The Slovenia Times

German investments in Slovenia reach up to one billion euros



Ambassador Goetz (born 1944) is a professional diplomat. After studying law in Freiburg and Berlin and a brief academic career, he joined the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1973 and a year later became a consul in Liverpool, Great Britain. Later, he served in German embassies in Bangladesh, Rome and Warsaw. Before he came to Ljubljana, he served as an emissary to the Vatican. A father of four children, his hobbies include swimming, sailing, skiing, history and literature.

Germany, as Slovenia's largest trading partner in bilateral trade exchange, represents 25 per cent of all Slovenia's foreign trade. How would you describe this phenomenon?
Germany has traditionally been a significant trading partner of your country for many years. Even prior to 1990, the German market was widely open to Slovenian goods. So, Slovenia had its distinct position in Germany even then. Your country was one of the few on which one could fully rely from the very beginning of transition and of new relations in Europe. The Slovenian market remained solid in the times when other East European markets, Comecon, were falling apart. This also explains why Slovenia could afford a gradualist approach, which brought it in the first line of new EU members.

Speaking of 25 per cent of all Slovenia's foreign trade, in your opinion, which are the major players in it?
There are quite a lot. But again, traditionally, these are producers of car components. The textile industry, quite surprisingly, is also appearing high. Escada, for example, has come to Slovenia and is building its headquarters here. However, Slovenia is certainly not viewed as a country of a cheap labour. Firms are coming here because the Slovenian people have skills, training and knowledge. These are the reasons why, for example, Escada is pulling out of Germany and coming to Slovenia, to somewhere near Murska Sobota. This is certainly quite fascinating since the textile industry is, generally, completely evaporating in Europe.

Is there to be any kind of cooperation with Mura?
I am not acquainted with the details. I was only told that they found good, skilled people in that region.

Trade cooperation between both countries is high, but Germany, with its 250 firms in Slovenia, is only the third - lagging behind Austria and France - regarding foreign investments in Slovenia.

I have made my point about these statistics several times. These kinds of figures do not offer reliable information. In Germany, we do not make these lists anymore. Hardly anybody would publish a list saying which foreign country is first in investing. I had a lot to do with these lists in Poland during the transformation period.

Let me tell you why I do not trust these figures too much. First, one only takes quantities of these investments from certain sums upwards, and small business is left off the list. But small businesses can be equally important, especially if the investing country is geographically close.

Secondly, to me it is by far more important that German firms here in your country reinvest their profits rather than counting fresh capital, which just flows out as quickly as it came in. Reinvesting the profit means that investors trust your country and they believe in what they are doing here.

And, thirdly, let us make an example: if companies like Nestle, Royal Dutch or other global players sitting in Switzerland would say: OK, let's invest in Slovenia, let's start building a chocolate factory there. And they call their financial director and he suggests that for the investment there are available some two hundred millions of dollars that they have on Cayman Islands. Well? What would you do? Put Cayman Islands on the list and say that Cayman Islands is somewhere on the top of foreign investors in your country? Wouldn't you be astonished? Cayman Islands and Slovenia? A lot of German investments run through, for example, daughter firms based in Austria. So, these 'lists' are made somehow in a style of "Olympic competition".

The German-Slovene Chamber of Commerce - which already exists but is going to be officially opened this month (July) - estimates that there are about one billion euros worth of German investments in your country. Not bad, no? Especially since some of the "lists" are still talking about only a half of billion euros.

Where do these investments go? And where should they go in the future?
Well, when talking about the future of these investments, one should not omit the question of nationalisation but there are sectors that German capital should go: banks, insurance companies, the power and environment sectors. German firms tried hard in your steel industry but didn't succeed against Russian competitors. Transport is also one of the interesting sectors into which Deutsche Bahn will probably enter. Transport in general is a very important field, but especially for Slovenia because of its specific geographic situation on the axis of two large crossways. And your country should take advantage of this position. In addition to the motorways you built in the last fifteen years or so, this is now the time for railways. And Luka Koper is, of course, connected to this complex. There are talks going on regarding participation of German firms in your railway projects.

And, last but not least, Slovenia and German firms are jointly cooperating in the fields which are going beyond Slovenian borders especially in Western Balkans - where the Slovene economy has been heavily involved - and South Eastern Europe up to Ukraine. Slovenes have a lot of knowledge and experience in these areas; therefore, German firms are looking for Slovene managers to run new projects in this part of the world.

What about tourism?
There is of course quite a strong influx of tourists coming to your country, to your mountains, lakes... What I miss is a direct shuttle or cheap flight air link between Berlin and Slovenia. I can fly from Ljubljana to Helsinki but not to Berlin. And I would like to do something in order to achieve this.

As an ambassador, how do you see yourself in Slovenia? As the "supreme executive" or something else?
In my work here, the emphasis is on political and cultural work as our countries are both in European Union. Business and trade are of course very important but run well by themselves and don't need much of my involvment...

What about in the field of intelligence?
No comment (laughter). In culture, especially, we are very active along with our Goethe Institute in Ljubljana. And now that Slovenia is preparing itself for the European presidency, we are trying to assist as much as we can in the framework of German-Portuguese-Slovene trio. We will certainly help Portugal and Slovenia to unpack the rucksack of EU problems that still remain unsolved.


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