% 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: 076 - (28/08/03)
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.
History helps out; and geography even more
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 declaring independence from Belgrade in 1991. 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. Significantly the Serbians have no direct frontier with Slovenia, with Croatia in between, and that neighbour itself was moving towards separatism.
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.
Renault keeps top ranking in Slovenian sales
After three years of falling sales of new cars in Slovenia, signs of improvement have been showing over the past few months. In the first half of the year, 33,370 new cars were registered, which is almost 13 per cent more than in the same period last year.
Under such circumstances, Renault managed to keep its 25.16 per cent market share and a solid advantage over its rivals, said Renault Slovenia in a press release.
According to Renault Slovenia manager, Jean-Pierre Ripoll, the company increased its market share in Slovenia last year by almost four per cent to 25.7 per cent.
"We managed to keep our elan with our 25.16 per cent market share. Still 2003 is a breakpoint year due to the new EU legislation on vehicle distribution that is to be enforced in the autumn," Ripoll noted.
A member of the Renault group, the car manufacturer, Revoz, has been placed sixth amongst 44 European car plants in the European Automotive Productivity Index 2003. Released by the World Markets Research Centre (WMRC) the study measures the productivity of car manufacturers in terms of output of cars per employee.
EU critical of Slovenia's readiness for drawing funds
A report issued by the EU about the readiness of acceding countries in the field of regional development, said that Slovenia is relatively poorly prepared for drawing funds from EU structural and cohesion funds. Although Slovenia has made significant progress in preparations for drawing funds from the cohesion and structural funds, it must still promptly tackle a number of problems if it wishes to successfully conclude its work before joining the EU in mid-2004, the report reveals.
Responding to the report, the State Secretary at the Government Office for Structural Policy and Regional Development, Adreja Jerina, said that "We take all comments by the Commission in good faith and as guidelines for what still needs to be done."
Slovene foreign debt exceeds US$10bn
Slovenia's foreign debt surpassed the US$10bn-mark in May, totalling US$10.21bn at the end of the month. Meanwhile, the country's foreign exchange reserves totalled US$9.05bn at the end of May, thus falling US$1.16bn short of the foreign debt, STA News agency has reported.
The foreign reserves increased by US$530m from the previous month and were up US$898m over the beginning of the year. Moreover, Slovenia's foreign debt grew by US$1.41bn in the first five months of the year.
The bulk of all foreign exchange reserves, US$7.68bn, were held by the Bank of Slovenia, while the rest, US$1.37bn, was held by the commercial banks.
According to the central bank bulletin, the long-term foreign debt totalled US$10.08bn, while the short-term debt stood at US$124m. Some US$3.7bn of the long-term debt was public and state-guaranteed debt, while the remaining amount of around US$6.4bn was private debt.
At the end of May, Slovenia owed a total of US$1.1bn to international financial organizations. The country owed US$78m to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, US$182m to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and US$798m to the European Investment Bank.
MINERALS & METALS
Slovenia suspends privatisation of steelworks
The sale of the state's 80-per-cent stakes in the Slovene steelworks companies Acroni Jesenice, Metal Ravne and Nozi Ravne has been halted until further notice, Radio Slovenia has reported.
This is what the chairman of the commission overseeing the privatisation process of steelworks companies, Iztok Kremser, said at a news conference on 6th August. According to him, this decision was made after a thorough consideration, whilst the main reason for stopping the sale were unfavourable economic conditions, in particular on the global steelworks market.
Despite this, on the basis of a government's decision, they sold an 80 per cent stake in Sistemska Tehnika, a subsidiary of STO Ravne. It is well-known for its special purpose production of parts of weapons and armoured vehicles. The purchaser is Viator Vektor. According to State Secretary Janez Trcko, it paid 460m tolars [about 1.982m euros.]
The largest shopping and entertainment centre in Europe
In a little over a decade, the BTC shopping complex has become the leading Slovenian shopping centre, while the company has also opened similar shopping centres in Novo mesto and Murska Sobota. The BTC centre has developed from former public warehouses, and today the shopping and business areas spreads over 250,000 sq.m, and employs some 300 people, Slovenia News reports.
BTC and its strategic partners invested some 100m Euro in renovation and development between 1993 and 2002. "BTC is currently in a period of the most significant investment cycle in its history, implementing the goals set in the company's long-term development strategy. BTC has ambitious plans and a clear vision," says its CEO, Joze Mermal. The first four months of this year saw an increase of 14 per cent in revenues year-on-year, while the company boldly predicts a jump of 35 per cent in profits by the end of the year.
This autumn, BTC will start working on the construction of a new car park with 820 parking spaces. It will soon start refurbishing the oldest shopping hall and preparations are also under way to renovate the market. The company has purchased nearby plots totalling 20,000 sq.m where it has already launched initial construction work. An additional 6,000 sq.m. area is intended for the development of amusement facilities. The company says it will realise its plans by the end of the year, while next year it will start working on the construction of a water park.
Leading mobile services providers ordered to cut prices
The Telecommunications, Radio and Post Agency has ordered the two leading Slovenian mobile services providers to cut their prices on calls from other networks. By September 1st, Mobitel and Simobil have to charge their rivals less for any calls made from other networks to their own, the agency said, Slovenian News has reported.
The regulations will have a strong effect on the telecommunication market, the agency claims, as they create equal market conditions for all companies, lower business costs and the possibility to form competitive prices based on costs. The basis for the watchdog's decision was an initiative by the third mobile services provider, Vega, which warned that the larger providers violate the telecommunications act, as their prices are not set according to actual costs.
While both Mobitel and Simobil have said they would raise prices on August 1st, Vega is not planning any price changes.
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