The 23rd Traditional Garden Party of Vienna Economic Forum (VEF), in cooperation with Europa-Forum Wachau (EFW), took place during an exclusive boat trip from Krems through the Wachau and back on the ship "MS Dürnstein"
By signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Amb. Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, Secretary General of the Vienna Economic Forum, and Amb. Dr. Martin Eichtinger, Special Representative and Coordinator for Neighbourhood Policy and the External Dimension of the Danube Region at the Austrian Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), President of the Europa-Forum Wachau, along with Ms. Theresa Edtstadler-Kulhanek, M.Sc., Managing Director of the Europa-Forum Wachau, agreed to join two major events hosted by VEF and EFW.
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The 23rd Traditional VEF Garden Party, "Culinary and Musical Journey through the Member Countries of Vienna Economic Forum", perfectly complemented the festive conclusion of the 28th Europa-Forum Wachau held from 20th to 22nd June 2024.
As traditionally done for many years, on 21st June 2024, the ambassadors of the member countries of Vienna Economic Forum (VEF), members of the VEF- Ambassadors Committee, and the Secretary General and founder of VEF, Amb. Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, invited guests to celebrate the popular VEF Summer Event along with the "Danube Salon Europa-Forum Wachau" during an exclusive boat trip from Krems through the Wachau and back aboard the ship "MS Dürnstein".
Following warm words of welcome from Ambassador Dr. Martin Eichtinger, President of the Europa-Forum Wachau, Secretary General Dr. Elena Kirtcheva recalled the history behind the beginning of the popular VEF- garden party in 2002 and the subsequent founding of Vienna Economic Forum two years later in 2004, aimed at promoting intercultural and international understanding primarily in the economic sector.
Together with the President of Vienna Economic Forum, Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, Secretary General Dr. Elena Kirtcheva extended thanks to Ambassador Dr. Eichtinger, President of the Europa-Forum Wachau, for their collaboration and for the idea of organizing this year's 23rd VEF Garden Party within the framework of the 28th Europa-Forum Wachau, emphasizing the importance of the exclusive opportunity to enjoy the special atmosphere "by the beautiful blue Danube".
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She also expressed gratitude to the Director of VEF's long-standing strategic partner, the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM), Mag. Sebastian Schäffer, MA.
Special thanks were extended by the Secretary General to the Governor of Lower Austria, Ms. Johanna Mikl-Leitner, for her high appreciation of the collaboration with VEF Member Countries and active participation in the economic development of the VEF region "From the Adriatic to the Black Sea".
A heartfelt thanks was also given by the Secretary General to Federal Minister Karoline Edtstadler for her support and esteemed participation on behalf of the Austrian government at the 20. Jubilee Vienna Economic Forum in the Vienna City Hall in November 2023.
Secretary General Dr. Kirtcheva also expressed words of thanks to the numerous guests of the event - representatives of VEF member countries, participants of IDM, and the Danube Salon. She highlighted the joy over the joint summer event on the day of the summer solstice and pointed out the diverse programme, including music, art, and culinary delights from VEF Member Countries. Catering and DJ music, organised by the Europa-Forum Wachau, contributed highly to the cheerful atmosphere.
In conclusion of her speech, Ambassador Dr. Elena Kirtcheva thanked all who contributed to the organisation of the event, especially the ambassadors of VEF member countries, VEF President Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, and the highly motivated and dedicated VEF team. Special appreciation was given to Ms. Theresa Edtstadler-Kulhanek, Managing Director of the Europa-Forum Wachau, for excellent cooperation and tireless efforts.
The VEF Secretary General took the opportunity to announce to all participants the date for the 21st Vienna Economic Forum which under the Motto "Economy Meets Politics" will be held on 4th November 2024 at the House of Engineers, 1040 Vienna, and invited to "save the date". This VEF will continue the long-standing and diverse activities of Vienna Economic Forum to promote economic development and consolidate the entire VEF- Region "From the Adriatic to the Black Sea".
The attending ambassadors, members of Vienna Economic Forum Ambassadors Committee, diplomats - representatives of VEF member countries and the entire diplomatic corps, were invited to participate in the traditional family photo:
H.E. Prof. Fate VELAJ, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Albania in the Republic of Austria
 H.E. Siniša BENCUN, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Republic of Austria
H.E. Desislava NAYDENOVA-GOSPODINOVA, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria in the Republic of Austria
Stanica ANDIC, Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Embassy of Montenegro in the Republic of Austria
H.E. Ozan CEYHUN, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey in the Republic of Austria
Kaltrina ADEMI ORUCI, Counsellor , Kosovo, representing the Kosovo Embassy
Hilda KOLEVSKA, Minister Plenipotentiary, North Macedonia, representing Ambassador S.E. Osvit ROSOKLIJA of North Macedonia
Dr. Adi-Cristina MITEA, Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Romania, representing Ambassador S.E. Dr.h.c. Emil Hurezeanu of Romania
Mag. Matjaž MARKO, Commercial Counselor, Slovenia, representing Ambassador S.E. Aleksander Geržina of Slovenia
Vienna Economic Forum was pleased to welcome Mag. Mila Nenova, Managing Director of the Invest Bulgaria Agency (IBA) and Board Member of Vienna Economic Forum. She took the opportunity to engage in bilateral discussions with representatives of various companies from Austria, Europe, and worldwide, discussing concrete initiatives.
More than 300 guests were treated by Vienna Economic Forum member countries to country-specific, traditional culinary delights. Artistic performances from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegowina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Romania, including a highly interesting pantomime performance titled "Encounters" by Mariana De Meo and Roman-Maria Müller, marked the highlight of the evening, with regional folk dances encouraging many guests to join in.
Once again, the unique atmosphere was a testament to the mutual understanding and commonalities that bind the people of the VEF region from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.
Please find the here.

Photocredit: SOCIETY/Pobaschnig

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20. Jubilee VEF Logo bild

Vienna Economic Forum – Sofia Meeting 2024

Vienna Economic Forum – Sofia Meeting 2024 took place under the motto "Continuing to build economic bridges during difficult times" on 22nd April 2024 in Trijadiza Hall of the state-owned Boyana Residency, in Sofia.

The Board and Members of Vienna Economic Forum (VEF) are proud to have organised this successful event together with the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and to welcome the high-ranking participants - representatives of regional politics and economy from more than 20 countries from the VEF- Region, Europe and worldwide.

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web baner VEF Sofia 1920x1080pix 16.04.2024

The first Session of Vienna Economic Forum – Sofia Meeting 2024, “Continuing to build Economic Bridges during Difficult Times, Ensuring Economic and Financial Stability of the Region on the Path to Europe Challenges and Responsibilities” was opened by Ambassador Dr. Elena Kirtcheva, Member of the Board and Secretary General of Vienna Economic Forum, and moderated by Dr. Boyko Vassilev, Moderator and Producer of Panorama show, Bulgarian National Television.

In her opening Statement, VEF Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Kirtcheva emphasized that it is an honour and a privilege to open the third Sofia Meeting of Vienna Economic Forum, following two previous VEF-Sofia Meetings that took place in 2008 and 2018.

Vienna Economic Forum – Sofia Meeting 2024 took place 22nd April 2024, two days before the 20th anniversary of the founding of Vienna Economic Forum, which was registered on 24th April 2004, in Vienna under Austrian law. Additionally, Ambassador Dr. Kirtcheva highlighted the 20 years of activities of Vienna Economic Forum and the significant recognitions achieved together with VEF cooperation partners and members. She pointed out the regional economic development as well as the importance of future cooperation.

Vienna Economic Forum (VEF), which was recognized as an International Non-Governmental Organization (Int. NGO) first on 7. January 2011, and then reconfirmed status as of 1. January 2022 is constantly growing and developing. VEF was granted special consultative status from the Economic and Social Council of United Nations (ECOSOC) on 27. July 2012 and since 2015 has been registered in the Transparency Register of the European Parliament and European Commission. VEF also received by the Austrian authorities the right to wave its flag in the heart of the Vienna Embassy District next to numerous national flags.

In his Introductory Statement Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, Director, Diplomatische Akademie Wien - Vienna School of International Studies, President of Vienna Economic Forum spoke about the economic and political attention that Balkan region needs. In this regard Vienna Economic Forum has proven the necessity of a platform that goes beyond the discussions exclusively for the Western Balkans countries, as a significant advantage of the role of VEF. He emphasized the importance of fulfilling the internal market's requirements and expressed his conviction that the future of our continent lies in the VEF- Region: "If we succeed in the economic field, I am sure that the political influence in this region will be what it should be, because this region is not second-class Europe, but first-class Europe." In conclusion, VEF- President highlighted the positive influence of Vienna Economic Forum and the contribution that VEF makes as an economic platform based in Vienna. He encouraged all representatives of economy and politics to act together in confirming this impact.

Ms. Mariya Gabriel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria (2023-2024), European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth (2019-2023), Esteemed Long-Standing Active Supporter of Vienna Economic Forum, Recipient of the Annual Award “Partner of the Year 2020” for her contribution as European Commissioner to the economic development of the whole region during her keynote in the first session, “Continuing to build Economic Bridges during Difficult Times - Ensuring Economic and Financial Stability of the Region on the Path to Europe: Challenges and Responsibilities”, stressed the important role of Vienna Economic Forum not only in Austria and in the VEF region but also in Europe. Ms. Gabriel stated that: "In its 20-year success story, VEF has played a leading role in promoting economic cooperation among countries of the VEF region, defined as “The Region from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.” This region needs Europe, but also 'Europe relies on this region.'" Over the past 20 years, it is proven that VEF is a platform of Vision that provide ideas, build partnerships and work together to find solutions to the challenges of our time.

Dr. Akkan Suver, President of Marmara Group Foundation, Türkiye, Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized that Vienna Economic Forum is a bridge of peace and cooperation, a free platform that guides a cooperation platform between Balkan and Europe. He stated that the VEF- Region, which includes Türkiye, the country he comes from, presents a great opportunity. Highlighting that VEF countries are centre of trade and culture, he stressed further the importance of economic cooperation between the VEF member countries, including Türkiye and Europe.

Minister of Economy of the Republic of Kosovo, H.E. Dr. Artane Rizvanolli, expressed the warm reception from VEF in promoting economic cooperation. According to H.E. Dr. Rizvanolli, this is undoubtedly a reflection of the exceptional bilateral relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Kosovo, but also a decisive moment for the role of Vienna Economic Forum in promoting economic cooperation among VEF- Member Countries. She stressed that in the 20 years of the existence of VEF, the importance of the motto "Economy meets Politics" has never been greater than it is today.

Mag. Peter Höfinger, Deputy CEO and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Vienna Insurance Group AG Wiener Versicherung Gruppe and Vice President of Vienna Economic Forum, raised the question of how we can confidently and unitedly move forward towards Europe in difficult times. He described the geopolitical developments that are leading the world increasingly into a multipolar order with consequences, as well as phenomena such as inflation, technological development, artificial intelligence, demographic changes, and national politics. VEF- Vice President Mag. Höfinger emphasized the crucial role of insurance companies by challenging all major insurance companies on how they will handle inflation.

During his Statement, H.E. Dr. Petko Nikolov, Minister of Economy and Industry of the Republic of Bulgaria, expressed the important relationship between investments in human capital, innovation, and their positive impact on regional cooperation. Minister Dr. Nikolov stressed that VEF is an indisputable example of successful regional economic cooperation. According to Minister Dr. Nikolov, the initiatives of VEF to promote regional economic cooperation are of great importance not only for the region but also for Europe.

During his participation in the discussion, Mr. Björn Gabriel, Head of the Representation in North Macedonia, European Investment Bank (EIB) Luxembourg, pointed out the comparison between bridges and gaps and stressing the fact that the average GDP per capita in the Western Balkans is only about 38% of the European Union's GDP, which is a significant gap that obviously needs to be addressed by all of us. He highlighted that over the last decade, EIB has tried to increase support in the Western Balkans by investing billions of euros and providing technical assistance. He further explained the European Union's "Growth plan" as an acceleration of the mentioned gap.

Dr. Herbert Stepic, Advisor for Financial Industry and M&A, former CEO of Raiffeisen Bank International, Founding and Honorary Member of Vienna Economic Forum, spoke about the importance of the young people and education support for the future of the region. He stressed that we will never be able to move forward unless we have well-educated people with positive attitudes in leading our countries, societies, and economies. He further explained that we need to adapt the workplace as problems are partly different and will constantly change.

Eng. Kalin Peshov, MBA, CEO of GBS Holding AD, Board Member of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized from a technological point of view the importance of building bridges not only between nations but also intercultural bridges on an economic basis. He spoke further about economic bridges, to which we can contribute.

Ms. Teodora Matei, Deputy Director of Invest Moldova Agency, Moldova, spoke about the importance of the Republic of Moldova’s accession to the European Union, which can help local companies grow abroad. She also mentioned the importance and willingness to build economic bridges through communication and partnerships.

Mr. Dimitar Nedyalkov, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Bulgaria mentioned the promoting of regional integration. He stressed that the Ministry is fully dedicated to the realization of the construction of a new bridge connecting Bulgaria and Romania in the Ruse region, as well as developing the multi-corridor between northern Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The first session was finalized with a short Q and A Session with the participants.

In the Second Session, “Ask the Visionaries the Role of Innovation, Technology and Education for the Regional Economic Cooperation”, Ms. Veselina Mincheva, Deputy Minister of Innovation and Growth of the Republic of Bulgaria emphasized that the level of knowledge in Bulgaria and in VEF Member Countries provides a good basis for further successful growth of innovations in the VEF- Region.

In his Keynote Statement, H.E. Mr. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Patron of Vienna Economic Forum, expressed his pleasure and gratitude to Bulgaria, its government and its people. He stressed that Bulgaria recognized Kosovo's independence and mentioned that this year marks 15 years of bilateral relations since then. Prime Minister Kurti stated that his statement should serve as a call for more solidarity in the VEF- Region. He further emphasized that we need to communicate and cooperate more by mentioning that through this way we can achieve more and become better. He spoke about the threat to democracy, as autocrats are using social media and technology as strategic weapons to destroy it, as cyber-attacks and hybrid wars have become an eminent security threat to most of our governments. According to him, we need to fully embrace technological progress but at the same time make sure that this does not happen at the expense of our cherished values. When there are certain difficulties, we should continue to build economic bridges, which means that we should continue despite all adversities. In these difficult times, according to Prime Minister Kurti, proper education seems to be the key to the future. He further mentioned that in the 20th century in Kosovo, the most well-known German word was Gastarbeiter (Guest worker), whereas he wants that the word Ausbildung (Education) to be changed to the most well-known German word in the 21st century, as it links vocational training with the labour market and bridges the skills gap.

Mag. Mila Nenova, CEO of InvestBulgaria Agency, Main Cooperation Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, and Board Member of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized that the work of Vienna Economic Forum corresponds to the same idea that InvestBulgaria Agency pursues. She expressed how we should continue looking to the future and considering the next steps, especially as the world has changed after COVID-19. Europe, as a continent has adopted a more strategic approach to its industry, and this presents an opportunity for the region that we must seize because things will change again, and we might miss an opportunity. We are here to make good decisions for the future and the only way to achieve that is through cooperation.

Mag. Heinz Messinger, CEO of AME International GmbH, Austria, and Vice President of Vienna Economic Forum, spoke about the necessity to promote the production of energy in addition to the import of various materials. He emphasized the importance of education and innovation in promoting entrepreneurship.

Professor Dr. Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia and Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized the need to continuously rethink the skills and attributes of leaders due to constant and significant changes, particularly in Technology. She pointed out that every industrial revolution has prompted a recalibration of leadership questions and its development.

Dr. Goran Jovetić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development of Montenegro, spoke about the long-standing good relations between Montenegro and Vienna Economic Forum. He mentioned this platform as an example to exchange experiences, especially in the region, and to use this opportunity to strengthen regional cooperation. According to him, significant progress towards EU membership should be made collectively within the framework of regional cooperation.

Ms. Ayşe Çeri, Project Manager in the Department for Foreign Offices at the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Investment Office and representative of the Board Member of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized that innovation, technology, and education play a crucial role in promoting investments and strengthening regional economic cooperation. She explained that Türkiye has focused on using innovation as a driver of economic growth and has made significant progress in modernizing the economy. Invest Türkiye is proud to cooperate with Vienna Economic Forum and looks forward to continuing the successful cooperation.

Professor Dr. Barbara Kolm, President of the Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute and Director of Austrian Economic Center, Austria, and Strategic Partner of Vienna Economic Forum, emphasized in her Statement entitled "No Innovation without Education" that education promotes innovation by equipping individuals with knowledge and skills, fostering creativity and enabling them to adapt to challenges. She also mentioned that education cultivates curiosity, encourages exploration, and supports lifelong learning. Dr. Kolm further explained that the role of innovation and technology drives regional economic cooperation and therefore we must constantly work together but also divide labour. She also stressed the fact that we must educate the new generation to take responsibility for themselves and compete - only in this way can Europe have a successful future.

At the end of the second session, Ambassador Dr. Emil Brix, Director, Diplomatische Akademie Wien - Vienna School of International Studies, President of Vienna Economic Forum gave a comprehensive overview of Vienna Economic Forum – Sofia Meeting 2024 and an analytical summary of the contributions of the distinguished participants.

Vienna Economic Forum thanks all participants, especially the VEF board members and cooperation partners for their tireless support. Special thanks go to Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA), Government of the Republic of Kosovo, EIB Group, GBS Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD, Sopharma AG, Canon CEE, Bulstrad-Vienna Insurance Group, Bulstrad Life-Vienna Insurance Group, EVN Bulgaria, Penkov, Markov & Partners PM&P, and Bulgarian Industrial Association.


Please find hereby the links to the Media Release:

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA)

Invest Bulgaria Agency (IBA), Main Cooperation Partner of VEF  


 Explore the VEF - Sofia Meeting 2024 gallery by clicking 'view more'.

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