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    Southeast Europe Economic Index: Economic climate improves slightly

    Bosnian and Serbian entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. This is the result of a study by the credit insurer Prisma and the market research company GfK Austria.

    64 percent of the Bosnian and 68 percent of Serbian companies expect (very) positive outcomes in the year 2016. “Coperations are the forerunners.” says CEO of Prisma Ludwig Mertes. “This has to do with the fact that the countries are trying to attract foreign investors to the country. Serbia, for example, is positioning itself as an attractive investment location for larger international corporations, which benefit from the low cost structure in the country.”

    36 percent of Serbian companies rate the opportunities as “very good” or “good” and 62 percent believe in better business within the next twelve months. “The current government manages to ensure a positive business climate and to make good PR for their own good,” says Mertes.
    Serbia’s economic data reflects the good economic climate this year. In the first quarter of 2016 the economic output grew by 3.5 percent as compared to the same period last year. Last Wednesday, the central bank raised its forecast. The central bank expects an increase from 2.3 to 2.4 percent for 2016. Previously, 1.8 percent was expected. In addition, the budget deficit was amounted to € 110 million for the first four months this year, although originally € 590 million were expected.
    Croatia is in a low mood. The economic climate with 53 points is still better compared to a study in 2014, when Croatia only reached a total of 51 points. This leaves Croatia at the bottom: “The reason might be that the high hopes which were placed on the elections last year were disappointed,” says Mertes. Instead of setting new impetus the new coalition government is about to break apart.
    Croatia is in a low mood. The economic climate with 53 points is still better compared to a study in 2014, when Croatia only reached a total of 51 points. This leaves Croatia at the bottom: “The reason might be that the high hopes which were placed on the elections last year were disappointed,” says Mertes. Instead of setting new impetus the new coalition government is about to break apart.
    After years of low mood for the business climate the neighboring country Slovenia has improved its situation. While the economic climate in 2014 was at its low with only 49 points, the value improved considerably with 54 points this year. After the severe economic crisis the entrepreneurs are looking into a more hopeful future.
    Bosnia and Herzegovina reached 57 points, which is the second best index value right after Serbia. However, the estimates differ: coperations (64) have a positive outlook on the future while small and medium-sized enterprises (50) are more pessimistic. “This is a surprising result for us given the political instability and the economic situation in the country. But perhaps the many investments from the Arab world have caused the positive mood,” said Mertes.
    Based on a survey of 150 companies per country, the study of Prisma and GfK Austria examined the economic climate in Austria and the countries of Southeast Europe. It estimates the overall current and future situation featuring the planned export and investment activities. The economic climate is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, the higher the value the more positive the economic climate. The study was conducted in January 2016. The target group were small and medium-sized enterprises and corporations that work on a business to business basis.

     source: APA, WirtschaftsBlatt, Print-Ausgabe, 2016-05-18

    Local elections in the UK: An Indicator for UK referendum on EU membership

    In the UK local and regional elections on 5 May 2016 the two major parties suffered losses. The election serves as an indicator for the UK referendum on EU membership next month.

    The Scottish National Party SNP has won most seats in the ScottishParliament, but has lost its overall majority. The nationalists succeeded 63 of 129 seats – six seats less than in the last election. The leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon had already hailed a “historic” victory since the SNP won the third election in a row. Previously, the nationalists governed with an absolute majority (69 seats) but will now need the support of a smaller party – most likely the Green Party. The Scottish Conservative Party came in second with 31 seats – a major achievement for a party that has long been unpopular in Scotland. The Scottish Labour Party lost many votes and became only third strongest force. In March, the SNP has announced plans for another referendum on Scotland’s membership in the UK after the referendum on UK´s EU membership on 23 June 2016.
    The Labour Party remains the strongest party in Wales but faces the significant rise of the UKIP party (UK Independence Party). The anti-EU party of Nigel Farage has won five seats in the Welsh regional parliament. The UKIP fights for a withdrawal from the EU, whereas the leader of the Labour Party Jeremey Corbyn is in favour of remaining in the EU.
    In Northern Ireland, the two major Irish Republican parties Sinn Fein and the SDLP suffered losses, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the largest party in Northern Ireland, won most of the votes. The Green Party of Northern Ireland won a second mandate and the left-wing Socialist People Before ProfitAlliance has gained two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time. However, the distribution of seats remains broadly unchanged.

    First Muslim Mayor in London
    With approximately 44 percent of the votes Labour candidate Sadiq Khan was almost ten percent ahead of conservative rival Tory Zac Goldsmith in the mayoral election in London. The labour party takes over the British capital after eight years. Khan became thus the first Muslim mayor of a western capital.
    Khan, a former human rights lawyer and son of a bus driver from Pakistan, describes himself as “British Muslim who takes the fight against extremists.” Khan promised to be “a mayor for all Londoners”. “I ask the people urgently to vote for hope over fear,” he said. London has 8.6 million inhabitants of which more than a million are Muslims.
    “Super Thursday”, as the media named the Election Day, is considered the first test for the labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who took over the Labour presidency in late summer last year. Compared to the regional and local elections in the years 2011 and 2012 the labour party must accept losses. But compared to the disastrous outcome of the national election in 2015, the Labour Party has won back some votes. The Tories have also lost some votes compared to the national elections last year. In general, the Labour Party did better than expected. They even defended some of their few strongholds in the conservative dominated south of the UK. 40 million Britons were called on 5 May to elect their regional and local parliaments.


    Local elections in Serbia: Serbian ruling party wins majority

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) have achieved the majority of votes in the local elections and even in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which traditionally is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party.
    The right-wing SNS won 44.5 percent of votes in the elections for the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina on 24 April 2016. The Democratic Party (DS), which was in charge previously, only got 7.24 percent. The socialist PLC JS coalition won 8.85 percent, while the Nationalist Party SRS got 7.66 percent of the votes. The League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) won 6.43 percent and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) achieved 4.87 percent. At the same time early parliamentary elections were held in Serbia. The overall turnout was 56.40 percent.
    With 63 of 120 seats the SNS won 50 seats more than in the last elections 2012 and outrun the Democratic Party, which traditionally is the strongest party in the Vojvodina. The Democratic Party lost 48 seats. The SNS is planning a coalition with the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM). The SVM represents the largest ethnic minority in the Vojvodina.
    The remarkable victory of the SNS is due to the successful economic reforms and the accession negotiations with the EU. Furthermore, renaming the party’s list played a role. Vučić had his own name put on all electoral lists (list “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia wins”) instead of the name of his party SNS and have thus reached the preference of Serbs to vote for leaders, instead of parties.
    The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is an autonomous province in Serbia, a northern part of the country in the Pannonian Plain. Novi Sad is the administrative center of the Vojvodina and the second largest city in Serbia. The AP Vojvodina has a population of around 2 million people with more than 26 ethnic groups and six official languages.
    The SNS has also reached the majority of votes in the remaining municipalities and cities, like Smederevska Palanka (central Serbia), Indjija and Apatin in Vojvodina, previously ruled by the Democrats. The SNS also won 14 of 17 municipalities in Belgrade, except Vracar, Stari Grad and New Belgrade, which go to the Democratic Party. Despite a strong campaign the SNS did not succeed a majority in Jagodina (central Serbia), Surdulica and Bosilegrad (in the southeast of Serbia) or Cajetina (southwest Serbia), where the local politicians of other parties have gained the majority again.
    In Vranje (Southern Serbia), the elections will be repeated in two polling stations after bribes have been reported. In Nis, in southern central Serbia, elections will be repeated in 20 polling stations as more ballots were casted than voters registered.

    New member of the IRE network: The Regional Association Pongau joins the IRE

    The Regional Association Pongau has joined the IRE network and is represented by its Chairman Dr. Peter Brandauer, the Mayor of Werfenweng.
    The Regional Association Pongau is an amalgamation of all 25 Pongau communities, cities and a service facility with a broad field of functions for its member communities, the tourism organizations, business people and its citizens. The Regional Association Pongau owns the mobility center Pongau GmbH (“mobilito”) and supports the Europe Direct Information Centre “EDIC Southern Salzburg – Pongau”.
    The focus lies on promotion consulting, regional planning and regional development, the mobilization and development of commercial sites and the organization and development of public transportation. Furthermore, an information and cooperation center for regional projects and regional diversity handles regional concerns.
    About 80,000 people make their living in the 25 municipalities of the district “St. Johann im Pongau”. Pongau is also a region with enormous high recreational value. With around 8.5 million overnight stays and 71,000 guest beds it is the most important tourist destination in Austria. During winter the region of Pongau has already positioned itself as one of the top destinations in Europe.
    Pongau is Austria’s only region that has a nationwide active mobility center (service center for tourist mobility management).
    We look forward to the cooperation with the regional association Pongau and hope for a good and close collaboration.
    More information about the Regional Association:

    25 May 2016: Catalonia‘s way in Europe


     Catalonia‘s Way in Europe

    Panel discussion

    (in German language)

    Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 19:00 hrs

    Internationale Salzburg Association (ISA)

    Palais Kuenburg-Langenhof

    Sigmund-Haffnergasse 16, 5020 Salzburg, Austria


    Opening address and moderation

    Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger

    IRE-Chairman and Member of the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, EU




    Jordi Solé, Secretary for Foreign and European Union Affairs, Government of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

    Adam Casals, Envoy and Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government in Vienna, Austria

    Krystyna Schreiber, German Author of books and publications on Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain 

    Dr Kai-Olaf Lang, Senior Fellow, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany


    Registration until 23 May 2016:       

    Tel: 0662 84 32 88 – 0

    Mayor of Ljubljana welcomes IRE initiative “Green City” conference

    IRE delegation visits Capital of Slovenia:

    The mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković and the Deputy Mayor Tjasa Ficko agreed with IRE chairman Franz Schausberger and IRE Secretary General Joachim Fritz to conduct a conference on “Green Cities” in Ljubljana. The capital of Slovenia, which is a member of the IRE network since last year, has been named “European Green Capital 2016”. Ljubljana has been redesigned according to the sustainability principle and has excellently preserved green areas, even in the city center. The main goal of the conference is to share experiences and to encourage other cities to get involved. There is no better place to hold a conference than Ljubljana, which has done a lot in recent years to become a sustainable city. The development of the city is clearly visible, said Schausberger in his conversation with Mayor Zoran Janković and Deputy Mayor Tjasa Ficko on 25 April 2016.
    The IRE continues its conference series “Smart Cities” in Ljubljana in cooperation with the city of Ljubljana on 10 November 2016. Similar conferences were organized in the past four years in Tübingen (Germany), Vienna (A), Wroclaw (PL) and Trieste (IT).

    In most European cities and towns the urban infrastructure cannot keep up with the rising population, the increasing number of private cars and the enhanced mobility demand. The question of how to enhance mobility while at the same time reducing congestion, accidents and pollutions is a challenge to all major European cities and towns.  The aim of this event is to analyze the current traffic situation in Europe, the problems and perspectives, best practice examples, innovative traffic programmes and technological solutions as well as creating impulses for new activities, cooperation and projects.
    For more information contact:

    Slovenian President joins the IRE Board of Patrons

    Franz Schausberger visited Borut Pahor in Ljubljana:

    The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor has joined the IRE “Board of Patrons” and signed the certificate on the occasion of a visit of IRE-President Franz Schausberger to Ljubljana on April 25, 2016.
    The Slovenian President, therefore, supports the Institute of the Regions of Europe, a European, supra-regional, non-partisan and independent institution for all European regions and municipalities inside and outside of the EU, with the aim to strengthen the political and the economic position of the regions and municipalities in Europe. Borut Pahor stated that the IRE’s activity address the idea of a “Europe of the Regions” based on the principle of Subsidiarity, which is one of the supporting pillars of the European Union as defined in the Lisbon Treaty. 
    IRE-President Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger with the President of Slovenia Borut Pahor
    The regionalization of Slovenia, which was operated by President Pahor during his time as prime minister in 2008, was the core of the conversation. Slovenia is one of the most centralized countries in Europe with no regional structure and weak municipalities, which are subject to the central government.
    In a referendum in 2008, a clear majority of the population voted in favour of regionalization but the attempt failed because the issue of number of regions was disputed.
    The current government has not touched this issue yet. President Pahor, however, is convinced that regionalization will regain relevance in Slovenia. He thanked the IRE for sharing its expertise.
    Furthermore, President Pahor was extremely interested in the current events regarding the presidential election in Austria and was concerned about the increase of right-wing populism in Europe and, consequently, the weakening of the European Union. The parties must tackle popular topics that are of concern for the people, for which the right-wing populists only offer simple and radical answers.

    10 November 2016 – Green Mobility – Green Cities

    IRE Expert Conference

    Green Mobility – Green Cities

    Sustainable and Interconnected Cities in Europe

    on 10th November 2016

    Castel of Ljubljana

    Ljubljanski Grad, Grajska planota 1

    1001 Ljubljana, Slovenia

    From 9:30 – 15:00 hrs

    Sustainable mobility means satisfying “the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”(Brundtland Report, 1987). Therefore, sustainable mobility is the mobility model that takes into account the enhanced mobility demand of the rising population in urban areas and at the same time allows for minimal environmental and territorial impacts. The main aim of this event is to analyse the current traffic situation of European cities with historical centres and European regions, best-practice examples, innovative traffic programmes and technological solutions as well as giving impulses for new activities, cooperations and projects. 



    E:         F: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 5050

    T: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 10                

    Bosnia and Herzegovina´s way to the EU has begun

    IRE Expert Conference and Café d´Europe Régional in Sarajevo, BiH:

    The EU has been questioned a lot lately. Both, the economic and the refugee crisis have shown that the European project is not yet a perfect one. Some long-time Member States even think about leaving the Union. Nevertheless, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has officially applied for EU membership on 15 February 2016.
    “We all welcome the European aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially after the adoption of the reform agenda and the associated action plan. Now Bosnia and Herzegovina need to provide concrete results,” said IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger at the opening session of the conference at the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH in Sarajevo.
    The IRE has organized an expert conference on the topic “Bosnia and Herzegovinas way to the EU and the impact on regional and local authorities” on 15 April 2016 in cooperation with Canton Sarajevo, the Central European Initiative, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and other international partners. International experts from eight European countries and high-level speakers from business and politics attended this conference. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness of topics such as rights, opportunities and benefits for the citizens and their region from the (future) EU membership as well as the impact of the EU membership on the local and regional authorities.
    Regional assemblies in the EU candidate countries need to deal with the implementation of EU legislation at an early stage and provide information to its citizens. Representatives from Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia presented their approaches and European projects and concluded that 70% of the EU acquis is to be implemented at subnational level.
    “It is absolutely necessary for the integration process to strengthen the country’s capacity and to respond with one voice on EU matters,” said Franz Schausberger on. The regional structure of BiH with its two entities and the Special Administrative Region Brčko is very complex and the financial autonomy at the local level is still weak. It is therefore important to involve all regional and local authorities in the EU process from the very start.

    From left to right: Elvis Kondzic, Advisor to the Council of Ministers BiH, Mirko Šarović, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations BiH, IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Dragan Mektic, Minister of Security, and Austria’s Ambassador to BiH Martin Pammer

    Bosnias Minister of Security Dragan Mektic stated that BiH takes the EU integration process seriously and will implement all preconditions as quickly as possible to take advantage of the economic benefits. Therefore, all levels of governments must work together on the issue of internal security. This also includes the fight against organized crime and against corruption. Internal security will bring investors into the country contributing to the economic development. The 2016 is a crucial year, emphasized Mirko Šarović, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, because after BiH´s submission of the EU membership application it must actively continue to pursue the European path. And this is done especially at regional and local level, where public life takes place.
    In the last one and a half years Bosnia has made notable development, reported the EU Special Representative and Head of the EU Delegation in BiH Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark. The reform agenda last year and the local elections in October 2016 are the best chance to convince the citizens of the EU and the related positive development of Bosnia. The predominant ethnic politics should not stand in the way. People are looking for work and a better education in the country not abroad. There are already more than 200 Austrian companies in the country that are looking for skilled workers. Austria is thus the largest foreign investor in BiH, reported the Austrian commercial attaché in Sarajevo Sigmund Nemeti. Nevertheless, sometimes clear conditions for investors are missing in order for them to plan their business and weigh opportunities and risks.
    Austria’s ambassador to BiH Martin Pammer expressed his joy about an Austrian Institute which is strongly involved in accompanying BiH on its way to the EU. BiH and its regions can only benefit from the network in Europe.
    After the expert conferences in Dresden (D), Vukovar (HR) and Brcko (BiH) in 2013 and 2014, the event series “Local Assemblies and Parliaments” was now successfully continued in Sarajevo.
    Café d´Europe Régional 
    In the afternoon the Café d’Europe Régional on “BiH’s rocky way to the EU” took place in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Sarajevo. The relaxed atmosphere of the cafeteria contributed to an open discussion with students on EU topics such as the integration process and the participation of civil society in decision making. Top-class representatives, leaders and thinkers from politics, diplomacy and economy as well as an interested audience have discussed several ideas.
    We must give young people a clear perspective to the EU, suggested IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger welcoming more than 60 students, who spoke English as German fluently. The exchange between the experts and the students was very intense and showed both, excitement and reservation towards the EU accession of Bosnia.

    The EU is not a finished project but a process that BiH can contribute to, because it can act as a bridge between religions, said Sigmund Nemeti, Austrian commercial attaché in Sarajevo.
    Prof. Daniela Drobná from the Union of Towns and Municipalities in Slovakia stressed that EU programs such as Erasmus have contributed greatly to the academic concept and its coherence within the member states. The recognition of qualifications boosts mobility of workers within the EU and BiH will also profit from it.
    Other high-profile speakers at the podium were the Austrian Ambassador Martin Pammer and CEO of Komercijalna Banka from Belgrade Alexander Picker.

    Meeting with the Prime Minister of Canton Sarajevo

    Regional representatives from Bosnia are already
    active in Brussels

    The IRE delegation with Chairman Franz Schausberger was welcomed in Sarajevo by the Prime Minister of the Canton Sarajevo Elmedin Konaković on 14 April 2016 within in the course of the conference “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s road to the EU and the impact on regional and local authorities” which took place the next day.

    “The aim of the conference is to fully integrate the local and regional authorities in the EU accession process,” explained Franz Schausberger and thanked Prime Minister Konaković for his support in organizing the conference. Especially valuable are experiences of countries which have joined the EU just recently, like Croatia, to achieve a successful and quick integration of Bosnia into the EU.

    From left: IRE Advisory Board Member Gerhard Feltl, IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, Prime Minister Elmedin Konaković and IRE Board of Directors Member Helmut Falschlehner

    It was agreed that political and economic development is reached when local and regional levels are involved in the process because local and regional governments can overcome times of crises faster,  good examples are decentralized countries such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

    “All cantons have already representatives who cooperate intensively with the EU to implement the reforms,” said Prime Minister Konaković. He stressed that reforms in the areas of public administration, labor market, public finances, in the economic area and the judicial system as well as the fight against corruption have already begun.
    “We are going into right direction, even if there is no coherent reform agenda in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We still have to tackle many problems but I believe that our path towards the EU will be successful,” concluded Prime Minister Konaković.
    photo: Angelika Wienerroither (SN)