DG NEAR EVENT in collaboration with WEP: Outcome

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European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and Women Entrepreneurship Platform

EU enlargement to the Western Balkans: What role for women entrepreneurs?

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Date: November 21st, 2016, 9 a.m.

Venue: Europe House, Korte Vijverberg 5/6, The Hague, Netherlands

Ambassadors and diplomats, university professors, business professionals, and women entrepreneurs attended the lively panel discussion held on Monday, November 21, in The Hague's Europe House.  The event was organized by WEP in collaboration with the Directorate General for Neighbourhood Enlargement (DG NEAR), and with the support of the Women's Business Initiative International (WBII).   WEP Chairwoman Grazia Rendo was one of the panelists, while WEP Treasurer Charlene Lambert opened and chaired the session.

The guests at the meeting were welcomend by Madeleine Infeldt, Head of the Public Communication Section and European Commission employee.

Charlene Lambert introduced the discussion by reminding the audience that many studies have shown that entrepreneurship is fundamental to economic growth and social development, and an essential driver of prosperity. She highlighted the fact that the magnitude and intensity of the reforms needed to adjust the candidate countries in the Western Balkans to the EU accession criteria are such that active involvement of all actors within the respective societies social political, and economic structures, is critical.

Efka Heder, Director of the South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL) and opening panel speaker has worked at scaling entrepreneurship education efforts across Southeastern Europe, and fostering regional stability through cross-border entrepreneurship education collaboration. Despite a context of political instability and socio-economic challenges in the Balkans, Efka has been able to elevate entrepreneurial learning as a priority policy area – resulting in a unique combination of national ownership, regional cooperation and policy learning. Efka presented SEECEL's work, as well as the Republic of Croatia's Strategy of Women Entrepreneurship Development. As one of the first countries in the world to have a specific strategy to support women's entrepreneurship, Croatia has carved out a leadership role in this regard.  The extended recession in the Republic of Croatia, which began with the economic crisis in 2008, and the many problems which it caused for women in particular, was a wake-up call to Croatia to place more emphasis on gender equalization activities.

Grazia Rendo opened her remarks with a statement from the OECD Secretary General, Angel Gurria that: "Women are the most underutilized economic asset in the world’s economy.” She went on to discuss the potential contribution of women entrepreneurs, and highlighted the Memorandum of Understanding that WEP recently signed with the Association of Business women in Serbia and The Albanian national, professional, businesswomen and crafts.

Godana Durdevic, Member of the Association of Businesswomen in Serbia, Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year in 2008, and Director and co-owner of the company Slovo. Ltd., gave her personal impressions and experience as a businesswomen in the region, and explained how her network association has been able to support her. She welcomes more contact and collaboration with WEP.

A discussion and Q&A followed, and some of the take-aways included:

  • The need for an ongoing policy dialogue among all countries in the region;
  • The importance of cooperation among women entrepreneurship organizations to share the available funding;
  • The importance of entrepreneurial education at all levels, including with children;
  • The need for more systematic data gathering so that we know more about the current status, and potential results of entrepreneurship programs.

The networking lunch and exchanges of business cards ended the program, with new ideas being generated and contacts being made.