On 15 November, a Joint Declaration Reinforcing the Central and Eastern European and Western Balkans Technological Entrepreneurship Ecosystem was signed by organizations representing startups from the Central and Eastern European EU Member States and from the Western Balkans.
The digital revolution offers major opportunities for growth and innovation in both regions, which have major assets such as a large pool of talented people with strong ICT skills, a dynamically growing startup community and rapidly improving infrastructure and connectivity, as well as proximity to large markets.
Startups, in particular, can help transform local economies and societies in both regions, while creating high-quality jobs. However, startups continue to face challenges that prevent them from realising their full potential such as fragmentation of efforts to support them, red tape and under-investment. A cooperative effort is thus needed to improve startup ecosystems in both regions, to provide an innovation-friendly environment and enable digital startups and SMEs to scale-up and participate in the EU Digital Single Market.
The Declaration was signed on the margins of this year's Startup Europe Summit, Europe's annual rally with innovators, investors and policy makers. The Summit, which this year focussed on the Central and Eastern European regions as well as the Western Balkans, gathered more than 500 representatives of the European entrepreneurial ecosystem spanning from investors, CEOs and accelerators to European authorities and technological journalists.On this occasion, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said:
"I am particularly pleased to host this year's Startup Europe Summit in Sofia with a special focus on the Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans region. The summit featured inspiring discussions and present further ideas to link up the potential, dynamism and creativity of startups in these regions with EU policy initiatives. One pertinent example is the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans, which we launched in June in Sofia with the Western Balkans' leaders aimed to support the regional partners to succeed their digital transformation and bring about benefits and opportunities to citizens and businesses.''
Forging stronger links between the different startup hubs in Central and Eastern European EU States and the Western Balkans
The signatories to the Declaration will now work together to forge stronger links between the different startup hubs in the respective countries, promote greater cooperation and specialization and link up the Central and Eastern European and Western Balkans’s startup ecosystems to more mature European hubs so as to tap into their expertise and resources .