Budapest – International Public Relations is a tricky business; news that might be totally overlooked by local media is often picked up and broadcast around the world from an international perspective regardless of the local opinion on the matter in question. Democracy comes in differing degrees of implementation where the most democratic tend to have the moral high ground. This inevitably leads to a negative image of the economically emerging countries.
Communism in the Central and Eastern European region collapsed 20 years ago but that perception still exists in the West that the Central and Eastern European Region Countries (CEE Region) is bureaucratic, corrupt and economically less significant former Soviet states. News articles about the region often fall back to this point, usually ending on a negative note and thus eclipsing any positive news that there might be.
One recent article in The Economist referred to the CEE countries as “the awkward squad” which caused a quiet outrage. However there are some speaking out for the region; “It is not appropriate to call Central and Eastern European countries as poor, former soviet states or “the awkward squad” at all, based on the decision made by the CEE politicians. Yes, Central and Eastern European countries lived under communism for many years but this ended in 1989. There has been tremendous advancement since the switch to democracy, particularly with the provision of opportunities to develop and improve oneself, – human rights are championed throughout the region”; said Eva Timar, Director of Marketing and Business Development of Promote CEE, the non-profit association that supports the business development of small and middle-sized enterprises in the CEE region.
Facts and figures provided by the Promote CEE team do seem to support her view point. “The foreign direct investment of the Central and Eastern European region increased from USD 30 billion to USD 155 billion between 2003 -2008, the economic crises had a negative impact of course with FDI dropping to USD 77 billion in 2009. However, experts calculate that by 2014 the FDI will be approximately 172 billion USD”.
Eva Timar also points out that education in the region has improved dramatically in the past few years. Not only do the majority of the population speak two or more languages but the young Central and Eastern Europeans show overall improvement in student’s performance; many of CEE countries are among the best 30 countries in Mathematics, Sciences and Reading according to PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).
International businesses like Audi, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and many others have not missed the potential of the region, and all have invested heavily into the CEE.
There have been many innovations in the region but only a few of them have become an international success story. Skype is perfect example, the technology startup challenged the might of international phone companies but not many people knew that the software was developed by Estonian engineers at the time, prior to purchase by eBay, Silver Lake and Microsoft.
A more recent example of creative innovation was the winner of the European Union Sustainable Energy Week awards, a simple idea with great impact named “The Strawberry Tree”. The Serbian project utilized solar energy in a form of a “tree” to provide energy for everyone to use to charge their phones.
It is not only the statistical data that make us to believe in the region, but we receive more and more requests as well as opportunities to co-operate with various companies to change perception and turn the vision of a strong Central and Eastern Europe with a balanced, stable economy into reality, – and we invite everyone to be a part of it.
Author: Promote CEE