Interview with Bruno Lopandic, deputy director of Croatian Chamber of Economy and guest lecturer at Libertas International University in Dubrovik.
Tell us briefly about your professional journey from Vjesnik to the Croatian Chamber of Economy representative in Brussels.
I was a journalist for 20 years, 10 years in Slobodna Dalmacija, 10 years in Vjesnik, having been the editor-in-chief of Vjesnik for the last 2 years. My engagement in journalism was closely related to foreign policy. After 20 years, I left journalism and joined Croatian Chamber of Economy as an advisor for international relations to the Chamber president. I held the position for 3 years, and since last year I am in the Chamber’s representation in Brussels. Actually, I am always dealing with international relations in most diverse ways. Now I am also engaged with economy and that is really great because a man constantly learns and wants more.
What is your position in the Croatian Chamber of Economy and what activities do you do?
We are engaged in commercial diplomacy and in the representation of the Croatian Chamber of Economy in Brussels, I am a deputy director. We are working on more developments – we are pursuing an intensive EU legislation, especially the one that has to do with the Croatian economy. We have to worry about the interests of our members. In addition, we are also working on bilateral relations with Belgium, as well as with all the surrounding countries. We are trying to open the door for Croatian entrepreneurs and show them how to take advantage of the fact that we are now a full member of the European Union. We are also dealing with classical lobbying for the Croatian economic goals. As you can see, there is no shortage of work.
What is your view of the current situation of the Croatian economy?
Theoretically, it is not difficult to find a solution to the problem of the Croatian economy, but in practice, it is safe to say that we are still in transition. We are a country that is “poisoned” by some economic dictatorship from the former regime, which is hard to overcome. What we are trying to emphasize in the Chamber is the importance of the private sector. In Croatia, there is still too much “state” in the economy. It is well known that the state is actually the weak master. I often feel a bit annoyed when I hear stories about the dangers of a neoliberal model because Croatia is far from it. By the way, we need to introduce ordinary capitalism first, and then we will see what can we do with neoliberal capitalism. In any case, all the initiatives that are going to strengthen the private sector should be welcomed. It is a process that is not easy and it is time-consuming. What matters is that 90% of the Croatian economy is made up of medium and small enterprises. Therefore, it is tremendously important to give the opportunities to private entrepreneurs, as then they will generate growth and added value. Our social state tradition is quite alright because that factor has also helped to develop capitalist countries. However, in order to have a strong social state, there has to be a way to withdraw resources for that social state. So, to strengthen and enable private entrepreneurs to act, this is to me, the most important goal.
Can EU funds help middle and small businesses?
They certainly can, but the question is the ability of the state to make use of these funds. We are working hard on that issue in the Chamber. We have even introduced the service to our businessmen to help them work on projects where they can withdraw funds from the EU. But honestly, EU funds cannot build up an economy of a state. It has to be a combination of more elements, of which funds are the essence.
BREXIT is a situation that has had a strong impact on the EU as well as its stability. At the expense of the changes taking place, we see that populist parties have a greater popularity. This year is tremendously important for the EU, primarily because of the 3 important national elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. The results of these elections will decide in which direction the EU will go and as the critics would say, whether the EU is going to be all right. We have experienced that, after BREXIT, the EU is able to survive without one powereful player such as the United Kingdom, but we certainly know that it will not be possible without the Netherlands, France and/or Germany.
Is there an internship possibility in the Chamber in Brussels?
In the past, internships have worked well and I see no reasons not to continue with them in the future. Of course, this is the decision of the leadership, but what I see is that there is more work load on a daily basis, so there is a greater need for such kind of help.
What is your highest goal in relation to the subject you teach?
I have to admit that from the moment when the university invited me to teach, I was very excited because of the fact that for 20 years I have been working in the field of international relations. At this university, I have also received my MA and I am extremely pleased to continue working with the university. I think this is a remarkable success story. Not just in terms of my engagement, but because of the fact that this is a unique university. This is a combination of tradition and modern approach towards the students. The combination of theory and practice, for me, is the right formula. After four years at the university, the most important thing to me is to connect the theoretical knowledge with the situations that are happening around us. The university has given me an extraordinary framework in which I enjoy and it is really a privilege to get acquainted with students from different countries. Different traditions and different experiences, different perceptions lead into having different analysis of one issue, enriching the lectures as well as the students. As a lecturer, I am tremendously interested in what are the thoughts of colleagues who come from India, America, Africa on current issues in international affairs, for example on the war in Syria. This gives us the foundation for a good analysis. Because of all this, I really like to come to Dubrovnik, which has become near and dear to my heart.
What do you see as an advantage of studying at Libertas compared to other higher education institutions?
Since I started working at the university, I see that the most important thing here is the way of thinking. This integral approach that is taken from different approaches leads to different insights, and this is something to be praised. This thinking culture is the main difference, ie the advantage of studying at Libertas.
Do you have a message for our students, future diplomats and managers?
The most important message coming from me is that in every business, even in education, it is necessary to have passion. Because if there is no passion, then all the work is futile. You have to give 100 percent because if you do not, results will lack.