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Spring Meetings of the Business Advisory Council for Southeastern Europe and Eurasia

At a meeting in Turkey May 9, the Business Advisory Council for Southeast Europe and Eurasia (BACSEE) maintained its traditional focus on the Balkans, while continuing new initiatives toward Eurasia.

At a regular meeting held in Istanbul May 9 on the margins of the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Council heard from Turkish and international experts on the current financial crisis, as well as on initiatives in health care, education and research. The gathering was organized by the BAC SEE, the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) and the Bosphorus University, with the support of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Program.

The Council also inducted into its membership its first ever representative from outside the Euro-Atlantic community, businessman Walid Taha from Baghdad, Iraq. Another new member, businessman Vytautas Vitkauskas from Lithuania, was welcome as currently the Council’s only representative from the Baltic region. It also hosted Dara Khailani from the Kurdistan Regional Government in the northern part of Iraq. Khailani’s attendance followed the Council’s visit to Erbil last October, its first-ever travel outside the Euro-Atlantic community.

BAC members were welcomed by BAC SEE Chairmen, Mr. Halil Kulluk, and Mr. Alex Munteanu. The meeting was opened by the BAC SEE local host, Mr. Halil Kulluk. Mr. Rona Yircali, Member of the Executive Board of DEIK, and Prof. Gulay Barbarosoglu, Rector of the Bosphorus University also addressed the audience at the opening of the event. Both embraced the Council’s visit to Turkey, and commented on the importance of building closer links between business, academia and government for surviving in a competitive global economy and society.

The Council was also addressed by Goran Svilanovic, new head of the Sarajevo-based Regional Cooperation Council for Southeastern Europe, comprised of the states of the Balkan region, many of them former combatants during the 1990s. Svilanovic told the gathering that his organization has adopted a three-year plan with specific programs focusing on “a new social contract” for employment creation and a 2020 Strategy agenda that may help “increase Southeastern European average GDP from 38% to 46% of the EU-27 DGP average”. He invited the Council to voice the views and concerns of the business community on RCC efforts and initiatives.

BAC members and associates also heard from former Austrian Vice Chancellor, Erhard Busek, who advocated more opportunities for young people from Southeast European states. “We are important,” the former Austrian official quipped, “but they are the future.” Busek also stressed the importance of EU-supported initiatives in the Danube River basin area, “where a lot of business is possible.”

Other discussants included the World Bank Country Director for Turkey, Mr. Martin Raiser, who focused on the lessons transition economies may learn from Turkey. He highlighted the need to “see crisis as an opportunity to free economies from dysfunctional elements”. Mr. Antonio Somma, Head of the Eurasia Competitiveness Program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also stressed the need for more public-private dialogue for investment and policy assessment to sustain growth. Inspired by the call to be “hungry, aggressive and creative” in order to innovate, the Council was impressed by insight on education and innovation from the European Institute for Innovation and Technology, the Center for Research and Technology Hellas, CISCO, the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center, Slovenian company NIL S.A., as well as the DEIK Higher Education Business Council.

A panel on healthcare investment, led by BAC SEE Chairman, Mr. Alex Munteanu, attracted interest on the various forms of cooperation between the public and private sectors on healthcare tourism, pharmaceuticals, construction of facilities, financing such investments and creating a policy framework that may help add value in a sector that receives more and more attention globally.

Reflecting its dual geographical dimension towards Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the Business Advisory Council decided on future missions by the end of this year to Serbia, Albania, and Belarus, as well as a visit to Washington, D.C.

BACSEE is comprised of some 40 independent businessmen from the Euro-Atlantic community and is a voluntary organization providing advice to states of the two regions – Southeast Europe and Eurasia – as well as to the EU and international organizations dealing with those regions.

The meetings of the BAC SEE in Istanbul were sponsored by KOC Group, BEST, YAPI MERKEZI, and INTEKNO.

Please contact the Secretariat for more information.


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