“Peace and Development in Southeast Europe:
The Role of Business, Entrepreneurs, and Investors
27 October 2019
Prof. Dr. Arben Malaj
Ladies and Gentleman,
Dear friends and colleagues,
I would like to thank the organizers and participants of this conference for two main reasons.
The first one is for – the selected focus of this conference, dedicated to peace and prosperity.
The second reason behind it is for the fact that you have chosen Albania which is Mother Teresa’s homeland who inspires us with a great message
“Not all of us can do great things.
But we can do small things with great love.”
The main challenges that SEE faces today are the consolidation of peace and to increase the prosperity of our people.
United Europe was born on the ruins of two world wars and only through cooperation and integration could the roots of conflicts and wars be eliminated.
For about 74 years this vision has been successful.
It is useful for all of us, especially today.
For the better future of SEE, Einstein warned us
“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
This is supported by the fact that just 7 years after the Second World War the winners and losers came together in the projection of stability, peace, and prosperity.
The EU model is highly valuable for the former communist countries and especially for the Balkans.
As Churchill (1941) told, “Balkan produces more history than it consumes”. As a result, our history has to lead to religious or ethnic conflicts that have killed peace and produced poverty.
But as Mother Teresa advises, “Instead of cursing the darkness we must light a candle”, which we hope will light peace and prosperity.”
The past should serve us as a lesson for the future, but the present and the future inspire us not to roll in the past but to commit ourselves to a better future for our people, countries, and region.
“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
The current reality of the SEE countries proves that peace in our region has been achieved, but it still remains fragile and threatened by nationalism, radicalism or geopolitical clashes.
From time to time the black shadows of ethnic and religious conflicts created by nationalists, populists and radical tendencies appear and reappear on the cloudy horizon of SEE countries.
Without peace, there is no prosperity, but without prosperity there is no lasting peace.
This is where the mission and role of business are very important. Through their successful cooperation, they can reduce the roots of conflicts and poverty.
The challenges of increasing real disposable incomes, increasing employment or reducing poverty and inequality are not possible without a boost in cooperation and integration at any level.
Neither a developed country nor a developing country can fight the difficult social challenges by redistributing budgetary policies.
By reducing and eliminating barriers to domestic and foreign business, by overthrowing nationalist and protectionist mentalities, we must increase and expand the equality of opportunities to face our social challenges.
Robert Schuman, one of the founders of the EU, advised us that “Europe will not be created immediately or according to a single plan. It will be built on substantial achievements – that will create a de facto solidarity ”.
This should be an inspiring model for SEE countries and the Balkans in particular;
We need concrete achievements to increase our cooperation as the best way to consolidate peace and increase prosperity.
We should and must view the obstacles, delays and incomplete achievements as continuing opportunities to overcome them and only as stations of temporary failure.
The only way to face the rising of unemployment, especially among youth people up to 50% during the global crisis of 2008 and the growing challenges of facing poverty and inequality – can only be reduced and enhanced by increasing the equality of opportunities for every individual, family, small, medium and large businesses, local or foreign.
-Reducing any barriers to non-cooperation mentality;
-Eliminating any barriers through tariffs or non-tariff;
-Having mutual respect for free trade rules by all business communities,
– Simplifying and enhancing direct contacts between people and business communities ;
-Aiming for success through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, among the SEE business communities;
those are all very important pillars of boosting the positive contribution of business for a better future in peace and prosperity for each country and for the region as a whole.
Direct co-operation between businesses in SEE countries is not just the economic gain but through tangible successes, it leads to breaking down the barriers of the suppressed mentalities.
Two years ago a professor from Serbia told me that he had come for tourism in Saranda, one of the pearls of the Adriatic. His car had a Serbian license plate. He told me that we left Serbia and traveled to Albania with great worry. They would travel in villages and towns from the northernmost point to the southernmost point of Albania.
He explained his experience to me in these words “It was only when we stopped at a cafe shop and people treated us kindly, then we realized how little we know each other and how much we prejudice one another”.
The walls of non-recognition, the walls of hesitation and fear of cooperating with each other, the prejudice of every opportunity of cooperation has been fueled by the bitter stories of the past.
Consequently, they hinder us from building a brighter future.
A piece of useful advice for policymakers and businessmen in this room comes from Confucius who thousands of years ago concluded that:
“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
Social responsibility will be a golden rule of their contributions.
Dedicated commitments to peace and prosperity must be the top priority of our daily lives.
This is the challenge ahead for all of us, our families, our countries and our region.
Institute for Public Policy and Good Governance