutual understanding.  

We need to change our way of thinking, we need to evolve beyond the old concept of liberal tolerance, which sets the goal of rational consensus upon the best way of life, and only tolerates a reasonable disagreement. The accelerating transformations in the contemporary world are imperatively asking for our engagement in a process of re-thinking the global society, human relationships, and most of all the politics in general and political action in particular. Politics area can not be considered as a special place, a separate environment, isolated from the reality of the day, somewhere on the edge of the morality, governed by esoteric rules, understood only by some initiated people, a space monopolized by closed circles, not accessible to the majority, or even opposite to it. The  politics of the day can not afford to limit itself to just manage the relationship between friends and enemies, it must be seen as the best way of coexistence, as a collection of practices meant to unite people instead of dividing them, motivating all social layers to take part in a major common project.

The laws that govern our states are established on the presumption of innocence. In the same spirit we should adopt a common conduct rule between states established on the presumption of goodwill.

The major challenge of the present is in my opinion, the strengthening of democracy through the progress of market economy. Neither the freedom of the market, nor the freedom of the citizens can be independent one from each other. They both need determined political will, in order to pursue bold and creative reforms. This is the only way to answer to the challenges of an uncertain century because, as we very well know, democracy is not a sufficient guarantee for a rational and equitable world order. I think that the proclaimed global triumph of the democracy at the end of the Cold War can not be perceived as an end of the history, as an installing of humanity in an era when value could no longer be created or invented. On the contrary, the democracy of this new century and millennium is nothing but the triumph of the liberty to ingeniously and creatively invent; new patterns and new means to develop each of us own identity.