"United we stand, divided we fall". Inspired by this good old motto, a group of Italian business associations operating in the Balkans decided to overcome geographical barriers and form a federation to enhance their economic activity in the area.
Being "entrepreneurs abroad" is not always the simplest experience, and sharing feedback, information and know-how can prove to be of the greatest importance for companies familiar with these markets and newcomers.
The founding agreement of Confindustria Balcani – the name of the Federation – was signed in Tirana last April by Massimo Bartocci, chairman of the Committee of Italian Entrepreneurs in Bulgaria (Italian acronym CIIB) and the leaders of four other Italian business associations operating in Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia. Confindustria Balcani is going to be fully operational from September 2010 with a rotating Presidency held by Mr. Bartocci for 2010–2013.
By the end of the year other associations are expected to join Confindustria Balcani, spreading its borders to include Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro. The brand new structure is an initiative led by CIIB and Confindustria Italia, the main organisation representing Italian manufacturing and services companies.
Confindustria Italia and the CIIB have had vigorous and lively relations since they signed in Rome a first collaboration agreement in April 2009.
In March 2010 CIIB became part of Confindustria and entered its group of 142 762 companies of all sizes – employing a total of 5235 029 workers. As a consequence of this process, the change of CIIB’s official name into "Confindustria Bulgaria" is currently in progress.
Confindustria Balcani is another important step toward a steadier and more consistent Italian economic presence in the Balkan Peninsula. It will offer the federated associations and to their member companies strong support in the process of internationalisation and to the local authorities a reliable and representative partner.
"Confindustria Balcani gathers quite different experiences," emphasises Massimo Bartocci. "For instance, Italian economic presence in Bulgaria is mature and consolidated. Our big member companies such as Unicredit Bulbank, Italcementi, Generali, Enel patently show this "special relationship" between Bulgaria and Italy.
Serbia, on the other hand, has lately started to offer not-to-be-missed opportunities and its market is now attracting an increasing number of Italian companies. The implementation of the activities of FIAT’s car factory in Kragujevac was undoubtedly a key driver of this trend.
In other countries – like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo – Confindustria Balcani may attract new Italian companies and underpin groundbreaking patterns of growth." Federico Landi, Vice Director of Confindustria Italia, delves into the topic of the need of supporting Italian economic initiative abroad: "On the other shore of the Adriatic Sea we found a ‘critical mass’ of Italian entrepreneurs and we decided to offer them our associative strength.
Confindustria Balcani will be an ideal "laboratory": through it we will be able to discover new markets and develop new economic strategies".
In the past decade the Balkans showed it was able to transform itself from an area of instability into one of the most interesting emerging markets in Europe. Confindustria Balcani is the tangible proof that Italy’s business community wants to be an active part of this dynamic environment.
'At the present time, we will not invest,' John Clark, country manager of Enel Bulgaria, told a roundtable about renewable energy, organised by Confindustria Bulgaria in collaboration with the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade of Sofia.
The narrow focus of many euro zone countries on fiscal austerity is deepening the jobs crisis and could even lead to another recession in Europe, said the Director of the ILO Institute for International Labour Studies and lead author of the report, Raymond Torres.
Yassen Lyubenov is the new head of marketing at Bulgarian beer brewer Kamenitza. Lyubenov has 12 years of experience in marketing in the fast-moving consumer goods sector and has started his career as assistant brand manager at Kraft Foods Bulgaria. He later became brand manager at Wrigley Bulgaria, with responsibilities for Bulgaria and Macedonia. Prior to joining Kamenitza, he was senior marketing manager at Wrigley Russia, where he was in charge of brand expansion into Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Lyubenov has a bachelor's degree in international business administration from the University of Lincoln, UK.
Kamelia Lozanova has been appointed the executive director of the Employment Agency, a position she has held ad interim since September 2011, following the resignation of her predecessor Rossitsa Stelianova. Prior to that, Lozanova was the agency's deputy executive director in charge of international projects and European programmes. She has been with the agency for more than 20 years.
Lozanova has a degree in Slavonic philology from the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia.
Gloria Dimitrova has been appointed executive director and member of the managing board at Uniqa Life Insurance Bulgaria. Dimitrova began her career in 1998 at the insurance supervision directorate, but moved to the private sector and worked for professional services and insurance brokerage firm Marsh&McLennan and US insurer AIG, both in Bulgaria and the Middle East. She joined Uniqa as regional director for Sofia in 2010.
Dimitrova has a degree in economics from the University for National and World Economy in Sofia and a master's degree in insurance from the Business Academy in Svishtov.
Bedros Kalfayan, general manager of skin care and cosmetics company Beiersdorf Bulgaria, will oversee the parent's company units in Romania and Moldova starting April 1. Following company restructuring, Beiersdorf's subsidiaries in the three countries were merged and are now one unit, part of Beiersdorf Central and Eastern Europe. Kalfayan joined Beiersdorf in 2007 as sales manager and was promoted to general manager in 2008. Prior to that, he worked for Axxon Bulgaria, Ferrero and Rubella.
Kalfayan has a master's degree in industrial management from the Technical University in Sofia.
Sasha Bezuhanova has been appointed Hewlett-Packard public sector director for emerging markets, where she will oversee HP public sector activities in 63 countries, including Bulgaria. Bezuhanova will also be in charge of HP's relations with the European Union. Bezuhanova has been HP's public sector director for Central and Eastern Europe since 2008; before that she was general manager of HP Bulgaria since 1998.
Bezuhanova has a master's degree in electronics from the Technical University in Sofia and has completed a managment programme at INSEAD.
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