European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month for the first time in two decades, as Europe seeks to reclaim its role as a champion of multilateralism after years spent absorbed by its numerous internal crises.
He is not a “great fan” of the forum, his chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas admitted last year. But his participation would signal Europe’s confident return to the frontline.
Juncker will address businessmen and politicians on 25 January.
The last time Juncker attended the forum was in 1997, when he was Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg.
However, in 2016 he attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own version of Davos.
Europe’s diplomatic push will be completed by French president Emmanuel Macron’s participation the day before.
Macron’s victory in the general elections held last May in France was seen by many as a turning point in the new momentum Europe is witnessing, both economically and politically.
During the G20 summit in Germany last July, European countries fought to uphold the multilateral system in trade and the fight against climate change, against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s threats to undermine global cooperation, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to claim the throne of globalisation.
The EU’s economic forecast was revised upwards significantly last November and it is expected a 2.3% of GDP growth in 2017. Consumers and firms’ confidence is at record levels since 2000.
Following an intense year of crucial elections in member states such as The Netherlands, France and Germany, European leaders are also relieved that populist and anti-European forces have largely been contained.
But the bloc still faces numerous challenges from the UK’s exit from the union in 2019, while Germany, Europe’s powerhouse, remains without a government, four month after inconclusive elections in September.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will also give a keynote speech to the global elite for the second consecutive year on 25 January, while Mateusz Morawiecki will make his first appearance at the forum as Prime Minister of Poland, although it is not the first time he participated in the restricted gathering.
The Polish leader, seen as more business-friendly and less combative than his predecessor Beata Szydło is due to take the stage in a discussion on ‘Europe, between the vision and dilemma’.
Other European leaders to travel to the Swiss resort are Lithuanian Prime Minister Dalia Grybauskaitė and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
Juncker has also limited the number of commissioners that will attend this year’s Davos.
Last year, the Commission president criticized the high number of college members that took some days to mingle with the global elite.
“A more limited presence would have been preferable”, he told the commissioners last January.
A total of twelve commissioners, including five vice-presidents, went to the gathering in 2017.