Who won Davos? Day 2: An ever-closer union

A friend in need.
A friend in need.
Image: EPA/Laurent Gillieron
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Davos, Switzerland

We never said that the daily winner of Davos had to be a person.

After another packed day of plenaries, panels, side-meetings, and soirées, the most notable topic of conversation on the second full day of the World Economic Forum was the European Union itself. The gist: let’s not blow this thing up.

A big set piece during the day was British prime minister David Cameron addressing the UK’s uneasy relationship with the EU. He has pledged to call a referendum on continued EU membership by 2017, and said businesses should ”set the context” for the vote. Given that many major firms are backing the stay-in-the-EU camp, this was a hint that he’d rather stay in but needs more support to win over the skeptics from his own party back home. For them, he had to give lip service to nebulous pre-referendum reforms to the EU he thinks he can win to make continued membership more palatable.

If anyone was going to get cross at Britain projecting its local politics on the entire European project, it would be longstanding geopolitical frenemy France. But Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister, got downright emotional at the thought of Britain quitting the EU.

“It would be a tragedy,” he said. “I am saying this as a Frenchman.”

Alexis Tsipras of Greece, not known to make friends easily, added that ”now is the time for solidarity.” German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, not known to agree with Tsipras on much of anything, agreed. “We have to help every EU country that can’t solve its own problems,” he said. In summary, “the answer to a lot of problems is more Europe, not less Europe,” said Emma Marcegaglia, the chairman of Italian energy group Eni.

And for good measure, the opposing sides of divided Cyprus, Europe’s most intractable conflict, were all smiles as they shook hands on the Davos stage, pledging to sign a peace agreement this year—and this time, they might actually mean it.

Although Davos is supposed to be the setting for the World Economic Forum, the chatter on the second day didn’t stray far from home. Europe was the winner of Davos on day two. 🏆

Seen and heard

Small talk, Davos style: “Do you two know each other?” ”I think so.” ”Sun Valley, JP Morgan. Ron Perelman’s boat?”

Trump take of the day, silver medal: “Because he has no principles, he can get things done. He’s a dealmaker.”

Trump take of the day, gold medal: He’s “doing the work of ISIS.”

Trendwatching: ”It’s cool to be pessimistic” at Davos this year, a bank boss wearily told Quartz.

Understatement of the day: “Our system isn’t structured in a way that’s able to communicate seamlessly with the market.”— Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China’s security regulator

Devious interview question of the day: A tech CEO said his favorite question to ask potential hires is, “Would you rather be respected or feared?” Quartz asked whether there is a right answer. “It depends,” he said, cryptically.

Everybody loves Justin: Even the Canadian prime minister’s choice of socks—purple with a skull-and-crossbones motif—drew praise from the adoring Davos crowd. “I’m a little jealous of the sock swag,” said one young attendee during a session with the leader.

Combined distance walked by Quartz reporters: 24.7 miles (39.8 kilometers)

Previously: Who won Davos? Day 1: O Canada!