We are delighted to provide you with a transcript of the Opening Speech delivered by Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, at GLOBSEC Tatra Summit 2018.
Strbske Pleso, October 5
Tatra Summit 2018, GLOBSEC
It is great a pleasure for me to welcome you in the High Tatras. Just look outside the windows. These mountains are truly our Slovak pride.
Today, we are kicking off the seventh edition of the Tatra Summit. I am pleased to see that this challenging event has grown to become a real landmark on the map of the influential European conferences. Now, more than ever we need brand new ideas to shape the world. We need dialogue between those who decide and those who feel the consequences of those decisions. And the Tatra Summit is the perfect place for such a dialogue.
Just take a technology, as an example. It’s accelerating our life, our social interactions, the way we do business, and the way we create policies. Recently I spoke to employees at one of the car manufacturing plants in Slovakia. They were worried about the future. They asked me: “Will we lose our jobs if robots replace people in factories? What is this artificial intelligence?” We need to treat such questions seriously. We need to know the exact implications of progress and be prepared for them. That is why fora like the Tatra Summit are important. Good ideas have been born here, so we often tend to say: Good idea - Slovakia.
To generate these new ideas and solutions, we also need advice and expertise from abroad. Borrowing from the Beatles - “With the Little Help of My Friends”. One of these very good friends is the OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria with whom we have been in close touch these days. As you all know, Slovakia is working on the priorities for the upcoming chairmanship of the OECD. Our country is committed to put a high emphasis on digitalization and its transformational impact at the next year’s ministerial. Angel, it’s so good to have you here with us!
The European Commission also has a strong presence in the room. I am happy to welcome honorable competition commissioner Ms. Margrethe Vestager as well as our very own Maroš Šefčovič.
I am also glad that this conference has no shortage of finance ministers. There are Visegrad Four Finance Ministers. There are Austrian, French and German colleagues as well. We are truly honored. I am thankful to Peter Kazimir for attracting the crème de la crème of ECOFIN today! As we move to discuss the pertinent topics of today, finance ministers should be the ones to find the good and sustainable solutions.
As this is predominantly an economic and finance conference, let me state some numbers and figures. Slovakia has been experiencing very favorable economic performance with a real GDP per capita growing at around 3% per year over the past five years. Wages continue to grow, and investments have also picked up. The unemployment rate is at a historical minimum of 5.5% and the economic growth is predicted to hit 4.1% in 2018, also thanks to investments in the public sector and automotive industry. In short, Slovakia is a convergence success story.
We do not rest on our laurels, however. We realize that our current economic model is on its last legs and cannot take us much further. Coupled with the ongoing digital transformation, we are aware of the need to change and evolve. A lot of work is ahead of us! We aim for nothing less than the transformation of the Slovak economy to respond to market needs. We seek to transform Slovakia into a knowledge-driven economy that can adapt to the needs of this fast-changing world.
Let me entertain the topic of digital transformation a little bit longer, as it is, and rightfully so, at the center stage of what you are about to hear and discuss for the next two days. Digital transformation brings about both opportunities as well as challenges.
Digitization produces new forms of business models and markets. The potential to tackle multiple policy objectives at once is literally at our finger tips; with mobile apps, intelligent self-learning algorithms and big data. This potential is endless.
Slovakia follows an ambitious plan of the European Union to boost its digital and data economy. On the national level, we are preparing the updated Digital Strategy that will define particular activities within the cross-cutting sector of the digital agenda. Most importantly, we want to leverage the potential of innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, the blockchain, IoT and others. It is obvious that Going Digital for our economy and society will have a vast impact on us all, as well. We assume that growing data sector can help to diversify our economy, which now heavily depends on the automotive industry. If we succeed with our general goal to establish new R&D centres and expand existing business models, we believe, that it will not only stop the outflow of the best graduates from the country, but it will also attract the Slovaks leaving abroad and working for high-tech companies around the globe to come back home.
Moreover, we need to prepare systematically for the new Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027). As declared by the Commission, the digital agenda will be one of the top priorities when it comes to funding. Based on the initial proposal, the chief funding programme called Digital Europe will be established with the aim to invest billions of Euros to align with increasing digital challenges in high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, digital skills and digital technologies. Therefore, we, the politicians, need to do the utmost to draft meaningful projects that will boost research and development in order to innovate for the benefits of all.
With all this in mind, we need to make sure that the transformation benefits us all. Ensuring that the big players don’t abuse market advantage and pay their fair share of taxes; that the SME’s and also the most vulnerable parts of society are not going to be left behind. All this need an active attention and efforts of the governments in order to drive the change in a prosperous way. It should be our goal to seize the opportunities and transform the challenges into further opportunities to grow and for the well-being of all parts of the society.
Slovakia, as the country with the highest number of produced cars in the world per capita, and with a significant share of renewable resources, has to keep pace
with trends towards exploiting its innovation potential in the automotive sector. Batteries, both for electro‐mobility and for energy storage, are the focus of the ongoing industrial revolution. Successful production of powerful batteries is a "must”, but also our commitment to clean energy.
As a Prime minister, I’m supporting every good initiative to fulfil our international commitments, but also those proving that Slovakia can be a good engine of the Danube innovation valley. I am pleased that we are all today witnessing the Launch of the Slovak Battery Alliance, which has just been inaugurated by Commision’s Vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-president of the EIB Vazil Hudák and Slovak Minister of Economy Peter Žiga.
With the intention to develop an innovative, sustainable and competitive ecosystem for the batteries industry, Alliance is a newcomer on the Slovak scene – let's wish all the best and many bright ideas to all stakeholders behind this project.
Creating all these opportunities requires effective and efficient multilateral cooperation. That’s why I welcome very much the initiatives like OECD’s Going Digital or numerous multidisciplinary expert groups established by the European Commission. Despite the rather worrisome trend we see today, I remain optimistic. You see, the mixed blessing of digitization is that it transcends national borders. In the end, nothing short of a truly global solution will be enough.
Let me stop here by saying I am happy to recognize so many familiar faces in the room. I trust you will put your brains and your heart into the debates. We need ideas that can help shape the world for the better.