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Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It’s a great privilege for me to take the floor at this important conference. I would like to thank the organizers for their efforts in bringing together so many high-level business and government representatives from the United States and Slovenia.

I will say a few words about the situation in Slovenia before moving on to the subject of the conference.

Slovenia has spent the last two decades doing very well politically and economically. Soon after the independence, Slovenia established functional institutions, vibrant economy and reached 91% of EU average in terms of GDP per capita in 2008. We have joined the most important international clubs: the EU, NATO, OECD and the Euro Area. We have become members based on our level of development, progress and merits. You could say that we were victims of our success. Because of our success we didn’t address issues when we should but we rather swept everything under the carpet in hope that it will stay there forever.

As a consequence the international economic crisis has found us unprepared. We didn’t make the necessary reforms when we should, so, as a result, we have lost some precious time in adapting our country to the new reality. This is the main reason why it now looks that it will take us a little longer to recover than some other European countries with a similar fate. But recovery will come. There is certainly no reason to worry as long as we do our homework. And I can assure you that my government has taken this homework very seriously.

Since the appointment of my government in March this year, reforms have been put in place in order to restore the competitiveness and bring the economy back on track. We are confident that the proposed reforms are adequate. Also, with timely implementation I am convinced that we can solve the crisis on our own, needing no bail-out.

Our 1nd priority is the stabilization of banking sector. This is a precondition for elimination of the credit crunch and boosting economic activity. In line with the requirement of the European Commission, 8 Slovene banks (representing approx. 80% of the banking system) are undergoing stress tests and asset quality review as we speak. When these tests are concluded, a transfer of nonperforming loans of the three systemically important banks to the “bad bank” will start. The aim is to finish the process before the end of the year.

Our 2st priority is the consolidation of public finances. We have been given two more years by the EU to reduce the deficit below 3 % of GDP. We have decided to do this both by reducing expenses and by increasing revenues. According to revised budget for this year and proposed budgets for the next two years, the deficit will be reduced under 3% of GDP in 2015. This is the first step toward the goal of stabilizing our public debt at the target level of 55% of GDP in the medium term. To support all efforts connected to fiscal consolidation the fiscal rule was introduced in the constitution; a detailed implementation law is currently being drafted and will be adopted by the end of the year.

Our 3rd priority is improving the competitiveness of our economy. The government is introducing reforms, which would improve business climate.

We need to improve significantly the management of state ownership. Within this strategy, the government will privatize the non-strategic state owned-enterprises. The first privatization package comprises of 13 companies and 1 bank. As you may already know, Helios, which was one of the enterprises on the list, was sold yesterday. This is one more tangible proof that this government means seriously when we say, that privatization is one of the cornerstones of our economic recovery and Slovenia is open for foreign investment.

The privatization will be implemented through transparent public tenders. The priority will be given to strategic partners who are interested in long-term presence and have a solid development plan for the company.

The Government is planning to organize investment conferences in a number of European business centers by the end of the year to present the above mentioned privatization package.

Since my appointment as the prime minister, we have been working to attract quality foreign direct investments (FDI) to Slovenia. Our country’s advantages as an FDI destination are: healthy industrial base, well-developed infrastructure, easy access to the regional markets and hardworking, educated and talented workforce. We also offer tax relief and other financial incentives to investors. And, as already mentioned, my government is working hard to improve the business environment, which will attract even more foreign investments.

Although the economic situation in Slovenia is not good, it is better than at the beginning of the year. The GDP contraction is stabilizing; the unemployment figures are also down and exports are growing. This is owed to the general economic recovery in our main trading partners and numerous competitive advantages of Slovene businesses. Furthermore, in August, the state budget showed a surplus, a small one, but still a surplus. While the current macro-economic forecasts suggest that Slovenia will exit the crisis in 2015, I believe this would happen already next year.

The opposition is increasingly willing to cooperate. One opposition party has proposed a “crisis partnership” that would work to avoid the need for international financial aid. Seeing a broad political consensus building before passing the most difficult reforms fills me with optimism.

And let me be clear. We have not taken the above measures because we were required to do so by the EU. Most of all, we have taken them because they are in our own national interest.

Moving now to the subject of this conference, I am happy to note the high level of relations between the United States and Slovenia. The United States is Slovenia’s biggest export market outside Europe and our exports to the United States are increasing, at least in Euros. Last year Slovenia’s exports to the United States reached 340 million EUR. We are likely to do even better in 2013 given the results from the first 7 months. Slovenia’s imports from the United States are similar in size, so this is clearly a win-win situation for both countries.

U.S. investors and consumers are familiar with the excellence of Slovenian companies and products. Slovenian skis are being used on U.S. ski slopes, Slovenian light aircrafts are flying over the U.S. skies and Slovenian medicines improve Americans’ health to name just a few. Moreover, innovative Slovenian companies are winning technological challenges in the United States and successfully competing in the Silicon Valley.

However, looking at the numbers, I feel that the potential for our cooperation is largely untapped. In particular on the side of the foreign direct investment (FDI).

There is no question that Slovenia is open to foreign investment. It currently hosts 7.6 billion EUR of FDI, of which only half a percent comes from the United States. On the other hand, the United States is the biggest foreign investor in the EU. The disparity is clear.

With their skilled workforce, export orientation, innovativeness and established reputation in the region, Slovenian SMEs are perfect partners for U.S. companies looking to expand to our part of the world. Let’s just take the biggest American investment in Slovenia – I heard that major of Acron is among us – Goodyear factory in Slovenia, which has been repeatedly voted as the best factory of Goodyear in the world. This shows the potential that our strategic partnership has and why it needs to be developed further.

Almost one half of the FDI in Slovenia is in financial services, an industry in which the United States is probably the strongest in the world. Financial services are followed by wholesale and retail, chemicals, engineering, electrical equipment and others.

We have to exploit the complementarity of our two economies. The government is ready to help by removing the institutional obstacles and by actively supporting the process. In this view, Slovenia strongly supports the negotiations between the EU and the U.S. on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and hopes to see the successful conclusion of the negotiations soon.

To conclude, let me restate that our two countries share common values and beliefs. This makes us natural political and economic partners. Deeper integration and closer cooperation should be a logical consequence of our great relations.

Thank you!