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SLOVENIA


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 26,284 21,108 18,800 63
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 11,830 9,810 9,760 51
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Slovenia



 
Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)

An awesome job ahead
The greatest event in Slovenia's modern history was of course the revolution against communism and its secession from Yugoslavia in 1989-91. Then at the beginning of this millennium it played the host, (and thereby attracted the attention of a world that had hardly even heard of it), to the first ever summit meeting between the newly elected president of Russia Vladimir Putin with the newly elected George W Bush of the USA. The second major event in its modern history was the adhesion to the EU in 2004. A third major development impends, Slovenia's assumption, by alphabetical rotation, of the presidency of the EU, in January for the first six months of 2008. 

It is an enormous responsibility. Slovenia - an Alpine country of 2m people - will be in the hot seat, running the presidency of the EU, a bloc of almost 400m people. "It's a little bit like taxiing a 747 with a bicycle," one Western diplomat observed. But for the former communist country, the first of the EU's 2004 intake of new members to assume the rotating presidency, it is a sign and a test of Slovenia's growing maturity.

But the Slovenes are very well liked in Brussels and other EU capitals. They are viewed as the model transition country from communism. It is thoroughly appropriate that they should be the first of them to hold the rotating presidency. 

It will put the country in the limelight as never before. The one area where Slovenia has lagged has been in attracting foreign investment. The presidency gives it an excellent opportunity to catch up here.

Akin to the Olympics
Other countries have run a mile from taking on the cost and commitment of running the EU. Estonia, for example, has managed to avoid the fateful moment until 2018; Poland will not have its go until 2011. One can see why. Slovenia has pencilled in 62m euros as the cost of running the six-month presidency starting on January 1, while Janez Jansa, prime minister, reckons at least 70 per cent of his time will be devoted to European issues. 

It is the diplomatic equivalent of hosting the Olympics. A brand new conference facility is taking shape at the lakeside venue of Brdo in the shadow of the Alps. Slovenes expect to chair 3,000-4,000 meetings and are taking courses in how to conduct them, as well as crash courses in French; scores of officials are being dispatched to Brussels. 

Cross-party support for Jansa's role 
"Every country has to take its turn," says Mr Jansa, a former dissident jailed back in 1988 after criticising the Yugoslav People's Army. "The question is not yes or no - it's when." 

There was near unanimous parliamentary support in 2004 for Slovenia taking on the presidency, and the main parties have agreed to suspend hostilities on European issues, while Mr Jansa is in the chair. "We are taking this very seriously," Mr Jansa says, in an interview in his modern office in Ljubljana, the capital. He says smaller countries are sometimes better at running the EU because they focus on the job and are less able to push their own national agenda. 

Mr Jansa hopes the long-running saga of the EU's revamped constitutional treaty will be largely sorted out under the current Portuguese presidency, and ratification of the text will be under way by the time he takes over. 

The treaty, if approved, would hand over the job of running the European Council to a full-time president from 2009, although national capitals would still take turns to run ministerial councils. 
Mr Jansa does not expect to have to get bogged down in EU battles over future budget priorities and agricultural spending - a struggle with France (defending farm subsidies) and Britain (defending its budget rebate). 

He also hopes the question of Kosovo's future status will be resolved by January, but is ready for the issue to land on his plate. As a former Yugoslav republic, Slovenia has an emotional interest in bringing the region closer to the EU. 

Then there is is the "very important issue" of how to meet the EU's highly ambitious plans to tackle climate change and deciding which country does what: the potentially explosive question of " burden-sharing''. 

For Janez Lenaric, the country's Europe minister, the task of chairing the EU is a reminder of how far Slovenia has come since independence in 1991. "Sometimes we are awed.'' he says. But Slovenes are " thrifty people" and want to know what they will get for their investment in running the EU, he says. 

Apart from the prestige and publicity, past experience suggests, "income directly related to presidency activities are more than double the costs of the presidency". Are they ready? "We can be quite confident,'' he says. "We have almost everything in place."

Floods bring need for EU aid 
As it so happens, an urgent call on EU funds came unexpectedly in September. The damage caused by torrential rains in Slovenia will overburden the country's finances and the government will be forced to seek European Union aid for the first time since joining the bloc in 2004, the prime minister said.

Jansa, who toured the northern region ravaged by September 18th's storm, said the damage, estimated at £138 million, "exceeds budget reserves" and other financial aid earmarked for relief.
He said the government would seek aid from the EU's Solidarity Fund for the first time. Slovenia is a prosperous market economy, whose 4% economic growth exceeds the EU average, making it a contributor rather than recipient of EU funds.

The government will also aid regional companies in amounts allowed by the EU rules, Jansa said.
On September 20th, two more bodies were recovered, raising the death toll from the floods to six. The two new victims were from Zelezniki, a village of 3,000 people in a narrow valley in north western Slovenia, and the hardest hit town in the storm. One body was found in a local factory, another near her house.

The floods damaged hundreds of houses, swept away bridges and cars and buried a Second World War clinic that was later turned into a national monument.
Two villages remain cut off from outside help, as a bridge and a road leading to them have been washed away. Helicopters are dropping food and other necessities to the residents.

Slovenia's largest insurer, Triglav, said it expected about 5,000 claims and a record payout for damages, totalling around £14 million.

Prodi comes to town
Jansa welcomed Romano Prodi, the President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy on a two-day visit in mid-September. Prodi also met the President of the National Assembly, France Cukjati, and representatives of the Italian minority in Slovenia. 

Jansa expressed satisfaction over the fact that this visit, the first official visit of an Italian Prime Minister to Slovenia, has occurred while Slovenia is preparing for the EU Presidency, as the experience of Italy, which has presided over the EU several times and is one of the EU's founding members, is particularly valuable. 

"During the visit, we also exchanged views on key challenges awaiting Slovenia and Europe in the first six months of next year, when Slovenia presides over the European Council," said the PM.
With regard to bilateral relations, PM Janez Jansa and his guest continued the intensive dialogue which has strengthened over the course of this year. They also focused on economic cooperation, as Italy is Slovenia's second largest trade partner. In 2006, trade in goods between the two countries amounted to over €5.5 billion. 

"Trade in goods is becoming more and more balanced, while trends are also encouraging. In comparison to 2005, last year saw an increase of over 15 per cent," said the PM, stressing the significance of the Slovenian economic representative office which was opened this year in Milan and which will facilitate even closer collaboration. The two PMs also discussed the situation of the countries' respective minorities. 

Mr Jansa welcomed the progress that has been made lately, particularly the approval of the list of thirty-two municipalities in which the Regulations for the Protection of the Slovene Linguistic Minority of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region would be implemented, and the establishment of a bilingual school in San Pietro al Natisone.

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