From Dublin, it only takes two hours to get to Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic is a popular tourist destination. The country is one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Europe. Czech GDP rose 4.5pc in the first quarter. Neighbouring Slovakia was up 3.6pc, with Hungary at 4.7pc, and Romania at 4.2pc.
According to EY’S Attractiveness Survey 2017, Central Europe attracted nearly half of Europe’s industrial investment projects in 2016. Its strengths are its geographical links, good infrastructure, the quality of its human capital, and its productivity.
The provision of EU funds is another key driver, particularly for Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The Financial Times projected an improved economic picture for the region, based on stronger-than-expected global demand, tighter labour markets, government stimulus measures, and easy financing conditions.
Irish exports to the region have also grown over the last 10 years. To support further growth, Minister of State Pat Breen led an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Warsaw and Prague in June, targeting the engineering, electronics, enterprise software, and medical devices sectors. Irish companies signed contracts in excess of €7.5m during the mission.
Many Irish exporters are growing sales by supplying large multinationals based in the region. Ventac, vehicle and industrial noise control specialists from Co Wicklow, set up a regional sales office in the Czech Republic, while Waterford’s PPI Adhesive Products, a leading manufacturer of technical adhesive tapes, run its regional sales operations from Slovakia. Portwest, the Mayo-based designer and manufacturer of high-quality workwear, has a CEE sales headquarters in Hungary.
Irish companies are not just targeting large multinationals. Central European agriculture has grown remarkably over the past number of years, supported by an expanding food industry, domestic investments, and EU farm subsidies. Between 2014 and 2020, CAP and EARDF subsidies will reach €26bn in Romania, €8.3bn in Hungary, and €7bn in the Czech Republic. Spending is driven by pressures on efficiency and food safety, environmental and animal welfare regulations, and by farm machinery upgrade or replacement.