The similarities between our two countries give us many opportunities for bilateral cooperation and are reflected in our strategic partnership for 2019 – 2022. We intend to deepen the relations through our two successive Council presidencies. The preparation of our two consecutive presidencies of the Council of the European Union provides a perfect context for the intensification of the bilateral relations between France and Slovenia, says H E Mrs. Florence Ferrari, French Ambassador to Slovenia. It also builds upon the new action plan for strategic partnership between France and Slovenia for the 2019 to 2022 period.
What the Action plan brings to the bilateral relations between the two countries?
Yes indeed, our two ministers signed this new action plan last July in Paris. It is clearly one of the successes of our recent bilateral cooperation. It shows that we are essential partners for each other and that there are many potential fields for cooperation, be it on European challenges, on economic issues, or in the cultural field…. We already do a lot together, but this action plan invites us to go further, in particular through reinforced political dialogue and concrete cooperation (recently for example with the seminary “Green Tech Slovenia” organised in Paris, last September). The preparation of our two consecutive presidencies of the Council of the European Union provides a perfect context for this intensification.
France and Slovenia will indeed hold the presidency of the Council of the EU in 2021 and 2022. Which questions will be in your focus?
I already experienced it in 2008: having our Presidencies just one after the other, even if we are not in the same “trio”, creates a real proximity between us and boosts the bilateral cooperation. This is why this point stands as one of the top priorities in our new action plan for strategic partnership. Coming to the priorities: the draft priorities announced by the Slovenian Government last September for its incoming Presidency (sustainable development and climate, security, rule of law), are totally in line with those adopted by our Heads of State and Government last May in Sibiu, as well as with the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 adopted last June. They also match with what is important for us: support for the green deal proposed by Mrs von der Leyen, defence of European sovereignty and its citizens… Concerning the future French Presidency, we are too far ahead for already having drafted our detailed priorities. But I can say that the goals and the « roadmap » set by the European Union last May and June will also be the framework in which France will lead the Presidency. And beyond our fixed priorities, we will also have to adapt to unexpected events during our respective presidencies – we both experienced it in 2008…
France is Slovenia’s fifth-largest trading partner, and is named as one of its priority markets. Where are the potentials for further cooperation ?
We are doing quite well in Slovenia: Take for example REVOZ, they employ 3 000 persons and are the leading exporters. After Ljubljanske Mlekarne was acquired by Lactalis, the company experienced a strong growth and it has just been awarded the title of “best company of the year” by Finance. French companies are also performing well in the mass retail sector. For example Decathlon: after moving to Ljubljana in 2016, the company opened stores in Maribor and Celje, and a 4th one just opened in Ljubljana, in Rudnik. But we could do even better. That’s the main purpose of the whole “Team France” in which we welcomed in 2017 the French-Slovenian business club. Its new director Leon Lozar, CEO of Aquasystems in Maribor, impulses since his arrival last June a new dynamic. Out of 65 French subsidiaries operating in Slovenia, most of them are members of the Club. From the Slovenian point of view, after the German, Austrian, Italian and Croatian markets, France is also becoming more and more a priority. Slovenian economic diplomacy has placed the French market among its priorities for its exporters. We are working closely with the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in particular the Directorate of Economic Diplomacy, and with the Slovenian Embassy in France, with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and SPIRIT agency, to promote the Slovenian market and the development of joint Franco-Slovenian companies.
REVOZ has been chosen to be one of two factories int the world that will produce the most important model of RENAULT globally. Do other France companies consider Slovenia as their production and assembly base ?
We are very proud that the Clio 5 in particular is being built in Novo Mesto, because it is a magnificent production site that once again demonstrates Slovenian competence in the automotive sector. And Renault’s long-standing presence in Slovenia has encouraged the establishment in this beautiful region of Dolenjska of French automotive equipment manufacturers who supply Revoz such as Trèves or Renault Tech. Other automotive French companies are also present in Slovenia (Poclain Hydraulics, Dom-Titan, Adria Mobil). But Slovenia’s potential goes beyond the automotive industry, of course: our companies have subsidies in many sectors. In addition to the one I already mentioned, I’d like to add transport (CMA – CGM), leisure (Adria Mobile / Trigano)… We also welcomed Coface’s return to Slovenia after the takeover of the Slovenian credit insurer PKZ. This return illustrates Slovenia’s potential to be a centre of excellence and influence for markets throughout South-Eastern Europe. With the advantage of being located in the Euro zone. Renault Nissan Adriatic has also chosen Ljubljana as its regional headquarters. This position as a regional hub is essential.
What are the possibilities for cooperation in the area of sophisticated technologies ?
There are many of them. I am thinking of « Slovenia’s smart specialisation strategy », particularly in the « plant of the future », the development of sustainable and rational food, intelligent buildings and e-mobility. These are all areas of potential cooperation that could make it possible to develop R&D cooperation, to be submitted in future European funding requests. And here again, the automotive sector offers interesting opportunities: cooperation in the R&D of equipment manufacturers is possible, within the framework of cooperation between the French Moveo cluster and the Slovenian Automotive cluster.
We have the same taste for “Art de vivre”
After being in Slovenia for a year what would you outline as the similarities between France and Slovenia ?
France and Slovenia have many similarities: geography (we share beautiful mountains, lakes and coasts), gastronomy (we share excellent wines, truffles and other delicacies), culture (the richness of Slovenian literary, architectural, pictorial… amazes me). The French and Slovenians have also the same taste for “Art de vivre”, and I am not surprised to see the increasing number of articles and broadcast about Slovenia in France these last years. The French magazine “Elle” recently did a portrait of Ana Roš, for example. And we were delighted that Tomaž Kavčič participated in our “Goût de France” operation. Beyond culture and way of life, we also have comparable structural challenges and comparable reform issues (pensions, health system, taxation) where deepened exchanges can be very useful. These similarities give us many opportunities for bilateral cooperation that are reflected in our strategic partnership, which we intend to deepen with our two successive Council presidencies.