The Slovenia Times

Economy front-and-centre of government's Podravje visit


The government held a working meeting in Maribor, the biggest city in the region, while cabinet members met local businessmen to discuss future projects, and held talks with local and regional officials across the region.

Notably, Cerar held informal talks with Mayor of Maribor Andrej Fištravec, who has publicly called for a meeting with the prime minister on several occasions to discuss problems plaguing the city.

The meeting produced "no promises, except the mutual commitment that all of us will make an effort to cooperate", said Cerar.

He said the point of today's visit to the underdeveloped region was to find the points of joint interest for the state, municipalities, companies and institutes for developing Podravje.

Mayor Fištravec also met Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič for talks on Maribor Airport, which the city is keen to develop into a major hub.

Maribor insists that the current airport operator needs a long-term licence to run the airport, and that Maribor should become the point of entry for flights from China under a forthcoming agreement on the establishment of direct flights between Slovenia and China.

The minister said that an open call for a long-term concession for the airport infrastructure would be published in the first half of the year; the operator could be selected by the end of the year.

The region has also been asking for extra development aid and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said EUR 10.5m was available for Maribor and its surroundings this year, of which EUR 4.5m in grants.

Aside from the direct funding, applicants from problem areas such as the city of Maribor will get bonus points in open calls for project financing.

Počivalšek said efforts were being made to bring in at least one foreign investment to create much-needed jobs. "I do not have any optimistic forecasts at this point, but we have a few things in our sight."

However, the one notable foreign investment in the city, the Chinese-owned bus manufacturer Tam Europe, has just suffered a major setback.

The company said it had given up on getting a EUR 2m subsidy by the previous government. "Neither we nor our owners believe any longer we are ever going to get the incentive," Tam Europe CEO Holger Postl told the STA.

Assessing that the final version of the agreement put forward by the government was unacceptable for the company, the management and the owners decided to withdraw from the procedure.

Minister Počivalšek confirmed the procedure was over as Tam Europe had failed to honour its commitments.

Another notable topic was the funding of municipalities, an issue over which local communities and the central authorities have been at loggerheads for several years.

Meeting with Public Administration Minister Boris Koprivnikar, mayors said municipal funding has been decreasing whereas the scope of services municipalities need to provide according to law has been expanding.

The minister did not promise higher funding even though he expressed readiness to talk. Instead, he said municipal administrations should be streamlined, just like the central government slimmed down during the economic crisis.


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