The Slovenia Times

Austrian president to pay official visit, foster business ties


The visit by Van der Bellen, who was elected as an independent candidate last December, has been announced as the next step in the dialogue started by the two presidents as Pahor visited Vienna at the beginning of the year.

After the official visit, during which the Austrian president will also meet parliamentary Speaker Milan Brglez and PM Miro Cerar, Pahor and Van der Bellen will jointly attend a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Slovenian Grammar School in Klagenfurt, Austria.

The Austrian business delegation accompanying Van der Bellen will be the largest in recent years and will be led by the president of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Christoph Leitl.

Van der Bellen and Pahor will also address a Slovenia-Austria business forum and the business delegation will meet business representatives and government officials, including Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek, his State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti and Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič.

The two presidents will moreover meet the students and professors of the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, where they will discuss the future of the EU.

Pahor and Van der Bellen already met in Vienna on 10 January before the inauguration of the new Austrian president to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in the EU.

While they concluded that they largely held the same views, Pahor also presented to Van der Bellen the Ljubljana Initiative for a new EU constitution, which the Austrian president endorsed in principle.

Van der Bellen announced the probability of a trilateral meeting in Austria with Slovenia and Croatia in May, but no follow-up announcement has come so far.

Relations between the two countries have traditionally been excellent, especially economy-wise.

Austria is Slovenia's third biggest business partner and the biggest investor, while Austrians are second among foreign tourists in Slovenia. The Slovenian port of Koper is moreover the most important port for Austria.

Trade between Slovenia and Austria reached EUR 4.7bn last year, EUR 1.97bn of which were Slovenian exports to Austria, data by the Statistics Office shows.

Political relations meanwhile occasionally become strained over issues related to the Slovenian ethnic minority in Austria, last due to plans to list German as the sole official language in the bilingual Austrian province of Carinthia.

Another recent contentious issue has been the implementation of Austria's law on social dumping that is considered discriminatory by Slovenian businesses.


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