CEEMAN met in Sofia, Bulgaria, for its 11th annual conference on September 25-27, 2003. Earlier in the year, a youth club in Bulgaria formed the Balkan Heritage Program to "raise the level of global cooperation and exchange of ideas, know-how, expertise, and resources concerning Balkan heritage." In turn, Partners in Peacebuilding in the Balkans, a multilateral and multi-university NGO, held a "learn by doing" workshop that introduced concepts and techniques for conflict transformation between the Roma and Bulgarian populations in Bulgaria. This was an apt year to focus on cooperation in CEEMAN—between businesses and between business schools.
Dr. Peter Kraljič, then with McKinsey & Co.'s Advisory Council in Germany, addressed the delegates on "Global Changes and Their Influence in the Region." He talked of the new rules, roles, and requirements of companies and countries participating in a "global race" and then challenged CEEMAN members "We must enhance our competitiveness while preserving our cultures….We must use our strengths so as to be subjects, not objects of the global race." A key message: cooperation is crucial to competitiveness.
Conference Chair Sergey Myasoedov, Vice-President of RABE, illustrated the importance of cross-cultural sensitivity noting how the "smiley face" of McDonald's staff proved off-putting to Russian consumers. Sessions that followed addressed features of cooperation (Bulgaria's Minister of Finance, Milen Veltchev reported that at that time there were nearly 200 joint ventures between Bulgarian and CEE firms) and best practices in managing cooperatively from case accounts of Toyota and Heineken in the CEE, and the Bulgarian Business Leader's Forum.
The second part of the conference addressed cooperation among business schools. Here, it was noted, schools were no longer just "taking the best from the West" but also exchanging faculty, students, and ideas with counterparts in CEEMAN. Virginijus Kundrotas, for example, lauded the birth of the Baltic Management Development Center (joining businesses, business schools and individuals from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). In turn, panelists from different schools in CEE and Western Europe shared their personal experiences with partnerships and cooperation.
Summing up his views about the preservation of CEE academic culture, conference host Vesselin Blagoev, Managing Director, International University Sofia, raised a key question about whose expectations should be met by CEEMAN business schools: businesses and students or external accreditation bodies? His answer: "We have decided to focus on (our natural clients) the businesses."
Delegates dined and danced at the Boyana State Residence south of Sofia.