The Slovenia Times

New UK Ambassador to Build on Strong Links


As EU partners she believes Slovenia and the UK can work together more closely to focus effort on creating jobs and growth.

The ambassador, who presented her credentials to President Borut Pahor just over two weeks ago and has met with several other Slovenian officials since, also underscored the importance for Slovenia to press on with privatisation in an interview with the STA.

The annual volume of bilateral trade has increased to about EUR 700m from EUR 440m ten years ago, "so our challenge is to try and keep that up over the next five to ten years", says Honey, who has already met some of the big British companies who are active here.

"I think there are a number of sectors where the UK has real expertise that's potentially important here; energy, telecoms and finances," says Honey, who plans to "encourage colleagues here to continue with privatisation programmes that are important for investor confidence in Slovenia".

Having met Finance Minister DuĊĦan Mramor just after Slovenia secured the best ever coupon rate for its bond issue, the ambassador says it is a great way of showing that investor confidence is back: "Slovenia has travelled a great path since 2012 to produce this kind of results."

The ambassador says there is considerable interest among British companies in privatisations in Slovenia. Cinven, a UK-based equity fund, for example, is bidding to acquire a majority stake in Telekom Slovenije.

Privatisation "has been on the cards for a long time", Honey says when asked about the pace of the process, but she also expressed understanding.

"There are obviously a lot of complex and difficult issues that have to be looked at and we know this within the UK when we went through serious privatisations of previously state-owned enterprises. It's difficult and it's we understand that."

Regardless of the government Britain gets following the 7 May elections, Honey believes that partnership within the EU will be one of strategic issues. She has started conversation with Slovenian officials in terms of identifying areas where the two countries can work together.

"I hope that working together to focus effort within Europe to build on prosperity, on creating more jobs and growth is an area where we can work more closely. Completing the single market on services and on the digital economy could have huge benefits both here and in the UK."

She says Slovenia and the UK are "very close" on the Ukraine crisis and have a common position within the EU. "Within a union of 28 member states members bring different perspectives, different history, different expertise, which I think is one of the strengths of the EU. But I think we have stood together in terms of the situation in Ukraine, standing up for Ukraine sovereignty and independence."

The ambassador also believes that Slovenia has a very important voice on the Western Balkans, and that the Brdo Process is a valuable part of the way forward. Considering that the UK has long been a supporter of enlargement, she finds this is another area for the two countries to work together very closely on.

With the discussion on the role of the EU one of the issues ahead of the May general election in Britain, Honey underscores that all the main parties want to keep the UK within Europe, while they also want the EU to deliver the best it can for all of its member states.

"Partly that is about Europe's competitiveness, ensuring that our efforts within the EU are focussed on's also about improving democratic accountability, ensuring that decisions taken within the EU are brought back to citizens and that the citizens feel engaged enough. Low turnout in European Parliament elections shows that's not quite right at the moment."

Sophie Honey was appointed ambassador to Slovenia in August 2013 to succeed Andrew Page as of February the next year, but her arrival was delayed by maternity leave. She has come to Slovenia with her partner and two small children and says she is happy to be here and is looking forward to the next three years.


More from Nekategorizirano