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    Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming an economic interesting country for investors

    Relations between Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina: Austria is the fifth-largest investor in the Republika Srpska
    The Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) organized on the 26th of June 2017 in Salzburg an international Panel Discussion on  “Bosnia and Herzegovina – the unknown partner for local and regional relations“, which took place in the International Salzburg Association.  In previous years, the IRE has arranged international panel discussions in various European countries to highlight the importance of interconnectedness and cooperation on municipal and regional levels.

     “Austrian companies have begun to settle in Bosnia and Herzegovina and companies from the West Balkans are on the best way to establish themselves in Austria”, said Dr. Franz Schausberger, Chairman of the IRE and Special Advisor to the EU, at the opening of the discussion. Apart from the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the “most complex governmental systems in the world”, according to Schausberger, Austrian companies such as NETQM have successfully established themselves in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for more than 10 years. 

    Founded in 2005, the Austrian company Network Quality Management GmbH, headquartered in Grödig near Salzburg as well as Mreža Network Derventa d.o.o in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a leading high-tech full-service provider in the area of mechatronics with a production site that employs about 300 people. The supply network- which ranges from electronics, plastics technology, mechanics, metal processing to assembly and final inspection – cooperates with Audi, Bosch and SKIDATA worldwide. CEO and General Manager of NETQM Markus Strasser-Stöckl emphasized above all the well-trained employees in the West Balkan countries as a key factor to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina: “I stand by the people: They stand for their unity and try to get an education as well as work in their country. The personnel costs are relatively low and most of the people, especially the young generation, are very well trained, which is not self-evident”.
                                      
    From left to right: Milenko Cvijanović (Dorector of MTEL Austria GmbH), Markus Strasser-Stöckl (CEO and General Manager Network Quality Management GmbH), Tomislav Leko (Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Austria), Franz Schausberger (IRE-Chairman and Special Advisor to the EU), Igor Davidović (former Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Washington and Brussels) and Mladen Filipovic (Head of the Representation Office of Republika Srpska in Austria)
     
    Since 2000, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a potential candidate for EU-membership. The overall state, however, is a complex construct which is divided into the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Within the country, there are always difficulties in finding a common position aligns with the EU.

    “It is hard to say whether we have the specific economic construction to become a member of the European Union, but we need to accept and accelerate those EU processes”, stressed Igor Davidović, former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Washington and Brussels. This, above all, applies to investment in jobs to reduce unemployment. To achieve this, “regional cooperation between the various cities, cantons and municipalities is important, so that regions can be seen as attractive habitats and thus the rural exodus can be counteracted”.

    In contemplation to reduce unemployment in BiH, Ambassador of BiH in Austria, Tomislav Leko, emphasized the need to improve the conditions for foreign investors, the introduction of a free-trade zone as well as the development of transport corridors. “In pursuance to develop towards the EU, the country needs foreign investments, otherwise the development of the country is difficult to achieve. BiH needs an EU-integration process for transnational development”, added the ambassador.

    As an intermediary to promote the corresponding foreign investors in BiH, the telecommunication company MTEL Austria GmbH, which, according to the director, Dipl. Ing. Milenko Cvijanović, advises Austrian companies to invest in BiH. Based on this, the people from the West Balkan countries who live in Austria represent a “bridging-role” for outstanding cross-border relations.

    Mag. Mladen Filipovic, head of the Republika Srpska office in Austria, drew attention to the priority of persons living in Diaspora from BiH“BiH’s natural resources are its people”. It is only necessary to enter the country, which is accessible in just a few hours due to its central geographical location. Hence, this offers great advantages for companies. Additionally, a huge asset for investments are the “60 percent of jobseekers who have secondary or higher education”, says Filipovic and “30 percent of them are under 30 years of age”. To foster the entrepreneurial and economic potential of Austrian investments in BiH, low tax rates, low tax ratio of 33 percent of gross salary, cost-efficient labor and liberalized laws, have been provided to offers great incentives. Most importantly, the equal treatment of foreign investors paves the foundation for a successful economy.

    Dr. Franz Schausberger, summarized the discussed free trade zone of the West Balkans as a first step towards the EU. To establish themselves within the European market, competitiveness must be achieved. The EU offers funds to facilitate easier access to the market. The panel discussion organized by the IRE opened the possibility of promoting economic contacts between Austria and BiH and thus, according to former Ambassador Igor Davidović, leading BiH to “no longer be an unknown partner for Austria”.

                

     
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