April 12-15, 2015, Osijek, Croatia

Fostering the ICT Ecosystem

Ambassador James B. Foley Opening Ceremony Remarks

Remarks by Ambassador James B. Foley

The Brown Forum Opening

April 5, 2011 Dubrovnik, Croatia

Mr. President, Madam Prime Minister, thank you for being here today and for co-hosting with us this impressive gathering of government and business leaders from Southeastern Europe and the United States.  I would to also like to welcome the many distinguished ministers of neighboring countries and the many senior representatives of the Croatian government.  We are honored by your participation.  The U.S. government is proud to be a part of this important discussion on the future economic prosperity of this region and the possibilities for enhanced partnerships with American businesses.  I am confident that this conference will identify policies and practices that will enable the region to be more competitive in the global economy.

These goals should sound familiar.  In 1996, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown, along with a select group of U.S. business leaders and economic experts, led a mission to Croatia and Bosnia to promote peace and stability and revitalize trade in the region.  

That mission ended tragically when their aircraft crashed into a hillside just a few short miles from here.  Yesterday, friends, colleagues and loved ones of those who perished honored their memory with a memorial hike and service.  Today, we look forward, and open The Brown Forum to honor their legacy and continue their work.  

It has been fifteen years since that terrible April day and with the passage of time has come a success story for democracy and peace in the region.  The last decade and a half have witnessed steady progress toward co-operation, partnership and integration in the greater Euro-Atlantic region politically, militarily and economically.  

But there is still work to be done.  So, it is with the goals of Secretary Brown’s mission in mind that the U.S. Government, the Croatian Presidency and the Government of Croatia have organized this forum.  

The United States is proud to lend its support toward building economic partnerships and increasing the attractiveness of the region as a destination for international investment and trade.   And I am pleased that four of the firms or participants from the original mission, Bechtel, Guardian International, Parsons and EBRD, are here today to advance those goals as well.   

This Forum has brought together leaders from government and business who have the capacity to effect change.  Through the use of webcasting and social media we will reach both the general public and other businesses and government decision-makers throughout the region, greatly multiplying our message of co-operation, partnership and economic development through international trade.   It is my hope that this openness and inclusiveness will facilitate a broad and frank dialogue about how to create new economic and commercial opportunities. 

I believe that there are two basic truths that define why we have gathered here and what we aim to accomplish:  first, that this region has enormous economic potential and ought to be a prime destination for foreign investment; and two, that this potential is not being met.  Each country here knows the challenges it faces.  We have all seen the reports that detail areas to be improved.   From easing bureaucratic obstacles to doing business in the region to developing sustainable models for regional growth and development, there are many areas where communication between policymakers and private business leaders can lead to progress.  Today and tomorrow, we will begin this public-private dialogue.  We will identify steps we can take to support business as a driver of economic growth and foster a trade environment that creates opportunities for domestic and international firms alike.  And, I am confident, the businesses represented here will do what they do best – which is to do business with each other and to explore opportunities for longer-term projects as the investment climate in this exciting region steadily improves.

To that end, we, the organizers, have prepared a set of recommendations that will be shared as a product of this conference.  You received a copy in your welcome kit.  I encourage you to take a look at those.  We welcome your feedback.

Let me by thanking the people of Dubrovnik, who have honored our fallen colleagues and loved ones every year since 1996 with a memorial ceremony.  The Brown Forum is a fitting addition to this year’s tribute and I greatly appreciate the support we received from the Mayor and the Prefect as we put this conference together.  I also want to thank all of the sponsoring businesses and organizations, without whose support we would not be nearly so well fed during these next two days.  And finally I want to thank all of you, particularly the business leaders as far away as from the United States who have traveled to be here today.   I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Secretary Brown and his delegation than the fact that we have gathered here to realize their dream. 

Thank you.