Tourism is an excellent example of how our two countries can work together. We are very sucessful in our joint approach to remote markets, under the common slogan »Experience Croatia, Feel Slovenia«. Now, we are jointly targetting China.
“Is it safe to say that the Slovenian economy is now stable and charging ahead?” we asked Zdravko Počivalšek, the Slovenian Economy Minister. In short, the answer was “yes”. Back on track to convergence with more developed Member States, Slovenia has been moving towards an inclusive society in the last few years. While many indicators look promising, there is still room for improvement in research and development, innovation, and digitalisation, which are the key long-term factors of productivity growth, says the minister.
How do you explain the fact that, despite the relatively difficult situation after the financial crisis, the Slovenian economy has recovered quickly? How many of these inherited problems are still visible in the balance sheets of companies and banks?
The recovery in growth relied mainly on the restructuring of indebted state-owned enterprises, reform of the banking sector and attracting foreign investment in a huge privatisation programme.
In the financial sector, the banks have been recapitalised and restructured at considerable cost following the banking crisis of 2012-2013. The privatisation should be expedited in order to complete the restructuring of the industrial and banking sectors. Almost 54% of the public debt, namely 40% of the GDP, is held by foreign creditors and an external export debt ratio is currently above 120%. However, most of this debt is long-term, 70% is denominated in euros, and corresponds to private commitments.
Given the low unemployment and expected wage growth, how does Slovenia intend to ensure its export competitiveness?
Slovenia is a strongly export-oriented country. Exports account for more than 80% of the Slovenian GDP.
The export of goods and services in 2017 increased by 13.3% compared to 2016 (amounted to EUR 35.6 billion), while the import of goods and services in 2017 was 13.6% higher than in 2016 (amounted to EUR 31.4 billion). For Slovenia it is extremely important to stay competitive in the global market. That could be achieved with an additional increase in the relative importance of high-technology products and a decline in the share of low-technology products. The market share of natural resources (wood) has also been rising relatively rapidly.
How much has Slovenia digitised in terms of government and business services?
Slovenia made significant progress in the integration of digital technologies by enterprises, where it now ranks above the EU average. Slovenian enterprises have considerably stepped up their digitisation efforts. Our country ranks 3rd in the use of e-Invoices due to a generalised roll-out of e-Invoice transactions by the public sector; the business sector now needs to use e-Invoices in transactions with the public sector. In 2015, 16% of companies were using e-Invoices, compared to 57% in 2016.
Slovenia has considerably improved its performance in Digital Public Services due to a considerable increase of re-use of public sector data (from 34% to 60%). The re-use of Open Data has significantly increased after the adoption of national legislative measures related to the implementation of the Directive on the re-use of public sector information.
How much are the Slovenian and Croatian economies linked via production and trade?
The bilateral co-operation between Slovenia and Croatia in the field of tourism at the national level is very good. Croatia is one of 5 most important markets for the Slovenian tourism. In 2017, 14% more Croatian tourists visited Slovenia compared to 2016. Croatia was the 4th tourist market according tourist arrivals and 5th tourist market according overnight stays, right after Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. Last year, we registered more than 392,800 overnight stays by Croatian tourists, which is 11.6% more than in 2016. This number represents a 4.58% share in foreign overnight stays.
What results have been achieved in solving the Agrokor issue from the Slovenian side?
The Republic of Slovenia wants the restructuring of the AGROKOR concern to be successful and not result in negative consequences for the regional economy. Croatia is an extremely important trade partner of the Republic of Slovenia, therefore our goal is to have stable economic circumstances, which enable growth in the economic cooperation between the countries.
Both Slovenia and Croatia are tourist powers in the region and in the European context as well. What are the plans for further bolstering of the cooperation and joint appearance in third markets?
The cooperation between the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) and the Croatian Tourist Board (CTB) is developing excellently in the form of common presentations of tourism offers on remote markets, under the common slogan »Experience Croatia, Feel Slovenia« since 2010. Throughout the years, the two tourist boards had joint activities such as organizing trade fairs and workshops in Central and Eastern Asia, while in October last year, these two organizations carried out a common study tour for Chinese travel organizations and agents through the activities carried out by the European Travel Commission (ETC) in the period of the preparation for the EU – China Tourism Year 2018. Both the STB and the CTB received European funding for the above activities following a tender launched by the European Tourism Commission.
Among the key goals that both countries are pursuing in the Chinese market, the most important ones are increasing recognisability and bolstering the reputation of both countries as attractive and authentic European tourism destinations, as well as increasing the number of Chinese tourists in the region. At the same time, we also want to have the tourists from our region coming here for as long as possible.
Slovenia is very focused on ecology. How many green jobs can the Slovenian economy generate?
Slovenia wants to position itself as a green destination both in tourism and in the wider economy. This, of course, is understandable in the light of the natural features that it has. Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe with 60% of its territory covered in forests. The Natura 2000 network in Slovenia covers 38% of the entire territory. We also have 13% of protected areas, which include 1 national park, 3 regional parks, 44 landscape parks and 60 nature reserves. The fact that Slovenia has a wealth of waterways creates further opportunities for the development of a green economy and the creation of green jobs.