CEI holds economic forum in Bratislava


Central Europe has some of the best performing economies in Europe at the moment and that could be why economic summits are in fashion. These aim to encourage economic reforms and boost business. But what about the long suffering journalists who have to report on them? Radio Slovakia International's Anca Dragu shares with us her experience of an economic summit:

Yes, you are right there was another economic summit taking place in Bratislava this past week. This time the Central European Initiative - the group of 17 countries from Central and Southeast Europe including Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic - gathered to talk about how reforms have improved the life of nearly 260 million people living in its member states. The organisation was set up in 1989 with the goal of helping transition countries in the region to come closer to the EU. Some of them succeeded, while others are still on the way.

I got lost a couple of times among so many discussion panels where managers and state officials met to share ideas. Big international organizations such as the European Union or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development sent their envoys to Bratislava mainly to explain how to encourage small and medium size enterprises grow. I kept on trying to check whether the target audience got the message so I talked to an Italian doing business in agriculture in Eastern Europe and a Ukrainian official still wearing an orange tie.

"I find this meeting very interesting because agribusiness seminars are very interesting and I meet a lot of important people with whom I can cooperate on future projects in this area."

"This is not for businesspeople but for officials. They will see an indirect result because officials will explain them how to do business. For me it's a good opportunity to represent my country and our reforms and their results."

Well, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is one of the institutions closely monitoring reforms in the region simply because it has been involved on almost all privatizations in the area. I asked Alexander Auboeck, EBRD's Country Director for Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic what his bank will do now that the privatization process in these countries is coming to an end:

"We can't get involved in any lending operations any longer so we focus in the future in equity and higher risk projects because that was not provided by commercial banks. Then in energy efficiency area and supporting some local companies in their regional expansion."

But there are so many bankers here trying to explain to small and medium entrepreneurs how they can get money but everything is in such a complicated language and they feel they can't really understand and touch them...

"Yes. But it is not necessary for SMEs to understand all this complicated language. I think there is also some help provided in the background. Take for example our loans to the banks and leasing companies in the region for the support of SMEs. They give them money so they can then help these companies because the commercial banks know them best due to the fact that they have their network of branches in the region. We are just in the background and I can tell you that SMEs are more and more taken care of."

In all the countries you cover?

"Yes, in all the countries I cover."

The summit ended on an optimistic note. Goodbye from Bratislava, see you next year in Albania the country that takes over the presidency of the Central European Initiative in 2006.