Postcard from London

The nations of Central and Eastern Europe would do well to focus on the benefits of soft power.

“I like the Poles…”, he said, slightly too loudly for it to be immediately clear where this conversation was going. “Why is that?” I replied. “Because just like us, they go to the pub on Friday after work,” he replied with the honesty and directness only a London cabbie can muster.

So, first things first, Brits, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians etc. have many things in common, including the pub. What else? A passion for tea with milk, less so… English Premier League, for sure… Indian curries… increasingly so, and plenty more. Joseph “Korzeniowski” Conrad, WW2 Polish and Czech pilots (and other armed forces), Norman Davies, Johanna Konta are but a handful of the personalities and histories that link the two ends of our European home.

As the London-based representative of the Warsaw Stock Exchange, and a British Pole or Polish Brit (who knows), I have seen first-hand the level of political, commercial, security and economic cooperation between the UK and, Polish and CEE, private and public institutions.

I dare say that in the next few years, cooperation in many fields such as security and defence may even increase. Great Britain is a natural partner particularly through NATO in re-enforcing Europe’s Eastern flank.

Europe’s banker

The City of London, Europe’s only global financial centre, will continue to be Europe’s banker. Since Brexit, little has really changed when you look beyond the headlines. London will clearly look to become even more global, and it would be unwise for the EU to try and crowbar itself too far away from the global financial markets hub that London will continue to be, regardless of the misleading headlines pushed by some sections of the media.

For the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Budapest Stock Exchange, Prague Stock Exchange and all the exchanges within the region that make up the Three Seas Initiative, the City of London will be the best place to meet bankers, investors, analysts, PR professionals from all over the world, and do financial services business.

On the other side of the coin, what do I wish for Poland and the CEE region, including the Exchanges? As Aleš Ipavec, CEO of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange said at the Three Seas Initiative conference in Krakow, September 2019, “We need CEE to have a better brand”. I couldn’t agree more.

Selling ourselves globally

As individual markets we are medium or small sized, but together we are meaningful in front of global investors. London will be the primary platform by which we tell our story globally, not just to UK investors. Clearly, one of the UK’s strengths is its soft-power. I wish that the nations of CEE, both individually and together focused more on the hard benefits of better brand (soft) recognition. I believe our region can learn from the UK’s approach to “selling itself” globally.

With a twinkle in my eye, mixed UK-Polish blood flowing through my veins, and the editor’s instructions ringing in my ears, what meaningful export from the UK would I like to see in Poland and CEE, and vice versa…?

UK exports into Poland and CEE: more rugby union (hats off to Georgia and Romania; PZRugby has great potential); Polish and CEE exports into UK: better national and regional brand recognition

Finally, like the two ends of our continental see-saw, a strong, engaged UK and a strong, independent Central and Eastern Europe are crucial to the balance of power and opinions across the European Union… and Europe.

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