Summit 100 Presidential Panel: Confidence-building and infrastructure

Summit 100 Presidential Panel: Confidence-building and infrastructure

Portorož, June 1

Strengthening mutual trust, understanding, interest and close co-operation but keeping separate identities, is high on the list of priorities of the President and leading political figures who participated in the debate at Summit100. The Presidents Borut Pahor, Filip Vujanović , Gjorge Ivanov, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović i Atifete Jahjaga, Mladen Ivanić, and Minister of Economy  Serbia Željko Sertić, open the discussion by outlining the main directions of co-operation that are expected in the forthcoming period.

Political leaders were introduced to the debate by Dagfinn Hoybraten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, a body co-ordinating the co-operation in Nordic countries. Hoybraten recalled that 70 years ago, when co-operation was institutionalised, the nordic countries currently have 26 million inhabitants and is the 11th largest economic area globally. They lead in innovation, the ease of doing business, the free movement of labour, but have maintained the social structure and protection, the so-called ‘flexicurity’, which has enabled a high standard of living.

Countries in Southeast Europe can be satisfied that their business people more and more co-operate, stressed Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia. Business co-operation is certainly moving forward, but political relations contributed to by such meetings or initiatives as Summit100 Brdo-Brijuni, where the search for solutions to outstanding issues are vital. Southeast Europe has great diversity – of faiths, traditions, cultural heritages – but at the same time there is exceptional potential for co-operation. Business people are already using some of these opportunities, and politicians should not stand in the way, concluded the President.

One of the concrete examples of co-operation is shown by the construction consortium of Feniks who have already done work in third markets, reminded the Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović. According to him, it is not realistic to expect that countries in Southeast Europe quickly move towards institutional relations such as in Scandinavian. However, much more can be done together; with the help of the EU and international investors the region can develop good road and rail infrastructure. They can jointly promote tourism and build power facilities.

Altogether, we should seek solutions to the employment of our citizens, especially young people, considered Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo. In this, literally young country, where 60% of the population is under 30 years, youth care is a burning issue. In co-operation, the EU and the US Kosovo authorities have jointly created a number of funds that seek to finance employment, raise wages for young professionals they lack, and turn them from emigration. Improving their general condition, and then economic progress, will speed the normalisation of relations among the countries of the region, plus mutual respect and understanding, said President Jahjaga.

Countries that were once part of Yugoslavia, last year exported goods to Germany worth US$12 billion. At the same time, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic exported around US$100 billion. This shows that this region has much to do to reach the competition from Eastern Europe, said Željko Sertić, Minister of Economy of Serbia. Agreement on CEFTA has helped greatly in strengthening mutual trade, but still has plenty of administrative problems with customs or the certification of goods. Serbia is open to talk with everyone and wants to develop responsible co-operation, said Sertić.

A Bosnian dairy wanted to export its products to the market of Serbia, but the job has not yet been concluded: the packaging of the word “milk” was written in Bosnian. “If we want to collect short-term ‘political points’ that would have made them. But we did not because we

 

believe that it is possible to find a solution, which is favourable for all in the long-term”, said Mladen Ivanić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An example of avoiding tension was reached in the Presidency for joint appearances when an agreement is reached on an issue. Until then, the differences remain, to the public, as was the case previously. And this is the beginning of building trust, said Ivanić

Croatia and Slovenia, strongly support the other countries of South Eastern Europe to move closer to the European Union, emphasised the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Eligibility of the EU and the implementation of necessary domestic reforms will lay the foundations for even better co-operation. We should not however forget that this area passed two transitions, and that the economy after the transition to a market economy, had to act quickly in war. Approaching European standards, construction of transport and energy infrastructure and mutual trade, will provide a framework for strengthening trust between countries, economies and citizens, concluded Grabar-Kitarović.

How fragile political and economic situation can be is shown by recent events in Macedonia. This year growth was forecast to be 4%, but after a few days of disorder and armed conflict, Macedonia will be happy if it does not end up in the red. Big business does not like uncertainty, nor the shootings, said Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov. The economy can help create better relations between people in the southeast of Europe. Here everyone, for example, knows that the best regional brands, candy, wine, drugs etc. Your brands can be a guideline for building good relations, proof that it is worth investing in with quality and confidence, Ivanov said.

Technology is not the answer to the question of how to make cities smarter; what we need is a proper application said Michael N. Dixon, General Manager for IBM’s global smarter cities business in his introduction to Smart Cities for Sustainable Growth: Turning the region’s Capitals into Smarter Innovation Hubs.

“Practicality does not need to be difficult, and the changes we make are real. Problems may be just organisational, cultural or political. We need to change how people think and how they work to accomplish economic vitality, development and opportunity to all, to offer its citizens”, said Dixon.

Smart cities are something only mentioned recently but I think that Ljubljana is a smart city from long ago, said the mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovič. “But all of us know that despite the many awards we have received for the quality of life in our city, we can still reduce water losses or even improve our turnover”, said Jankovič.

Sarajevo Mayor, Ivo Komšić, says that in the region as well as in Sarajevo, there are companies engaged in the development of new technologies that help in the development of citizens’ lives. “Only now we are starting pilot projects to save energy in the city. For us, this conference is important because we can learn from cities that have implemented such projects and what they did in cities such as Ljubljana and Zagreb, “said Komšić.

The mayor has to know how to choose priorities, to adopt the decision, and must stand behind that decision and implement it, considers Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić. ‘Our experiences can help colleagues in other cities in the region. Our cities should be compared with the best in Europe. We can learn many things – I in Ljubljana and my colleague Janković in Zagreb. Komšić maybe more from us than we from him, but there are always things we can learn from each other”, concludes Mayor.

Slavoljub Stjepović, Mayor of Podgorica says that his city has the most troubling connections. “It’s not like we need four days to get to Ljubljana, but we need several. That is why we would like to get the support of the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, to ensure the completion of the Adriatic-Ionian highway, for example, or when investing in equipment for night landing at our airport, “says Stjepović.

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