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“Am I surprised the EBRD is still going after 25 years – yes, I am!” says Ian Goldin with a hearty laugh. “During the early days, we all thought it would be just a transition bank and its role would then diminish,” he continues. “I honestly couldn’t have imagined the bank would be operating today on this scale and across such a broad range of countries”.

Goldin was the EBRD’s Principal Economist from 1994 to 1995. While his tenure was relatively short, he left for good reasons – to return to his native South Africa as an advisor to then President Nelson Mandela – and remains close to the EBRD, speaking at the Annual Meeting today.

Now a Professor at Oxford University’s Martin School, Goldin leads a cross-disciplinary programme of collaboration and research into the identification of long-term global problems. The EBRD, he says, “can make a significant contribution” towards tackling the challenges of the next 25 years.

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“It means a very great deal, institutionally and also for me personally”. That’s how Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, reflects on EBRD’s 25th Anniversary Annual Meeting, which opens today in London.

“The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall was a crucial moment, the tearing down of the iron curtain – I remember it vividly,” Sir Suma tells bne-Intellinews. “The EBRD was then set up quickly, to help transition former Soviet-bloc countries away from communism and towards open-market economics – it’s been a fantastic story”.

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I spent much of last week in Tbilisi, a city of around 1.5m people on the south-eastern fringe of Europe. Sitting at the juncture of historic East-West trade routes, the Georgian capital has long been a melting pot of cultural mingling, a place where rival empires collide.

With its mix of medieval, classical and Soviet architecture, some of it charming, some of it not, Tbilisi is a good place to think about the broad sweep of foreign affairs. That was particularly true during my latest visit, as the city was hosting the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). For several days, some of Tbilisi’s most prominent downtown buildings – including the ornate old parliament and several beautiful museums – were inhabited by a multi-cultural gaggle of officials, bankers, investors and journalists.
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