H.E. Gašper Dovžan Ambassador of Slovenia to Croatia: Proud of our mutual relations

In 2021, the trade between our countries amounted to nearly EUR 7 billion, cross-border investment was close to EUR 3.7 billion.

We have  excellent cooperation also in the fields of culture and sport, and even more importantly the excellent and intense people-to-people contacts that are the backbone of our outstanding cooperation, for Diplomacy&Commerce says H.E. Gašper Dovžan, Ambassador of Slovenia to Croatia. It is my firm belief that the membership of Slovenia and Croatia in the EU and NATO, and soon also in the Eurozone and Schengen, creates even more opportunities and potential for our bilateral cooperation, says, Ambassador Gašper.

Ljubljana, ministrstvo za zunanje zadeve.
Drzavni sekretar na ministrstvu za zunanje zadeve Gasper Dovzan.
  1. Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence in the same year and were internationally recognized. This year we are celebrating 30 years of establishing diplomatic relations. How would you evaluate the relations between the two countries in these 30 years, how did their path look like?

Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on the same day, 25 June 1991. What followed were regrettable events of military aggression. The newly independent states had to defend themselves by military force, coupled with political and diplomatic efforts to gain international recognition. In parallel, transition processes began to build democratic societies based on market economy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Both countries had the same goals: improve the living standard of its people, strengthen democracy and the respect for human rights, and enhance the judiciary and security in general as well as join the transatlantic community of states. Due to a longer and more brutal war in Croatia and probably because of some other reasons, Slovenia went through this period somehow faster and more swiftly than Croatia. The different dynamic in these processes may also contributed to a difference in the approach that our countries took on tackling some of our sensitive bilateral issues that only arose due to the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and the newly acquired independence. In the past 30 years, we might have focused too much on the bilateral issues to which we were not able to find acceptable compromise solutions due to various reasons. Nevertheless, I think we can be proud of the intense all-round cooperation that has evolved between our countries.  Today, Slovenia and Croatia are important trade and investment partners. These are impressive figures, which account for numerous jobs, providing for thousands of families. All of the above gives both Slovenia and Croatia great responsibility to ensure the necessary conditions for further deepening our cooperation to the benefit of both counties.


  1. How do you assess relations today when both countries are members of the UN, EU, NATO and other relevant international organizations? How much room is there for strengthening cooperation, if we have in mind common European policies?

It is my firm belief that the membership of Slovenia and Croatia in the EU and NATO, and soon also in the Eurozone and Schengen, creates even more opportunities and potential for our bilateral cooperation. This means that the countries will need to assume even more responsibility and really focus on topics of mutual interest, intensifying different forms of cooperation in favour of both countries. A good example is the possibility for cooperation in the search and rescue operations in the open seas of the North Adriatic together with Italy or mutual assistance following natural and other disasters. All of this this is much simpler and effective because both Slovenia and Croatia are EU member states and NATO allies. We saw it during the COVID pandemic, after earthquakes, fires and so on. In all unpredictable events and crises, problems can be solved much more efficiently, if there is mutual trust. In my view, one of the more pressing areas for cooperation will be the search for complementary solutions for a clean, secure, stable, reliable and affordable energy supply of our households and businesses. The greater cooperation in the field of energy, the greater role our two countries can play in the wider region. The same applies to common positions in the EU and other international forums.


  1. How do you see the resolution of open issues (Piran Bay) and how much will it be a stumbling block for future relations?

Of course, we have quite diverging views on certain questions, even those already solved. We have to accept this and seek ways to bring our views closer together. In fact, this is the central role of diplomacy: to build mutual trust among nations all the while maintaining a dignified and fair communication. In my capacity as ambassador, I will follow this principle at all times. The politicians also bear a great responsibility and I believe that, in the last three decades, politicians on both sides of the border have become more experienced and mature to make decisions for the benefit of the people and business, especially given the fact that the two countries are closely connected in terms of economic and people-to-people ties. I am convinced we will pursue our activities in a calm way focusing on practical and pragmatic solutions that will facilitate the everyday life of people and businesses in both countries.


  1. Croatia 01.01.2023. becomes a member of the euro zone, and expects Schengen as well. How important, from Slovenia’s point of view, is this in terms of deeper European integration, and does official Zagreb have the support of Ljubljana?

Croatia enjoys the full support of Slovenia. The Croatian path to become part of the Eurozone and Schengen clearly shows that the EU integration is evolving and getting stronger. Within Schengen, the Croatian authorities will control the external EU border and provide adequate security standards to ensure the protection of the whole area. Both the Schengen area and Eurozone have faced great challenges in the past few years, but they reacted in different ways. The financial crisis led to reforms that made the euro stronger. Not all of the reforms have been completed so far, but we can say with confidence that the euro withstood the pressure and is stronger today, yet in the light of future challenges, we must continue with efforts to protect the euro. Unfortunately, the Schengen area did not withstand the pressure of mass migration and individual terrorist acts. Some Schengen member states decided to suspend the Schengen rules and re-introduce border controls on internal borders. These continue to be in place to this today despite the fact that there are no legal grounds or factual reasons for this. Therefore, Schengen needs to be reformed in order to guarantee the full functioning of the area even in more testing times, like a renewed migration flow. The free movement of people, goods, capital and services must be ensured for all members equally.


  1. 5. After the pandemic came the war in Ukraine. What is the official position of Slovenia regarding the resolution of the war conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, and how will your country behave in the coming period if we if we keep in mind the energy crisis and inflation and all that it entails?

Slovenia, as other EU and NATO member states, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  We strongly condemned the Russian aggression on the first day of attacks. We also supported all the restrictive measures and sanctions against the Russian Federation. In the framework of the EU and NATO as well as at the bilateral level, Slovenia is trying to support Ukraine and its citizens to the best of its abilities. We believe in Europe where there is no room for imperialistic moves and in which internationally recognised borders are respected. It is not acceptable for any country to change these borders by force or unilaterally. Therefore, as long as Russia continues to deny these basic rules of peaceful coexistence, it cannot be our partner. We see how the Russian Federation is using the money from its trade – mainly in energy – with European countries. Europe has become too dependent on imports from Russia when it comes to energy supply, so it is only right to make decisive steps towards increased energy independence. Slovenia and Croatia as neighbouring counties with good relations are perfectly placed to contribute to greater energy security, for ourselves as well as for the wider region. The plans for expanding the LNG terminal on Krk and for a second block of Krško nuclear power plant offer a good opportunity for creating a closer energy partnership. Such development would strengthen the geopolitical position of our countries in the region.


  1. 6. You have been on duty in Zagreb since this summer. What do you like most about Zagreb and Croatia in general?

Zagreb is a beautiful city and offers plenty of opportunities for both sport and cultural enthusiasts. It has a perfect position directly under the Sljeme with numerous possibilities for sport and recreation activities in both summer- and wintertime. Like Slovenia, Croatia is also a green country with a diverse and beautiful landscape, ideal for healthy free-time activities. I also have wonderful experience with people. I have been very well and kindly received as a Slovenian, regardless if people know where I work or not.