The Slovenia Times

Strong Relations



Relations between Slovenia and Serbia had many phases. During the World War II, many exiled Slovenians came to Serbia. The post-war period up until the break-up of Yugoslavia was followed by extremely good relations, with Slovenian products being highly popular in Serbia. The idea of "brotherhood" embraced during Yugoslavia, was working quite well between the two republics.
Then, with Slovenia's call for more liberalisation and subsequent independence from Yugoslavia, followed by the 10-day war in June 1991, the relations between the countries cooled. However, after the revolution in Serbia in October 2000, the countries renewed their relationship and Slovenian products once again became popular in Serbia. At the same time, Serbia is a popular destination for Slovenes escaping for a fun weekend away.

Political support

The relations between Slovenia and Serbia have been very intensive at various levels and fields in the recent time. Serbia's President Boris Tadić and Slovenia's Prime Minister Borut Pahor have officially met five times in 2010 alone. What is more, Pahor was the first Slovenian Prime Minister to pay official visit to Serbia. During such meetings, both officials reiterated the good relations between the countries, with potential for an even closer economic cooperation. In addition, Slovenia's officials, including the Prime Minister, are always ready to emphasise their support for Serbia's membership to the European Union. During the working visit to Serbia in June this year, Slovenia's Foreign Minister Samuel Žbogar, expressed his conviction that the European Commission would propose in October that Serbia be awarded EU membership candidate status. Slovenia will also support the launch of membership talks with Serbia as soon as possible, the minister said.
"Serbia's future within the EU is important for the region and we believe the time has come to take this step," Žbogar told the press. He moreover believes "it makes sense to set the date for the start of negotiations if this means that negotiations will start already next year".
"We would wish for this...and are convinced that many open issues can only be solved through the process of negotiations," Žbogar said as quoted by the Croatian press agency Hina.
Slovenia also supports the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo under the auspices of the EU. Four rounds of talks have taken place so far, with Serbia assessing that the last round in mid-May was the most productive so far. While stressing the importance of dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, Žbogar believes that recognising Kosovo will not be a condition on Serbia's way to the EU, although the situation could change once negotiations near the end, the Serbian agency Tanjug meanwhile reported.
In an interview with Serbia's daily Danas on his visit to Serbia in May 2010, Slovenia's President Dr Danilo Türk confirmed that relations are in a continuous upward trend.
"We have created a very good communication with President Tadić. During President Tadić's visit to Slovenia in September 2009, a contract concerning social issues was signed (it was ratified in 2010) - there were substantial changes in terms of helping create a legal framework for addressing social issues for people, especially those with pensions.
"Economic relations have also progressed significantly, and even though we are in the middle of economic crisis, this has not diminished the importance of strenghtening business relationships."

Open issues

There are no major open issues between Slovenia and Sebria, but they do exist. They still include the issue of succession of Slovenian companies in Serbia. Belgrade passed a decree protecting assets of companies which are based in other former Yugoslav republics as part of its privatisation legislation in July 2008. Based on the decree, property belonging to 16 foreign companies were sold at an auction in July 2008. Further auctions were then cancelled due to protests from several countries, including Slovenia.
The Serbian government subsequently extended the deadline for an agreement between the Serbian companies that currently hold the assets and the Slovenian companies which claimed them before the break-up of Yugoslavia.
There is also the issue of the "erased" citizens in Slovenia, some 25,000 nationals of former Yugoslavia, mostly Serbian citizens, who were deleted from Slovenia's permanent resident registry in 1992. Slovenian government, including President Türk, are working on resolving this issue.
In regards to the division of real estate, including military and consular property, progress is continuously being made. However, some issues, including the issue of joint banks and guarantees for old foreign currency deposits, remain open.

Getting the maths right

The economic relations between the countries, are an important, if not the most important aspect of cooperation which is being dealt with by a joint commission. The commission was established in 2001, and during the meeting in May 2010, an agreement was reached that the Slovenian Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI) and Serbian Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotion will sign a memorandum on strengthening cooperation and investment activities.
In 2009, Serbia was Slovenia's 10th most important trade partner. According to the Slovenian Statistics Office, the trade amounted to EUR 793.7m, which was a 27.3 percent drop year-on-year. Slovenia's export accounted for EUR 532.6m, which was 24.8 less than in 2008, while import from Serbia was down 31.8 percent to EUR 261.1m.
Trade in services topped EUR 204m in 2009, which was 7.7 percent less than in 2008. While Slovenia's exports of services accounted for EUR 112m (down 17.5 percent year-on-year), imports amounted to EUR 92m (up 7 percent compared to 2008), according to data from the Slovenian central bank.
Serbia is also among the most popular investment destinations for Slovenia. Investments reached a total of EUR 1.696bn at the end of 2009, according to the central bank. Meanwhile, Serbian investments in Slovenia amounted to EUR 3m at the end of 2008. There are some 1,500 Slovenian companies registered in Serbia.
Serbia and Slovenia have come a long way since parting ways in the nineties. Based on recent events - both politically and economically - it seems the relationship will just keep getting stronger.


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