The inaugural Liberty Summit in Europe, held in Tirana, Albania on the 7th to 9th of April was one of the most high profile events of its kind.
On Friday delegates from across the world – from Hong Kong to the USA enjoyed Think Tank Central, where an array of Think Tanks from Europe and beyond pitched their purpose, ideas and achievements. They were then treated to a tour of the National History Museum of Albania, and many had the opportunity to meet Uran Kostreci, an inspiring anti-communist who had spent 20 years in jail for his dissent.
ACRE leaders also had the opportunity to meet brave members of the Iranian opposition.
Delegates packed the conference hall on Saturday 8th, decorated with a mock-up of the Berlin Wall. They received opening remarks from ACRE Secretary General Daniel Hannan MEP and leader of the Republican Party of Albania Fatmir Mediu MP. Daniel Hannan’s speech focussed on the strange survival of Marxist ideas:
The enduring appeal of Marxism is not so different from the appeal of Daesh; offering a new world without concession to existing reality
Fatmir Mediu discussed Albania’s current struggles with crime and corruption, remarking wistfully that
The people that were the backbone of the fight for Albanian liberty have been forgotten
This was followed by a keynote from Congressman Bob McEwen, who put forward the conviction that:
Life, Liberty, Property; freedom is a three-legged stool. You cannot weaken one without weakening the other
The first panel, of Anna Fotyga MEP, David Pryce-Jones, John O’Sullivan and Catalin Avramescu, chaired by Daniele Capezzone MP, founder of the Direzione Italia movement, discussed ‘How the Cold War was won’. Panellists discussed the repressive but weak political situation of the late USSR, the importance of Reagan and Thatcher in bringing the Soviets to the table and maintaining the necessary toughness, and the fraught social and economic malaise of the Eastern Bloc.
A coffee break succeeded the discussions. Ryszard Legutko MEP gave a keynote afterwards, in which he dwelt upon the damage communism has done and continues to do in Poland, reminding the audience that:
After communism, many apparatchiks were reborn into the new ruling class
The delegates then had the chance to hear Andrzej Gwiazda, a champion of the Solidarnosc movement and key player in the famous Gdansk shipyard strikes, deliver a keynote. His speech struck a bittersweet note, saying that:
Destroying the system also harmed the civil society that destroyed it
A second Panel, on ‘An Incomplete Transition’, saw lively discussions between Andrzej Gwiazda, Norman Stone, Juri Adams MP and Minister Ketevan Tzikhelashvili moderated by Brooks Newmark. Debate moved from the tragic outcomes of relatively unreformed post-communist states, persistent poverty in the old Eastern Bloc and the question of Russian irredentism and shifting border.
Lunch preceded the third and final panel, ‘Moving Forward’, with Peter Oppenheimer, Yaron Brook, Fatmir Mediu, Thierry Baudet MP and Andrew Shuen. Panellists reaffirmed the immense importance and contribution of free markets, free trade and free people to modern prosperity, assessed the struggles of the movements promoting those causes, and discussed how people and parties can get their message out.
The final keynote was delivered by Piotr Naimski MP, Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s Chancellery of Poland. In the keynote he stated that:
The west is split, it is losing its values, does not know what it is fighting for; we must regain what we are
It was ACRE President Jan Zahradil MEP himself who gave closing remarks to the fantastic conference. During his speech he noted that despite the experience of utopian communism:
There is still a temptation to embrace these grand schemes, and going against that is our battle; we must win
Delegates then took the chance to explore the wonderful Tirana, with ACRE board members visiting the camps protesting the corruption of Albania’s socialist government. In the evening all headed to the Presidential Palace for a gala dinner hosted by former President and Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha, who spoke about his experiences under communism and in power. Recalling his previous profession as a cardiologist, he claimed that when the call to lead as communism fell came, he felt:
as though a patient were begging me to save his life; I could not turn them away
Our inaugural Liberty Summit in Europe, then, was a tremendous success, and gave delegates a great deal to consider as they returned from Tirana.
Pictures can be found on the ACRE Flickr account.
Live-streams of the panels and keynote speeches can be found on our Facebook.
For more information on the Liberty Summit in Europe, please visit the event website.
For more information on the ACRE, visit us at www.acreurope.eu.