Ambassador says UK, Slovenia to continue to cooperate closely
Ljubljana - As the EU and UK have reached a trade and cooperation agreement to enable smooth transition to the full Brexit, British Ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler has assessed that, as the UK will always be a "close friend and partner to Slovenia", the deal enables the UK to continue to work with Slovenia as partners to tackle global challenges.
According to the ambassador, the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement brings clarity and certainty to UK and EU citizens and businesses.
"It provides a platform upon which the UK and Slovenia can boost our relationship going forward, based on shared values, free trade and friendly cooperation," Sadler added in the statement for the STA.
For the UK businesses, the deal maintains zero tariffs and zero quotas on trade in goods, and this is perceived as important as the UK and Slovenia look to rebuild their economies post Covid-19.
Official statistics show that the UK is the 20th most important trade partner to Slovenia, with the value of bilateral trade exceeding EUR 1 billion for the second year in a row in 2019.
Data for 2020 show a decline in trade, though, and data for 2019 indicate that the number of exporters to and importers from the UK is dropping.
Last year, a total of 1,530 Slovenian companies exported to the UK, which is 22% fewer than in 2018. A total of 4,885 companies in Slovenia imported from the UK last year, 5% fewer than in 2018.
Sadler said that, following the UK's exit from the Single Market and Customs Union, the UK would "continue to work very closely with the Slovenian government to ensure that citizens and businesses here are fully aware of the changes and of what they need to do."
Slovenian citizens will be able to travel to the UK until 1 October 2021 with a valid identity card or passport, and from then on entry will be possible only with a valid passport.
Citizens with a regulated status within the EU scheme will be able to travel to the UK with a valid identity card at least until 31 December 2025.
According to the Slovenian Embassy in London, 3,880 Slovenian citizens asked either for settled or pre-settled status by 30 November, with 1,790 being granted settled status and 2,040 pre-settled status.
The embassy does not possess information about whether the number of Slovenian citizens in the UK dropped after the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. It has told the STA that Slovenian citizens had not difficulties in applying for the status.
As the British government said that top talent would be preferred in immigration, the embassy noted that the Slovenians who lived in the UK were mostly highly qualified workforce or students.
In this respect, the British ambassador said that "we will continue to welcome Slovenian students to come and study at our universities" and that short-term visitors would continue to travel visa-free and have access to healthcare protection in each other's countries.
Slovenians who will start their studies in the UK next year will be treated as all other international students, which means that they will need to apply for a student visa and pay higher tuition fees.
On the other hand, those Slovenians who are already studying in the UK will be able to retain the rights they have had as EU citizens if they apply for status until 30 June 2021 to enjoy lower tuition fees, simplified visa regime and healthcare protection.
When it comes to cooperation in judicial matters, the deal puts into force a system of extradition of wanted persons based on an arrest warrant that would enable fast and effective extradition of wanted persons.
According to Slovenia's official position to the agreement, Slovenia will propose on the basis of Article 47 of its constitution a declaration under which Slovenian citizens would not be extradited on the basis of the agreement.
As for future cooperation in other areas, Sadler said that the deal enabled the UK to continue to work with Slovenia as partners to tackle some of the global challenges faced by both nations.
"Climate change will be a key priority next year, with the UK presiding over COP 26 at the same time Slovenia holds the EU Presidency. That is the moment we want the world to come together for the long term health of our planet."
As for cooperation with Slovenia in defence, the ambassador said that "we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in NATO", expressing the hope that the UK troops would train alongside Slovenian counterparts again.
Sadler added that "we have agreed a strong framework for future security cooperation" and that the deal provided for future cooperation between us on emerging security challenges, such as cyber crime.