Newsletter 8/2010 - Guest Commentator

Prof. Dr. Danica Purg
President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia

South East Europe: more than a geographical reality?

Let us start with the positive facts: there is no war anymore, politicians are increasingly acting from a new reality, business is recovering, investors are considering the risks as moderate and the process of integration into EU took off. However, nationalism is still alive and it dictates the outcome of elections and negotiations. The wounds and traumas of the war are far from healed.

If somebody asks me: “Is there hope?”, my answer is “there is more, there is history”. Not so long ago the new countries have lived as republics or autonomous provinces together within Yugoslavia. Although the cooperation at that time was also not optimal, it has been a great experience on deciding together on issues as industrial policy, investment policy and monetary policy. There is no region in Europe with such an experience. Could it be possible to build on that a new future of cooperation?

The first condition is to restore trust.

The appearance and words of President Tadic in Vukovar are a beginning. The next could be to visit Srebrenica, Sarajevo or Prishtina. I am convinced that the key for opening further cooperation is in the hands of Belgrade. And, although the new position of Serbia asks for a new mindset, a new attitude and approach, I believe that the positive factors in Belgrade have the will and capacity to play their important role in the region. Particularly, the politicians in the region have to understand that it will not be possible to build sustainable welfare in the region, if they do not resolve two main issues: the recognition of Kosovo and the reintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Trust can be restored only if it is based on respect for different views and values. It is important to look for common interest - the social and political image of the region, the standard of living, the infrastructure, but most of all the assurance of peace and satisfaction in the region. It is necessary not only to bring investors and business to the region, but above all to restore the belief amongst the people themselves that it is worthwhile and possible to build a future here.

The newest important acquisition of Slovenia’s Droga-Kolinska food company by Croatian Atlantic Group showed that business starts to reunite the divided market, enjoying the region of 22 million people. Supermarket chain Mercator built in the last years shops all over the region, internationally renowned Slovenian house-appliance producer Gorenje built some years ago its factory in Serbia, Serbian retailer Delta and the Croatian food processing and retail company Agrokor, are present in some of Yugoslavia’s successor states which, each in its own way, are building its business attractiveness. Serbia has a free-trade agreement with Russia, which helps their companies to come to a wider market, Bosnia and Herzegovina helps others to build relations with the North-African market, Slovenia has EU relations, developed business practices  and procedures, some of Croatian business people, with their ambitions and ability to see the big picture, are a real example to others.

Let us hope that the mutual trust built up with business will help build up stronger relations in South East Europe in every respect and help fight dangerous nationalistic emotions.

Danica Purg is the founding and current President of the IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia. Purg is also the founding President of the Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN). She completed her studies at the University of Ljubljana and her Ph.D. at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Political Science. Purg has been selected the 2010 Dean of the Year Award by the Academy of International Business (AIB) for her outstanding achievements in international business education.


Prof. Dr. Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia (Photo:

Prof. Dr. Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia (Photo: