% 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: 077 - (01/10/03)
History and geography; the positive repercussions
The Slovenes are the most fortunate of all the former communist states. It helps that they have the highest standard of living. But they have many other assets as well.
The clue to understanding Slovenia is its remarkable geography. Mostly mountainous, it has never had the security problems of the folk in the plains. Feudalism, and its key institution serfdom, never really developed. As in Switzerland, Slovenia had an independent life by and large for centuries.
Nevertheless, unlike the Swiss, the Slovenes did become part of several larger agglomerations, notably the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then of course Yugoslavia.
But it is noticeable that they were able to opt out of both with scarcely a fight. The former collapsed in 1917-9 while the latter did in slow motion after 1991. The Slovenes lost 79 soldiers in taking their independence from Belgrade in 1991, but it had nothing like the violence that beset Croatia and, above all, Bosnia in their secession from the Yugoslav Federation. Mountainous geography helped out here, but so did distance. After all Croatia and Bosnia have their mountains too, although not so many.
History and geography; the negative repercussions
Nevertheless, the legacy of the past and location has left behind certain hang-ups all the same. The Slovenes in a recent rather whimsical opinion poll opted more than 50% in favour of not having Croatia as their neighbour. Either Macedonia or Bosnia would be acceptable. But Serbia also gets a negative rating of 24% in this regard.
The poll showed that 43% would not want to visit Croatia, fearing a falling out between Ljubjana and Zagreb. Such is, indeed, possible, although not in a way likely to lead to war.
Slovenia has recalled its ambassador to Croatia for consultations over a statement by Croatia's foreign minister on plans to proclaim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea, the Slovene Foreign Ministry stated.
In a recent interview with the Croatian Slobodna Dalmacija daily, Croatian Foreign Minister, Tonino Picula, said that Slovenia "did not have contact with the open sea, and that the agreement on the border between the two countries, which was initiated in 2001 but has not been signed or ratified, had no legal effect." The Slovenian ministry said that such a statement was "unacceptable and not in the spirit of good neighbourly relations."
The two fledgling states have been at odds over a maritime border in the northern Adriatic. Their bilateral relations worsened this summer when Zagreb announced it would proclaim an EEZ. According to the international conventions and law, each state which has access to the sea has the right to proclaim such a zone.
This does not mean that a state is allowed to stretch its sovereignty over international waters, merely be given the right to fish in those waters, was Zageb's reason for proclaiming the EEZ.
Once proclaimed, the EEZ would give Croatia the right to exploit part of the international waters in the Adriatic several nautical miles from its territorial sea borders, depending on the distance between Croatian territorial sea and international waters.
According to the Slovenes, if Zagreb proclaims the EEZ, this would prejudge the final demarcation line in the Adriatic between them, which still has not been officially determined. Slovenes claim that in the case of Zagreb proclaiming the EEZ, the indication would be that the solution on the border was already reached and Slovenia which currently does, would not have access to international waters, something Ljubljana is strongly opposed to.
Slovenia looks north
As the northernmost former Yugoslav republic they were always 'different,' a sort of mini-Switzerland in the communist world, having borders with Italy and Austria
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 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.
Slovenia, Hungary sign contract to build power line
The chairmen of the Slovene and Hungarian electricity grid operators on 9th September signed an agreement to build a 400-kV power line between both countries. This will be Slovenia's first electric line with the neighbouring country, and an important international line envisaged in the draft national energy scheme, STA News Agency has reported quoting the Slovene power company, ELES.
The agreement was signed in Hungary's Heviz by chairman of ELES Vekoslav Korosec and chairman of Magyar Villamos Muvek [Hungarian power company] Laszlo Pal.
The long-distance line is expected to be a major factor in upgrading the reliability of the national electricity grid and the quality of transmission in the southeastern part of the country. Moreover, ELES believes that Slovene suppliers will have access to low cost power from East European electricity markets.
The agreement stipulates the obligations of investors and lists the basic technical features of the power line and the appertaining high-voltage facilities, while operating regulations will be defined once the power line has been built.
Hungary has already built its part of the line, while Slovenia still needs to construct some 80 km of this 400-kV power line, complete with optical cables. The power line is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.
Foreign direct investments in Slovenia total record US$1.9bn in 2002
Although the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide was down 41 per cent last year to US$651bn, Slovenia posted the all-time highest amount of FDI, US$1.9bn, according to data listed in the 2003 World Investment Report, which has been compiled by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), STA News Agency has reported.
Presenting the report on 4th September, head of the Centre for International Relations at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, Marjan Svetlicic, noted that Slovenia was above the world average in the share of FDI in GDP, as well as above the average recorded in Central and Southeastern Europe.
Moreover, eight of the 25 largest non-financial foreign investors from Central and Eastern Europe were from Slovenia, namely household appliances maker Gorenje, drug makers Lek and Krka, retailers Mercator and Merkur, air carrier Adria Airways, oil company Petrol and logistics company Intereuropa.
Despite the 2002 record, this year's FDI to Slovenia is expected to amount to between US$200m and US$250m, which has been the average in years preceding 2002. As the Trade and Investment Promotion Office pointed out, Slovenia is more interesting for smaller projects which create between 50 and 500 jobs.
Slovene nuclear power plant starts operating again
The Krsko nuclear power plant (NEK) has been brought back on line after shutting down automatically on 27th August. The N-plant was re-connected to the power grid the next day, Radio Slovenija reported.
Head of engineering and security at NEK, Martin Navsak, told the public broadcaster that technicians checked all the valves that caused the shutdown and carried out all the tests necessary for the re-connection to the grid.
The power station - the only N-plant in Slovenia - is now synchronized with the power grid and we are gradually increasing power, Navsak added.
The shutdown was a result of a malfunction of the isolation valve on the main steam pipes. As Radio Slovenija pointed out, Slovenia came very close to a US-style blackout.
The NEK shutdown occurred only minutes after the fifth bloc of the Sostanj thermoelectric plant was brought off line after a test run following a major overhaul. Immediately, Slovenia was short of 600 MW of power.
"When we heard what happened in Krsko, we quickly finished repairs on the turbines; we even had to improvise," the daily Delo was told by head of the Sostanj thermo plant Uros Rotnik.
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