by Andreja Jaklič
Early birds from Eastern Europe
Scholars from Central and Eastern Europe were rare species in the West in the times of iron curtain. Few early bird academics from the region that had opportunities to travel abroad in the 70s were able to meet selected EIBA scholars as guest speakers at some development oriented international conferences and meetings at the times of OLI paradigm’s birth. Especially John Dunning and Danny Van Den Bulcke were recognised as enthusiastic promotors of EIBA, but also as scholars with a special hearing for East, using every occasion to invite and encourage academics coming from East to join. Eastern Europe was a curiosity, Western scholars were interested in business environment, varieties of FDI and business barriers in communist countries.
Prof. Krysztof Obloj who joined his first EIBA in 1989 in Berlin remembered, that “the opening party took place at the balconies overlooking the Wall that everybody thought would last forever.” But only five years later he was the President of the 20th EIBA conference in Warsaw, the first one to venture into new territories. This was a facilitator for Eastern Europe, however, during the nineties, very few scholars from this region were attending conference, let alone managed to come regularly. It was not easy to finance participation and it took years to learn how to do research that can progress from posters toward working papers sections or competitive sections. Board members or local organizers’ support was extremely important to enable at least occasional but aggregately growing presence of Eastern scholars. EIBA always had few representatives from Poland and Slovenia, often from Estonia and Russia, occasionally even from Romania or Bulgaria. Yet Eastern European scholars were still quite “exotic” till the end of nineties and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) studies were somehow relegated to the sessions in the conference graveyards. I could not found any young scholar from the East in my first EIBA conference in Manchester (1999), apart from those who migrated or were studying at Western universities. But this has been changing ever faster in new millennium. IB research was instrumental in explaining benefits of EU membership, the role of FDI for CEE restructuring and IB researchers in CEE have been closely involved in the policy making. In 2004, when ten CEE countries became EU members, EIBA scholars came East for the second time. Ljubljana celebrated enlargement and hosted the 30th EIBA conference. CEE scholars (coming from more than 10 countries) become a permanent and growing part of EIBA.
Looking back, all early birds from the region saw (and still see) EIBA as a very instrumental and incredibly important for development and modernizing IB studies in Eastern Europe. Regional research was until then mostly poor and limited within economic or political science. “Family-like” academic association was inclusive enough to became a unique tunnel through which highly desirable IB knowledge and business practices actually flowed. People started to study trade, investment and enterprises, first through the prism of transformation as a major sociological, political and economic development opening countries’ borders, and later by testing established frameworks like investment development path, OLI and extended Uppsalla model. EIBA was essential for exchange of knowledge and ideas; not just in the field of IB, but influential also in the field of management and international economics where most of CEE scholars came from.
Marjan Svetličič and John Dunning (Rajnesh Narula and John Cantwell) during the 30th EIBA Annual Conference held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 5-8 December 2004.
Source: Archive EIBA 2004.
Recent developments and future prospects
CEE is nowadays well integrated in IB research and a number of papers related to the CEE region in top journals (Web of Science data) has been growing absolutely and relatively in the last two decades (Figure 1). Most of them were produced by scholars outside the region – the most prominent and influential ones are done by Western European EIBA scholars (Meyer, 2001, 2005). Regional scholars, (traditionally more booked with applied than academic research in order to survive), nevertheless, increasingly participate in the last decade and entered main citation path (Gorynia et al, 2015). Studies on transition market MNEs are nowadays recognised as an antecedent for emerging market research (Meyer, 2016) and CEE context recognised as rich and fruitful research ground to explore new business models, strategies of internationalization and international cooperation. No doubt, this is also an “EIBA effect” of knowledge transfer and knowledge creation.
IB scholars from CEE region represent a substantial and constantly growing share of EIBA. Many Eastern Europeans are present at EIBA every year, they are competent, establishing good cooperation with other researchers from the West and East. They do a good research job, and as we benefitted incredibly from EIBA at the beginning, EIBA is benefiting from Eastern scholars’ presence now. They are not only sourcing, but also giving back to the treasure trove of knowledge.
Since 2016, under the presidency of prof. Philippe Gugler, also the EIBA board went East (and global at the same time), Polish, Slovenian and Estonian representatives in EIBA board got the company of representatives from Hungary, Czech Republic and Russia, while Romanian presence has not been re-established (yet). Eastern Europe has been hosting the annual conference more often; EIBA scholars got to know Tallinn (2008), Bucharest (2011) and Poznan (2018), but the diversity of East is yet to be explored. Many Eastern European countries are (still) not only outside EIBA, but also outside EU. This does not help, neither IB in practice nor IB as a discipline.
Figure 1: The dynamics of publications on CEE in WoS in the areas of international business, management and economics (absolute number and as a share of the total volume), 1966-2016
Source: Jaklič et al. 2019, based on Web of Science (WOS) data set.
EIBA today is seen as a good academic society and high quality conference. It managed to keep good position in spite of many new “competitors” coming in the form of highly specialised business conferences or regionally focused “subsidiary” events of larger associations. The quality of papers increased over years, but as average went up the variance went out. People are studying more and more specialized topics, as everywhere. Studies became more mature theoretically and technically sophisticated, also more standardised. Scholars from East and West have common research drivers.
How can Eastern Europe add value to EIBA?
Cooperation and development in EIBA has, however, still room for improvement. Exploring the diverse effects and dimensions of EU (dis)integration on business environment, the impacts of 17+1 initiative, rapid political change and huge migration along with rapid development of services, industry 4.0 and digitalisation need intensive research from different perspectives. Enhancing the sensitivity to the ‘contextual richness’ of business, organisational, institutional and related social phenomena across various types and levels of environments (Teagarden, Von Glinow and Mellahi, 2018) would allow CEE research to test the specific moderators and boundary conditions of the established theories, while helping to advance science by developing new ones (Buckley, Doh and Benischke, 2017). CEE firms are used to live in disruption. Close touch with real life and businesses in the region, indigenous research on CCE MNEs behaviour and strategies, on changes in HQ-subsidiary relations, on production networks and ties and more comparative perspective would contribute to knowledge about the region and consequently more knowledge about European and global business. Leading from theory testing, and replication also toward more theory building. Last but not least, one of key tasks is also better communication of IR research to practitioners and especially to policy makers in Europe.
Buckley, P. J., Doh, J. P. & Benischke, M. H. (2017). Towards a renaissance in international business research? Big questions, grand challenges, and the future of IB scholarship. Journal of International Business Studies, 48, (9), 1045-1064.
Gorynia, M., Trąpczyński, P., Nowak, J. & Wolniak, R. (2015). Outward FDI of Polish firms: The role of motives, entry modes and location factors. Journal for East European Management Studies 20(3), 328-359.
Jaklič, A., Obloj, K., Svetlicic, M. Kronegger, L. (2019). Evolution of Central and Eastern Europe related international business research. Journal of Business Research, forthcoming.
Meyer, K.E, Peng, M.W. (2005). Probing theoretically into Central and Eastern Europe: transactions, resources, and institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 36 (6), 600-621.
Meyer, K. (2001). Institutions, Transaction Costs, and Entry Mode Choice in Eastern Europe, Journal of International Business Studies, 32 (2), 357-367.
Meyer, K E., Peng, Mike W. (2016). Theoretical foundations of emerging economy business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 47 (1), 3-22. Teagarden, M.B., Von Glinow, M. & Mellahi, K. (2018). Contextualizing international business research: Enhancing rigor and relevance. Journal of World Business, 53, 303-
 Krzyzstof Obloj and Jerzy Cieslik from Poland and Marjan Svetličič from Slovenia were few examples of early birds.
 Harald Vestergard that organized a 1991 conference in Copenhagen financed the presence of some participants from Eastern Europe. Danny van de Buckle and Patrick Joynt also helped to organize a (very small) Polish section within EIBA.
 WOS publications represent only a small fraction of CEE-related IB research, especially locally produced is mainly outside WOS.
 See main citation path analysis in Jaklič et al. 2019.