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“The key question is not whether I am satisfied with the progress of Slovenia – dr. István P. Székely, but are you satisfied- citizens. This is your land, the land of opportunity for your children. The answer I leave entirely to you.” dr. István P. Székely

AmCham Business Breakfast was this time dedicated to the Country Specific Recommendations of the European Commission to Slovenia, given by dr. István P. Székely, Country Director, responsible for Slovenia and eight other countries: Italy, Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Poland, and Lithuania in a quality debate with an expert Nevenka Črešnar Pergar, Director of NP Consulting.

The fact is that Slovenia is a sovereign and independent country. The fact is also that we are a part of European Union and we as a country gave commitments we have to respect. On June 2, European Commission’s country specific recommendations were published, formed within the Directorate – General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission.

Fresh capital provides an opportunity for the young potential

“Let’s move Slovenia from pessimism to realistic optimism and change Slovenia into a land of opportunity for everyone”

Matej Potokar, president of AmCham Slovenia first gave a message to the present members of AmCham Slovenia and said, that the American Chamber of Commerce in close collaboration with the U.S. Embassy to Slovenia, prepared an open letter to the new government, which will upon its arrival encounter many challenges facing Slovenia. In the open letter, the economists try to give recommendations for the upcoming government to immediately include in it program. When opening Slovenia for the foreign capital he emphasized that the money inflows are not everything, but that the story with the foreign capital is much broader and that the added value of the fresh capital is in giving the opportunity to young potentials, and to bring social responsibility into all aspects of our society to a higher level than it is today.

“Let’s move Slovenia from pessimism to realistic optimism and change Slovenia into a land of opportunity for everyone”, insists Matej Potokar.

We send you the complete open letter in the attachment.

Mr. Székely was a guest speaker of the AmCham Business Breakfast and presented in his opening speech his view on the key economic and reform challenges for Slovenia (short CV in the attachment).

The country can implement the Brussels recommendations even without government

Istvan Pal Szekely, who is within the the Directorate – General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission, responsible for Slovenia, thinks that the country can implement the Brussels recommendations even without the government. He said that it is important for him that he can, similarly as through AmCham Slovenia, turn to the Slovene economy and gets feedback, which can help European Commission to make decisions.

He commented on Slovenia, which has found itself in the crisis: “The problems that have accumulated in the past, now came forward and are echoing fiercely.”

He also commented on the slowness and unresponsiveness of Slovenia in the current situation:

According to the experience of other European countries, situation in Slovenia is not especially critical, while the countries are facing similar problems. Slovenia is only too slow to respond. The longer your delay is, the worse are the consequences. In the year 2012, the problems in the perception of the potential risk of investors became even more extensive – in terms of that, you unfortunately exceeded your rival countries. Potential investors therefore see dramatic barriers and too much risk to invest in your country. The country cannot go on like this. You should change your whole mentality.”

Recommendations for Slovenia were not formed in Brussels, but on Slovenia’s ground

“You need to react quickly – reforms actually bring benefit to all and are in the interest of the country. A country which is not able to carry out the necessary reforms, will lose its investors. Recommendations we gave to Slovenia were not formed in Brussels, but on Slovenia’s ground,” said Istvan Pal Szekely.

Our Business Breakfast guest dr. Szekely said, that the recommendations of the European Commission are focused mainly on three areas:

The basic aim of recommendations is to ensure macroeconomic stability – fiscal as well as stability of the financial market. He pointed out that the market will highly appreciate the stabilization of banks. The second objective is moderation and predictability of domestic political decisions. Here he especially urged that we need to make sure that the banks will actually be – banks. The third series of recommendations is aimed at recovery of the growth potential, where he concretely demonstrated his knowledge of the history of independent Slovenia: “You alone were a role model for other countries in transition and this being for good reasons – because of young, educated and highly skilled workers – now is the time, to lean and count on them and keep international competitiveness. Be head not hunt!” said illustratively dr. Szekely.

I have a great respect for those, who solve their problems by themselves, but take the next step

Szekely stressed out that country of Slovenia decided to solve the financial issues on its own and fell into debt. It was your decision that Commission understands. “I have a great respect for those, who solve their problems by themselves. I know this did not make the government very popular. However it will be even more expensive, if its action is not upgraded, if it stops halfway. Once you decide for a certain path, you have to take it to the end”, he warns.

The future government is therefore expected to continue with the measures: “The government has to do what it right – no matter if it is left or right, regardless the party or other beliefs. Slovenia is a beautiful country – use its full potential!” he is determined.

The objective is a stable foundation for growth

Szekely says that they were aware of instability of the Slovene government when writing the recommendations, therefore the proposed measures are in majority such that direct government decisions are not needed. “It is important, that the healthy companies stop stifling in the domestic environment, apart from that we are preparing a solution for the weaker ones,” Szekely commented the aim of bank rehabilitation. He also warned: “If the customer is not healthy, also the bank cannot be healthy. Banks in the EU did not wait for the problems to come. Market is market, where the market rules apply and the nature of the market says that you have to make and submit good offers.” He also noted: “The majority of the over-indebted companies use fresh capital. The most logical resource is company’s cash flow and profits retained. The aim of companies’ restructuring is not in the devaluation of capital as it is happening in Slovenia, but above all in setting stable foundation for growth.”

DUTB has in his opinion some usual initial problems: “It is important that it begins to address the matters in its portfolio. Subsidies are appropriate, if the company is perspective and found itself in trouble because of emergency. So it is a one-time event. Another type of subsidy are public services, however this is another story and should be limited to a small number of cases,” in dr. Szekely’s opinion. He also noted that the credibility is of the utmost importance and that business people always take rational decisions.

Health sector cannot handle the money issues

“When European Commission proposed cutting costs in the health care, it did not mean reduction in services, but we only wanted to find out if each euro is spent carefully and that it resulted in improved quality of service at lower costs. It is necessary to ask why in Slovenia certain thing costs even to three times more than elsewhere, why there are so many additional payments etc.”

Capital is a scarce commodity

In a quality debate, an expert Nevenka Črešnar Pergar pointed out a fact that the citizens and even some Slovene politicians believe, that the state-owned companies should not be privatized, because we need the state companies in their hands. She asked an important question to her co-speaker of why European Commission suggests to us the privatization and put it on the top of the list of priorities.

Dr. Szekely gave a concrete explanation: “The aim of privatization is an efficient use of capital, which is not only an imaginary thing, and it is not available in unlimited quantities, it is the other way around. Capital is a scarce commodity. It is therefore even more important, that you make the most of each euro. If the state-owned companies were effective, we would not have recommended that.”

Čufer and Jazbec are solid, but highly appreciated negotiators in Brussels for Slovene interests

Črešnar Pergar summed up some opinions and doubts, raising up in public, that the Minister of Finance Čufer and the Governor of the Bank of Slovenia Jazbec did not “fight” for the Slovene interest in Brussels and asked dr. Szekely for the commentary. “They both put the interests of the country and the citizens in the first place, they are solid negotiators, each country should be proud of such representatives. They also have a good reputation in Brussels”, he told the representatives of politics and economy at the AmCham Business Breakfast.

The representatives of political parties that will take part in the parliamentary elections in Slovenia, who answered the invitation were Franc Bogovič – Slovenian People’s Party, Milan Matos – New Slovenia, Marko Pavlišič – Civic list, Stanko Stepišnik – Positive Slovenia.

Are we brave enough to see the real picture and then – take action?

Therefore Franc Bogovič, SLS, commented the recommendations of European Commission:

“I was expecting such recommendations, which we had received this week from Brussels. We have be aware that the time has come for Slovenia to step in front of the mirror and look into its face after 25 years. It is time to see ourselves just as we are. For me the most important thing is that all the masks fall from all the faces – especially on the political stage of course! I see a historical fact however, that the Slovenes have, already from the time of old Yugoslavia, always needed the “enemy from the outside” and we repeat that again in the independent Slovenia. We need to review all the mistakes we have made in these 25 years in the politics as well as economy, where numerous wrong decisions have been made on the part of managers too. We have made many mistakes also in the education and in balancing the people who work… Thus I evaluate the recommendations as a result of our work in the past 25 years. We Slovenes expect too much, that somebody else will solve our issues. I have a business background and I can therefore tell you, that the policy at the national level has lost the real idea of life. Today, an important challenge stands ahead of us – are we brave enough to see the real picture and then – take action?” asks Bogovič.

We cannot reach the German economic growth with French reforms

Lojze Peterle, MEP, assessed: “Dr. Szekely spoke to us in a very soft, yet clear language. We’ve known everything for many years already and have the documents on the table in front of us. We don’t put enough attention to the reasons for the crisis, but trying to blame the politicians of everything that went wrong in these years of independent Slovenia. It is true that I am not in favor of slogan: “We need time!”, because in fact: “We need action!”. I see in the recommendations of AmCham Slovenia to the new government, not to interfere in the economy. I generally approve of that, but we all need to be aware and see the role of politics in being able to provide a sound basis for the economy and set the “rule of role” and the principles of leading our country. I am confident that we can follow the guidelines in the given time limits. However, there is a question of who will do this in the best way. Politicians should ask themselves about how they will solve the crisis and how we will implement the reforms, and not about what they think of one another. Slovenia was given a homework – to improve the numbers. I would like to say, that we cannot reach the German economic growth with French reforms.”

Slovenia need immediate action on the entire front line

Marko Pavlišič, DL, said that he is coming instead of dr. Gregor Virant, who resigned from the post of the president of the party. His comment on the recommendations: “We have not commented the recommendations in the party, because we estimate that there is nothing new. Almost nothing – there is however a new topic, dedicated to anti-corruption. Both coalitions faced the corruption and I have to emphasize again, that our list has persistently strived to eradicate corruption. I also have to say, that all 5 points mentioned here today, are in our program.

When I met with dr. Szekely in Brussels, he told me that Slovenia needs immediate action on the entire fron line. Are you satisfied with our action, dr. Szekely?”

“The main question is not whether dr. István P. Székely is satisfied with your progress, but whether you, the citizens are satisfied!

Dr. István P. Székely turned the question around: “If I am satisfied? “The main question is not whether dr. István P. Székely is satisfied with your progress, but whether you, the citizens are satisfied! This is your country, the country of opportunities for your children. I leave the answer entirely to you.”

AmCham Slovenia: Prepared to work hand in hand with any government, coalition or political party, who is ready to create a better business environment

Ajša Vodnik, M.Sc., Executive Director of American Chamber of Commerce – AmCham Slovenia, pointed out at the end, that AmCham Slovenia as a business community with its knowledge, experience and connections to the foreign capital, is prepared to work hand in hand with any government, coalition or political party, who is ready to create a better business environment, which will result also in a better standard for all Slovene citizens. She added that she hopes that the breakfast time symbolically means that we are finally awakened as a society and that we will stop questioning and instead start taking action.


AmCham-US Embassy Advocacy Open Letter – Odprto pismo AmCham Slovenija.docx

VIDEO AmCham Business Breakfast, 6 June 2014