The last high-level visit to Slovenia from the Indian side was Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh who attended the Bled Strategic Forum in 2014. Thereafter, no visit from India has taken place. THE BLUE MOON Editor Amit Mittal spoke to Ambassador Jozef Drofenik of Slovenia on state of bilateral ties and trade which stood at Euro 306 million last year.
Some excerpts from the interview:
The 8th Session of India-Slovenia bilateral Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC) was held on 16 July, 2013 in New Delhi. The next JCTEC Session may be held in Ljubljana in 2017. Why is there a wide gap between such an important Committee?
This has become an old fashioned dealing of bilateral relations. More important is that we track economic actors in the market. I have been Director of Economic Diplomacy and I am of the view that last two years have been too late. The B2B meetings have failed to evoke the desired response. Slovenian companies will come when there is not too much of paperwork. I find so much of discrepancy, nowhere can one submit application electronically. Even for getting a mobile number one has to submit unnecessary documents which could have been avoided. A simple identity card should have been enough to get a mobile connection. Imagine I have to submit a letter saying that I am working for the Embassy. So many documents are asked for small little things. I think the ease-of-doing business expectations are not completely fulfilled. For getting a business friendly environment, Indian business must make efforts.
India participated in the 51st International Wine Fair ‘Vino Ljubljana’ in October 2015. Did it benefit the Indian participants as Slovenia had attempted to export wine into India last year?
We have a small population of 2 million and we produce wine enough to meet our domestic requirements. The extra produced is exported. Slovenian wines are expensive than the regular ones on the shelves. As far as Indian wine makers are concerned I cannot say whether they benefitted from the participation in Vino Ljubljana, but I can definitely say that participation in international shows has many other benefits for instance they want their wines tasted at the Fair.
Pipistrel, the Slovenian maker of ultralight aircraft, signed a deal to deliver 194 trainer aircraft worth Euro 17 million to India in October last year. Has the deal worked out?
I am not sure of the numbers supplied by Pipistrel. The deal for the supply of 194 trainer aircraft was spread over a period of three years and I think some 20 have already come in. Before that the deal also included training of Indian pilots on these aircraft. The aircraft is meant for different sectors. The aircraft is hybrid; it can work on solar power also. It has won two awards from the American space agency NASA.
What has been the outcome of the 2nd India Central Europe Business Forum (ICEBF) held in Bangalore in October last year ?
The fact is that we were not successful in attracting many companies at the show for the reason that it narrowed down to Central Europe leaving out many others in the region. Those involved in the show were the Ministry, FICCI and the Embassy. Now it has been decided to rename the forum differently and it is expected to be held on 6-7 December. The scope for participation has been widened to include a larger region than just Central Europe.
Has the number of visitors to and from Ljubljana increased after Adria airline code sharing agreement with Air India?
Adria Airline is no longer a national carrier. The airline has been taken over by a German company so we would not know the exact benefit.
Slovenia is covered by Schengen visa regime. Has there been increase in number of Indian visitors to Ljubljana?
Yes, Slovenia is covered under the Schengen Visa system. But there is always one complaint, why do applicants come with a visa application on the last day?
The number of Indians visiting Ljubljana has doubled – from one thousand visas, it has gone up to 2000 applicants now. But on the streets of Ljubljana one finds 8000 to 10000 Indian visitors which indicates that this number is supposedly staying in the Slovenian Capital.
What do you suggest to overcome the issues we have just been speaking about?
We must try to make our relations economically, politically and culturally at a higher level. Our both embassies – Slovenian embassy in Delhi and the Indian embassy in Ljubljana – have the same goal.
I feel that it is difficult to organize any high level political visit to Slovenia from India, as the country is small. But such visits build up cordial relations and business develops only after people-to-people contacts are closer.
The bilateral trade figures between the two countries stood at Euro 306 million in 2015, but lets not forget that Slovenia’s total trade stands at Euro 30 billion. For a country with a population of just two million this is not a small figure.
It is a nation with a potential. Slovenians are dedicated people. This population is proud of four medals that it won at Rio Olympics and two more at Paralympics.