The Slovenia Times

A Reliable Partner in the European Union



How would you sum up the current economic relations between Germany and Slovenia? What do you see as your major tasks in this area?
The economic relations between our two countries are excellent. This is due in the first place to the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of German and Slovene business representatives. In this regard my job as ambassador is quite easy. However, since "better is the enemy of good" there is always some scope for improvement. That is why it is one of the main tasks of this Embassy and of the German-Slovene Chamber of Commerce is to promote trade and investment activities in both directions. I hope that the future will see a new wave of investment opportunities in Slovenia like those shortly before and after the accession of Slovenia to the European Union. Without doubt that will also help to further increase the trade volume between our two countries.

The links between the nations go way back in history. Do you see opportunities to further enhance relations in the academic and cultural spheres?
This year the Republic of Slovenia celebrates its twentieth year of independence and I am a little bit proud that Germany was the first country to recognise Slovenia as a sovereign state. Over the past 20 years we have become close political, economic and cultural partners. We work together in the European Union, we share a common currency and there is a lively and diverse cultural and academic exchange. For me, the exchange of young people is one of the best ways to further enhance the relationship between our two countries. We have many different exchange programmes and we are especially proud to offer numerous scholarships for students, academics and others in Germany. In addition an increasing number of German and Slovene students visit a university in the other country within the framework of the Erasmus program. This is a great way for young people to explore a foreign country and to become part of an ever closer European Union.

You have served in both Turkey and Macedonia, two countries with EU aspirations. Does the example of Slovenia act as a positive reason to expand the EU in the Western Balkans?
I don't think the cases are comparable - each and every candidate for accession has to be judged on their own merits. But it is clear that both countries have indisputable reasons to become members of the EU, as do the other countries in the Western Balkans, provided that the criteria are met. Concerning the accession of the Western Balkan countries, Germany and Slovenia share the same views, which in turn are embedded in the enlargement policy of the European Union.

On a recent visit to the Balkans, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that Serbia might be required to recognise Kosovo before it is allowed to join the EU. Yet the current Slovenian government is adamant that this will not be the case. What is your view on this?
I would like to point out that during her recent visit to Belgrade, Angela Merkel stressed that Germany was exactly not pushing Serbia to recognise Kosovo. What Germany expects is a solution to the existing problem, a normalisation of the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade in the spirit of regional cooperation and neighbourly relations. This would mean that all the practical problems which exist for people living in Serbia and Kosovo can be dealt with. History proves that even if entities do not recognise one another as foreign countries, they still can enter into agreements covering all aspects of life and in the end can even end up sitting next to one another in the United Nations!

Events in Greece are causing more and more concerns and pessimism for the future of the Eurozone. In light of the financial crisis, many in Slovenia object to the bailout of Greece. Do you think that helping Greece will save the Euro?
Well, I very much hope so. Our concern is that Greece's problems could spread to the other countries of the Euro-group. This is why it is so important to help Greece and to create a financial stabilisation system that will protect other vulnerable countries from coming under the same kind of pressure. The planned extension of the Eurozone rescue fund is necessary to avert the possibility of Euro states declaring insolvency and thus triggering a kind of chain reaction where one country infects the other. So helping Greece is indeed a measure to save the Euro.

Slovenia faces snap elections. What are your expectations for the future government?
First of all, I would like to stress that it is up to the Slovenian people, to the electorate, to express expectations for their future government. But if I could express a wish, I would like to see a government that continues to be a good, reliable partner in the European Union and with regard to the Euro, and a government that continues close cooperation with my country. And I'm sure that this will be the case. More openness to foreign investment and to privatisation would help the economy. As far as foreign policy is concerned, I don't expect many differences.

Recently, your American counterpart Joseph Mussomeli expressed harsh criticism of the Slovenian political elite, arguing it was corrupt and inefficient. Would you agree with such views and have you had any negative experiences yourself?
I have not had any specific negative experiences myself. But if there is a problem, this is certainly an issue that the future government will want to tackle.


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