9th SBF Region’s potential for cooperation with the EU markets: Are we ready for big business?

The second day of the 9th SBF was also dedicated to the impact of the European economies on the region. Today, the Hills Hotel played host to the panel session on „EU Supply Chain and its Impact on Western Balkan Companies” which dealt with the strengthening of the regional industry through the creation of stronger supply chains, finding ways to manufacture even more finished products and identifying the advantages that the EU neighboring countries can count on.

The panel was attended by the representatives of Bosnian companies who discussed the pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

Mahmut Galijašević, executive director of MANN + HUMMEL company from Tešanj which has achieved record-breaking results in the manufacturing of filters used in the automotive industry, pointed out that the great advantage of the companies in this region is their geographic location from which one can easily reach the major European centers in just a few hours. In their case, it takes only few hours to get to Czech Republic and Bulgaria, where the large facilities relevant to this industry are located. In addition to its strategic positioning, BiH has a high-quality workforce, which is based on the automotive industry legacy of more than 60 years. "We employ 665 workers and only one of them is a foreigner. 90% of the workers are from Tešanj, and we also have an engineering department, which demonstrates that we can work as a big business," Galijašević said. The company is export oriented, with exports accounting for 98% of its total production volume. In the past ten years, its business more than tripled and they plan to achieve even higher growth.

Zlatan Faik Uzunović, Supply Chain Manager for Central and Eastern Europe at the Prevent Group from BiH, pointed out that, from his experience, the European clients really appreciate the speed of delivery. "Since 18 months is the shelf life of the goods, with one third of that time interval spent in the delivery chain for these products, I think that many will try to move their facilities here," Uzunović said while pointing out that the local companies enjoy this advantage because they can track the trend of reducing time-to-market. Also, in order to conquer the European markets, it is necessary to invest in human resources, accelerate the dynamics of structural reforms, promote the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as foster cooperation between the companies in the region of the Southeastern Europe.

Karin Hörhan, Program Manager at GIZ GmbH from Germany said that small and medium enterprises account for 95% of Bosnian economy and economies of the countries in the region. "Your only chance of success on the global market is to work together and collaborate through clusters and consortiums because it’s only through joint efforts that your companies can achieve much more, " she said.

Mirsad Jašarspahić, President of the FBiH Chamber of Commerce, said that the mission of the Chamber is to promote its members and support them in finding investors. He pointed out that the most important sectors are the industry and services and that the automotive industry development project in the FBiH was launched last year.

"Our project involves opening of our representative offices for the automotive industry in Germany, with the aim of establishing cooperation between Bosnian and German companies such as Volkswagen (VW) and BMW," explained Jašarspahić, adding that they expect a 5 % increase in the number of workers in the automotive industry and a 4% increase in production this year.

Martin Gaber, Deputy Director of the Delegation of German Economic Affairs in BiH, said that economic surveys among German companies showed that many of them would re-invest in BiH because it is a great place for investments. The panelists also reflected on the data showing that a significant progress in all the economies of the Western Balkan countries was made, and, if the macroeconomic perspective is observed in the medium term, it can be expected that GDP growth in the Southeastern Europe will reach 3.2 percent.