Ljubljana related

14 Apr 2021, 11:06 AM

STA, 13 April 2021 - The Slovenian aircraft producer Pipistrel has entered a partnership with a Chinese logistics company to develop a large uncrewed commercial aircraft that will be able to carry more than 300 kg of cargo to the distance of 500 kilometres and altitude of 6,000 m.

The aircraft is commissioned by SF Express, and its Munich-based subsidiary Amazilia Aerospace will develop an advanced digital system for the innovative cargo aircraft designed and manufactured by Pipistrel.

Announcing the deal, the Ajdovščina-based company said that the Chinese partner intends to use the aircraft mostly for cargo transportation to remote and hard-to-access locations.

It will be able to carry cargo with a volume of up to 2.3 m3. Vertical take-off and landing will be possible up to an altitude of 2,500 metres.

The unmanned commercial aircraft will be equipped with eight propulsion systems for vertical take-off powered by Pipistrel's E-811 electric motors with high-performance batteries.

It will be able to continue to fly even if two of the eight motors fail, the company said, adding that design and production of the prototype components would take place in Pipistrel facilities.

It is believed that uncrewed aerial vehicles will become the main means of transportation in China, as SF Express alone will need more than a thousand of such aircraft in the next ten years.

On the occasion, Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol said that "one of the largest logistics companies in the world picking Pipistrel ... is a great acknowledgment to its know-how and achievements in more than a decade of work in electric aviation".

23 Mar 2021, 11:18 AM

STA, 22 March 2021 - Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar has condemned sanctions imposed by China in retaliation for the EU's sanctions against it due to its treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

China introduced sanctions against EU individuals including a member of Slovenia's permanent representation to the EU, according to Logar.

"We find this action completely unacceptable and not favourable for future relations between the EU and China," Minister Logar said in a video address posted on Twitter.

One of the entities sanctioned by China is the EU Council's Political and Security Committee, which features representatives of all member states.

The Foreign Ministry said the Slovenian member of that committee was Veronika Boškovič Pohar.

The statement came after virtual session of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council which decided to take sanctions over violations of human rights against eleven individuals and four legal entities in six countries.

In a press release after the session, Logar was quoted as expressing concern over deteriorating human rights in several countries.

He said the impact of the Covid-10 pandemic on human rights around the world was also worrying.

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17 Mar 2021, 18:05 PM

STA, 17 March 2021 - The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee was to set up a friendship group with Taiwan today. But its chair Monika Gregorčič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) decided not to rush things. She said "a comparative study" on the matter would be commissioned before proceeding with the plan.

The committee has discussed the friendship group with Taiwan in previous terms, but the parliament's legal service drew to its attention that Slovenia recognises the Chinese government as the only legitimate government in China, while Taiwan is its unalienable part, said opposition Social Democrat (SD) MP Matjaž Nemec, a former chair of the committee.

He said a decision to set up a friendship group with Taiwan would in his view mean the committee "treats Taiwan as a state, which it isn't".

Nemec stressed the proposal to set up this group raised the important question of Slovenia's attitude towards both Taiwan and China.

He thus asked Foreign Minister Anže Logar whether setting up such a group with Taiwan, with which Slovenia has good relations, would affect its relations with China.

Logar assessed Slovenia's relations with China as good while its stance on relations with Taiwan remains unchanged.

"Slovenia and the rest of the world act in the direction of one China, which in terms of Taiwan means renouncing official ties but not economic and cultural cooperation."

He said several EU countries had business representations in Taiwan to advocate their economic interests, while some parliaments have groups of friendship with it.

As for Slovenia's good relations with China, Logar also said that soon after assuming office, he had talked over the phone with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek had recently attended a 17+1 summit between Central and East European countries and China.

However, "with China we have a distinctly unbalanced bilateral trade in goods where we mostly import while we export little, which is not optimal from the aspect of exports".

Following the debate, the committee's chair Gregorčič decided to postpone the vote on the establishment of the friendship group.

"We don't want to act hastily and we'll commission a comparative study to make sure ... that all legal norms are respected," she announced.

Jožef Horvat, an MP for the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), inquired whether MEP Tanja Fajon's (S&D/SD) statements about democracy and media freedom in Serbia being at risk affected Slovenia's relations with Serbia.

Horvat believes the statements by Fajon, who chairs the European Parliament delegation for relations with Serbia, upset Serbian politics while he would like Slovenia to have good relations with the country.

Logar said Fajon did not express "heavy positions" only on Serbia in the European Parliament but also on Slovenia, saying this did not contribute to Slovenia's good reputation.

"If Tanja Fajon were foreign minister, this would have a very detrimental impact on relations with Serbia," said Logar, assuring the MPs he himself had very good relations with Serbian government representatives.

Logar said he would like to see those who represent Slovenia in the international arena to act in its best interest. If they are on "some other mission", then they should refrain from harming Slovenia's good reputation, he added.

Gregorčič meanwhile asked Logar about his visit to Ukraine yesterday.

He said Ukraine was a relatively large market which was developing very fast and had until recently been neglected "for one simple reason - because the foreign policy in the past was directed towards a country slightly more to the east and forgot to weave cultural and economic ties with Ukraine".

He believes there is great potential to increase economic cooperation. He said the Ukraine representatives would thus like to see a direct air route between Kiev and Ljubljana to be promptly introduced.

13 Oct 2020, 12:09 PM

STA, 12 October 2020 - The recently established Slovenian-Chinese business council at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) expressed concern in a public letter on Monday over the government's alleged plans concerning Chinese company Huawei.

According to unofficial information, the government could label Huawei a high-risk supplier in the coming weeks. A document obtained by the media shows that the initiative for this had come from the Public Administration Ministry and that the matter was still being discussed.

In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Janez Janša and the cabinet, the council, chaired by Žiga Vavpotič from the companies Outfit7 and Globaldreamvision, says that an open, stable, predictable business environment providing equal opportunities is crucial for good functioning of the economy, even more so in the period of post-pandemic recovery.

The leadership of the council also expressed concern that such a government decree would be an important precedence.

Suggesting that such a label would damage any company's reputation and "represent illegal discrimination of a company based on subjective criteria that cannot be measured", the council warned that such a government move would strongly undermine foreign investors' trust in the Slovenian business system.

Companies, both Slovenian and foreign, need a predictable business environment, so such sudden and unpredictable government decisions are extremely harmful, the council said.

It also pointed to the risk of damage for Slovenian companies if China decided to retaliate, and the damage that could be caused to the bilateral relations with China, which both countries have been building in recent years.

China has some strategically important investments in Slovenia, the council said, pointing to the household appliance maker Gorenje, owned by Hisense, while Slovenian companies have important investments in China.

The council stressed that the efforts for improving bilateral relations should continue, and that ways should be found for cooperation also "when we may not see eye to eye (politically)".

It called on the government to make a decision based on equal treatment of all business entities operating in Slovenia and taking into consideration Slovenia's economic interests in China.

Apart from Vavpotič, the list of signatories includes the council's deputy chairs Franjo Bobinac, the former Gorenje CEO, and Jure Tomc, whose company in Hong Kong offers assistance to companies entering SE Asian markets, Gašper Cotman from Huawei Technologies, founder and CEO of company Cosylab Mark Pleško, Saša Saje Wang from KF Finance and Daniela Voljč from the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business.

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29 Sep 2020, 11:54 AM

STA, 29 September 2020 - A Slovenian-Chinese business council was set up at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije – GZS) on Monday to strengthen cooperation and business relations between the two countries, the GZS said in a press release on Tuesday.

More than 30 founding members decided for the move to create better conditions for strengthening the ties and friendship between Slovenia and China, and help companies access the Chinese market.

"It is essential for Slovenian companies to cooperate with the world; being involved in international business operations is key for creating added value," said GZS director general Sonja Šmuc.

Economy Ministry State Secretary Ajda Cuderman stressed that the government supported businesses wanting to cooperate with China. According to her, new market niches need to be found to increase Slovenia's exports to China and Slovenia's achievements in high-tech, biotechnology, automotive industry, new materials and alternative sources of energy need to be highlighted.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Shunqing said the Slovenian-Chinese projects were doing well at the moment, growing, and stressed that the new section at the GZS must serve as a platform for economic exchange and cooperation in other areas relevant for business as well.

China would like to cooperate with Slovenia and hopes Chinese companies will get a fair opportunity for taking part in various projects in Slovenia, he said.

The new council elected Žiga Vavpotič from the companies Outfit7 and Globaldreamvision its chair. He expressed hope the new GZS section would be able to "build a bridge between east and west, economy and politics, and expectations and opportunities".

More stories on China and Slovenia

15 Sep 2020, 12:17 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - The Ljubljana Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology (GDUPT) have agreed to build an institute to research intelligent manufacturing methods of advanced materials in Guangdong Province, China.

According to the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the Advanced Material Intelligent Manufacture Research Institute (AMIMRI) is to be set up by 2023 in a joint effort.

Last week, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Ljubljana and the Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology signed an annex to the cooperation agreement they signed in 2018.

They committed to transferring existing knowledge between Slovenian and Chinese academic and industrial environments, building an experimental laboratory on the site of AMIMRI, the establishment of a doctoral study of mineral wool technologies, the establishment of joint Slovenian-Chinese research projects and the publication of the new institute's research results in scientific articles and patents.

According to the faculty, they also plan to research the mineral wool market in China and establish networks with new companies, which will be able to achieve a significant improvement in technology development in cooperation with the AMIMRI.

The Chinese partner has committed to provide EUR 300,000 for the work of Slovenian researchers over a period of three years, as well as EUR 250,000 for the material costs of building the institute.

The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering added that representatives of two manufacturers of mineral wool insulation products were also present at the virtual signing of the annex last Wednesday, and they expressed great interest in cooperation.

02 Sep 2020, 18:10 PM

STA, 2 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has expressed support for the Czech Republic after a visit by a senior Czech official to Taiwan has upset China, saying on Wednesday that "Slovenia stands by the Czech Republic".

"EU-China relations are based on dialogue and mutual respect. Threats directed at one of the EU members and its representatives contradict the very essence of our partnership and as such are unacceptable," reads Janša's tweet on Wednesday, the same statement that Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputova used in a tweet yesterday.

Czech Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil and a roughly 90-member delegation started a six-day official visit to Taiwan on Sunday despite China's protest against official contact with the island, which China considers a breakaway province.

Vystrcil, a member of the right-wing opposition Civil Democrats, is the highest-level Czech politician to visit Taiwan to date although the country does not have formal diplomatic relations with it and supports the One-China policy.

China labelled his visit a violation of China's sovereignty, saying he would "pay a high price for his short-sighted behaviour and political speculation".

The threat prompted the Czech Republic to summon the Chinese ambassador to express disapproval of the statement.

Slovenia accepts the One-China policy and does not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which is however defined as an important market for Slovenia.

14 Aug 2020, 10:24 AM

STA, 14 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told the STA that Thursday's signing of a joint 5G security declaration is an important decision and a step in the right direction for the entire Europe, creating a network safe from the Chinese security apparatus. He has assessed the US-Slovenian relations as important, outweighing Slovenia's actual size.

The interview was conducted in Bled as Pompeo visited Slovenia yesterday as part of his four-country tour of Europe, in what was actually the first visit to the country by an US secretary of state in more than two decades.

Asked whether this meant that this was an indication of improved US-Slovenian relations, Pompeo said he thought it was, and emphasised that the "relations are great, we meet in lots of places ... and have a deep, strong relationship."

"I'm thrilled to be able to get here today because the relationship is important to the US and I wanted to make sure that the people of Slovenia know that."

Pompeo agreed with the assessment by former Slovenian FM Miro Cerar as he visited the US in December 2018 that the US should be more present in this part of Europe because Russia and China are trying to fill the gap.

"Absolutely. I agree that ... there is a real risk that authoritarian regimes want to come play here, to come create trouble, create havoc for democracies and freedom-loving people in the region."

The secretary of state believes that the US needs to be present, and said it would do that alongside good partners like Slovenia. "We will invest in businesses here, we will work on our military to military operations together."

Also, the US will do "all the things that make nation states strong and secure so that they will be able to withstand the pressures that might come from those regimes that don't intend well for the people of these countries."

Pompeo mentioned that the talks also touched on the Western Balkans, and that Slovenia could be an important interlocutor there as it is in an "important place strategically, and in an important place geographically."

While small in size, Slovenia "has intelligent people who are hard-working, good technology and good schools, it hits above its weight and we are thrilled to have such a great relationship."

As for Slovenia's contribution to NATO, which is still below the committed 2% of GDP and expectations of the US from the country in this sense, Pompeo said that "we are confident that [the government] will execute on that plan."

US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wanted every country to do what they had pledged and "we just ask that Slovenia makes its way there as quickly as it can," he added.

Asked about the US plan to reposition its forces in Europe and PM Janez Janša saying that US soldiers are welcome in Slovenia, Pompeo said it was very clear that Slovenia would be welcoming "if we got it right, if we figure out a path forward."

The US is aware that Slovenia has an important port and important air force capabilities, but "we always try to do this as part of NATO to make sure that we collectively ... are positioned appropriately."

Pompeo's visit focused on the signing of a joint 5G security declaration, which some in the country believe could be harmful for Slovenia in terms of its relations with China. Asked whether Slovenia could expect support from the US, he said it absolutely could.

"But I actually think the reason why the Slovenian leadership signed that because it is in the best interest of the Slovenian people," he said, noting that it was about the risk of Chinese telecom infrastructure being inside of countries' systems.

As Slovenians and Europeans love their privacy and have their information protected, they have to have trusted networks, so it has been agreed that the nations joining the declaration would have trusted networks for information flow.

"This was an important decision today ... so that we collectively can have a system, a network, telecommunications infrastructure that is protected from the national security apparatus in China that intends no good for the people in the region."

Pompeo also discussed energy projects with Slovenian executives, so he mentioned to them "what America could offer in terms of our technology, our resources, our capability to help them make a good, informed decision about how to make sure they have energy, electricity, gasoline for their citizens at an affordable cost from a set of diversified resources."

Asked when President Trump and especially First Lady Melania Trump, who hails from Slovenia, might visit the country, he said "I know that they would love to come visit, I know that this is her birthplace."

Pompeo said that "we will keep working on finding time when they might be able to get here", and that he would report back that he liked Slovenia and had a wonderful experience there.

13 Aug 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - 5G networks and energy investments were at the centre of talks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, with Pompeo saying that the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies.

The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, Pompeo said as he addressed the press alongside Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.

"I know... that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile operator Huawei criticised the move by Slovenia, saying that it would not contribute to security of networks or improve cyber security and would in fact have negative consequences of 5G networks introduction in Slovenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo's statements, saying that it was the 21st century and that it was not time any more to instigate ideological clashes.

According to its press release, the US secretary of state was accusing and attacking China and spreading incorrect information. Inciting hatred and encouraging confrontations is not in the line with the spirit of the times, it added.

The embassy said it hoped that the signing was not directed against China. "We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies."

The signing was also criticised by the left-leaning opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the Left. The latter warned that the declaration had not been coordinated with the EU, and its MEP Milan Brglez fears it may become legally binding for Slovenia.

The Left meanwhile said that the declaration was a "carte blanche for US control and abuse of ICT for military, economic and political purposes".

The party also said that Pompeo was in Slovenia to lobby on behalf of nuclear power company Westinghouse and the US military industry as Slovenia's government plans EUR 780 million worth of military investments.

While no meetings were scheduled to discuss military investments, Pompeo was seated next to Defence Minister Matej Tonin at the working lunch hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Pompeo did meet with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Janša what he said was "the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region".

He also tweeted that "energy security and independence require governments to partner with one another, private industry, and civil society to secure a brighter future for all. We welcome Slovenia's leadership on the Three Seas Initiative, and commend its innovation and dedication to clean energy."

At the press conference, Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a "quick commitment" to what he said was an "important partnership" the US is happy to fund, noting that he had announced in February the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative.

Janša in turn said that Slovenia appreciated the "US's proactive approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is reflected in strong support to alliances such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation," adding that Slovenia would strengthen its role in both of these.

Touching on business cooperation, Janša told the press the sides shared the view that there was room to boost trade and investments, also saying that Slovenian IT companies could help in the development of 5G technologies.

The talks also touched on NATO, with Janša saying that Slovenia had in the past months made steps to increase defence spending and meet its obligations toward the alliance, with Pompeo commending the country for its growing commitment to NATO.

Janša and Pompeo also discussed relations with China and Russia, sharing the view that these must be based on strategic interest "of our civilisation, which is based on the values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy," according to Janša.

Janša also warned of what he said was a poor level of awareness in the west of the threat of a hybrid attack. "We see the US as the only power of the western civilisation capable of facing this challenging threat... and Slovenia is willing to contribute its efforts toward success."

Pompeo also met President Pahor, who hosted a working lunch. The president expressed great satisfaction with the visit, telling commercial broadcaster Kanal A that Pompeo had told him that he was leaving "Slovenia with the best possible impressions and that he sees great potential for future cooperation between Slovenia and the US".

"It was very important that we did not find a very open, delicate issue that would cause divisions," said Pahor. He feels the countries are the most divided in terms of multilateralism.

"Slovenia is strongly dedicated to the existing political and legal architecture, because being a small country it sees safety in this. This is understandable, being a big country, the US may view this slightly differently."

But in general, the countries have "very, very similar views", said Pahor. "This is good. But above all, it is important that such talks end with mutual agreement that we are friends, that we trust each other and that many more things connect than divide us."

11 Aug 2020, 10:49 AM

STA, 10 August 2020 - Ex-Ambassador to the US Božo Cerar believes Thursday's visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Slovenia brings normalisation in Slovenia-US relations after they have been neglected for a decade. He hopes Slovenia will know how to use the visit so it contributes to the implementation of Slovenian and European interests.

"This is an important visit. Visits by US foreign ministers here are very rare. The last one took place more than two decades ago, while such visits should be business as usual, regular. After all we're talking about relations between two allies, between countries which share the same values," he said in an interview with the STA.

The Slovenian diplomat attributes the rare contacts at the highest level to a great degree of passivity in foreign affairs on the part of Slovenia and on the country's focus on Russia.

"We've had a rather absurd situation with the US for ten years, there has been practically no dialogue at political level. On the other hand, this has been a period when our high-profile representatives have been constantly in Moscow, openly flirting with authoritarian systems, such as the Russian or the Iranian one."

A turn seemed to be on the horizon when then Foreign Minister Miro Cerar finally visited the US in December 2018 and when US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was in Slovenia in June 2019, when the country hosted a Three Seas Initiative summit, but this was again followed by a period of passivity, said the ambassador.

"Instead of using it to develop new forms of cooperation, everything went silent again. I hope this time round we will better use this visit," said Cerar.

He believes relations with the US must be nurtured regardless of who is in the White House, a Democrat or a Republican, even someone like Donald Trump. And also regardless of who heads the government in Ljubljana, a rightist or leftist party.

Cerar said it was primarily up to small countries to nurture relations with big ones. "If there is no initiative on our side, then it's very hard."

Still, he sees Pompeo's visit as a normalisation of Slovenian-US relations and a unique opportunity to examine bilateral relations in a number of areas, such as business and commerce.

The visit is "also a unique opportunity to discuss with the US global issues, not only the Western Balkans, which is a traditional topic, also important for the Americans because the Russians and Chinese are strengthening their influence in the region".

The focus of the visit will be on the signing of a Joint Declaration on 5G Security, which is directed against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Although some see it as Slovenia joining a kind of a new "coalition of the willing" and getting unnecessarily involved in US-Chinese disputes, Cerar said this was not the case in his view.

He highlighted China's conduct in international trade, foremost its disregard for intellectual property, its industrial espionage activities and currency speculation.

"This is not just the US's problem. It's also a European problem. It's also in the interest of the EU for these things to get solved," said the diplomat.

"Safe communications are of course in the interest of the US, but they are also in our interest," he said, adding that neither Slovenia nor the EU could be indifferent to China's human rights record, its ignorance of international law in the South China Sea, the issue of Hong Kong, the rights of Uyghurs.

Cerar also thinks it is irrelevant from the aspect of the joint declaration on 5G that the US is nearing the presidential election, which Trump might not win.

"Do you think that the Democrats' policy on China and Russia is any different? Perhaps there will be a different approach. Perhaps Joe Biden will be more diplomatic. They will be seeking ever greater support from their allies. But the policy on China and Russia will not change."

From this aspect, Cerar believes that NATO's future will also be discussed as Pompeo meets Slovenia officials on Thursday.

"It is in our interest for the alliance to be active for a long time to come, and for the trans-Atlantic dialogue to be improved where it's wanting, this has to be admitted."

As a Central European and Mediterranean country located at an important geostrategic area and as a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia could significantly contribute to the dialogue, believes Cerar, who sees its EU presidency next year as another opportunity giving it leverage and certain responsibility for trans-Atlantic relations.

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