Interview on 20 years of EU's eastern enlargement

Simon Schütt 29/01/2024 3 minutes

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the EU's eastern enlargement. In 2004, ten countries joined the European Union: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus. With the exception of Malta and Cyprus, Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) is now active in all of these countries. It is even the market leader in six of them: in the Baltics, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

However, VIG's successful chapter of eastward expansion began almost 15 years earlier, in 1990. In a video interview with Michael Köttritsch from Austrian newspaper "Die Presse", VIG CEO Hartwig Löger looks back on VIG's CEE success story of more than 30 years. At the same time, he is optimistic about the future and the Group's potential.

Innovative strength through diversity
Vienna Insurance Group, which currently operates in 30 countries, will continue to benefit from its diversification in the future, says Hartwig Löger. VIG sees itself as a group with regional responsibilities, not as a centralised corporation. The Managing Boards in the individual countries decide and act independently under the controlling and moderating role of the holding company. In future, the aim is to utilise the associated creativity and innovative strength even more effectively, to create greater transparency through more intensive cooperation and to achieve synergies. This is summarised under the strategic direction "CO³" - an acronym that stands for Communication, Collaboration and Cooperation.

Ongoing EU accession negotiations are positive
Hartwig Löger also sees the current EU accession negotiations, for example with Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia, as a great opportunity for insurance companies: "The integration of these countries can bring an additional growth component to these markets. This also applies to the organisation of the legal framework, which will create an even better basis for further investments. Our expectations are therefore very positive."

This also applies to the new candidate country Ukraine, where VIG is represented by two companies. Despite the ongoing war, business was maintained for customers there. Customer centricity in action, which can be experienced anew every day thanks to the continued high level of commitment of our colleagues in Ukraine.

Lack of risk literacy
As different as the markets in which VIG operates are, they have one thing in common: risk awareness and literacy is not particularly strong. This was the result of a VIG survey conducted by the Gallup Institute in nine countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Austria. "It is striking that people's risk literacy is extremely low across all the countries surveyed," summarises Löger. VIG still sees a great need for education in this area and will take appropriate measures in the countries to raise the level of risk literacy.


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