A new face of Europe emerging
Donald L. Stevens
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Institute for International Business and
Global Executive Forum
Center for International Business Education & Research
Donald L. Stevens, Ph.D., is Director of the Institute for International Business
The new face of Europe
Central Europe was the venue for the recent Global Executive Forum. We traveled to Austria, Czech
Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, meeting with high-level officials to learn how their economies
were faring in the post-communist era. I was reminded of another trip we took to this part of the world
twelve years ago.
In 1992, we led a business executive group to Prague, Warsaw and Budapest. This was just after the
Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed. These countries had just installed the first democratic
governments and were either contemplating or implementing reforms such as privatization, as they began
the process of opening up to the world. At that time, there was a mix of enthusiasm, fear and puzzlement.
Previously state owned companies that had been privatized were trying to understand what it meant.
In their prior lives somebody from the outside told them what to produce, how much to produce each
month and allocated them the resources to meet their quotas. As privatization progressed, they had to
figure out what a “market” was, how to acquire resources, how to finance and how to sell to the market.
This produced a lot of anxiety as these were, for the most part, yet to be acquired skills. In addition, the
change in governments was traumatic for many citizens as privatization usually meant unemployment,
which was unheard of in Communist times.
As one professional said to me at that time, “Under the Communists we were all poor but we were safe.
Now we see some people becoming very rich but many don’t have jobs and the safety net is gone.”
Twelve years later, these countries, which have had several governments since 1992