Address by the President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović at the International Innovation Forum in Jerusalem
Dear participants and guests of the Forum,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here today and to have the opportunity to discuss the global trends in the field of innovation and new technologies together with the other esteemed participants and guests.
But it is also a good opportunity for me to present the experiences and potentials of the Republic of Srpska at this important place.
Moreover, it is an excellent occasion for all of us to see how we can combine our efforts, knowledge and experience in order to more successfully respond to the challenges of the future – such as better economy, better development, better security, better social cohesion.
But let me first congratulate our hosts and organizers on the excellent organization of this great event and thank them for gathering us together. In such globally complex pandemic situation this must have been a big challenge.
I would not say anything new or unknown by claiming that innovations and new technologies represent the economic branch of the 21st century.
This is something we have already learned, being aware that, if not the very survival, then successful and sustainable development of each individual state or community will certainly depend on adapting to the modern trends in this field.
Unlike the 20th century, which was largely a century of accelerated exploitation of resources and development based on it, in recent decades we have clearly seen the focus moving progressively to the knowledge and intelligence as a human resource which is, unlike natural resources, inexhaustible and everlasting.
This is exactly where we can see great development opportunities for relatively small countries and communities, as is the case with the Republic of Srpska.
Although they do not have large territories and abundant natural resources like some larger countries, they still have a great human potential, the most important resource of today, without which there are no innovations or new technologies, and thus no long-term sustainable economic development.
Of course, it is a task of institutions to recognise this and to provide adequate conditions and a stimulating environment for scientific and technological progress as well as the development of new ideas.
In order to meet these requirements, we reorganized our government several years ago and established the Ministry for Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society.
We practically merged in one place those departments which are crucial for encouraging innovation and economic development through the use of new technologies.
In accordance with the needs of our society, one of the primary goals of the Ministry is to harmonise educational policies with the labor market needs and the global technological trends.
This, of course, implies constant adjustment and implementation of educational system reforms which are painful in the short term, but definitely inevitable and useful in the long run.
We are fully aware of the necessity to prepare young people for a continual acquisition of knowledge and skills through a modernized educational process, knowing that some of the existing jobs will be replaced by new ones that will emerge in the meantime.
This practically means that those who are to become school kids will do some jobs which currently do not exist and are not listed in the labor market of today.
In order to encourage new ideas and innovation activities we have launched several projects. One of the main ones is the establishment of the first Science and Technology Park in the city of Banja Luka, which is the capital of the Republic of Srpska, where the University of Banja Luka will have a central location for students, researchers, young scientists and entrepreneurs to get together.
This should become the engine for a business oriented society and the development of modern entrepreneurship based on and driven by knowledge and new technologies.
In addition, in May this year we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with our partners from Israel in order to establish a Cyber academy, where our students will be trained to acquire knowledge and skills in the field of cyber security.
The importance of this project is fully justified as statistics indicate that in the current year 2021 there has been a lack of about 3,5 million of cyber security experts globally, while the single digital market of the European Union still lacks
400.000 more experts.
As is the case anywhere else, to maintain regional political stability is one of the prerequisites for the economic development of the Western Balkans.
All the activities we are discussing today require networking, interaction, cooperation and knowledge-sharing both regionally and globally.
Therefore, it is one of the priorities for the Republic of Srpska institutions to enjoy the effects of unhindered cooperation and stronger economic ties within Bosnia and Herzegovina and with our neighboring countries.
All these countries are on the path to the European Union, although unequally distanced from the objective to become member states. At the same time, we stand for a stronger economic integration of the Western Balkans, which is the fastest growing region in Europe.
With the current growth rate, and our potential and capacities in the energy sector, growing touristic industry, improved regional infrastructure, and many other growing areas including the branches based on new technologies and innovation, the economy of the Western Balkans, which includes a market of 20 million people might become more than twice as big or might even triple in ten years.
Therefore, regional initiatives such as Mini Schengen or Open Balkans will only enhance our regional strength but also considerably contribute to the economic growth and development of every single country in the region.
Thus I hope that we will not miss the opportunity by allowing some political short-sightedness prevent us from achieving it.
I think it is important for us to point out these facts to all potential investors and partners from all over the world.
This is the best way to gradually deconstruct the stereotypical image of the Balkans as a permanently unstable region unattractive to foreign investors. However, a lot of work is still ahead of us and nothing is set in advance. The long-term development and economic future of all our countries in the region, will depend on our ability to cope with the challenges and prejudices, as well as to keep pace with the modern economic trends.
I believe that we have learned the lessons from the difficult past and that we will continue to build a better and more successful future together.
Thank you for your attention!