Changes primarily in the digitalization process and changes in the method of work
SLO-CRO Business Club has successfully overcome the new circumstances, but it is certain that the biggest goal of the club is to organize live events, and thus provide members with interconnection and networking. The fact that the membership in the club remained at pre-pandemic numbers is a good motivation for us, it is a confirmation that we are doing well and that we have the trust of our members, says the President of SLO-CRO Business Club, Sc. D. Saša Muminović.
- How do you see the economic climate in Slovenia and Croatia, and beyond, in 2021, if we take into account all the circumstances caused by the Covid 19 pandemic?
As much as the pandemic caused by Covid 19 affected us on the one hand, on the other hand it accelerated the processes that were inevitable. Working from home is unlikely to remain dominant after a pandemic, but some form of smart working will certainly continue to be relevant.
We must also not forget that the pandemic has also contributed to strategic planning at the state level. We realized how vulnerable the globalization has made us because we have consciously or unconsciously given up on strategic production and become dependent on supplies from distant lands. All this is now slowly changing.
The governments of Slovenia and Croatia have helped their economies mitigate the effects of the pandemic with anti-crisis measures. It is now necessary to focus on recovery mechanisms and how to make the best use of EU funds and prepare the economies for the future.
- What do the numbers say when it comes to economic activity between the two countries?
From 2009 to 2019, trade in goods (with an exceptional 2012) recorded an average growth of EUR 300 million, so that the decline of EUR 390 million in 2020 could theoretically be offset already this year. With the absolute amount of EUR 4.2 billion of exchange, we returned to the level of exchange we achieved in 2018. We are certainly optimistic in our forecasts.
- Has the recovery already begun to happen and when do you expect us to return to pre-crisis levels in terms of economic activity?
Looking at the industry, it seems that the recovery has begun. For catering industry and tourism, we should wait for the season and hope that it will be significantly better than last year. However, the problem is that the growth is accompanied by a strong rise in raw material prices, which can very easily trigger inflationary trends. The World Bank has given its estimate that the average price of raw materials in 2021 will be at least a third higher than in the previous year. That’s what worries us and it will be a challenge already in the second half of this year.
- What actions has the SLO-CRO Business Club undertaken towards its members and how did you overcome the new circumstances?
The work and activities of the SLO-CRO Business Club are based on personal meetings, networking and it was difficult to move to the virtual sphere. Of course we tried, and did everything so that the activities of the Club do not die down. We published the second issue of SLO CRO Business Mirror magazine, did a couple of webinars, and most importantly – last year we managed to take advantage of the periods when epidemiological measures were reduced to organize live meetings. At these meetings, it was nice to see how much our members could hardly wait for the live meetings.
We helped to solve the problem of unhindered flow of workforce between countries and thus eased the situation for some of the Slovenian border companies. We appealed to decent ministries in both states and civil protection headquarters, to allow the border to be crossed without a test for anyone traveling for business reasons.
Last year, and this year again, we co-organized the first virtual conference on the topic of tourism (Smart Tourism). Experts’ advice at this conference is applicable in the tourist sector in general – and we had over 1000 online listeners of the conference from all over Europe.
I believe that we have successfully overcome the new circumstances, but it is certain that the biggest goal of the club is to organize live events, and thus provide members with interconnection and networking. The fact that the membership in the club remained at pre-pandemic numbers is a good motivation for us, it is a confirmation that we are doing well and that we have the trust of our members.
In any case, everyone at the club hopes for a rapid emergence of conditions for free conference activities and live meetings.
- What are the SLO CRO Business Club’s plans for the upcoming period?
The SLO-CRO Business Club implements the projects they estimate will encourage the Slovenian-Croatian economic cooperation. This year we are participating in the organization of the Smart Tourism conference. On World Bee Day, initiated by the Republic of Slovenia, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Zagreb and Atlantic Grupa, we set up a work of art by famous Croatian artist Miron Milić in one of the busiest city streets in Zagreb, dedicated to the importance of bee protection and ecosystem sustainability. The EU has been supporting green and sustainable economy for some time already. We have to keep up with the times.
This year, we supported Slovenian-Croatian cooperation and networking at the Textile Art Biennial in Kranj (BIEN 2021). Next month we plan to promote a project where we supported the Geological Survey of Slovenia, which scanned the seismic surface of Petrinja and Glina with special drones and analyzed the data on the basis of which a statistical assessment of the seismic hazard of Croatia and Slovenia was made. We plan to invite the Croatian Minister, Mr. Horvat, to this promotion.
This year as well we plan to organize a meeting between Slovenian and Croatian ministers of economy – an excellent response of businessmen and of the Minister to the previous meeting encouraged us to organize it every year. We also plan an economic delegation in Slovenian on the topic of investment environment. We will certainly organize a business breakfast on the topic of the future of logistics – in this area, the economy is facing a number of challenges caused by the pandemic, and the end of these challenges is nowhere in sight. In the autumn, we plan to publish the third issue of the SLO CRO Business Mirror magazine – in which we will analyze the year at the Club. There will be a lot of activities and it’s going to be very interesting.
- As EU countries and more developed economies in relation to most countries in the region, how can Slovenia and Croatia help bring the countries of the region closer to EU standards and is there any communication on this line?
It’s somehow always easier to find those willing to give advice than those who are willing to listen to it. The most important thing is that the will to listen is there. I am certain that both countries are prepared to share their experiences because progress of the region leads to its stability, and that is in everybody’s interest.