Panellist biogaphies

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Plenary Debate 1: Future Cohesion Policy Challenges and Possibilities


Marin Piletić

Marin Piletić was born on 12th January 1983, in the city of Novska. After completing elementary and high school in his hometown, he graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb where he obtained his university degree in Croatian language and literature and History. He began his career as a teacher of Croatian language in primary schools in Novska and Lipik. In 2009 Croatian local elections he was elected Deputy Mayor of Novska, a position he held until the year 2013. The following year he was elected Deputy County Prefect for Sisak-Moslavina County and worked in Sisak until 2017, when he ran as candidate and was elected Mayor of Novska, winning the majority of votes in the first round of elections. After being reelected Mayor in 2021 local elections, he became a member of the Croatian Parliament in June 2021. In April 2022 he was appointed Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy. He is married and a father of two children.


Emil Boc

Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, the second-largest city in Romania, in terms of size and economic development. Member of the A Soul for Europe Advisory Board. President of COTER Commission, European Committee of the Regions, Co-rapporteur on the Future of Cohesion Policy, Rapporteur on Brain Drain in the EU and also on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 and „European Strategy for Universities”. PhD in Political Science, Associate professor at Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law from Michigan State University in East Lansing, U.S. Former Prime Minister of Romania during 2008-2012, former President of the Democratic Liberal Party during 2005-2012.


Andriana Sukova

Mrs Sukova is the Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. She is in charge of Funds, fair transition and analysis. Ms Sukova is an economist by education, with ample experience in the area of integration into the European Union both in the Government and non governmental sector. After Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, Ms Sukova joined the Cabinet of Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva. In August 2010 she was appointed Director in DG EMPL. She was in charge of the European Social Fund policy and legislation preparation, negotiations on the regulatory framework for the 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 programming periods. Since March 2018, Mrs Sukova is the Deputy Director General of DG Employment, in charge of all funds in this directorate general, the biggest still is the European Social fund. She is also in charge of the coordination of social and economic policies in the EU in the framework of the European semester and the fairness of the twin green and digital transition.


Normunds Popens

Normunds Popens is currently acting Director-General in DG REGIO. Until 15/02/2023 he has been working as Deputy Director General for Implementation and International Relations in the Directorate General Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission in charge of overseeing the implementation of structural and cohesion fund programmes in EU member states and candidate countries as well as relations with third countries. Before joining the European Commission in March 2011 he has occupied several posts in the Latvian diplomatic services. Notably from 2007 till 2011 he was a Permanent Representative of Latvia to the EU. Before that he dealt with European affairs as Undersecretary of State of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has been also responsible for the issues of foreign trade and transatlantic relations and has worked as an Ambassador in Norway, Iceland and in the USA as a diplomat.


Plenary Debate 2: The Role of Regional and Local Level in Cohesion Policy post 2027


Danijel Marušić

Danijel Marušić was born in Prnjavor in 1972. He attended primary and secondary school in Prnjavor, and studied veterinary medicine in Zagreb at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Zagreb, acquiring the academic title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. He continued his professional training at the postgraduate doctoral studies at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, obtaining the title of Doctor of Science in 2017. After graduating from university, he got a job as a production manager at the “Slavija” dairy in Staro Petrovo Selo, and then at the veterinary clinic “Dorić” in Svilaj. In 2007, he joined the company “Sloboština” Ltd in Okučani as the director. He participated in the local elections for a member of the Okučani Municipal Council and at the constituent session was elected President, a position he held on a voluntary basis for 4 years. In the elections for the County Assembly in the mandate period 2005-2009, he was elected member of the County Assembly, and in January 2008, by a unanimous decision, he was elected prefect of Brodsko-posavska County until the end of mandate. In the first direct elections, in May and June 2009, he was elected prefect by a large majority of Brodsko-posavska County, as well as in the local elections in 2013, 2017 and in May 2021. He graduated from the Political Academy of the Croatian Statehood Foundation, and from June 4 to 22, 2012, he participated in the International Visitor Leadership program in America. In September 2012, he was appointed member of the observer delegation in the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, and since July 1, 2013, he has been a member of the Croatian delegation in the European Committee of the Regions, re-appointed by the decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and confirmed at the session of the Council of Ministers of the EU for the mandate period of 2020 -2025. He lives in Nova Gradiška with his wife Snježana and three children.

Željko Turk

Željko Turk was born on March 25, 1962 in Zagreb. He completed primary school in Kupljenovo, and secondary school education in Zagreb. He graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb. He started his career in company Regeneracija, and in 1991 he started his entrepreneurial journey by founding a private company for production and sale of textiles, which is still operating successfully today. Since the City of Zaprešić was founded in 1995, he has been a member of the City Council. In 2001, he became the deputy mayor of Zaprešić, and from 2006 until today, he has held the position of mayor. He is the President of the Assembly of the Zaprešić Municipal Company. In the 6th term of the Croatian Parliament, he served as a representative. From 2013 until today, he has been the president of the Association of Cities of the Republic of Croatia. Since 2014, he has been a member of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union.


Jakša Puljiz

Jakša Puljiz completed MA postgraduate study Operational Research at the Faculty of Zagreb in 2005, while he received his PhD in 2009 from the Faculty of Economics in Split with theses “Factors of regional development and regional inequalities in Republic of Croatia”. His work in IRMO started in 2001 in Department for Resource Economics, Environmental Protection and Regional Development where his research interest covered topics such as regional and local development and EU Cohesion policy. Since 2017 he has been appointed as the Head of Department for European Integration where he is engaged with topics such as impact of EU policies on national public policies of member states and countries being part of the enlargement process. As an expert, he participated in preparation of a number of strategic documents and studies in the field of regional development and competitiveness, as well as proposals for legislative acts. From 2012 to 2016, he was the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and European Union Funds in charge of coordinating the preparation and implementation of the most important strategic documents and acts in the area of the use of ESI funds and the national regional development policy. In 2016, he was appointed economic adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia in charge of coordinating the development and implementation of the National Reform Program within the framework of European Semester.


Plenary Debate 3: Socio-economic Challenges in Modern Times of Technological Development

Irena Weber

Irena Weber, born in 1973, graduated from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. She started her career in the financial market in 2000 in the investment bank CAIB d.d. (Creditanstald Investment Bank), where she worked until 2008. She led and participated in numerous restructuring and privatization projects, mergers and takeovers in Croatia and the region. In the middle of 2008, she moved to Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank d.d. (today Addiko Bank d.d.), where she joins the team in charge of restructuring the bank and preparing the reprivatization process. She led the Investment Banking Sector, the Business with Legal Entities Sector, and then the Retail Business Sector. In 2016, she moved to the position of a member of the KentBank management Bord, in charge of the Department of Business with large Enterprises, the Department of Business with Small and Medium Enterprises, the Department of Leal affairs and the IT Department. Introduces and implements Internet and mobile banking at the KentBank. In May 2017, she was hired in the Extraordinary Board of the Agrokor group as an executive director in charge of non-core assets. Since March 2018, as a deputy of the extraordinary commissioner, she actively participated in the process of negotiation and implementation of the settlement, as well as negotiations with creditors of Agrokor. In the Fortenova Group, upon its foundation, she held the position od Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer. She is leaving Fortenova Group in October 2019. Irena Weber comes to the position of CEO of HUP from the position of a member of the bord of Inspire investments, a company for managing private equity and alternative investments funds. She is an authorized investment advisor and authorized intermediary insecurities trading – broker. She is a regular participant and panelist of professional gatherings, seminars, and conferences, also has attended a number of internal and external trainings and educations. She speeks English and French fluently.

Danko Relić

President of the 7th convocation of the Council for the Development of Civil Society of the Government of the Republic of Croatia. From 2020, member of the European Economic and Social Committee. For more than 15 years, he has participated in numerous initiatives, projects and activities organized by various civil society organizations at the national and European level. Participates in the implementation of public health activities for the purpose of bringing health and healthy lifestyles closer to the widest possible population. He encouraged the initiation of projects that today are recognized and recognized at the local, national and international level as the pillars of good practice in public health activities to protect health and improve the quality of life and represent an indispensable part of the life of the local population. He initiated the founding of the Association of People’s Health Andrija Štampar and the renewal of the Croatian Young Physicians Association of the Croatian Medical Association, where he held the position of president. Specialist in family medicine, doctorate on health workforce planning. He is the author of over 30 professional and scientific papers and communications in biomedicine and healthcare.


Josip Jagodar

Josip Jagodar, PhD was born in Slavonski Brod in 1991 and lives in Slavonski Kobaš (he has been staying in Našice for the last year and half). After completing a double major study of Croatian language and literature and History in 2015, he finished PhD study in Croatology 2019. He is the author of dozens of scientific papers and 7 books. He is currently working as a postdoctoral Assistant at the University of Slavonski Brod, where he teaches courses in history and folk heritage. He has been an active member of associations since 2013. First he founded the Association of Students “Idiom” in Rijeka, then he has been active in the Creative Youth Association “Limes” in Slavonski Kobaš since 2014. He initiated the establishment of the Oriovac Municipality Youth Council and was the first president of the Council (2015-2017), and from 2018 to 2021 he held the position of president of the Youth Council of Brod-Posavina County and was the general secretary of the Coordination of County Youth Councils of the Republic of Croatia (2020/2021). In 2021, he was elected a member, then President of the Youth Council of the Government of the Republic of Croatia In his work he advocated many youth policies and represented the interests of young people at the local, regional and national level.


Nataša Drvenkar

Associate Professor, Ph.D. Nataša Drvenkar is with the Faculty of Economics at J.J. Strossmayer University in Osijek, where she teaches the course Croatian and European Economy, as well as courses on regional economy, industrial policy, structural/digital/economic transformation and the international environment. She is an advisor to the Minister of Regional Development of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Šime Erlić, Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds. For two academic years she was the Associate Dean for Cooperation with the Environment, International Cooperation and Projects. She was a member of the Working firoup of the President of the Republic of Croatia for the preparation of guidelines for further fiscal decentralisation and regional development of the Republic of Croatia, the Working firoup for Competitiveness and Industrial Development and for Entrepreneurship and Crafts Development, and the Working Subgroup for Supportive and Mountain Areas for the preparation of the National Development Strategy until 2030. In the academic year 2013/2014, in cooperation with the Regional Office of the Croatian Employers’ Association in Osijek, it initiated and launched a project for voluntary professional internships of students on the territory of five counties in Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem, for which the Faculty of Economics in Osijek received recognition (2014-2020) and which served as an inspiration for the project Private Sector Initiative for Youth (EBRD and CEA). At the same time, the project was extended to other areas of the University. She expanded the initiative by starting cooperation with five Slavonian regional coordinators to give students the opportunity to practise in the field of regional development and EU funds. Thus, from 2014 to 2022, she developed a project for voluntary professional internships for students and served as the faculty team leader for this area. She has successful collaboration with the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (expert support for County publications – Development Diversity and Economic Potential since 2018, as well as other areas). She organized and chaired a number of scientific and popular conferences (Science Forum, Science and Business Meetings) and participated as a panelist/moderator in conferences organized by other institutions. In 2019, based on a nomination, she was awarded the Croatian Woman of Influence Award by the Croatian Women’s Network. She is one of the founders and the first president of the Rotary Club of Virovitica. In Rotary District 1913, she holds the office of Assistant District fiovernor (2022/2023, 2023/2024) and is a member of the RI Empowering fiirls Ambassador. She is a member of the Croatian Society of Economists, the Regional Studies Association, and the European Economic Association. During her studies, she was among the 10% most successful students and was awarded the Rector’s Award. She is a member of the board of a family business engaged in cultivation, production (in cooperation) and processing of medicinal plants (chamomile), selling its products mainly on foreign markets. In 2023, she initiated the production of the “first chamomile brandy” and developed it in cooperation with the team. She is married and mother of two children.


Plenary Debate 4: The Future of Cohesion Policy through the Eyes of the “Insiders”


Ivana Maletić

Ivana Maletić was born in Šibenik in 1973. She holds a master’s degree in Economics and Business Economics, after having graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb in 1997. She is a certified Public Sector Accountant and Auditor with a certificate and diploma obtained after a two-year education at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA; United Kingdom). In 2012, she obtained the academic title of Master of Economic Sciences in the field of accounting, auditing and finance at the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb, and is currently a candidate for postgraduate doctoral studies at the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Rijeka. She began her work experience as an intern at the Ministry of Finance, Department for State Accounting and Financial Reporting from December 1997 to December 1998, after which she continued to work in the same Department as a consultant until September 2004, when she became the head of the National Fund Department. In May 2005, she was appointed assistant Minister of Finance and deputy of the National Authorising Officer, and held that position until 2008. In the period from February 2008 to December 2011, she held the position of State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, National Authorising Officer, Chapter 22 negotiator and Deputy Chief Negotiator in the Ministry of Finance. In March 2012, she joined the Center for the Development of the Public and Non-Profit Sector (TIM4PIN) as president, where she worked until July 2013. She started her European career in July 2013 as a member of the European Parliament and a member of the ECON, REGI, BUDG committees. Today, she is a member of the European Court of Auditors.


Marko Pavić

Marko Pavić was born in 1979 in Zagreb, where he graduated from the Faculty of Science in 2004 and obtained the academic title of graduate engineer in Physics. In 2009, he received his master’s degree at the same department, cooperating with the National Oceanography Center in Southampton, and later enrolled in the postgraduate professional study program “Leadership” at the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. Mr. Pavić is currently attending the final year of his doctoral studies in the field of environmental protection at the University of Osijek,. After graduating from the Faculty of Science, he started his career there in 2005 as a junior researcher at the Geophysics Department. He was distinguished for his work in the Young Scientists Network and as the president of the SLAP Association. As president of the Young Scientists Network , he participated in the work of the assessment committee for the Draft Act on Higher Education. Since January 2014, he has been an intern in the office of the European Parliament representative Andrej Plenković, in the field of youth, education and employment. During his work, he continuously advocated professional development of young people, held popular lectures for children and collaborated on science popularization projects. In December 2016, he became the State Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Pension System, and held this position until June 2017, when he was appointed Minister. In 2019, he left ministerial position in the Ministry of Labour and the Pension System and became Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds, the position he held until July 2020. He participated in nine government employment policy active measures and is a member of the Management Board of the Croatian Employment Service. Marko Pavić was a member of the Working Group for the development of guidelines for the strategy of education, science and technology – the field of education and higher education (2012), a part-time associate of the “Novi list” newspaper, and also participated as a co-producer and scientific advisor on two documentaries filmed in cooperation with the British Embassy and Croatian Radio television (2008/2009). From July 2020, he holds the position of chairman of the Committee for Regional Development and EU Funds of the Croatian Parliament.


Karlo Ressler

Karlo Ressler was born in Zagreb, where he graduated magna cum laude with a master’s degree in law from the Faculty of Law in 2013. He spent the last year of his studies in England, after which he completed his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for International Criminal Law in Freiburg. He worked as an assistant at the Faculty of Law of the University of Zagreb and as a parliamentary assistant to MEP Plenković. In 2016, he became an advisor to the Prime Minister. In 2019, he headed the list of candidates of HDZ and was elected Member of the European Parliament. During the current legislative term, he was the Parliament’s chief negotiator for the European budget, a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and vice president of the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence. The focus of his parliamentary work is on the budget, migration, and digital transformation.


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