The 6th Forum on Best Practices in the Development of Entrepreneurship and SMEs in the countries in transition

Welcoming statement
by HE Doru Romulus COSTEA, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania

Geneva, le 31 March 2004

Madam Executive Secretary,
Distinguished guests and participants,
Dear colleagues,

I am highly honoured to welcome you to the Forum on Best Practices in the Development of Entrepreneurship and SMEs in the countries in transition, generously and skillfully organized by the UNECE. It is the 6th edition of this Forum, and we can talk about a praiseworthy tradition of such events. I wish to extend my thanks to Madam Executive Secretary and to her team for giving us the opportunity to present the Romanian experience and strategy for the very dynamic sector of SMEs.

In a troubled global economic situation, partially caused by tragic events, which are not our topic today, but which have hurt the global economic performance, Romania has achieved a remarkable economic growth of 5% at an average for the last two years. The main reason was a more friendly economic climate that determined the development of the private sector and attracted a high volume of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). In 2003, FDIs topped US $ 1.3 billion, that is 24 per cent more than in 2002. Romania's sustained economic performance made rating agencies upgrade their assessments, based on the steady economic development and a stable business environment.

You may know that Romania is the second large internal market in Central Europe, after Poland, and due to its geographical position it can reach about 200 million potential consumers on a surrounding area of more than 1,000 sq. km. Three of the major transport corridors meet on our territory, connecting Berlin to Constantza and Istanbul, the Rhine to the Danube, the Baltic North (Helsinki) to the Mediterranean South (Alexandropoulis). The advantages of natural position - access to the Black Sea, proximity to the Middle East and to the Commonwealth of Independent States - are prerequisites for my country to play an important role in the region. SMEs may have quite a contribution and, to this end, just to give you an example, Romania had a significant initiative, as far back as 1991, to promote the cooperation in the SMEs field among Balkan countries. This initiative was soon to take the shape of the Balkan Center for SMEs, with the Permanent Secretariat in Bucharest and two branches, in Thessaloniki and Istanbul. Coming back to our days, I cannot but commend the initiative promoted by the Italian Government within the OECD Bologna Process on SMEs, namely, the recently created International Network for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (INSME), aimed at stimulating transnational cooperation and public and private partnership in the field of innovation and technology transfer to SMEs. So, the need for cooperation exists, mechanisms and policies for this are put in place, all we have to do is start working together !

One can easily note that from the multitude of economic actors, SMEs are adapting better to market demands, and switch easier to alternative strategies, due to their flexibility in size and orientation. They also promote new ventures by making the best of their knowledge of various places abroad and mainly in Europe, and so build "bridge enterprises" - bringing together institutional, business and cultural environments, and, moreover, they bring people together.

SMEs are significant tools for the integration with the European market. EU enlargement represents an opportunity for the further development of SMEs - provided they are supported to penetrate the new EU markets. The enlargement, in itself, could contribute to lower transaction costs, in particular if it results in greater transparency, simplified procedures, harmonization and convergence of competitive conditions related to trade negotiations. SMEs will be the first to gain from an environment where transaction costs are lower. Their already important contribution to the employment and the GDP throughout the European area could grow further if they have more access, more training and are given more exposure to the Internet and electronic commerce.

By the end of this day, and of this Forum, you may have acquired just a glimpse into the experience of the Romanian SMEs; yet, what seems to me more important is that links created all along this event will increase our cooperation as European partners.

I wish you all a profitable stay in Geneva and a very successful meeting !

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