20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum - Vienna Future Dialogue 2023

The 20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum - Vienna Future Dialogue 2023 took place on 13th November 2023 in the Festive Hall of the Vienna City Hall/Wiener Rathaus. Under the motto "Continuing to Build Economic Bridges During Difficult Times “, the Board of Vienna Economic Forum had the honour and the pleasure to welcome the invited participants, high-ranking decision-makers from economy and politics from 41 countries.

In her Opening Words Amb. Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, Founder and Member of the Board, Secretary General of Vienna Economic Forum underlined the vision of the founding fathers of Vienna Economic Forum (VEF) in 2004 to support active economic cooperation in the region “From the Adriatic to the Black Sea” and under the Motto “Economy meets Politics” to encourage the development of common activities. This inspiring vision enabled the successful work of Vienna Economic Forum throughout these two decades and contributed to the consolidation of the whole region and its recognition as a common economic area by many investors and representatives of different regional, European and worldwide branches of the economy. The Secretary General expressed a big Thank You to the City of Vienna and especially to the Mayor and Governor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Ludwig for the exclusive possibility to organise the 20th Anniversary of Vienna Economic Forum at the remarkable Festive Hall of the City of Vienna.



20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Foru Family Forum

20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum Award

Welcoming Words on behalf of Dr. Michael Ludwig, Mayor and Governor of Vienna, were held by Mr. Jürgen Czernohorszky, Executive City Councillor of the City of Vienna, focusing on the special importance and symbolic meaning of this 20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum taking place in the centre of Vienna, as well as the special role of the City of Vienna in fostering relations and building bridges, especially in times when it is most needed.

H.E. Ms. Karoline Edtstadler, Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution at the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, stated in her welcoming words how particularly relevant it is to "Continue to build economic bridges during difficult times", against the backdrop of multiple conflicts and crises that we are currently facing. She mentioned the recovery plan for Ukraine, emphasized the importance of EU integration for the Western Balkans, and highlighted bridging with the private sector as crucial to driving forward the common aims of addressing these challenges.

The former Federal Chancellor of Austria Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel, Founding Father and Honorary Member of Vienna Economic Forum, spoke about the historical context of the 20 years of existence of Vienna Economic Forum. He mentioned the momentum of optimism during the establishing of Vienna Economic Forum in 2004 and when 10 new countries accessed the EU. Dr. Schüssel highlighted the need for free market development to go hand in hand with liberal democracy. He mentioned the special responsibility of Vienna as being once again at the centre of transformations, as well as the special role of Vienna Economic Forum as crucial to these processes. He closed his remark by saying: “We need to be not optimists, not pessimists, but possibilists.”

DI Dr. Günther Rabensteiner, Honorary President of Vienna Economic Forum highlighted the role played by Vienna Economic Forum in economic diplomacy for the past 20 years, and the role of this event as a new starting point for an intensive thought process, which require the strengthening of economic relations as a supporting and connecting role in conflict resolution. DI Dr. Rabensteiner stressed how this sort of event is and this event is a plead for the future and that the past initiatives of VEF on building infrastructure networks for transport, energy, telecommunications, banking and insurance, the areas of education and health becoming increasingly important in these circumstances.

This session was concluded by the statement of the President of Vienna Economic Forum Amb. Victor Jackovich, who emphasised the importance of this 20th Jubilee of Vienna Economic Forum, stemming from the vision to create a region “From the Adriatic to the Black Sea”. He stressed that Vienna Economic Forum is a platform for discussing the region's most important issues, such as supporting those countries that seek to join the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic community of democratic states, as well as a meeting point for business leaders who meet with government representatives to identify future markets, find common projects and achieve common goals.

In a Festive Ceremony at the end of the Opening Session, the SPECIAL AWARD "20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum" was presented to the Former Federal Chancellor of Austria, Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel, in appreciation of his outstanding support and significant contribution to the founding of Vienna Economic Forum in 2004.

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Two consecutive sessions were moderated by Ms. Daniela Philipp.

Session II "Ensuring Economic and Financial Stability on the Path to Europe - Challenges and Responsibilities", was opened by the Main Statement of H.E. Dr. Magnus Brunner, Federal Minister of Finance of the Republic of Austria. He started by wishing Happy 20th Anniversary to Vienna Economic Forum and mentioned the special role of Austria to the integration of the region. In the light of very challenging times, Dr. Brunner focused on three crucial aspects: firstly, on the need to address the fragmentation of multilateralism, to intensify free trade and become more resilient; secondly on the need to redefine the role of the government and curb the public expectations upon it, and thirdly, the need to focus on green transition and energy security through innovation and by relying also in private capital. Dr. Brunner ended his note by stressing that “We don’t need to agree on all items, but we need to speak to each other and dialogue for common solutions.”

Mr. Kyriacos Kakouris, Vice President, European Investment Bank (EIB), Luxembourg shared from his personal experience in Cyprus the importance of such Forums for countries accessing the EU. In his Impulse Statement he stressed that EIB is a reliable ally for the economic resilience, climate security and energy threats of the Western Balkans region as well as invest in education, transport and the water sector. He stressed the need to accelerate structural reforms in the WB region to benefit from the opportunities from cooperation with the EU, such as such as the new Growth Plan, to diversify energy sources, build infrastructure, invest in renewables and achieve energy efficiency, decarbonization and just transition.

Mr. Mark Bowman, Vice President, Policy & Partnerships, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), UK, stressed that we need more bridges in a multipolar world. With the multifaceted global challenges with transborder implications, no single actor can deal with these alone. He mentioned the role of multilateral banks as made to deal with crisis, amongst which the EBRD, works with the private sector and SMEs to improve corporate governance, digitalisation, close gender gaps and enhance sustainability and green projects. Mr. Bowman stressed the importance of partnerships and better coordination among International financial institutions, mobilisation of private sector and other policy actors to enable future investments.

Discussion started with Mag. Peter Höfinger, Deputy General Manager and Deputy Chairman of the Managing Board, Vienna Insurance Group AG (VIG), Vice-President of Vienna Economic Forum opened the round of discussion on challenges to economic and financial stability by stating that he is always looking for opportunities. While admitting that we all are headed towards an unpredictable volatile world, Mr. Höfinger considers the resilience of the society and citizens as the biggest advantage of Central Eastern Europe, a region used and prepared to live in a volatile world. Furthermore, he added the importance of securing supply chains with the increase of foreign direct investment and the local communities as a lesson learned from the times of covid.

Mr. Bekir Polat, Vice-President, Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Investment Office, Representative of the Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum picked up on the topic of resilience and the importance of international cooperation and the opportunities provided by Vienna Economic Forum in building bridges. Recognizing the importance of stability, he mentioned that Türkyie is taking a different approach, focusing on the reconstruction of the supply chains, as well as local technology entrepreneurship, start-ups as a significant investment driver for the country which is now a billion-dollar business at early stage.

Dr. Georg Bucher, Member of the Management Board Steiermärkische Bank and Sparkassen AG, Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum, mentioned how the economic key figures raised during the first years after the accession of the new countries to the EU 20 years ago, and the key role that a resilient and stable financial sector plays for development. His concern with this round of enlargement is the staged accession as an alternative to full membership. Since it will delay progress will be delayed and take the perspectives of progress away from the young generations. This should be a wakeup call for the EU.

Mr. Aleksandar Vlahović, President of Serbian Association of Economists, Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum held a thorough presentation about growth figures in 6 Western Balkans Countries (GDP , GDP per capita) and throughout the years, making the point of how far are actually countries of the region from converging onverge with European standards. He made an expose’ on how each of these countries tackle trade deficit and public debt as compared to the Maastricht criteria, how they deal with inflation and especially unemployment, and highlighted the low level of competitivity and how intra-regional trade is important for the region. Finally, he exposed the difficulties that the Western Balkan countries are facing with economic freedom in terms of the quality of democracy and corruption levels.

Dr. Barbara Kolm, President, Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute, Vienna, Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum took up on the topic of education and brain drain from the entire central eastern Europe in the past 20 years. She elaborated on the good education of the youth of the central eastern region as combined with the values of achievement, competition, and self-responsibility, which make them sought after in the western part of the world, and leaves their origin countries unable to keep them, due to inadequate frames for to provide opportunities and frameworks. If this is tackled, together with foreign direct investment, good results could prove in the region.

Mr. Kalin Peshov, MBA Chairman of the Management Board of Glavbolgarstroy Holding (GBS), Bulgaria, Cooperation Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, spoke about the Economic stability and competitiveness of the SEE region (including increasing energy prices, workforce, qualified personnel), public-private partnerships in SEE, and the financing of large-infrastructure projects and access to finance. He mentioned three main challenges, being the inflation which has been addressed to a certain level of success with public-private initiatives; the energy prices, which if invested in renewable and sustainable technologies with the help of the state could prove efficient, and in the end, access to qualified labor (qualified or non-qualified), which could be mitigated by providing education and the free movement of people.

The discussion was further enriched through a Q&A session.

III Session “Acting Together with Responsibility for the European Future – Infrastructure, Energy, Digital Technology, Innovation” was opened with an Impulse Statement from DI Wolfgang Anzengruber, Former CEO of Verbund AG (2009-2020), Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum. After congratulating on the 20th Jubilee, passed to the challenges for Europe: from increasing nationalism and populism to climate crisis, dependency on energy, resources, and AI. He proposed 5 fields of action for the future decades in sustainable energy and infrastructure: Decarbonisation in favour of renewables; Energy-intense industries to be electrified which would bring big gains in terms of emissions; The hydrogen industry of the future as a fuel instead of the traditional fossil fuels; Digitalization, to make sure that all these challenges are met, and Circular energy to reduce dependency on resources and energy. All these, he concluded should be done through increased and the erase of barriers to transport and energy.

Mr. Wilbert Verheijen, Managing Director, Canon CEE GmbH, Cooperation Partner and Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum covered in his Impulse Statement the topics of digitalization and digital transformation and the rise of digital entrepreneurship, start-up ecosystems in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Türkiye, emphasizing its profound influence on business, government services, and education. As an answer to current challenges, Mr. Verheijen proposed prioritizing cybersecurity, enact data protection legislation, and recognize differences between countries in developmental work. He recognized the role of Canon as an innovation-oriented company, aiming at empowering workers and building up partnerships to ensure responsible digital transformation.

Dr. Lilyana Pavlova, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works of Bulgaria (2014-2017), Minister of Bulgaria's Presidency of the Council of the EU (2017-2018), Vice-President of European Investment Bank (EIB) (2019-2023), started by thanking Secretary General Amb. Dr. Kirtcheva for being a driving force for VEF and stressed the need to build through such Forums not just physical but also emotional bridges and bringing people together. Dr. Pavlova continued her discussion emphasizing that the pillars of the European growth and sustainability such as infrastructure, environment, energy, digitalization, and innovation are interlinked. She illustrated the need for conceptualizing intersectionality bringing the example of innovation as a necessary pre-condition for green transition and concluded that political is of utmost importance to make these pillars succeed.

To the question what Greece has to offer on the given challenges, Mr. Yiannis Thomatos, Vice-President, Delphi Economic Forum, Greece, Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum replied that Greece, regardless of its 10 years of financial crisis, is still the only country in the Eurozone, in the NATO and in moving forward the EU integration process. He reminded the audience that the perspective of the European integration of the Western Balkans tarted in Thessaloniki in 2004. By accentuating the role of the Delphi Forum to policy discussion. Mr. Thomatos concluded that Greece has the answer to Euroscepticism and the answer is not more Euroscepticism, but more Europe.

H.E. Mag. Bogdan Bogdanov, Minister of Economy and Industry of the Republic of Bulgaria mentioned the importance of SEE for growth and development, a region to which western Europe should look into for partnerships. He stressed that it is time to leave the emotional political decisions and focus on important decisions for us and Europe. On top of infrastructure, energy, digitalization, and innovation, he added the fifth element in which there is a need to invest to succeed, and that is which people. This is precisely what Bulgaria is doing, in creating an Institute for artificial intelligence and computer science and machine learning and investing in the education of the people.

Amb. Prof. Dr. Vesna Borozan, Head of Power Systems Department, University “Sts. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje, North Macedonia, Honorary Member of Vienna Economic Forum introduced her views on the responsibility for the European Energy Future and actions taken trough the Horizon Europe project TRANSIT at her University. Throughout the presentation, Amb. Prof. Dr. Borozan tackled intersectional topics such as sustainability, circularity and externalities, human capital, innovative educational resources; workforce training, upskilling, and reskilling; employment competencies as well as society engagement, behaviours, and gender disparities as intertwined and crucial to tackle for current and future generations’ development.

Prof. Dr. Danica Purg, President IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia, Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, picking up from her colleague’s presentation, Mr. Bogdanov the concept of the hidden phenomena, sharing the experience of Bled School of Management on hidden champions, companies that are the most innovative in the world, in their market niche, sometimes not known even from their own countries, such as for example, the candle production in Bosnia, the masks for the Venice carnival produced in Shkodra, Albania, Slovenia’s innovation lab to healthcare in Boston. She concluded with the importance of excellent, innovative and imaginative education, to prepare responsible, resilient people for future industries.

Dr. Līga Kurevska, State Secretary, Ministry of Climate and Energy of the Republic of Latvia displayed in her presentation focused on the green transition process, renewable energy, energy security and energy efficiency. She laid Latvia’s aims which are : energy independence, the effective use of resources, and market economy. She stressed on the importance of interconnectedness and how it helps for energy security in times of ban of Russian gas by the Baltic states. Besides the energy independence as the main aim, she pointed at the need for the transition towards renewable energy and energy efficiency, not as only sustainable, but also just.

Mr. Lulzim Rafuna, President of the Managing Board, Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum, President of Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, started by displaying facts and figures on the economic development of the Western Balkans as a whole, accentuating the fact that the EU is its main trade partner, fostering together a climate of cooperation and partnership that benefits both regions. He mentioned particularly the special role of the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum in Infrastructure Development in WB6, Green Energy Transition in WB6 and Digital Technology and Innovation in WB6.

The 4th and last Session, namely the Alpha Session, was moderated by Mr. Christian Ultsch, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Head of Foreign Policy Department, Austrian Newspaper Die Presse.

The Impulse Statement was delivered by H.E. Mr. Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for Economy. He considered the VEF Forum as an observatory and bridge for the turbulent times we are undergoing, as well as timely, since it comes 5 days after the publishing of the new Enlargement Package for the Western Balkans. As he mentioned, geography is destiny, but these sor of crisis have the potential to bring us closely together. He mentioned the momentum for the Western Balkans to grasp possibilities to develop through the new EU growth plan, which will help boost economic growth in the region, reduce the socio – economic gap, deepen regional integration, accelerate fundamental reforms, and increase pre-accession funds, as well as provide access to the single market and the digital single market. H.E Mr. Gentiloni reconfirmed the EU’s commitment to the integration of the region and to the process of enlargement and asked the Western Balkans to play its part in accelerating regional market integration and substantial reforms.

H.E. Acad. Nikolai Denkov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Patron of Vienna Economic Forum put forward his vision for economic success and the big potential of shifting the mentalities of the region and converting problems into opportunities. Looking back to the time when EU borders and identity were fuzzy, he accentuated that when the security crisis erupted lately, it allowed Bulgaria to better self-define and choose between its European identity and the wish to remain undefined. In today’s world, this is not possible, he added. Elaborating on the need for a shift in cooperation mindset, he mentioned the untapped potential of the region and the neighbours, which turned suddenly in opportunity and projects which were there for decades, turned important to digital, railway, infrastructure paths from the south throughout the Danube and to the north, as natural pathways of development of the region which still need unlocking.

H.E. Mr. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Patron of Vienna Economic Forum, shared his view to the key of economic success in Kosovo, and while considering economic growth crucial, he focused on three main challenges at the local, regional, and global level: security threats, social inequality and climate change. He mentioned positive growth figures of the economy of Kosova for the past years, together with the reduction of the trade deficit, the decrease of inflation, the investment in renewables, as well as the anti-corruption measures and the rise in democracy indexes that enable the citizens to trust the system, pay taxes and spend more. H.E Prime Minister Kurti expressed his commitment to value-based economic development and the integration of the Western Balkan region towards the EU, with the EU.

H.E. Mr. Dimitar Kovachevski, Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Patron of Vienna Economic Forum brought his experience in improving regional economy and boost economic development in North Macedonia. He stressed the power of integration from his experience and stressed the geopolitical momentum for Europe to accelerate integration to close the gap between its outside and inside borders, and for the Western Balkans to accelerate the deepening of the single regional market and the agreements thereof, mentioning the benefits it could bring for infrastructure, development and foreign direct investments. He showcased his plans for turning North Macedonia into an infrastructural crossroad and an example of renewable energy for the region, with the cooperation of the partners and the neighbours.

H.E. Mr. Nik Gjeloshaj, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Policy, Minister of Economic Development of Montenegro focused in his speech on the perspectives on how we mutually reinforce our cooperation in a challenging and uncertain context, how all these challenges are interconnected and they require a strategic approach and multilateral cooperation. He laid down the new economic perspective and priorities of the Government of Montenegro, such as the economic growth strategy, a digital, smart and green economy, the strong development of the ICT sector, infrastructure, transport, trade and the development of the agricultural sector. He laid his trust on the government to implement the necessary reforms for the EU integration and accentuated the importance of regional cooperation such as the Berlin Process or the CEFTA Agreement, and commitment to the EU Growth Plan as prerequisites for growth and success.

A most anticipated External View was offered to the panellists and participants by Dr. Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, Permanent fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna. He reflected upon the time factor and the dramatic changes in the geopolitical landscape, at a higher speed then ever and radical changes in thinking about enlargement, energy, and other processes. He mentioned the turning of the Western Balkans from a waiting room into an emergency room and the complexities of enlargement as a process of re-invention of the EU. He mentioned that in times of peace, reward is given to the ones who can see the risk, and in times of crisis, to the ones who are able to see the opportunities. He continued further with the concept of pluri-crisis, how the solution to one crisis can contribute to another crisis, and the need to uphold the public debate to better contribute to decision-making and policies.

The discussion continued with a Q&A session.

In her Concluding Remarks, Amb. Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, Founder and Member of the Board, Secretary General of Vienna Economic Forum, expressed warm appreciation to various contributors. She thanked the City of Vienna for generously hosting the event, acknowledged distinguished participants for their insightful contributions to the discussions, and expressed gratitude to all participants for their fruitful engagement. She also conveyed thanks to all Members and Strategic Partners of Vienna Economic Forum for their longstanding cooperation and trust in the economic potential and successful development of the entire VEF-Region. A Special thanks were extended to the Supporting Members and Partners of Vienna Economic Forum.

The Secretary General expressed her appreciation to the skilled moderators, translators, and everyone who contributed to the seamless organization of the entire conference day. She particularly emphasized a special and heartfelt thank you to the Vienna Economic Forum Team, whose tireless efforts made the outstanding success of 20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum possible.

The 20th Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum was concluded by a SPECIAL AWARD CEREMONY OF THE 20th JUBILEE VIENNA ECONOMIC FORUM to the participants of the Alpha Session and Patrons of Vienna Economic Forum.

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22nd Traditional Garden Party of Vienna Economic Forum in the Paradise - Garden of Villa Flora

Together with the Ambassadors of the Member Countries of Vienna Economic ForumMembers of the VEF - Ambassador Committee, the Secretary General and VEF Founder Ambassador Dr. Elena Kirtcheva and Prof. Mag. Gertrud Tauchhammer, Publisher of Society Magazine, long-standing VEF - Media Partner and VEF Honorary member, invited on 16 June 2023 to the 22nd Traditional Garden Party "Culinary and Musical Journey through the Member Countries of Vienna Economic Forum" in the Paradise Garden of Villa Flora. 

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After the warm welcome words by Prof. Mag. Gertrud Tauchhammer, the Secretary General Amb. Dr. Elena Kirtcheva commenced her opening speech, reflecting on the founding of the beloved VEF - Garden Party in 2002. She also highlighted the subsequent expansion of the commitment to regional cooperation with the founding of the Vienna Economic Forum just two years later in 2004.

Amb. Dr. Kirtcheva extended an invitation to all participants to “to save the date” for the  20th Jubilee Vienna EconomicForum - Vienna Future Dialogue 2023 which under the motto "Economy meets Politics" will take place on 13 November 2023 in the Vienna City Hall –Wiener Rathaus! This notable occasion commemorates the long-standing and commendable efforts of Vienna Economic Forum in its numerous and unwavering commitment to the economic development and consolidation of the entire VEF- Region “From the Adriatic to the Black Sea”.

The President of Vienna Economic Forum, Ambassador Victor Jackovich, President, Jackovich International LLC, USA, emphasized the role of VEF as a place of definition, encounter, and of realising the public and private interests in connection with the various projects in the region as part of a united Europe.

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The present Ambassadors, Members of the Ambassadors Committee of Vienna Economic ForumDiplomats - Representatives of VEF - Member Countries and of the whole diplomatic corps, were invited to take part in the traditional Family PhotoH.E. MagDesislava NAYDENOVA -GOSPODINOVA, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Republic of Austria; H.E. Mag. Michaela MOCANU, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Republic of Austria; H.E.  Ambassador Dragana RADULOVIĆ, Chargé d'Affaires a.I.. of the Embassy of Montenegro to the Republic of Austria; H.E. Mr. Osvit ROSOKLIJA, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of North Macedonia to the Republic of Austria; H.E. Mr. Emilian Horatiu HUREZEANU, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to the Republic of Austria; H.E. Mr. Ozan CEYHUN, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Türkiye to the Republic of Austria; Mr. Artan CANAJ, Minister, as a representative of Ambassador of Albania H.E. Mr. Roland BIMO; Mr. Ivica DRONJIC, Counselor, Head of consular department, as a representative of the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina H.E. Dr. Kemal KOZARIĆ; Ms. Kaltrina ADEMI ORUC, First Secretary, as a representative of the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo H.E. Mr. Lulzim Pllana; Mr. Vadym KOVALEVSKYI, Minister, as a representative of the  Ambassador of Ukraine H.E. MrVasyl KHYMENETS.

Vienna Economic Forum also welcomed a high-ranking presence of the Corps diplomatiqueH.E. Ian David Grainge BIGGS, Ambassador of Australia; H.E. Haytham SHOJAAADIN, Ambassador of Jemen; H.E. Mme. Guna JAPINA, Ambassador of Latvia; H.E. Mme. Lina RUKSTELIENE, Ambassador of LithuaniaH.E. Mme. Susan ECKEY, Ambassador of NorwayH.E. Mr. Magdi A. M. ELNOUR, Ambassador of Sudan, H.E. Annika Lisa MARKOVIC, Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Samir KOUBAA, League of Arab States, Mr. Gyanveer Singh, First Secretary, India, Mr. Cafer Mert ÖZMERT, Consul General Türkiye, Mr. Tarek KAZEM, Minister, Iraq.

The more than 300 guests were indulged by many of the Vienna Economic Forum member countries with country specific, traditional culinary delicacies. The artistic performances from Albania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Romania were the highlight of the evening and with the regional folk dances encouraging many of the guests to dance along.

The guests have once again enjoyed the unique atmosphere that showed the remarkable connections and shared experiences that connect the people of the Vienna Economic Forum Region “From the Adriatic to the Black Sea”.

The artistic program can be found here. 

Fotocredit: SOCIETY/Karakan


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 Fotocredit: SOCIETY/Pobaschnig


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Copyright: EdiS.


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VEF logo

Vienna Economic Talks – Prishtina Meeting 2023

The Vienna Economic Talks – Prishtina Meeting 2023 took place on 8. May 2023 under the Patronage of H.E. Mr. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo in Prishtina.

Vienna Economic Forum is proud to have organized this successful event under the Motto "Regional Cooperation in a Fragmented Environment" together with the Government of the Republic of Kosovo.

The discussion highlighted the importance of investments especially during these difficult and critical times, focusing on some of the most important and critical sectors of today’s times: banking, insurance, infrastructure, energy, water management. The high-ranking participants and audience had the opportunity to learn about some of the projects and initiatives presently ongoing in the Republic of Kosovo, the advantages that Kosovo is offering in a time when global investments and economy are in peril and are undergoing profound transformations and tackled the topic of investments remaining sustainable and resilient toward climate change. Furthermore, the absolute necessity and importance of innovation and technology as a precondition for future economic development were discussed and accentuated. Many companies already present at the Kosovo market shared their experiences and presented their near-future development strategies.


Vienna Economic Talks – Prishtina Meeting 2023 under the moderation of Mr. Astrit Panxha, Executive Director and Co-founder, Kosovo Manufacturing Club (KMC) was opened by Ambassador Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, Member of the Board and Secretary General of Vienna Economic Forum who highlighted the excellent and long-standing collaboration between Vienna Economic Forum and the Republic of Kosovo. She stressed that Vienna Economic Forum is the first international organization that Kosovo entered upon the announcement of its independence 15 years ago and how proud VEF is of this fact. In her Opening Statement Ambassador Kirtcheva emphasized the ever-rising importance of regional cooperation and the view to the future always having in mind the consolidation of the VEF region “From the Adriatic to the Black Sea”

In his Introductory Statement Ambassador Victor Jackovich, President Jackovich International LLC, USA, President of Vienna Economic Forum stressed the fact that the businesses and politics are not separable, they are always intertwined. Very often business can precede politics, business can set up the environment in which political solutions can be made more possible. In this regard, Vienna Economic Forum ought to continue its valuable work, the same way it has been doing it in the past 20 years and as an integral part of how VEF views the excellent relationship with the Republic of Kosovo. Vienna Economic Forum will continue its work with Kosovo and continue to assist Kosovo on its path to full and complete Euro-Atlantic integration.

During his Keynote, H.E. Mr. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo expressed how happy he is having Prishtina serve as a seat from which stronger ties with members of the Western Balkan countries and the Western European partners are forged and his hope that Prishtina serves as a joyous and productive ground for many more talks on cooperation in the future. H.E. Prime Minister Kurti exchanged his thought on regional cooperation and sustainable investments via technological innovation. The Prime Ministers accentuated that aligning the core values of Kosovo with their economic objectives has been the approach with which the Government of Kosovo has set out to master the tasks at hand. H.E. Prime Minister Kurti shared many of the achievements of Kosovo in the past and his enthusiasm about the future, as well as about the ambitious and great years to follow. He especially emphasized that the questions surrounding supply chains, energy security, ethical technological development, climate action and environmental sustainability require that we put our best efforts forward to brainstorm, plan and solve the demands and challenges of the future.  

In her Keynote, Dr. Lilyana Pavlova, Vice President of the European Investment Bank stated that in order to ensure stable, strong, unfragmented and resilient region we must ensure unity and joined efforts despite the multiple challenges we are all facing. She accentuated that nowadays “uncertainty is the new certainty” however at the same time we are given an opportunity to have a more forward looking and visionary approach. At this very moment we need to make sure that there are massive investments, especially in the time of crises. We need to ensure mobilization of the private and the public sector resources together, provide support for the energy transition, decarbonization, digitalization and connectivity. Dr. Pavlova emphasized that in order to step up the support, the European Investment Bank last year created a special branch called EIB Global intended to strengthen the local presence of the EIB in the Balkans and in all of the countries that the EIB is operating in globally in order to ensure a more tailor made, specifical support in delivering the investment.

Vienna Economic Forum gave the Republic of Kosovo an Award for 15 years excellent cooperation and contribution to the economic development on national and regional level. The award was accepted by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo and Patron of Vienna Economic Forum, H.E. Mr. Albin Kurti.

During the Second Session: “Sustainable Investments in Times of Crises and Fragmented Environment”, in her Keynote H.E. Dr. Artane Rizvanolli, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Kosovo accentuated that policy making and investment decision have never been more challenging due to the ongoing crises but at the same time has never been easier in the context of energy independence, renewable energy and fighting climate change where there are clear, no regret investments in the fields of energy transitions and renewable energy which are the top two priorities.

During his Keynote, H.E. Mr. Liburn Aliu, Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure of the Republic of Kosovo stated that renewable energy is one of the sectors in Kosovo where sustainable investments can have a significant impact. The innovative policies of Kosovo for development and job creation combined with the environmental protection policies complement each other. The many ongoing renewables projects will greatly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Christian Schwarz, Head of Corporate Development/M&A at Kelag and Spokesman for the Management Board of Kelag International and Member of the Board of Vienna Economic Forum described in his presentation how the path to renewable energies leads to holistic value creation and emphasized the economic and environmental benefits that come with investing in green technologies. Ms. Merita Gjushinca Peja, M.A., CFO Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo J.S.C. spoke about the importance of the Environmental, social, and governance (ESG)and stressed that Raiffeisen Bank International has been combining financing support with social responsibilities for over 130 years by supporting different sustainable businesses and projects that have a positive impact on society and environment in general. Mr. Genond Mesreja, MBA, CEO, Sigma Interalbanian Vienna Insurance Group Sh.A. Kosovo Branch, highlighted the position of Sigma Vienna Insurance Group as the highest ranked in the insurance market in Kosovo, certified by the Kosovo regulatory institution, Central Bank of Kosovo. Sigma has been accompanying the economic development of Kosovo during the past 15 years by supporting the private and public business in Kosovo via different products more typical for developed, Western countries and markets. Mr. Mustafa Kamal Kafadar, Senior Advisor, Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Investment Office, Cooperation Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, spoke about the relation of the energy and infrastructure policies to sustainability, a relation which is essential to secure freedom and welfare in the future. He shared Türkiye’s experiences with diversifying its energy constellation and spoke about the importance of regional and international cooperation in creating sustainable economies, environmental policies and climate change. Dipl. Ing. Wolfgang Kröpfl, MBA, CEO, enso group, Austria, Cooperation Partner of Vienna Economic Forum addressed the transition of the energy systems. He presented the rich portfolio of enso GmbH, particularly in Asset management, Project and Portfolio Development, M&A, Operations and Special Task Projects, elaborating on Renewable Energy Projects and on emerging innovations for the integration of the renewables. Mr. Thomas Waclavicek, MSc., Head of Project Implementation, Hydrophil GmbH, Austria, Member of Vienna Economic Forum spoke about the water security in the Western Balkans and the implementation of the ongoing project together with the International Institute for Applied System Analysis for the World Bank looking at the water security in different countries.

The Second Session was finalized with a short Q and A Session with the participants.  

The Third Session: “Innovation and Technology as a Precondition for Future Economic Development”, moderated by Ambassador Victor Jackovich, President, Jackovich International LLC, USA, President of Vienna Economic Forum, commenced with the Impulse Statement provided by Prof. Dr. Danica Purg, President IEDC-Bled Schoold of Management, Slovenia, Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum. Prof. Dr. Purg spoke about the profound relationship with the Republic of Kosovo, especially in terms of academic collaboration. In her contribution she highlighted the importance of the quality in management education and education in general, as well as quality in economic growth and the importance of ethical management.     

In her Keynote H.E. Mr. Rozeta Hajdari, Minister of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade of the Republic of Kosovo stressed the importance of youth as the most valuable resource for economic development. She accentuated innovation and its crucial role in the development of firms but also in the areas of competitiveness, productivity on a national and regional level. Nowadays the strength of the economy is based on the extent of its technological progress. There is a clear vision that by 2030 Kosovo will have a more stable, innovative and competitive industry. Ms. Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General “Research and Innovation”, European Commission stressed that particularly in view of the current particularly complex environment, the importance of research and innovation has never been greater. She accentuated the necessity of new technologies and new solutions that can quickly be rolled out, new companies that can grow and reach the necessary critical mass to ensure that Europe can face this challenging context with guarantees of success. In her Keynote Ms. Ratso focused on the Western Balkans Agenda for Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport launched together with the Western Balkan leaders at the Brdo Summit in 2021 and its many results 2 years later, particularly in the area of innovation.

Mag. Stefan Krenn, Secretary General, Novomatic AG, Austria, Representative of the Vice President of Vienna Economic Forum spoke about the innovation play in a gaming technology group like Novomatic AG, as well as the very strong representation of the company in the CEE region and the influence of the technological progress in this region, and accentuated the importance of well-educated and well-motivated employees that are the basis of success, something that can be strongly felt in the region of the CEE. Ing. Wolfgang Schaffer, Senior Project Director, eee austria international projects GmbH, member of Vienna Economic Forum spoke about the importance of vocational training and dual education providing individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to perform specific jobs in various industries. He accentuated that vocational training and dual education are critical components of a healthy economy and elaborated on the intersection of digitalization and digital skills in education. Dr. Georg Serentschy, Managing Partner Serentschy Advisory Services GmbH, member of Vienna Economic Forum spoke about arbitration as an important tool, especially in view of possible disputes when dealing with direct foreign investments where arbitration contributes whether it is a matter of state or commercial disputes. Dr. Erik Sidney Kroiher, Director, International Relations & Business Development, Kapsch TrafficCom AG spoke about mobility guaranteeing and safeguarding the development of infrastructure, being the prerequisites of economic, social and educational development and growth, which require specific conditions. He accentuated the long-standing experience and involvement of the company in many countries, aiming towards making traffic safer, more sustainable, more calculable, controllable and profitable for government, regions and to the benefit of all people. Prof. Dr. Edmond Hajrizi, President, University of Business and Technology (UBT), Republic of Kosovo shared his experience with establishing the University of Business and Technology and about building a new system based on international European standard best practices in transition countries and the impact of this system in society affecting the economic system.    

Vienna Economic Forum is very pleased to be able to share the Statement of H.E. Ms. Arbërie Nagavci
Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Kosovo.

Vienna Economic Forum thanks all cooperation partners for their support AME International GmbH, Bulgarkontrola, LTD, CANON CEE GmbH, enso GmbH, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Jackovich International LLC, Kelag AG, Chamber of Economy of Montenegro, MUNICIPAL GUARANTEE FUND FOR SME SOFIA, Novomatic AG, Austrian Post AG, The Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Investment Office, Raiffeisen Bank International, Serbian Association of Economists, Sopharma PLC, Steiermärkische Bank und Sparkassen AG, Vienna Insurance Group (VIG), Wien Holding GmbH, as well as the special supporters of the event Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo J.S.C. and Sigma Interalbanian Vienna Insurance Group Sh.A. Kosovo Branch.

The program can be found here.


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