Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn began his return to public life Monday with a speech at a business conference in Beijing after the scandal over his arrest in New York City on sexual assault charges.
Speaking at an event organized by Chinese Internet company NetEase.com Inc., Strauss-Kahn made no mention of his May arrest or his resignation as managing director of the International Monetary Fund. The case against him collapsed in August amid questions about the credibility of his accuser.
Strauss-Kahn called for closer European Union integration and a unified budget to allow the EU to move money around the continent to ease financial strains. He said measures adopted so far by European leaders were inadequate to solve Europe's economic crisis.
"We need to have the European Union being a real union. That is the only way to solve the crisis," he said.
Without effective action, Strauss-Kahn said he sees the possibility of Europe having no economic growth for five to seven years.
Appearing onstage with him, prominent Chinese economist Li Daokui praised Strauss-Kahn's "huge contributions" to the global economy while at the IMF.
"In China, a lot of people still support you and really love you," said Li, a member of the Chinese central bank's monetary policy advisory committee. "Beijing probably is the most welcoming place for you."
The scandal destroyed Strauss-Kahn's plans for a possible run in French presidential elections next year. New York prosecutors dropped a charge of attempted rape after they said they lost confidence in the hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, who made the accusation.
When Li asked what he would do differently if he were France's president one year from now instead of Nicolas Sarkozy, Strauss-Kahn said, "I am not in a position to make any political comment."
The attempted rape charge badly damaged Strauss-Kahn's reputation, and other scandals -- including allegations by a French writer that he sexually assaulted her during a 2003 interview and claims he was linked to a suspected hotel prostitution ring -- have effectively ended his political career.
The Associated Press does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.