Conference hears future of Slovenia lies in green, digital transitions

Ljubljana – The pandemic is an opportunity to change our thinking patterns and focus on our strengths and abilities, heard a conference on the future industry and the Slovenian economy’s internationalisation on Wednesday. Slovenia’s future lies in the green transition, digitalisation, sustainability, resilience and open-mindedness, the participants agreed.

Prime Minister Janez Janša addressed the opening of the conference in a speech titled Towards Transition with Ambition, saying that the ambition to always be better was particularly important in times of crisis.

Despite Covid-19, Slovenia’s economic indicators are favourable and demonstrate that the government has been successful in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the economy, he added.

Covid relief measures for helping companies and the self-employed totalled some EUR 2.15 billion so far, a figure that does not include holiday vouchers dedicated to improve the situation in the tourism sector, which accounted to some EUR 357 million last year and nearly EUR 200 million this year, Janša noted, also pointing to a debureaucratisation bill to cut red tape and a bill to reduce income tax.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek highlighted that the government adopted in June Slovenia’s 2030 industrial strategy, which promotes green, creative and smart development policies. A number of challenges remain and it will be key to seize all opportunities providing support for the green and digital transitions, he said.

At national level, measures to achieve these goals are based on the recovery and resilience plan and the just transition fund. The ministry will be implementing measures aimed at promoting R&D, innovation, a circular economy, digitalisation and investment to boost economic productivity. He stressed the role of the industry in these efforts, noting that exports increased by some 19% in the first nine months of 2021 year-on-year.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Stanislav Raščan highlighted the role of diplomacy and the Slovenian EU presidency, as well as the importance of international cooperation. The two major challenges are climate change and the pandemic. The latter has accelerated digitalisation but also caused supply chain disruptions, he said, adding that the Glasgow summit commitments called for a new industrial revolution.

He also pointed to the importance of strategic autonomy, which has been highlighted during the Slovenian presidency. “It is about linking trade and security, since at the start of the pandemic we saw how much the EU depends on imports of medical equipment, medicines and raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. And now we’re facing the consequences of dependence on energy and semiconductors.”

The head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) Aleš Cantarutti said that Slovenia had so far shown it was able to run a social and market economy. Now, the country has to turn this into a green, social and market economy, he added.

Taking into account the past decade, Slovenia ranked ninth in the EU when it came to the pace of stepping up exports and third according to the strength of the industry, he noted, however the Slovenian economy should be raised to a higher level still.

This goal can be achieved by strengthening the ties between the industry and internationalisation, which also involve different EU and global programmes. Supporting these efforts, the GZS will unveil 140 development proposals on 20 January 2022 when it holds a business summit.

Denis Redonnet, deputy director general at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade, presented to the participants some of the benefits of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences, an agreement that the EU has with 65 countries.

He said that Slovenian companies were taking advantage of some of the benefits but not others, and it would be good for them to familiarise themselves with the possibilities provided by these agreements. Businesses need to know that the EU can help them internationalise, which is very important at a time when some countries are resorting to increasing protectionism, the EU representative said.

The afternoon segment of the conference, hosted by the Slovenian Digital Centre, will be wrapped up with two round-table debates. The first will be dedicated to internationalism and the second to the industry.