“We would like Indian investors to come to Slovenia”
H.E. Darja BavdaŽ Kuret, Ambassador of Slovenia to India
In an interview on bilateral relations, engagement policies and business opportunities, Ambassador of Slovenia to India, Ms Darja Bavdaž Kuret opens up with India Empire’s Assistant Editor Misha Singh. Ms Darja has varied work experience of 34 years. She has worked at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia as Coordinator and Chair of the European Union—Capitals Working Group Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus during Slovenia’s Presidency of the EU Council. She has also been Secretary General of the Bled Strategic Forum for 2 years
Please let us know about Slovenia’s bilateral trade and economic relations with India…
The economic and bilateral trade between Slovenia and India is only 1 per cent of cooperation that we have. The political relations and Government to Government relations between the two countries are excellent. Slovenia is a relatively young country, it is only 24 years old but nevertheless we have managed to establish excellent political dialogue with India, both individually and as a member of the European Union. Last year the trade amounted to about 130 million Euros. However, Slovenia is a market of 2 million people but we have access to the 500 million people market as a member of the European Union. So you can see the strength of potential bilateral business to present Slovenia as a hub for Indian exports to European Union, especially Central European countries. Slovenia has a port of Koper, Capodistria which represents the shortest way from Indian Ocean to Central Europe, especially the land locked countries of Central Europe. So within a range of 500 km from Koper lie Vienna, Budapest, Munich and Brasschaat. Koper is an advantage as it makes the trip shorter by 7 sailing days, cheaper by half a million, and the environment is friendlier. With this we would like to offer India, a hub for its exports and vice versa for India’s inputs.
Is Slovenia promoting Ljubljana as a tourist destination in India?
We are promoting Slovenia- the whole country as a tourist destination not just Ljubljana. Air India and Slovenia’s national carrier Adria Airways signed a Code-Share Agreement that became effective from March 2, 2015. With this agreement, the accessibility for the Indians that want to travel has become very convenient, so now the tourists can travel to Frankfurt and from there to Ljubljana. Also, they can use Thierry, Vienna, Istanbul and other European cities as a gateway to Slovenia. In a 20, 000 sq. km area of Slovenia, what we offer as a tourist destination is that in the same day, you can spend the morning in the Julian Alps which are very high mountains and within 90 minutes, you are down to the Mediterranean Sea. We have immense natural beauty as 60 per cent of Slovenia is covered and preserved by forests. We have a lot of culture in Slovenia and the people are extremely hospitable. There are attractions like Postojna Caves, protected by UNESCO. The lake of Bled is the most iconic places in Slovenia; it has an island with a Church in the middle and the Bled castle overlooking the lake. We have a very clean environment, excellent fresh air and the water can be drunk directly from the taps. The majority of people speak English which makes it easy for the tourists to communicate. Slovenia is also famous for the Lipizzan horses that are well known across world, the breed originated from the village Lipica which is why they are called Lipizzans. The incredible thing about these horses is that they are black in colour when they are born but as they grow up, they become white in colour. Slovenia also has a great cuisine and produces amazing wines.
What is the balance in trade between the two countries at present?
At present, the balance in trade is still in favour of India. Last year, the exports from Slovenia to India were valued at 70 million Euros and the imports of Slovenia from India were valued at about 140 million Euros. Slovenia ranks 11th in the European Union and 25th in the world in the area of technology and innovations according to Bloomberg. We believe that there is a huge potential in this area as India really needs technology and Slovenia has them, be they for Make in India, Digital India or Clean Ganges. This is the area that needs to be explored. In 2013, Indian Government launched ‘Global Innovation Platform’ and Slovenia was one of the 8 countries that participated.