G.S.S.W. Conference Examines Privatization in East Europe

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

An international conference in Thrace, Greece co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Work brought together some 250 scholars, legislators and human services professionals from 30 countries to discuss the impact of privatization.

The conference, titled "Transition to What? The Implications of Privatization in Eastern Europe, the European Union, the Balkans and Beyond," was the third in a series of continuing discussions on the recent economic, social and political transformation of Central and Eastern Europe. Organized by GSSW and Democritus University in Thrace, this event, held June 26 to July 2, focused on the ability of privatization to produce profound social changes.

"There were more specifics in this conference than in the other two," said Prof. Demetrius Iatridis (GSSW), a co-organizer of the series, which began in 1991. "A transition as dramatic as that in former East Bloc nations, and even beyond, does not just take place in a few years. We were able to say at the conference 'Here is what happened in the first phase; now, how can we prepare for the next phase?'

"Privatization is becoming an economic buzzword around the world and is viewed mainly as an economic market phenomenon," Iatridis added. "So there is less attention given to its socio-political aspects, its institutional environment and its impact on social change. For the first time, we looked at privatization on a global scale."

Iatridis was a keynote speaker at the conference and served on the program committee with Carroll Graduate School of Management Associate Dean Louis Corsini and Prof. Joseph Quinn (Economics). GSSW Dean June G. Hopps, GSSW Director of Field Education Robbie Christler Tourse and Assoc. Prof. Leon Williams (GSSW) also made presentations during the event.

Plans are under way for the next conference, Iatridis noted, which will likely be held in Bulgaria - past sites have included Budapest, Hungary and Krakow, Poland - in the summer of 1997. In addition, he said, GSSW will help organize a smaller event next spring in Athens, Greece, at which representatives from Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and other Balkan countries will examine the welfare state and social services.

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