All know that Delphi is the navel or “omphalos” of the earth where long ago the eagles released by Zeus met after circling the planet in flight. Few know that, putting down roots there amid the ruins, the Delphi Economic Forum is rising as Greece’s answer to Davos.
The Forum, now in its third year, attracted 2,500 Greek and international guests and 400 A-list speakers to its March 1-4, 2018 session. Its informality and freewheeling debate were in sharp contrast to the grandeur of Davos. The typical Davos Man, with his tedious Third-Worldism and lockstep support for corporations and billionaires, would, in fact, be decidedly uncomfortable in this homespun environment.
Apart from the parade of presidents, prime ministers and dignitaries of every stripe, both audience and speakers were eclectic and diverse with every possible point of view presented and hotly dissected. Representing the Trump administration, for example, were George Gigicos, White House scheduling and advance director until July 31, 2017, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who gave a terrifying inside account, complete with expletives, of the White House mind-set.
Of more lasting value were the analyses of top Greek and European policy makers and economists of past mistakes and prospects for Greece’s exit from the third economic adjustment program planned for August 2018.
Worth noting is that the Delphi Forum has improbably grown and flourished in recessionary Greece, where the economy has contracted by some 25 percent since 2008 and debt is now some 180 percent of GDP. It is, perhaps, this overhang, the flight of Greek youth abroad and deep uncertainty about the future that gives the Forum its urgency and focus, quite unlike the more complacent vibes at Davos. It is also testimony to the resilience of Greeks and entirely fitting that the Forum is held amid the 2,500-year-old ruins of Delphi.
Richard L. Jackson is a retired US diplomat, freelance writer and president of Athens College.