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Slovenian Global Forum in Maribor: together for strengthening the Slovenian economy

The 6th Conference on the internationalisation of the Slovenian economy, organised by the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport together with its partners, took place today in Maribor under a new name: the Slovenian Global Forum. Representatives of three ministries, the academia and entrepreneurs discussed the future development of the Slovenian economy in front of a packed auditorium.

In her opening address, Tanja Fajon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs said that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s accession to the European Union, which has given Slovenian companies access to one of the most competitive markets in the world and where today most Slovenian companies do their business. “Being a minister of foreign affairs, I recognise the importance of EU membership and the responsibility we have in shaping the Europe of the future. Almost 80 percent of Slovenia’s current legislation affecting Slovenian companies is adopted in Brussels. This is why the rules we co-design and apply in our EU internal market should be predictable and business-friendly. With our economic diplomacy, we encourage companies to work together and shape our common European future, adjusted to our specific situation,” said Minister Fajon. With regard to the activities of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, she underlined: “When planning our activities abroad, we take note of the interests of our companies, we help attract foreign workers, and we encourage and help Slovenian companies to internationalise their business. We believe this is the way to stay in good shape, foster innovation, and create more added value. This is why last year, we visited Central Asia, Vietnam, and the Republic of Korea with strong business delegations, and this year, we visited Japan and China with our largest-ever business delegation, which consisted of 54 companies. Slovenia is also a member of the United Nations Security Council, which enhances our visibility in the world, and I really hope that we will be able to take advantage of this, especially in the economic field.”

Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport Matjaž Han said, “Slovenia is an export-oriented country; without exports, there is no Slovenian economy. Every once in a while, we should identify where we excel and where opportunities have remained untapped. We have presented the vision we have set for ourselves with the Action Plan to enhance the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy, which aims to increase the added value of our economy. We aim to strengthen the ability of Slovenian companies to seize new opportunities in the world with new sustainable products and to increase the visibility of Slovenian end products, which are the result of Slovenian know-how, innovation, and design.”

Aleksander Jevšek, PhD, Minister of Cohesion and Regional Development, said: “I am happy to announce that with the changes to Slovenia’s Cohesion Policy programme, we will allocate an additional 150 million euros for the development and production of strategic zero-carbon technologies, greater self-sufficiency in critical materials and the development of innovative projects. This gives Maribor, with its university and its businesses and industry, an opportunity to accelerate economic development and reduce development disparities. By seizing these opportunities given to the university and the economic sector, Maribor can once again become a strong economic, innovative and industrial hub.”

Melanie Saier Larsen, Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group, underlined: “The European Innovation Hub for Advanced and Sustainable Technologies is a good fit with Slovenia’s ambitions in its economic development and global trends. Slovenia boasts widespread capacities in manufacturing high-value products and developing innovative global solutions, including digital solutions, supported by a strong education system and skilled workforce. A breakthrough in this area could make up for past missed opportunities.”

Saier Larsen stressed that inter-ministerial projects should be coordinated and that different stakeholders should cooperate: “We should strive to establish a more supportive business environment to improve the position and competitiveness of Slovenian companies, including start-ups, and to attract the most innovative companies in the world. This includes addressing the already-identified challenges in various areas such as infrastructure, public finances, taxation policy and labour legislation, while also ensuring equal gender representation in company boards, without which the country is losing out on great potential.”

Jure Knez, PhD, President of Dewesoft, said that Slovenian companies have proven that innovation is in our blood. He welcomed the upgrade of Slovenia’s membership in the European Space Agency from associate to full member, which opens new opportunities for companies that they will have to take advantage of. “What is needed to boost innovation in Slovenia is not funding, but favourable legislation, which is being drafted. I believe that dialogue will put Slovenia at the forefront of the European Union and the world,” he underlined.

The Council for the Internationalisation of the Economy, which is the coordinating body and expert advisory body of the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, met in Maribor this morning. Participants exchanged views on themes and future events to enhance the internationalisation of the economy for its further growth. Specific attention was given to EXPO 2025 in Osaka as one of the global economic opportunities. The next Ministerial Council meeting will be held in autumn, focusing on the status and enhancement of the number of economic advisors and science diplomacy.

Actions to boost the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy

The Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport is preparing an action plan to boost the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy, which will focus on three pillars:

  • existing industries and their upgrading, decarbonisation,
  • new industries and new products, with a focus on start-up and scale-up companies,
  • global innovative companies.

Our aim is to increase the value added per employee to EUR 100,000 by 2030. In 2023, the value added per employee in Slovenia stood at EUR 61,000. This is an ambitious but achievable target, which needs the engagement of all stakeholders involved in the development process – companies, society as a whole, and the state. Such a breakthrough requires changes in the organisation and modus operandi of companies, as well as in the perception and acceptance of entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset.

In 2024, the Ministry and the institutions operating within the Ministry have EUR 672.4 million in development incentives for the economy at their disposal, of which EUR 339.2 million will be made available through calls for proposals by the Ministry alone in the frame of 42 various measures. These are European Cohesion Policy funds and the funds available under the Recovery and Resilience Plan. The measures aim to support entrepreneurship, energy efficiency and industrial decarbonisation, research, development and innovation, further internationalisation of the economy, circular economy, and the wood-processing industry. Part of the funding will also be used for supportive environment, with the Ministry financing the services of SPOT points and innovation environment entities. Grants and related mentoring and training are already available for start-ups through the Slovene Enterprise Fund.

Foreign companies that make direct investments in Slovenia and meet certain legal criteria may be eligible for financial assistance in the form of grants, while investments in research and development benefit from tax relief. The Ministry is currently working on amending the legislation to make the Slovenian economy more productive, in particular on amendments to the Investment Promotion Act and the Supportive Environment Act.

Slovenian Global Forum

Through the Slovenian Global Forum, the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport aims to build a strong global ecosystem that supports the Slovenian economy. It aims to connect companies, economic diplomacy, Slovenian business clubs around the world and the country’s support mechanisms. The conclusions of the conference will be taken into account by the Ministry in the context of the ongoing reform of the Investment Promotion Act.

Programme and speakers at the Slovenian Global Forum