Summit 100: Regional co-operation towards competitiveness

Portorož, June 2
Summit100 business leaders suggest the policy may be expected to generate security, stability and confidence and to create specific regional policy in various sectors of the economy, while at the same time launch initiatives for concrete regional projects, said Iztok Seljak, Chairman of the Managament Board of Summit100. “We discussed the co-ordination of projects in the fields of infrastructure, transport, ICT, transport and energy, as it is the basis for increasing competitiveness in all other projects. Today we saw the light of competing regional projects in the field of tourism, agriculture, food and other areas of the economy; that we are committed to will take concrete steps within six to twelve months. I believe that we will speak about concrete projects that will be co-financed by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, whose representatives were at the meeting. These projects are in the common interest not merely for us in the region, but also the whole of Europe”, opined Seljak.
Within the region, there are positive changes and a positive assessment of economic growth ranging between 1% and 4% a year, although we still have a large problem with unemployment in particular with young people, warned Dr. Miro Cerar, PM of the Republic of Slovenia. “To solve these problems it is necessary to lead the country to stability and prosperity”. Projects that can achieve that aim were discussed at Summit100. “To create these ambitious projects, we need leaders who need to make the right decisions at the right time, and just such leaders I see here”, concluded Cerar.
Alexander Zalaznik, President of the Managers’ Association of Slovenia said that the participants at this conference came because they are interested in the economic growth of the region. “Each country in the region seeks the best way to grow. I believe we can do more, and faster; we can grow if we are connected, and it is also certain that we can grow quickly together,” said Zalaznik.
Europe is behind the US in competitiveness, innovation, investment in research and development and has too high a level of youth unemployment. The Juncker investment plan may therefore be a big step in overcoming these differences, suggested Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, in his speech at Summit100. European institutions, including the EIB will provide guarantees to the value of €21 billion for investment that could reach €320 bilion. Projects in which private investors are expected to participate will be in the sectors of transport, energy, research and development, water supply, transport, digital economy and the development of broadband Internet networks. “European infrastructure is in poor condition and it is time to get these investments to raise it to the most relevant level” said Hoyer.
According to him, it will be the already established European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSA) that will strictly assess the economic viability of projects, which must be in line with EU priorities. The Fund should be operational in the second half of the year, and until then EIB funds will be used. Cross-border projects will be financed, especially in the areas of transport and infrastructure, so its place in the implementation of the Juncker plan could be in the countries of those who are represented at Summit100, concluded Hoyer.
Projects will run for a member of the government, and benefit-checks will be carried out by the Commission, which will be comprised of independent economic experts, announced Alessandro Carano, adviser to the Deputy Director of the Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission. The website on which to detail the ‘Juncker projects’ will be presented is an opportunity for entrepreneurs from Southeast Europe to apply and participate in the implementation of these projects.
Distribution of risk brought by guarantees from the Juncker plan will encourage private investors and create additional investment opportunities, said Romualdo Massa Bernucci, Director for
Adriatic region to the European Investment Bank. Special attention will be devoted to the implementation of the projects in the transport sector, which has government interest throughout the region, pointed out Bernucci.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development welcomes the Juncker plan and is interested in co-operation in the implementation of specific projects, noted Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Director for Croatia. For the countries of the region, the EBRD has prepared and will provide technical assistance in the realisation of credits for energy renewal.
Let the Juncker plan be as successful as the Marshall Plan, and an application for Juncker loans is simpler than the application of structural funds, and we in the corporate sector will be much happier, says Janez Škrabec, CEO of Slovenian construction company, Riko. He said that in using European funds there are too many bureaucratic obstacles that should be avoided in the new European investment wave. Private entrepreneurs are willing to participate, especially with the steady inflow of capital that has been announced, said Škrabec.
The announcement of investment in broadband networks and the digital economy, was welcomed by Slobodan Đinović from the Belgrade telecommunications company, Orion Telekom. He added that special attention should be paid to the Financial Monitoring of start-up and micro companies that provide space for innovative young entrepreneurs. Đinović understands the need to get involvement in the Juncker plan through rebuilding infrastructure, but believes that investment in private companies that are more adaptable to market changes should not be neglected.
The Panel discussion on the Juncker plan was moderated by Damir Kuštrak, representative of Agrokor, the largest Croatian company, and Janko Medja, CEO of Nova Ljubljanska Banka. Medja said that different forms of financing – from classical loans through ‘mezzanine’ financing and other forms – will be used for the completion of investments, and the announced Juncker plan will benefit from the knowledge and experience of business bankers said Medja.
After six creative workshops – energy, knowledge based economy, food and beverage, digital economy, Infrastructure and transport and tourism, the ideas and proposals for stronger competitiveness and business cooperation in the region were presented. – from the need to change the education system, through incentives for company operation, implementation of computer systems and digitalisation, the harmonisation of customs and inspection procedures, standardisation of energy policy at regional level.
One of the foundations to guarantee economic growth and labour productivity growth, said Yves Morieux, Senior Partner and Managing Director of The Boston Consulting Group is new technologies but not necessarily increased productivity growth since most countries in the world are seeing a decline. Morieux pointed out that the larger problem in the region is that workers are not engaged at work and their satisfaction is at low levels. Managers have to understand what their people are doing, and need to strengthen integration, give more power to people, strengthen reciprocity, the better to see what the future brings to reward those who work in partnership”, concluded Morieux.
Simon Kaluža, Managing Director of SAP Central and Eastern Europe, thinks that most people in decision-making positions are aware that the increasing complexity of projects increases the cost. Good business tools that can do these jobs many times faster need to be part of the solution to such problems”, concluded Kaluža.
Participants at Summit100 discussed about concrete proposals for the improvement of regional co-operation. Proposals were presented in front of the Ministers, with the desire they be transmitted to their colleagues in government. All countries in South-Eastern Europe, it was said, are trying a variety of measures to attract investors and facilitate business, it was reported at the panel ‘How to Turn Business Creativity to Prosperous Reality’.