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Minister Andrijanič on a working visit to Warsaw: "Central and Eastern Europe – an economic miracle of the last two decades"

  • Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Digital Transformation
Minister of Digital Transformation Mark Boris Andrijanič was on a working visit in Warsaw on 6 and 7 October 2021. The working visit coincided with one of the largest digital conferences in Central and Eastern Europe, the CEE Digital Summit. This digital summit connects the digital sector and tech companies with experts and policymakers who are working on the digital transformation of the region. At the same time, it serves as a platform for discussion on the future of the digital economy in Central and Eastern Europe, its challenges and means for a deeper digital cooperation.

On the first day of the visit, Minister Andrijanič visited Google Campus Warsaw dedicated to launching new start‑ups. At a round table, the minister discussed challenges and achievements with young people from successful start‑ups. He spoke to them about their ideas and breakthrough solutions in digital services in the coming decade. The minister then met with the Slovenian Ambassador to Poland, Božena Forštnarič Boroje, to discuss the measures during the coronavirus epidemic and digital solutions implemented in Poland in recent years.

On the second day of his first international visit as minister, Mark Boris Andrijanič gave an interview for the Polish daily newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna. In the interview, he highlighted the establishment of a new government office for digital transformation in Slovenia. He explained that the office was established as a coordination government body tasked with the rapid and effective implementation of measures adopted by the Strategic Council for Digitalisation. In the interview, he sharply criticised the increasingly alarming anti‑vaccination propaganda spreading on social media. He maintained that trust should be put in experts who argue and prove on a daily basis that vaccination is the only way to root out the pandemic which has been going on for almost two years.

Later, Minister Andrijanič attended a bilateral meeting with Adam Andruszkiewicz, Polish State Secretary with the authorisation of the Minister for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Their discussion focused on exchanging good practices in digital services in both countries and addressing the challenges in digital literacy, particularly with regard to seniors. Minister Andrijanič presented to his Polish counterpart the concept of introducing a digital voucher in Slovenia, which would serve as an encouragement to strengthen and upgrade digital skills, particularly among vulnerable groups.

Minister of Digital Transformation was a panel speaker at the CEE Digital Summit. In his address, the minister highlighted that some time ago, the Republic of Slovenia took the decision to make AI‑based digital transformation one of the top priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Minister Andrijanič further stressed that "the development of Central and Eastern European economies over the past few decades has been truly remarkable, as over the 2004–2019 period, ten of the CEE countries increased their GDP per capita by 115%". According to the minister, Slovenia is becoming a leader in green technologies and AI, as it produces some of the best electric aircrafts and boats in the world and hosts the International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence under the auspices of UNESCO. The Slovenian minister added that "the EU must complete the single market, especially for digital and other services". He believes that this would allow start‑ups to scale their operations across the entire continent. "We need to boost research funding and encourage closer collaboration between our excellent universities and the industry, while also making it easier for businesses to raise capital and attract top talent," said the minister. He pointed out that the implementation of a package of measures is being fast-tracked by the Slovenian Government Office for Digital Transformation in coordination with the rest of the Slovenian ministries. "I believe in the power of regional collaboration and dialogue. If we continue on the path of reform and digital transformation, the CEE countries will become the technological and economic engine of Europe by 2040," concluded Minister Andrijanič.

Afterwards, Minister Andrijanič participated in a panel entitled "Digital Industry and CEE’s Transatlantic Relations". He stressed that, among other things, the EU and the USA will never agree on digital regulations, but that they share the same values and economic interests. This is why the transatlantic partnership is so important, and why the integration between the EU and the USA is the key to a better and more secure future.

Minister Andrijanič then met with Justyna Orlowska, the Polish Prime Minister's High Representative for Government Technology. High Representative Orlowska presented the digital solutions that have been developed in Poland, as well as their functionality as can be seen on the government web platform GovTech. Minister Andrijanič added that Slovenia is also planning an upgraded electronic public administration system to make it easier for citizens to deal with administrative matters. They agreed that both countries are seeking to do more to promote the digital tools that already exist. Both are also aware of the challenge of educating people who would like to use such tools but do not yet know how. At the end of the meeting, the Slovenian Minister of Digital Transformation expressed his wish for further successful cooperation between the two countries.