At what was now called the Annual Meeting in Davos, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, made a strong appeal for the West to change its approach and reach out to the Soviet Union. Many historians now regard his speech as a critical marker of the end of the Cold War. “There was no better place for this speech than Davos,” Genscher wrote more than 20 years later.1
At that time, the USSR was seeking to implement major economic and political reforms – perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) – under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. “The West has no reason to fear cooperation,” Genscher told participants. “Our motto must be: Let us take Gorbachev seriously. Let us take him at his word! If there is an opportunity today to reach a turning point after 40 years of confrontation in West-East relations, it would be a mistake of historical dimensions if the West would miss this opportunity just because it cannot overcome the general mindset which, with regard to the Soviet Union, always assumes a worst case scenario.”
Genscher’s appearance coincided with the presence of the first official delegation to Davos from the Soviet Union, which was led by Ivan Ivanov, First Deputy President of the State Foreign Economic Commission, who explained the implications of the new reforms.
It was the pride of the Forum to be ahead of the game using the latest technological developments. Many of today’s commonly used technologies have been pioneered in Davos. These include videophones, kiosks that let participants look up the latest information about the Annual Meeting and regional meetings and send messages to other participants, hand-held personal digital assistants, flat-screen monitors displaying photographs of session highlights, and internet stations where participants can check email or download documents, and a mobile application or app that provides participants with up-to-date information about sessions, links to summaries, news releases, reports and videos.
This pioneering role also helped participants become early adaptors for new systems and devices.
- Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Liber Amicorum for Klaus Schwab, 30 March 2008