The political highlight of the 1988 Annual Meeting was the renewed rapprochement between Prime Minister Turgut Özal of Turkey and Andreas Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece. After their first encounter in Davos in 1986, the tension between the two countries escalated and nearly led to war. Two years later, through many preparatory visits in Athens and Ankara, Klaus Schwab succeeded in bringing both sides back to Switzerland, where they negotiated and signed the Davos Declaration aimed at normalizing relations. War would have been unavoidable had he not met Papandreou in Davos two years before, Özal told Schwab later. Because of that encounter, he was certain that he could trust his counterpart.
After some tentative moves to improve ties in the first few years after the document was signed, the two countries took more decisive steps to enhance their relationship even though some key issues remained unresolved. Today, a situation such as in 1987 with Greece and Turkey at the brink of war is inconceivable.
For the second year in a row, a high-level Russian delegation, which was led by Ivan Ivanov, Deputy Chairman of the State Commission for Foreign Economic Relations, was present at the Annual Meeting. Ivanov told participants that the Russian rouble would be convertible by the second half of the 1990s. (In fact, it would not be until 1 July 2006 that this would happen.) And after having addressed participants by satellite in 1987, Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone came to Davos. In his address he urged industrialized countries to adopt the standardization of taxation regimes as a long-term goal.
The global magnitude as well as the human and economic toll of HIV/AIDS occupied an important place and a great deal of time in the discussions at Davos, even if this issue had only recently emerged. So did the environment. Carl Sagan, the celebrated American astrophysicist, highlighted the risks to the environment and life systems from some of the very technological developments that have been the basis for our prosperity and progress.
On the technology front, once again the Forum was breaking new ground. Fascinated by the opportunities offered by digital technologies, Klaus Schwab pursued his vision of launching an interconnected “digital community”. The Forum worked on this initiative with Digital Equipment Corporation International (Europe), or DECIE, a leading technology company that shared Schwab’s dream. This dream, as it turns out, was ahead of its time. The Forum, however, would continue to pursue the idea of a virtual platform, eventually developing the TopLink system, which today allows high-level virtual interaction among all stakeholders across global issues.