% of GDP
In 1918 the Slovenes joined the Serbs and Croats in forming a new nation, renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. After World War II, Slovenia became a republic of the renewed Yugoslavia, which though communist, distanced itself from Moscow's rule. Dissatisfied with the exercise of power of the majority Serbs, the Slovenes succeeded in establishing their independence in 1991. Historical ties to Western Europe, a strong economy, and a stable democracy make Slovenia a leading candidate for future membership in the EU and NATO.
Update No: 074 - (19/06/03)
Slovenia looks north
The Slovenes are not really particularly Balkan in their geography or history. They are mostly in the Alps and are truly mountainous people. The rest of the Balkans is more hilly than mountainous, although nearly everybody inhabits the valleys and the plains. But as the northernmost former Yugoslav republic they were always apart, a sort of mini-Switzerland in the communist world.
That is of course a contradiction in terms. There is no way one can be both capitalist banker and communist businessman, at least without torment of the soul. That was for long the Slovenes' predicament.
Their economy always worked better than those of their communist neighbours; but never as well as their capitalist ones. A rich relation of the East, but a poor relation of the West.
Now they want to look definitively Westwards, which in their geographical situation means northwards. They will be joining the EU on May 1st 2004 and are the best equipped of the entrant states to do well.
Slovenia looks south
The Slovenes know, nevertheless, that the greatest asset they have to offer the EU is their unrivalled experience and expertise in the Balkans. They are the natural gateway to the region, the one already 'Westernised' country where one can operate in familiar ways, while penetrating true terra incognita.
The Slovenes are, consequently, fervently hoping that EU expansion does not stop short at their own border with Croatia. Croatia and all the former Yugoslav republics deserve inclusion into the EU, with Slovenia holding the door open.
President Janez Drnovsek is the key player here. For over a decade the premier of the country, he is now happy to be an elder statesman, thinking of the long-term destiny of his people. He invited his counterpart in Croatia, Stipe Mesic, to Ljubljana in early May to mull things over. The timing is not quite right. The EU is absorbing 10 new entrants in 2004. It is in the doldrums economically and will need several more years to take on the idea of incorporating the whole Balkans. But when it does Slovenia will be the key.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Slovenia, Albania interested in boosting economic cooperation
Slovenia would like to see a boost to economic cooperation with Albania and higher trade turnover, it was said at the 30th May political consultations between the two countries in Tirana, the Slovene Foreign Ministry said, STA News Agency has reported.
It was agreed that the third session of the joint economic commission should take place in Tirana in September, and interest was shown by both sides in the exchange of contacts between the two countries' chambers of commerce.
Agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and on the international road transport of passengers and goods would also boost the cooperation. Foreign Ministry State Secretary, Iztok Mirosic, who headed the Slovene delegation, proposed that an umbrella agreement in international development cooperation be signed, the ministry said.
Mirosic met Albanian Foreign Minister, Ilir Meta, and his deputy Luan Hajdaraga. According to the Slovene Foreign Ministry, the officials emphasised the very good bilateral relations and agreed to strengthen political ties.
Mirosic used this occasion to convey Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel's invitation to Minister Meta to visit Slovenia.
According to the Foreign Ministry, cooperation is well under way in transport. Slovenia's Port of Koper has expressed an interest in cooperating with Albania's port of Durres.
Informing the Albanian official about Slovenia's progress in becoming an EU and a NATO member, Mirosic stressed that the country supports Albania's EU integration as well as NATO's open-door policy. He expressed Slovenia's readiness to share its experience gained in the negotiating processes.
Mirosic also hailed the decision of the Albanian government to abolish visas for Slovene citizens. The new regime will take effect on Saturday.
Foreign interest in real estate up slightly
According to the Slovenian Justice Ministry, eleven applications for real estate were sent to the ministry in the period between February 1st and April 17th. A total of 125 applications arrived since mid February 1999, when the market was opened to some EU citizens, Slovenia News reported.
The opening of the Slovenian property market is required by annex 13 to the EU association agreement. When the agreement came into force on February 1st 1999, real estate in Slovenia became accessible to all EU citizens who had lived in Slovenia for at least three years beforehand. Last February, the market was opened to all EU citizens who qualify for a purchase of property under what is dubbed the principle of reciprocity. In line with this principle, foreigners can purchase property in Slovenia, if Slovenian citizens are allowed to own real estate in the country the buyer comes from under similar conditions. Upon Slovenia's accession to the EU, scheduled for May 1st 2004, the condition of reciprocity will be replaced by a safety clause that, in case of problems, the real estate market could be protected for an additional seven years.
Out of the 125 applications that arrived at the Slovenian Justice Ministry by April 17th, 113 were made by EU citizens and 12 by citizens from other countries. The highest number of applications, namely 60, was put in by German citizens, followed by Austrian (27), Italian (18), Dutch (4), Swedish (2), Greek (1) and French citizens (1). By mid-April, eleven purchases were already given a green light. As to the non-EU citizens, a total of 12 applications were made by the citizens of Croatia (3), Serbia-Montenegro (3), Bosnia-Herzegovina (2), the United-States (2), Japan (1) and Macedonia (1), with ten of them being granted by mid-April.
MINERALS & METALS
Swiss Gencore tenders unbinding bid for Talum stake
Glencore International of Switzerland, a global leader in the production of aluminium, submitted an unbinding bid for the acquisition of Talum, a Slovenia-based aluminium company. Securing Talum will give Glencore the chance to penetrate the southeastern European markets, the Swiss company said in a statement, Slovenia Business Weekly reported.
Glencore is one of the two bidders meeting the rules established by the state commission for the sale of the 85.70 per cent stake in Talum. The second bidder is allegedly a local enterprise, whose name has yet to be disclosed. Overall 3,256,859 Talum shares are slated for sale. Of those 3,037,400 are held by Elektro-Slovenija, a local power company, and the remaining are owned by the Pension Fund Management
Government fives green light to foreigners in gaming industry
The cabinet passed changes to the gaming act, fulfilling a years-long obligation to the EU to allow the entry of foreign capital in the field of gaming, Slovenia News reported recently.
The changes, to be discussed in parliament in a fast-track procedure, specify that standard games in Slovenia could be held by two organisers, while the country could have a maximum of 15 casinos and a total of 45 game saloons. The amendment is in line with Slovenia's EU negotiations from December 2000 regarding the free flow of capital, doing away with restrictions in participation of foreign entities in the capital of gaming companies
Slovene Railways company opens office in Belgrade
The Slovene Railways (SZ) and affiliate Fersped opened a joint representation office in the centre of Belgrade on 10th June. The aim is to improve railways transport of passengers and cargo between Slovenia and Serbia-Montenegro and other countries on the pan-European route from Salzburg to Thessaloniki, STA News Agency has reported..
SZ chairman of the board Blaz Miklavcic told STA that SZ cooperates well with Serbian railways and that further cooperation is expected. He added that the tenth pan-European route is essential for all countries of the former Yugoslavia and the entire Balkans.
According to the Serbian railways company general manager Slobodan Rosic, the company plans to open representation offices in Ljubljana and Zagreb if the Serbian business sector provides sufficient funds.
SZ transported half a million tonnes of cargo to Serbia-Montenegro last year, twice as much as in 2001. The company plans to increase cargo transport this year to a million tonnes and to several million tonnes in the mid-term..
The Slovene Railways has its representation offices in Milan, Vienna, Budapest and Sarajevo. The Belgrade branch is also to cover Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.
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