Restarting Growth in Central and Eastern Europe: Drivers and Barriers


27th November 2020, Online Format


The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the CEE region hard but the quick lockdown in most countries has kept the human toll low so far. Economically, CEE will experience a deep recession this year with a decline in GDP of about 6%, worse than the downturn in 2009. After six months in the pandemic, governments and firms are turning their attention to restarting growth again. Will the restart just be a continuation of the interrupted business or will business and management models be different afterwards?

  • What are the lessons for management learned from this crisis so far?

  • What will happen to the structural challenges that firms faced in CEE before – will these trends accelerate or reverse?

  • How attractive will the investment climate be for foreign direct investors?

  • What should management focus on now? How shall they drive growth?

Some outcomes and trends are already visible. During the pandemic, we have seen an accelerated adoption of digital solutions in all areas of society and economy. This digitalization drive will facilitate the transition from an efficiency- to an innovation-driven economy. Thanks to the ongoing de-globalization and regionalization of value chains, CEE could benefit from the reshoring of European firms and the entry of US and Asian investors. Moreover, the pandemic brought the “political imperative” back, a more powerful state. Firms, especially foreign ones, have to prepare for an interventionist and protectionist state.

Unfortunately, the observed decline in institutional quality in the years before will rather continue than turn to the better. Anti-corruption organizations warn that the large amounts of money that are infused into the economies and the accompanying concentration of powers have exposed societies to considerable corruption risks. Another business challenge, the looming labor and skills shortage is just postponed, as the dramatic demographic decline is not stopped by the pandemic. Return migration could mitigate the situation.

At the 11th Grow East Congress we will discuss current developments, the lessons from the crisis so far and, in particular, the role of human capital and innovative firms for restarting growth in CEE.



Dr. Manfred Berger
Fischerstiege 10/15
1010 Vienna, Austria
+43-1-513 37 98-13

Prof. Dr. Arnold Schuh
Director, Competence Center for Emerging Markets & CEE, WU Vienna
Welthandelsplatz 1 – Building D1
1020 Vienna, Austria
+43 1 31336 4608


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