News archive - Economies of South East Europe set the stage for a regional 2020 vision

A press release of the OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe (an OECD initiative covering 10 economies: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Kosovo - UN Res. 1244) informs about the begin of a development towards a "2020 Vision" for the region.

The press release informs: 

High-level business and government representatives from South East Europe (SEE) met at the OECD’s Paris headquarters on May 4 and 5 to begin developing a “2020 Vision” for the region based on knowledge-based growth and enhanced regional integration and modeled on the European Union’s 2020 Strategy. The final roadmap is to be launched by ministers of the region at the OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe Ministerial Conference in November 2010.

Participants included Deputy Ministers and Secretaries of State of ten South East European economies, Ambassadors of OECD member countries, representatives of the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council, the European Training Foundation, the CEFTA Secretariat as well as members of the business community.

On May 4, panel discussions were led by key representatives of the business community operating in South East Europe, who provided key insights into the challenges faced by investors in the region.

“The talent pool in a single South East Europe country is too small for a company like Google” said Hrabren Suknaic, former regional manager for Google in South East Europe. “Unfortunately, barriers to workforce mobility do not permit to consider transnational labour pools which would provide the critical mass. Therefore Google’s R&D centre could not be established in South East Europe.”

All private sector participants called for a broad regional approach which would lower barriers to business, spanning issues such as communication and promotion of the region globally, multimodal transport, digital highways and financial markets. Corruption was cited as a major impediment to business, and a need expressed to have much more efficient regional pooling of information among law enforcement officials and more rapid and more severe action by governments.

A strong point was being made about supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, since they are the drivers of growth and employment. According to Vladimir Cupic, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank Serbia, SMEs are both more profitable and less indebted than the large companies, yet they lack funds to grow. SMEs often face unfair competition, with many monopolies still in place, and they face a heavy tax burden, especially on labour costs.

“The State itself has to avoid adding to the cash constraints of SMEs by executing VAT reimbursements on time, because delays in these payments can prove fatal to cash-strapped SMEs” says Doina Ciomag, Executive Director of Romania’s Foreign Investor Council.

Finally, sports was advanced as a competitive advantage of the region. “We all agree about sports, so let us organise a new Sarajevo Olympics in 2022 or 2026, which would give a new impetus to the region” says businessman Samo Ivanchich, an aeronautics industry veteran.

The necessity of moving forward to a 2020 vision as well as the way forward were discussed on the second day. “Recovery from the economic crisis is coming in the region, with all countries except Croatia registering positive, albeit quite low growth. The EU enlargement process is the driving force for the region” said Vesna Arsic, Secretary of State in the Serbian Ministry of Economy and Regional Development.

“The slow pace of the enlargement process in recent years may create the perception of the oft cited enlargement fatigue.” says Manfred Schekulin, Director of Export and Investment Policy, Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth, Austria. “The EU has made some gestures in the past year, by granting candidate status to Montenegro, allowing Serbia to take steps forward in their application, and granting visa-free travel for Albanian and Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens. South East Europe can also send a strong signal of its own. Rather than reacting to requests from Brussels, the region now wants to craft its own vision, clearly conveying that it is capable of tracing its own roadmap to the future, and this may be inspired by the Europe 2020 strategy.”

However, as pointed out by Robert Ley, Deputy Director of the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs at the OECD. “The three pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy (smart, sustainable and inclusive growth) are entirely relevant for South East Europe, but the specific context suggests the need for two elements of customization: a different emphasis on the three pillars, and the need for a fourth pillar: “integrated growth”, relating to the deepening of the regional common market.”

Dr. Wolfgang Petritsch, Ambassador of Austria delivered a keynote speech in which he explained how “Europe 2020” strategy could apply to South East Europe and the elements of customization it needed to address, such as addressing brain drain and co-operation with diaspora in the “smart growth” pillar, moving up the value chain with regards to competitiveness, and the need of customization of poverty reduction measures with respect to budgetary constraints for social transfers.

The participants agreed on the agenda for the Ministerial Conference to be held on November 24, 2011, with the participation of the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurria, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, and EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Füle. The Ministerial is to discuss the new “SEE 2020” vision, and adopt a document which will outline the vision, as well as the action plan for its implementation.

Mr. Andrej Rant, Ambassador of Slovenia, put the Ministerial in perspective not only of Europe 2020, but also of the G20 Multiyear Action Plan for Development, which includes nine pillars including infrastructure, private investment and job creation, financial inclusion, resilient growth, food security, domestic resource sharing and knowledge sharing. He also stressed the willingness of the Slovenian government to play a role in experience exchanges, as an EU and OECD member state with important economic activity in the South-East Europe region, as well as a country sharing part of common history.

Finally, participants welcomed the transfer of the management of the Investment Compact to the Regional Cooperation Council which will be formalised at the Ministerial Conference by a Memorandum of Understanding. While the emphasis was placed on ‘regional ownership’ and a stronger role for the Regional Cooperation Council, the OECD Investment Compact reiterated that it would remain the ‘main provider of analytical support’ to the South East Europe Investment Committee.


CONTACT: For more information on the Eight Meeting of the South East Europe Investment Committee or on the upcoming Ministerial Conference, please contact Mr. Alan Paic, Principal Administrator, Investment Compact for South East Europe (


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Investment Compact for South East Europe, launched in 2000, works with South East European countries on improving the investment climate and encouraging private sector development. The OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe also lends technical support and expertise aimed at facilitating the EU integration process. Its work affords policy monitoring at the regional level combined with support in policy implementation, working in such strategic fields as investment policy and promotion, tax policy analysis, SME policy and entrepreneurship, and the development of human capital.




Source: e-mail from OECD

Geographical focus
  • SEE

Entry created by Elke Dall on May 11, 2011
Modified on May 11, 2011