Daily Recap: Opportunities: digital and technology – a chance to bring the region forward

Event Reports

Peace, Security & Defence

How fast and effectively can the Western Balkans adjust to the new digital economy, how can the EU and others help make that transition process as smooth and broad as possible, and is digital advancement the “silver lining” of the Covid-19 crisis? asked Jamie Shea, Friends of Europe Senior Fellow and event moderator.

“2020 has been a good year for the Western Balkans politically, in terms of moving closer towards Europe, but as the region moves politically we also have to make sure that it moves economically and in societal terms as well. And in this respect, transitioning to the digital economy is so important for the economy, for quality of life, for jobs and economic opportunities, for the development of civil society, and for the improvement of governance,” he said.

Digital as a source of empowerment, development and recovery

  • 16:54 “Digital is also an enabler of green economy, of improving social protection, and of improving governance across the region. So it’s a vertical, as well as a horizontal, tool.” [Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger]
  • 32:36 “Digital is an opportunity for e-government… to increase transparency and to provide better services for the citizens. The COVID pandemic has demonstrated to all of us in the European Union, and in the region, that every single investment we have done on digital has made that stronger and more resilient.” [Genoveva Ruiz Calavera]
  • 48:18 “There is a famous saying that there are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen… if there is one positive thing to come out of this pandemic, it’s that the need for digital transformation, and the importance of the digital economy, is now clear to most people..” [Vladimir Vulic]
  • 51:18 Policymakers designing a framework at national and regional level should: create a supportive environment for businesses and gig economy workers, and an education system “fit for the digital economy”. [Vladimir Vulic]

     The link between digital and green

    •  18:23 “In Kosovo… we use this digital transition not only to support micro, small and medium enterprises, but also to drive the green economy and to promote circular economy in the same process.” [Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger]
    • 25:20 Digital agenda is a “silver bullet”: “The logic of a twin transition, which will be green and will be digital, applies in our engagement with the Western Balkans, because we want them to really close the gap towards the European Union.” [Genoveva Ruiz Calavera]

       Enhancing regional and EU relationships?

      • 25:02 “Everything we do in the EU to foster the EU recovery, we try to do exactly the same in the Western Balkans because they are our future member states.” / 26:41 We have a “very ambitious” agenda for digital, underpinned by three pillars – investment by the EU of up to €9bn, reforms by Western Balkans countries, and working together to overcome fragmentation and create conditions for investors to come. [Genoveva Ruiz Calavera]
      • 41:57 “When we speak about regional cooperation, especially in the area of digital, we can freely say that we have fantastic cooperation among the Western Balkans economies; we have now three or four years of cooperation on specific projects and very concrete results.” [Milan Dobrijevic]
      • 31:54 “We have certainly supported, with all our means, the creation of the Regional Roaming Agreement. This is a primary example of concrete benefits that the digital agenda can bring to the citizens of the region.” [Genoveva Ruiz Calavera]
      • 49:44 “While the number of digital economy initiatives and success stories is growing in numbers, they remain scattered across the region… However, recent years saw the emergence of tech parks, incubators and accelerators.” [Vladimir Vulic] 

            Inclusivity: women and the youth

            • 35:24 “How many families have technological devices to provide for their children or young people?” [Trina Hoti, youth delegate]
            • 39:45 “There are economic barriers to access of technology, but I wouldn’t want to be bleak… I’m extremely positive that for overcoming those barriers we have a pool of talent in the region that is going to have a very good impact.” [Genoveva Ruiz Calavera]
            • 44:57 “Educational systems tend to be inertial… that’s the reason why we need to complement formal education with an informal one…. Things are changing, especially with COVID.” [Milan Dobrijevic]
            • 1:09:48 “I think that young people are key to transition of our societies to a more digitalized and modern their future, and therefore it’s important that they become the future ambassadors and force for change… Supporting their participating and innovation “could be achieved by maybe establishing some regional youth start-up centres”. [Olga Devic, youth delegate]
            • 1:14:41 “You can never look at one sector alone if you talk about development and if you talk about promoting inclusive growth” for example we work with the Serbian government and other partners to help them analyse what’s needed “for the young to see the future in the country and in the region”. [Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger]
            • 1:24:28 “Women are increasingly getting in the game when it comes to the digital economy.” [Vladimir Vulic]
            • 19:47 “A very important element [of our new report on women’s economic empowerment in the region] is the promotion of women in STEM… because this is the future skill that the labour markets will need in the Western Balkans.” [Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger]

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