Panel 1: "One Region, One Economy - Connectivity and Potential"

During the panel discussion "One Region, One Economy - Connectivity and Potential ", the participants said that establishing connection in the region should not be limited only to linking the Southeast European countries, but rather include considering the opportunity outside this region.

Amer Kapetanović, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH and the moderator of the session, pointed out that this is not just about the physical connection or highways and roads, but about creating a unified economy, which is the motto of the Forum itself.

- In order to succeed, we must find our path in terms of industrial clusters in the region, we have to harmonize our economies, support as much as possible the mobility of the workforce and to point to the high value economy - said Kapetanović.


Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness  (video message)

„Doing business in Europe is all about transcending borders, and I know how important your event is in bringing together Western Balkans business community with international investors. Economic recovery is picking up in European Union. This is also good news for your region as our economies are closely integrated through trade and investment. 

In recent years we utilized investment capacities to allocate 1.3 billion euros for 139 projects in the western Balkans in the fields of transport, energy, environment and social projects. The real impact on economic growth and employment will come from further improvement of the regional economic integration we support it as an important milestone on the path to the membership, but also through our financial assistance to help companies benefit from that. "

Danilo Turk, former president, Slovenia

BiH offers huge potential

Former Slovenian President Danilo Turk said at the SBF that the European Union had not initially understood that the way forward involved taking small steps but the Union eventually accepted it, adding that it was good that BiH economy was becoming more independent of politics as BiH Presidency Chairman Mladen Ivanić pointed out today.

Turk said that the main topic of today's SBF is linking, noting that this relationship was rather important for the countries in the region. When it comes to geopolitics, he added that there was no solution in confrontation but rather in cooperation, strengthening of the relations and securing a better future for the peoples.

He pointed out that all of us needed to appreciate the concept of linking and that this was in no way limited to the linking of the SEE countries only, but rather that we should be aware of the importance of the EU, Turkey, Asia and other regions.

Turk said that, unlike today, the EU initially failed to understand that the way forward involved taking small steps, reform processes and postponing political issues. He pointed out that we were the victims of political issues.

He added that when it came to water management, BiH offered huge potential, stressing that it was necessary to make way for the people who would spur the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the basis of economic benefits offered in this day and age.

Stjepan Mesić, former president, Croatia

Linking the region was the most important strategic goal for these countries.

„The essence of the main topic of the conference was discussing the relations in the region. Small countries had small markets and cooperation is highly important for them. Small countries also had the ability to adapt to the system and that it was important for the regional countries to understand what was going on in the international economic system. Economy has been shaped by the ideas of unity and openness for more than 20 years now. The walls were now returning to Europe and that the policy of the current US administration did not reflect the fact that that country had benefited from free trade the most. International economic relations largely depended on the US, EU, China, Russia and others. He recalled that the Chinese President said that he did not want to end global economy, adding that China could not do it alone“.

Courageous political measures to help the economy become more just have never been taken. As for the Balkans, he said that some of the countries were on the brink of economic collapse and if they were to continue on the path of economic nationalism and fighting battles of the past, that would lead them to even greater poverty.

He points out that the economy of the region must lead to linking energy and transportation infrastructure. Mesić added that the world was changing and that the regional countries should have done more to benefit from the economic system.

Former Croatian President says that the processes of linking the region are moving at slow pace, comparing the speed at which Germany and France have done so despite all of their problems from the past. As a recommendation, he described the linking of the region as the most important strategic objective, adding that the economic linking required different political approaches and economic resources.

Ismir Jusko, Minister of Communication and Transport, Bosnia and Herzegovina

BiH expects EUR 200 million for infrastructure projects

 “Without the adoption of the Framework Transport Strategy, Bosnia and Herzegovina would not be able to count on a single euro in terms of transport and infrastructure in the next two years. By working together we have been able to adopt the strategy. Five of our projects have been rated with the highest marks when it comes to the Framework Transport Strategy and BiH will earn 200 million euros in the future. 15 days ago, an agreement was signed for the reconstruction of the railway infrastructure, specifically the railway connecting the Krajina region with the south. In the past ten months, BiH has been moving ahead much faster than in the previous ten years. It is the adoption of the Framework Transport Strategy that will be the hallmark of my term”.

Morten Jung, Senior Advisor for Western Balkans Regional Cooperation, European Commission

"The biggest challenge in linking the regional infrastructure is to be patient. There is impatience, the fact is that it is late, but now there is a road map for the region. The countries agreed on joint plans and it required more time. It is important that the projects and standards for the implementation of the main transport corridors have been defined. Building ties in the Balkans and linking with the rest of the world will not be cheap, but the focus should not be lost. "

Edin Zećirović, State Secretary at Serbian Ministry of Civil Engineering

"Serbia was one of the most active countries in regional integration since 2014. Infrastructure and transport linking is the basis. Infrastructure projects, including those from Serbia, have been confirmed for three trans-European corridors. It is clear that their implementation will contribute to a better flow of people and goods and economic growth. We are ready to work on the construction of the Sarajevo-Belgrade road. This region is on the path of those who go to and from the east and west and we have to do our best to make our roads better, safer and faster. I invite everyone to look backward less but forward more. "

Ian Brown, Head of BiH Office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We are a big investor in infrastructure across Europe. In BiH, we have invested 900 million euros in the transport sector, roads and railways so far, mostly in Corridor 5C. This year, we allocated additional 100 million euros. This type of financing is long-term and the risk is borne by the state. But, can Corridor 5C be finished in this manner? No. Capacity that BiH has for this type of borrowing is limited, because you cannot guarantee the payment of debts through tolls and excises anymore. The answer is the model of public-private partnerships. But, for to be successful you need to reduce the risk which affects the high cost of financing for the private sector ".

Dr. Duško Knežević, President, Atlas Group, Montenegro

"Establishing connections in the region is the most serious strategic orientation of the leaders of these countries. I consider the Balkans to be the gate of Europe and it is highly interesting for investors. Our government focuses a lot of attention to it, and we have prominent investors in Montenegro. They have brought about the change of the image of our country. I think that we should use the experience of the Nordic countries or the countries of the Visšgrad Group. It would be good to create something similar to the Višegrad Group in the Balkans as well ".