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Automotive Special: Investment in research is the key

The Slovenia Times, Slovenian magazine in English Language, volume 8, number 145, EUR 4,80

November 2011

FDI Summit 2011 Slovenia honours its foreign investors




Special annual business overview brings you the best in investment

opportunities, economic

success stories and top lifestyle choices. COMING IN JANUARY 2012 Contact: Tel.: +386 (0)1 520 50 85,,


November 2011 Business Partners


The rivals of 2011 snap elections

ECONOMY 10 NLB shareholders approve capital rise 12 Ljubljana Forum tackles future city planning 12 IEDC-Bled School of Management marks 25th anniversary 13

Innovation special: Pipistrel wins NASA award


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Overview of FDI Summit 2011 Election campaign: political parties exchange views on FDI policy FDI awards ceremony attracts a lot of attention Interview: Darko Bevk, Knauf Insulation


Embassy diaries Interview: H.E. Werner Burkart, German ambassador to Slovenia SILA prepares for another charity bazaar



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Slovenia’s automotive sector is going strong The strength of car parts production Electric future of motor vehicles Hella Saturnus Slovenija to open third competence centre Interview: Dušan Bušen, director of ACS Slovenia struggles with recycling used cars

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The Vintage of 2011 Ljubljana wine route Dine with Style: Proteus Restaurant, Postojna Experience: Kempinski Palace Hotel, Portorož



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Slo times avgust 230x95 mm 11. junij 2009 10:43:56

Classical Music in Slovenia Interview: Bratko Bibič, Accordion player In memoriam: Lojze Slak People: Janez Lotrič, Opera singer 60 years of Slovene Octet The event guide


The national football team gets new coach


Every picture tells a story November 2011


source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

United for Global Change Protests against “financial violence of capitalism” that were a part of the United for Global Change campaign were staged in several cities across Slovenia on Saturday. Over a thousand people gathered in Ljubljana, some 400 protested in Maribor and around 300 in Koper. Around a half of the Ljubljana protesters left Congress Square around 5 PM to protest in front of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange. The rally was peaceful, however, the protesters did tear off the letter “R” from the sign saying Ljubljanska borza, changing the title from “borza” (Stock Exchange) to “boj za” (fight for). Some of the protesters decided to stay in front of the Ljubljana stock market, setting up a camp. Despite the protests were among others attended by several members of the new movement for

Sustainable Development and Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovič the politicians were reserved in commenting the events. Activist Andrej Kurnik from Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences said that the protests were staged in front of the stock exchange in order to highlight the fact that the entire system of financial capitalism was corrupt. He acknowledged that the protests would need a lot of time to transform into a general movement, but that the concrete results of their actions were the rise of new ideas and initiatives. The perisiting protesters demanding answers as to why European central banks were still doing everything possible to save those responsible for the financial crisis, instead of looking for alternatives.

Photo: BOBO


The Snap Elections

Lost to Azerbaijan

President Danilo Tuerk announced that he would dissolve parliament effective a month after the government lost a confidence vote. Elections will be called for 4 December in what will be the first snap poll in Slovenia ever. It quickly transpired after the no-confidence vote a week before Tuerk’s decision that a new PM-designate would not be put forward by any of the parties, at least 10 MPs, or Tuerk himself. This raised the question of whether Tuerk still needed to wait 30 days from the no-confidence vote in order to dissolve parliament, or whether he could do it immediately. Following consultations with top legal experts, who were divided on the issue, Tuerk decided to wait out the full 30 days. Tuerk suggested his decision was also informed by the need to let parliament “finish its work and that the early election be carried out at an appropriately early date.” All deputy groups welcomed Tuerk’s decision, with only the opposition National Party (SNS) saying that the snap election could be held even earlier. While all parties said they were ready for the elections, a debate arose at the end of the week on whether it will be possible to hold the election on 4 December, as the date does not allow parties to fulfil their obligations under the campaign law on time. The official election campaign will begin a month before the election, on 4 November. Candidates can be registered by political parties with the signature of three MPs or 50 voters for each electoral unit. Non-party lists must be filed with the backing of at least 1,000 voter signatures for each of the election units in which the list wants to run. Despite the dissolution of parliament, MPs will see their term end when the new National Assembly is constituted within 20 days of election day. The National Assembly will also be able to meet for extraordinary sessions supported by the heads of deputy groups representing at least two-thirds of parliament.

Slovenia withdrew its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2012-2013, ceding to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was ahead all along after the other candidates for the Eastern European were voted off, but a total of 16 rounds of voting at the UN General Assembly failed to produce a clear winner. After the 16th round, in which Slovenia got 77 votes and Azerbaijan 116, again short of the requisite two-thirds majority, Foreign Minister Samuel Žbogar addressed the General Assembly saying that Slovenia was withdrawing. He said Slovenia did not approve of the way Azerbaijan ran its campaign, but “the result speaks for itself and the support of this body is obvious”. Minister Žbogar also suggestedthe vote was a “battle between two worlds in the UN”. Muslim countries appeared to be supporting Azerbaijan in preparation for a potential vote on UN member status for Palestine, while Slovenia is one of the EU members which have still not recognised a Palestinian state. “We lost some of the Arab countries then, if not all,” Žbogar said. Moreover, Azerbaijan enjoyed strong backing from Russia while Slovenia had the support of the US. As a matter of formality, the General Assembly carried out the 17th round of voting after Slovenia withdrew its bid. Azerbaijan got 155 votes, Slovenia 13 and 24 countries abstained. Žbogar conceded that the campaign may have been “somewhat idealistic, but this is the way we are as a nation”. He believes the UN should open a debate about the problematic ways in which support is enlisted in campaigns, as well as about the EU and its image in the UN. Zbogar does not think the defeat harms Slovenia’s foreign policy. “We have opened Slovenia beyond the neighbouring countries, beyond the EU, and I hope we’ll continue this way although we have been disappointed by some countries.” Published every month by DOMUS, založba in trgovina d.o.o. CEO and publisher: Brane Krajnik Editorial office: Trg MDB 12, 1000 Ljubljana phone – desk: +386 (0)1 520 50 84 phone – marketing: +386 (0)1 520 50 85 fax: +386 (0)1 520 50 82 email:

The Slovenia Times

Editor-in-chief Jaka Terpinc


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Front page by Jaka Terpinc


The Coal of Contention The parliamentary Finance and Monetary Policy Committee failed to approve a bi-partisan bill that would grant a EUR 440m loan guarantee for the construction of a new generator at the Šostanj coal-fired power plant. This means the bill was lost. The motion, which was tabled by a group of 31 MPs headed by Bojan Kontič of the ruling Social Democrats (SD), was passed at first reading with a majority of only 31 votes in the 90-strong Assembly. In the committee, the vote was 7 to 5 against. Kontič called the decision “irresponsible”, noting that the EUR 1.3bn investment in TEŠ6 was ongoing and that contracts had been signed. Kontič said the proponents of the motion from the ranks of the opposition Democrats (SDS) had “pulled out” and were probably counting on coming to power after the December general election. Media meanwhile reported that the SDS had had a change of heart and that the former Economy Minister Andrej Vizjak believed it would be better to wait with the bill until after the election.



The Mis(t)ery of Freesheets

A Man to Forget

The National Assembly confirmed findings of a special commission who has figured that freesheets Ekspres and Slovenski tednik were detouring Slovenia’s legislation. As the report concludes, the papers have been published with the intention of influencing the election results and were working toward disqualifying rivals of the then ruling Democrats (SDS). The National Assembly handed over the documents collected in the investigation to relevant authorities only, although the SDS requested the confidentiality label be removed from the document. The SDS claimed that the commission interfered with the freedom of the press. Meanwhile, the Association of Journalists called upon political parties to refrain from “propagandistic projects... that aspire to discredit political competition under the pretence of journalism”.

The Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that the 2009 decision of the Ljubljana City Council to name a street in the capital after former communist leader Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) is unconstitutional. The court, which acted at the initiative of the Young Slovenia, the youth wing of the non-parliamentary New Slovenia (NSi), argued in a press release that Tito’s name symbolised the former totalitarian regime and that naming a street after him could objectively been seen as a recognition for this regime. The NSi welcomed the court’s ruling, with its president Ljudmila Novak labelling it the first step by a public institution towards admitting that Tito was a criminal. She urged mayors and councillors in other towns with the 12 remaining streets and squares named after Tito or other members of the former regime to consider changes. Representatives of the Ljubljana municipality said they would respect the court’s ruling, but added that they were still proud that the now late councillor Peter Božič - a writer who had even been imprisoned under Tito’s regime several times - had proposed that the street be given Tito’s name.

Occasionally we feel like the Japanese nuclear safety administration half a year ago. The reactor has cracked and they expect solutions that you cannot provide anymore, because the problem has got out of hand. That’s why it takes a sober head, more responsibility from all involved, and long-term action. [...] The law is, according to Boštjan M. Zupančič, society’s immune system. It has broken. The political, social and economic body of law has been attacked by opportunistic bacteria. The boss of Anti-corruption commission Goran Klemenčič on the disease of corruption. (Delo)

I have a feeling that Slovenes respect honesty as they do not represent a culture which would respect you for not being direct and open. I am very critical when it comes to my own country when I see bad things about it. It would be insulting if as a friend of Slovenia I only spoke about the beautiful mountains you have or how charming Ljubljana is. If I did only that, I would have to become a tourist guide, not an ambassador. US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph A. Mussomeli reflecting on his statements about the nonsense of Slovenian “national interest”. (Reporter magazine)

If we let Janković privatise Mercator, the result will be the same as with Merkur. He would dry out the company and put his shares on stake as a warrant. He has taken a similar approach with Ljubljana: glamour on the surface, unpaid bills in the background. Janković quadrupled the debt of Ljubljana during his term. In this regard he was even more successful than Borut Pahor. Now, when the city should start paying the bills, he wants to retreat into the government. Former Prime Minister Janez Janša explains why Janković had to leave Mercator during his term. (MMC RTV Slovenia)


30% off the Internet Slovenian internet users spend almost a third of their media time by browsing the world wide web for multimedia contents, according to a survey carried out by polling agencies Iprom and Valicon. Besides the media time during weekdays is also dedicated to radio (32%), TV (20%), DVD films (9%) and newspapers or magazines (7%). During weekends, TV watching goes up to 26% of media, while internet and radio receive less attention.

I don’t know whether there were too many strong personalities in one place, or if it was because of unclear and soft government leadership. It is a fact that there was no real trust among us, and that were – as the people say – destroying with our bottoms what we had built with our hands and brains. Katarina Kresal, Interior Minister and Liberal Democrats Leader on the failure of the coalition. (Dnevnik) November 2011





General Elections 2011

Pick a Leader

By Jaka Terpinc

Psychoanalysts like to claim that because of the patriarchal character of nations like ours, the electorate’s need for a firm, authoritarian father figure outweighs the virtues of any political programme. The theory is totally compatible with the history of successful governing along with the recent failure of soft, oversensitive and too diplomatic Borut Pahor. In fact, he didn’t stand a chance. So here we are, in a snap pre-election time. The media is already full of different polls and prophecies suggesting different outcomes. But instead of looking into a crystal ball in an attempt to predict the future we should perhaps consider what the political world looked like before the last elections. When Janez Janša was still Prime Minister in 2008, he was absolutely convinced he would easily win the next term. Concluding his speech at a grand SDS gathering, he shouted out “We shall win by…” and the crowd was supposed to unanimously reply “a big difference (of votes).” But in the final count, the difference was small and not in the SDS’ favour – the party came second to Borut Pahor’s Social Democrats. Interestingly enough in absolute terms SDS got more votes than ever before, but the real story of 2008 was the massive electoral mobilisation of “anti-Janšists”. Two years after those fateful elections, the polls again made the SDS by far the most popular party, and many of the SD voters moved back to the ranks of the undecided or abstaining. Janša, who had apparently learnt nothing about the strange ways of megalomania, began to dream not only of winning the next elections, but scoring “50+”, arguing that an absolute majority of a single party is the only way for this country to get things done. After a period of unstable coalition and impossible reforms, this seemed a pleasing idea, but less appealing for those with bad experience from the 2004-08 term. The polls were actually so optimistic that nothing seemed could stand between SDS and victory. The “50+” target quickly became “60+” and the question was no longer who would win but how much the SDS would triumph by. That was until something unexpected happened… There is little doubt that the only politician who shares the same level of personal charisma and populist potential to counter Janša is current Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković. Janković honestly didn’t find it comfortable to enter state politics, but a pledge from a group of leftliberal leaning dignitaries was apparently strong enough to make him consider it. He postponed his final decision day by day and just a moment before his choice was to be announced, the unexpected element popped in in the form of Gregor Virant who has also decided to run with his own list. Virant was a close associate of Janša, the Minister of Public Administration in his government, and as such the most popular member of the 04-08 team. In fact even some Janša haters would admit that Virant is somehow OK. When he delivered a similar economic platform to that of SDS, but explicitly without the right-wing ideological trash, it became clear he could bite away a large chunk of the notorious 50 plus. Janša was outraged, labelling it as a backstabbing act. Meanwhile others have constructed conspiracy theories in which Virant is actually a Trojan horse to collect some additional votes and then make a coalition with SDS. But still, it would be fair to assume Virant simply feels he can contribute as a stand-alone political entity, being trusted as an efficient person. He also doesn’t have dirty hands – or perhaps hasn’t yet had the opportunity to acquire them. This cannot be claimed for the other two. All in all, the battle lines are drawn. This time in particular, we have a choice of three strong candidates, none of which can confidently be proclaimed as the probably winner. This time in particular, we are explicitly dealing with symbolic “political fathers”, as none of the lists/ parties in question exists apart from their irreplaceable leader. It will be interesting to see whether Janša’s challengers in this round are just some ad-hoc projects or new political forces which will last for the decades to come.

Looking for the Magic Formula Voters considering their choices in the December 4 general election have a number of new parties from which to choose. New faces and fresh ideas are thinner on the ground, however. Most parties are promising to improve competitiveness and reduce the number of ministries, with only a few daring to think outside that box. By STA and Jaka Terpinc


he snap elections of 2011 have left political parties somewh at u nprepa red. Based on the early opinion polls it seems that there will be three parties competing for the top position with the rest merely hoping to climb above the parliamentary threshold. Among those which have slipped to the sidelines are the majority of the past term’s coalition parties. This reshuffle is also causing the migration of politicians to the strongest parties.

Here’s a brief overview of the options available to Slovenes voting in the election. Included are all existing parliamentary parties and the three newbies which, according to the polls, have the best prospects of success.

The established players

SDS (Slovenian Democratic Party) has presented a comprehensive list of ideas in a programme dubbed “10+100”. The idea is that the party would focus

Old liberals on the way to oblivion: Katarina Kresal (LDS) and Gregor Golobič (Zares)

Photo: BOBO

on ten measures in the first 100 days of its administration and on another 100 measures in the rest of the term. Leader Janez Janša has stressed that the party will strive to cut state expenditure. The aim is to thereby secure a high standard of living and reduce the burden on the economy so that it can grow and provide new jobs. Among the most important measures would be reducing the number of ministries to ten, restoring social and intergenerational dialogue, supporting the creative and the enterprising, overcoming the credit crunch and reducing the time needed for zoning. Public spending would be limited to 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), labour costs would be cut, and those deemed responsible for bad management of banks would be held accountable – the party wants to see convictions for large-scale corporate crime. SDS deputy and former economy minister Andrej Vizjak has announced the reduction of general corporate income tax to 15 percent and the introduction of tax holidays, 40 percent tax breaks for investments and 100 percent tax breaks for investments in research and development. The part y would also introduce a social cap which it says would enable more competitiveness, lower costs and higher income for the employees creating the highest added value. The ruling Social Democrats have not yet made public any par-

ticular priorities for the next term. In general, they remain committed to building a modern welfare state with welfare for everyone and fairer distribution of profit, a flexible environment, rational use of public funds and sustainable economic growth. Their programme calls for more equality in wages policy, less tax inequality, as well as modernisation of the pension system. The party also wants to bolster public education and public institutes in science and increase the amount of government investment in science and education. The LDS (Liberal Democrats) has divided its platform into eight areas to be covered by eight ministries. Each area will have five priorities, which is why the programme is called “8x5”. Their leader Katarina Kresal has labelled the programme “concrete and very to the point”. She says it is different to that of other parties because it emphasises not only efficiency but also democracy and freedom. The focus is on classic human rights and freedoms, with women holding a special place in the programme, “as women were equal to men only on paper in Slovenia,” says Kresal, who believes no progressive government can be formed without liberal values. DESUS (Pensioners Party) will enter the general election race in an alliance with the non-parliamentary Slovenian Union (SU). DeSUS believes that the crisis can only be overcome with serious changes in social and economic affairs. Like many others, it wants to cut down the number of government agencies and ministries – the latter to a maximum of 10. It also plans to create a favourable business environment, consolidate public finances and the banking system, and hold the central bank accountable in matters of oversight. DeSUS would abolish the National Council – the upper chamber of parliament – and is against a wage freeze in the public sector or the privatisation of public services. It believes there should be greater worker participation in profit. Zares is the only party that is seriously reconsidering the global neo-liberal model, including using GDP as the measurement of a country’s success. Their manifesto declares that change is needed at all levels to create a sustainable and socially responsible economy, starting with reforms of “predatory legislation”. Their plans include introducing a financial transaction tax, “green” tax reform, local self-sufficiency, and setting a maximum ratio between the highest and lowest salary.

Photo: BOBO


The new liberals: Gregor Virant with Marko Pavliha and Janez Šušteršič.

T he People’s Pa r t y (SLS) also promises to trim down the number of cabinet departments to ten and to start streamlining the state from the very top of the public sector. It plans to take on challenges such as pension and health reform, but only based on active dialogue involving everyone. The party believes the state should keep controlling stakes in strategically important companies in the financial, infrastructure and food industries and ensure responsible management of these assets. The National Part y (SNS), embodied by its eccentric leader Zmago Jeličnič, remains faithful to a programme which emphasises “a sovereign and independent Slovenia”. This is reflected in a sceptical approach to both Europe and Nato. The party also believes in the preservation of national heritage and authenticity and demands the changing of national symbols.

The debutants

Former public administration minister Gregor Virant’s new party – the List of Gregor Virant – is focused on trimming the state at all levels and cutting spending. It says it would make no compromises in the fight against whitecollar crime and corruption and is proposing complete state withdrawal from the media. The party has also promised “brutal penalties” for employers who fail to pay welfare contributions for their employees. Virant’s measures to cut red tape include new e-services, for example in healthcare. Notary signatures would be made by administrative units and the land register and land cadastre merged. The party would reduce the number of institutions in public administration, abolishing certain agencies and cutting the number of ministries to ten. Public expenditure would be reduced in an “intelligent way” but taxes

would not be increased. The party is committed to pension reform but says it should be carried out in a fair manner and in agreement with trade unions. The list of Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković – named Positive Slovenia – is promising the creation of a safe and successful welfare state. It contends this goal can only be achieved with a strong economy with new jobs: four percent economic growth and a budget deficit under three percent of GDP. Janković promises new steps in the prosecution of crime and improvements in the work of the judiciary. The key plank of the party’s manifesto is a clear economic strategy, streamlining of public administration and rescuing of NLB bank, though not with taxpayer money. Tax breaks for investments creating jobs with high added value would be introduced along with a rise in value added tax (VAT) by one percentage point to 21 percent. The Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia (TRS) has been the first new party to make some impact in the opinion polls, but not for long. Founded by journalist Manca Košir and former human rights ombudsman Matjaž Hanzek, the stated aim of the organisation is to restore honour in politics. Members say they believe in the values of solidarity, creativity, know-how, tolerance, justice and human rights. The party says it would strive for transparency in political and all other institutions, work to prevent concentration of unlawful power in social groups or individuals, and promote environmentally responsible action. It intends to support the development of those parts of the economy that are in tune with the needs of people and the environment, to reduce regional inequality, and to increase Slovenia’s self-sufficiency in food and energy production. November 2011




source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

Frontrunners Debate the Economy

The first major debate of the election season, aired by public broadcaster TV Slovenija at the end of October, saw three leaders whose parties are ahead in the polls discuss the economy. Many of their campaign pledges are similar, but there were also significant differences about the role the state should play in the economy. By Maja Dragović Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša and two newcomers who have just recently formed parties but are already near the top in the polls - former Public Administration Minister Gregor Virant and Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković shared the same view on the proposal by businesses that the state should borrow a billion euros to directly help companies. Janša said the banking system needed to be sorted out so that lending is kick-started, whereas Janković argued that companies should get tax breaks instead of outright aid. Virant, however, believes the public debt should be reduced, not raised. Their views differ significantly on bank ownership. Virant wants the state to sell its stakes in banks, which, he said, were “sitting on an umbrella in a storm instead of lending it to businesses”. Janša and Janković argued that quick privatisation will not solve the banks’ persistent problems. Janković meanwhile came under fire for his proposal to raise the VAT rates by one percentage point in order to shore up public finances, an

idea opposed by both his rivals as well as union and business representatives that were in the studio. The candidates also touched on political staffing of companies in state ownership, which Virant said all governments guilty of doing. “I thank Virant for finally saying that they (his former party SDS that was in power from 2004-2008) engaged in political staffing,” Janković was quick to retort, possibly due to the fact that he used to be the chief executive of retailer Mercator before he was forced to leave during the last SDS government following a dispute with Janša. In a related subject, the trio clashed over the role the government should play in state-owned companies. Both Janša and Virant said the state should pull out of companies, but Janković said there was nothing wrong with state ownership as long as it is well managed. “Management is the key. During Janša’s term the state was withdrawing from the economy, and look at the results of this policy,” Janković said, referring to unsuccessful management buyouts of state-owned companies that are now

Under fire: Zoran Janković’s proposal to raise VAT to 21 percent is unpopular

in serious financial problems or have gone bankrupt altogether. This was the first public debate by the election frontrunners. Although all of their distinctive features were apparent – Virant’s youth and energy; Janković’s managerial skills; and Janša political experience – neither of the candidates came out as a clear winner of the debate. How the battle will play out once other parties and issues get engaged is anyone’s guess but sure interesting to observe.





KLS Wins Gazelle Award

New Boss of National Railways Operator

Riko Expanding in Ukraine

The Entrepreneur of 2011

Riko, a small Slovenian engineering company, is expanding in Ukraine, where it says it has signed contracts with four partners worth EUR 3m this year. Under the contracts, Riko will supply industrial firms Hydrosila, Turboatom, Vaz and Ukrloprom a variety of technological solutions. Other new contracts are in the pipeline already. “We expect to win new deals in the total amount of EUR 20m in Ukraine this year,” Riko spokeswoman Polona Lovšin told the STA last month. Riko posted sales of EUR 39m last year with a workforce of just 40 employees. In Slovenia the company is best known for high-end prefabricated houses, but it business also includes technological engineering, energy and environmental solutions, and logistics systems.

Boštjan Šifrar (pictured), a successful businessman who has made a fortune on patented toothpaste tube lids, received the Entrepreneur of 2011 award in Ljubljana last month. Šifrar took over the Škofja Loka-based company SIBO G from his father back in 1993 and developed it into a booming business. The award handed out for the 21st time by the business magazine Podjetnik and the Slovenian Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) went to a man who proved he had courage and a vision in developing the seemingly unglamorous business of casting plastic caps, tubes and containers into a successful company exporting to 41 countries worldwide, the award jury said. Other candidates for the award were Marjan Batagelj of Batagel&co in Postojna, and Marjan Kolar of Keter Group in Maribor.

KLS Ljubno, a medium-sized manufacturing firm, was declared last month the winner of this year’s Golden Gazelle Award for fastgrowing companies, on the back of strong exports and crisis-beating results. The firm specialises in starter ring gears and mass rings for flywheels for the automotive industry, a niche in which it has a 40 percent market share in Europe and 12 percent globally. KLS Ljubno, which has 180 employees, is one of the most automated companies in the industry, with over 90 percent of all production processes handled robotically. The company posted a net profit of EUR 1.2m on sales of EUR 24.8m last year, both figures marginally higher than in the year before.

The Slovenia Times

Igor Blejec has been appointed the new general manager of Slovenske železnice, the troubled state-owned railways operator which was transformed into a holding with three affiliated companies: Infrastructure, Passenger Transport and Cargo Transport, joined by previously existing subsidiaries. Blejec’s appointment comes after an overhaul of Slovenske železnice’s supervisory board. The new board refused to take a stance on Ervin Pfeifer, who had been originally appointed on 29 August as the successor to Goran Brankovič. Blejec holds a business degree and held leading positions at Teol, Siteep in Geostroj, small manufacturing companies all of which are now either defunct or operating with a loss.

9 Mining

Business Summit


Coal Mine to Export Know-How

Burning Issues for Slovenian Economy

Annual Inflation Rises

SFPO conference

Emphasising Innovation


NKBM’s Profit Halved

NKBM profits see a huge drop (operating profit in EUR ‘000 000) 20 15 10 5

Jan-Sep 09

Jan-Sep 11

Source: STA

Slovenia’s second biggest bank, NKBM, posted a EUR 6.2m net profit in the first nine months of 2011, which is down by more than a half from the same period last year. Operating profit stood at EUR 7.3m, which is only 52.9 percent of this year’s target. Nevertheless, the bank labelled the JanuarySeptember period as successful, considering the tough economic situation. The bank’s total assets decreased by EUR 26.5m or 0.5 percent in the first nine months of 2011, to stand at EUR 4.78bn at the end of September. The bank’s market share by assets was 9.7 percent at the end of September. The bank’s operating profit before provisions and impairments, standing at EUR 52.2m, represents 76 percent of this year’s plan.

Slovenia’s Chamber of Commerce has hosted an innovation-focused conference organised by the Slovenian Foundation for Business Excellence (SFPO). Attendees discussed the practical values of Slovenian scientific and research achievements and their applicability in the economy, as well as in everyday life. The prominent guests included Miha Kos, director of House of Experiments; Radovan Bolko, chief executive of Kolektor group; Jožica Rejec, president of the board of Domel; and Peter Florjančič, the innovator, who said that »money is worth nothing if you do not spend it properly«. Participants were entertained by a number of experiments presented to them by researchers and students from the Institute of Chemistry and representatives from the House of Experiments. Viewings included a dangerous laser, an iodine clock, burning metal, quasi uranium and liquid nitrogen. Using a glass mirror, participants of the conference looked for answers to written questions on the ceiling in the House of Experiments. A multidisciplinary group of students also showed how to convert an ordinary car into an economical electric vehicle. The car was already on the road in October.

International credit rating

Slovenia’s Credit Ratings Lowered Last month Standard & Poor’s downgraded Slovenia’s long and short-term sovereign credit ratings by one notch to AA-/A-1+ from AA/A-1+ on grounds that the country’s fiscal position has deteriorated since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis and that policy makers have not yet presented a credible consolidation strategy. “Slovenia’s debt burden, which had been declining between 2002 and 2008, has rapidly increased as a consequence of the government’s policy of cushioning the economy and banking system from the negative impact of the crisis,” the ratings agency said. Standard & Poor’s expects general government debt to grow to 43 percent of GDP in 2011, double the 2008 level.

Inflation rise 6

Source: Eurostat and SURS

Slovenian business representatives pointed to several issues they labelled as crucial as they came together for the Slovenian Business Summit at Brdo pri Kranju that was held in October. Immediate action, a leaner public sector and money for investments were the key points of the conference attended by 400 business representatives as well as politicans. The head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) Samo Hribar Milič (pictured) addressed the event, saying that all parties and politicians should be looking for answers to the key problems of Slovenia’s economy. During the conference hosted by the GZS, business representatives from some of Slovenia’s big companies highlighted what they believe are the main issues and proposed some concrete measures to tackle these problems. “We’re worried about the diminishing orders accompanied by the poor financial state of companies and poor credit portfolio of banks,” said chief executive of tools maker Kolektor Group Stojan Petrič. He proposed that the country take out an extra EUR 1bn worth of loans to help the most promising companies. He moreover believes that Slovenia should secure more investment funds by cutting public administration expenditure by 20 percent in four years, by introducing a 2 percent increase in VAT, a tax on property and secure the withdrawal of state from companies. The conference also underlined the need for a labour market reform and called for the next government to help Slovenia’s sustainable eco torusim sector with investments it cannot handle itself. The conference also heard that the next economy minister should be a former boss of a big company, as business experience may be used in public administration. Photo: BOBO

Slovenian coal mine operator Premogovnik Velenje signed an agreement last month on a joint venture for coal mining in the AsiaPacific region with three international companies. The establishment of the Singapore-based company Fairwood PV, which will provide various services in the field of underground mining on the markets of India, Southeast Asia and Pacific, is a milestone for Premogovnik Velenje, its boss Milan Medved told the press. The agreement with the Fairwood Group and companies Cigler & Partners and Chescor Capital, was signed in the Slovenian Coal Mining Museum in Velenje, 160 metres underground where coal mining in Slovenia started more than 135 years ago. Medved said that Premogovnik Velenje would export its know-how in the form of a special coal extraction technique, which according to him is one of the most up-to-date mining methods in the world. Chescor Capital director Alan Moore pointed to the major coal reserves and the increasing demand for energy in the Asia-Pacific region. He deems it important that the environmentallyfriendly Velenje technique will comply with the environmental standards in the region.

5 4 3 2 1 0





The annual inflation rate in Slovenia increased by 0.6 percentage points to 2.7 percent in October, the Statistics Office said last month. The monthly inflation rate stood at 0.7 percent, mostly as a result of a 10.4 percent hike in the prices of clothing and footwear. Higher excise pushed up the prices of tobacco products by 2.6 percent, while costlier fruit (5.3 percent) was the main reason for a 0.3 percent hike in food prices. Fuel and energy were also marked up, by an average 1.2 percent, a hike that added 0.2 percentage points to the monthly inflation rate. Package holidays on the other hand became significantly cheaper, on average by 6.9 percent, which is another seasonal feature. Inflation was also kept down owing to a 1.3 percent drop in the prices of new cars and a 2.8 percent fall in the price of telephone and internet services. Measured with the harmonised index of consumer prices, the EU standard, prices were up by 2.9 percent year-on-year.


Krka Opens Two New Facilities Last month, pharmaceutical company Krka officially opened two new production and research facilities as part of its Novo mesto complex. According to CEO Jože Colarič, the investment is worth EUR 113m. Colarič added that the new facility for the production of solid dosage forms, worth EUR 91m, would increase the company’s production capabilities by 2.5 billion units a year. This will put Krka’s annual production of tablets and pills to 10 billion. The other facility - a development and control centre - worth EUR 22m, will expand the company’s research and development activities and enable better quality control, Colarič said. The five-floor high-tech production facility is also energy efficient and will annually save 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which equals annual emissions of 100 houses. November 2011



Rising Capital Stakes Last month its shareholders agreed on another recapitalisation for Slovenia’s largest bank. Despite the agreement, NLB’s future remains far from clear. By Maja Dragović

Underestimation: Božo Jašovič believes EBA’s calculation that NLB needs EUR 297m in additional capital is well below the actual figure


he management of NLB – which registered a EUR 113.9m loss for the first nine months this year – last month secured the overwhelming approval of shareholders to issue 5.5 million new shares over five years. This latest attempt to raise new funds follows a EUR 250m capital injection in March, secured almost entirely by taxpayers. The management and supervisors had initially proposed a further injection of EUR 250m, only to increase the figure to EUR 400m in September in the face of poor results and failure to implement the bank’s strategy. Chief executive Božo Jašovič told shareholders that the bank needed capital to stabilise it and improve its resistance to external shocks. NLB is one of 16 EuropeThe Slovenia Times

an banks ordered to raise more capital after being close to failing the required five percent of Tier 1 capital ratios – the key measure of financial strength – when pan-EU stress tests were carried out on 91 financial institutions last year. The European Banking Authority (EBA) warned that banks needed to boost their Tier 1 ratio to nine percent. “Some banks meet this criterion already, others do not,” Jašovic said, adding that NLB was among the latter. The EBA added that major European banks need EUR 106 billion in fresh capital by mid-2012, of which EUR 297m is projected for Slovenia. Jašovič argued that the figure for Slovenia failed to “take into account the special characteristics of our environment”. Slove-


Other problems

Another stumbling block is where the capital will come from. The management has been arguing that the increase could be secured on the basis of an agreement between the two principal shareholders. It is suggested they could secure the money themselves or together with international institutions – the World Bank’s International Financial Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have both been mentioned. The government has also argued that there is a need to give priority to private investors and use public funds only as a last resort. Outgoing Development and European affairs minister Mitja Gaspari stated unequivocally at the end of September that the state would not provide funds for a capital increase this year. This prompted speculation that the increase would be postponed until spring next year, not least to allow the state to preserve control in the bank in case of participation by foreign investors. Unofficially, the EBRD and IFC representatives have visited Ljubljana over the matter, but the main obstacle is said to be the price of EUR 116 per share. Other options being considered are a public share offering – which would probably see a much lower share price – or a change in the bank’s strategy, which would involve an even more conservative and cautious lending policy.

stressed it was crucial in the current times of global financial instability for the owners to avoid unnecessary shocks or instability to the bank. Central bank governor Marko Kranjec added that AUKN failed to give reasons for the replacements. He was also bothered that the new candidates were not bankers. The decision does not change the fact that NLB is under pressure from both rating agencies and investors. Both the Fitch credit rating agency and Moody’s credit rating agency have downgrading the credit ratings of NLB as well those of other Slovenian banks. It now seems that the decision on the future of NLB and how it will acquire the new capital will most likely be left for the new THY_skytrax 165x210 190 DEST government. The outgoing prime minister Borut Pahor has said it is

NLB registers gigantic losse

Source: STA

nia is facing a flood of insolvency procedures, putting NLB under pressure to set aside provisions for write-downs, he added. Media reports suggest it is uncertain whether the bank will get the 400m cash injection it wants since the state and Belgian financial group KBC, the principal shareholders, have not yet come to an agreement. Reports suggest EUR 250m is a more likely figure.

in EUR ‘000 000 20 -0 -20 -40 -60 -80 -100 -120

Jan-Sep 2009

Jan-Sep 2010

not impossible that the bank will get a strategic foreign partner which would acquire the majority ownership of the bank. “I have that [the new goving.pdf 1 said 05.10.2011 14:10 ernment] will have to very prudently assess what is the best way,

Jan-Sep 2011

and I do not exclude the possibility of arrival of a foreign strategic partner that would have a majority, while Slovenia retains 25 percent plus golden share,” Pahor said. “However, the new government will be deciding about this.”








Inadequate reasons


The shareholders may have backed recapitalisation but they firmly rejected a controversial proposal by the Capital Assets Management Agency (AUKN) to replace four NLB supervisors, including chief supervisor Marko Simoneti. AUKN argued the overhaul was needed to speed up restructuring at the bank. The finance ministry agreed, saying that NLB’s bad business results were sufficient reason for the dismissal of the supervisors. Belgian majority shareholder KBC, however, strongly opposed the proposal. And member of the governing board of Slovenia’s central bank, Stanislava Zadravec Caprirolo, November 2011


Ljubljana Forum

City Planning Some 150 city development experts gathered in the Slovenian capital last month for the Ljubljana Forum.


he two-day event was focused on the future of cities, paying particular attention to the local region. It was opened by Blaž Golob, director of the Centre for e-governance Development and initiator of the Forum. He explained that purpose of the conference was to “connect projects, promoters of development of urban regions of South East Europe with knowledge and experiences.” Golob went on to argue that a new method of governance is needed if the Danube region is to develop successfully and be home to prosperous cities. Speaking later in the day, futurist Jerome C. Glenn stressed that collective intelligence systems will improve urban governance. Meanwhile Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković emphasised that the majority of cities in the region are older than the states

to which they belong and said that the result is a long tradition of cooperation and connection. Projects to increase those links were also highlighted at the event. Architect Boris Podrecca said there is a creative architectural space between Milan, Vienna, Belgrade and the Adriatic Sea. Over the two day event, participants put together a list of nine ways in which the governance of cities could be improved. The recommendations were developed in cooperation with the South East Europe team working on the Millennium Project, a United Nations initiative which is seeking to find ways to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. The nine recommendations included using development and

Blaž Golob, director of the Centre for e-governance Development and initiator of the Forum

wealth indicators beyond the traditional gross domestic product (GDP); insistence on transparency to reduce corruption; use of collective intelligence systems to support knowledge-based governance; trans-institutional ap-

proaches and multilevel governance alliances; changes to cities’ building codes and zoning laws to encourage the use of sustainable technologies; and a commitment to knowledge sharing among the global community of cities.

IEDC Bled School of Management Anniversary

Looking Back and Looking Forward The IEDC-Bled School of Management has marked its twenty-fifth anniversary with a special international conference.

Creating the Future” incorporated a ceremony celebrating the anniversary as well as expert discussion on the challenges likely to face higher education institutions in the coming years. In her introductory speech, Professor Danica Purg – who has led the IEDC for every one of its 25 years – said that the school has “a mission and a duty to promote and to stimulate creativity and responsibility, to make it possible for the leaders to be successful in a fast changing environment.” “In these new times of big changes and uncertainty in the social, economic and political setting, we need positive, creative and energetic leaders,” she concluded. Her view was shared by Professors Edgar Schein and Manfred Kets de Vries, both awarded The Slovenia Times

honorary degrees at the event. In his address, Schein – considered one of the founders of organisational psychology – stressed that “currently there is too much preoccupation with competence,

motivation and will, and at the same t ime not enough focus on values, ethics and humanity”. Kets de Vries, a respected authority on global leadership, suggested that “in this age of

greed and anxiety, short-term expediency prevails, while bold, imaginative leadership, taking the kinds of action that will benefit the next generation is sorely missing.” It was a theme built on in the keynote speech at the event, delivered by US management expert Dr Ichak Adizes. He argued that creativity, risk taking and courage are no longer enough to guarantee success and that developed countries no longer need entrepreneurial leadership but instead social leaders “that have the courage to change society driven by materialism to a society driven by values.” More than 450 business and political leaders, professors, alumni and friends of IEDC-Bled School of Management were present at the conference, which was opened by Slovenian president Danilo Türk.


Aviation industry

Aviation History Ivo Boscarol and his Pipistrel light aircraft business are well-known not only in Slovenia but also globally. Pipistrel has won a number of international awards since its foundation in 1987, including this year’s NASA Green Flight Challenge. By Simon Demšar

Air over automotive

He believes that light-aircraft industry now has an edge over the automotive industry: “There is no such car despite huge development resources and no weight limits,” he says. “Joe Parrish, NASA technical director, said that our small team was able to set standards which all of us should be thankful for. If an organisation such as NASA acknowledges

Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls


his was the third NASA top prize for Pipistrel after winning in 2007 and 2008 with their Virus SW aircraft, the most fuel-efficient aircraft in its category. This year’s award went to the company’s Taurus G4, a four-seat electric-powered aircraft. It made aviation history when it became the first practical and economically viable, emission-free aircraft. In petrol terms, it consumed only 7.5 litres of fuel over a 320-kilometre course at a speed of over 170 kph. In financial terms, it means that the fuel to transport four people 700 kilometres far would cost a mere 20 Euros. Despite being a leading producer of efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft, Pipistrel still impressed the organisers, judges and people from the aviation industry. The company says the Taurus G4 has is then times more efficient than conventional aircraft, which makes it a highly competitive even with automotive industry. With a peak take-off noise of 71.1 decibels this aeroplane could well herald an age of aircraft quiet enough to land very near dwellings and businesses.

that we are setting standards and pushing the limits of the aviation industry, this is greatest possible honour.” The Taurus G4 is a prototype that will never fly commercially. But the Panthera, which uses Taurus G4’s propulsion system, will go on the market and is expected to cost in the region of half a million Euros. “Such was enthusiasm for the Panthera, that we had had several dozen orders even before the first aircraft took off,” says Boscarol. Panthera will be the first commercially available four-seat electric aircraft in the world.

Cost and weight

Boscarol believes that costs and weight – currently the big-

Aviation history: This year’s NASA award went to the company’s Taurus G4, a four-seat electricpowered aircraft, the first practical and economically viable, emission-free aircraft.

gest challenges – will come down when serial production takes over. “It is the same as with mobile phones: the models we use today would have cost millions and probably weighed a few hundred kilos 20 years ago. Regarding aircraft, I expect rapid development. Things that were science fiction only three years ago are becoming a reality. Our Taurus Electro [the first two-seat electric aircraft in the world], for example, costs the same with electric or petrol engine.” The winning aircraft will stay in the USA, at a NASA museum, “in the company of aircraft that marked aviation milestones.” Some believe that years from now, these first Green Flight Challenge team members will be recognised as the pioneers of the Age of Electric Flight. Boscarol has proved more than once that he is not afraid of challenges and he had no second thoughts about bidding for the supply of 194 light aircraft to the Indian armed forces. “Regarding technical solutions, we are not afraid of competition. We believe that we have the best product and if quality – instead of lobbying and price – prevails, we can become an aircraft supplier to the fourth strongest army in the world.”

Not the first time: this year was the third NASA prize for Pipistrel after winning prizes both in 2007 and 2008

President’s Recognition Pipistrel’s achievements have also been recognised by the president of the Republic of Slovenia. Danilo Türk has awarded the highest Slovene civil award – The Golden Order for Services – to Pipistrel for “exceptional services at the development of environmentally-friendly technology and establishing a victorious innovative philosophy which helped to place Slovenia among the global technologic superpowers.” November 2011




source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

Home appliances

New Production Line The ongoing success of BSH Hišni aparati was underlined when Slovenian president Danilo Türk visited to open a new production line of high range coffee machines. BSH Hišni aparati has established a new coffee maker line with which the company will increase its coffee machine production by 30 percent. The line will also create new jobs, especially in the development and technical sectors. President Türk opened production as part of a visit to the company. During the visit, company management presented the development and educa- May the production begin: President Danilo Türk and Rudolf Klötscher tion centres model which they would like to implement. As the firm constantand the Slovenian educational system would ly needs qualified workers for certain positions benefit from the programme. and also lacks suitable training for new employees, the idea is to introduce planned activities An insightful visit based on additional training of both new and The president was also taken on a tour of the existing staff. In their vision, both the company company to see various stages of production,

World Bank


Stock exchange


Slovenia Keeps 37th Place

Four Bids for Majority Stake in Mercator

Opportunity in Dual Listing

Terme Maribor Sold to Russian Investor

The operator of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange plans to list Slovenian blue chips on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Its chairman Heinrich Schaller says that Slovenian companies are interested in dual listing, but have not taken any final decisions yet. Dual listing, which could be realised next year, is an opportunity to increase liquidity, but the stock exchange is not an investment bank and the companies will need to do a lot themselves, the chairman of Wiener Boerse has told an interview with the STA. Many of the investors at the Vienna Stock Exchange are international, about 30 percent come from the US; trading volume, at EUR 63.8m daily, is about three times the figure at the Warsaw Stock Exchange, and the average market capitalisation of companies is about EUR 800m, compared to EUR 174m in Warsaw.

Terme Maribor, the Maribor-based tourism company, is to be sold to a Russian-owned company, capping two years of efforts by financial holding NFD to offload its majority stake in the company, daily Dnevnik reported last month. NFD owns 72 percent of Terme Maribor and the conglomerate Sava 14.5 percent. The two biggest shareholders are expected to get EUR 28m for their holdings whereas buying out small shareholders would cost another EUR 4m. Terme Maribor is to be sold to Platanus, a company incorporated in Maribor last year that is owned by Russian citizen Olga Lopayeva, Dnevnik says. Terme Maribor owns multiple hotels, travel shops at border crossings and a medical centre. It posted revenue of EUR 42.5m in 2010 and a loss of EUR 320,000.

Slovenia retained 37th place among 183 countries on the business conditions list of the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012 report, published last month. The list, which is topped by Singapore for the sixth consecutive year, was compiled based on data from June 2010 to May 2011. Slovenia’s ranking improved the most in registering property (79), where the country climbed 20 notches, while it lost 7 places (to 81) in dealing with construction permits. The worst ranking was in acquiring loans, where Slovenia dropped two places to 98th. According to the report, Slovenia implemented three reforms in the last year that eased doing business. Registering property became easier by offering web registration and reducing tariffs, trading across borders was made easier with the introduction of e-forms for customs and insolvency procedures were rationalised.

Three financial investors and one strategic investors have submitted non-binding bids for a 52.1 percent stake in retailer Mercator, which is being jointly sold by beverage group Pivovarka Laško and a consortium of banks. NLB, which represents the consortium, said that the London-based ING bank had collected four bids by the deadline, but it did not reveal the names of the bidders. Unofficially, the bidders are financial firms Mid Europa, Warburg Pincus and TPG and Mercator’s Croatian rival Agrokor. The Croatian media reported that Agrokor was offering EUR 832.14m for the full takeover of Mercator, or EUR 221 per share. Other reports suggest that the bids by the financial investors are considerably lower.

JAPTI (Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investment) is a business facilitator providing free information and advising services for foreign investors: •  •  •  • 

among them the manufacture of food preparation appliances such as blenders and mixers. He also saw a quality assurance test centre. One of the central points of the tour was the coffee beverages development centre. Staff there detailed the process of appliance development and technology and highlighted the complexity of producing espresso machines, which are built from nearly 500 constituent parts. In the laboratory, Türk learnt about testing new technical solutions according to accepted standards and legislation. BSH Home Appliances chief executive Rudolf Klötscher told the president that the company has successfully established branches in Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria in the past three years. Türk expressed satisfaction over the good transactions of the company and saw it as an example that business can blossom even during difficult economic times.

Information on business opportunities, legislation, taxes and incentive Information on industrial sites and local suppliers Links with industry and local authorities Arranging visiting programmes to the most suitable locations The Slovenia Times

Division for FDI Verovškova 60 1000 Ljubljana Slovenia tel.: +386 1 5891 870 fax: +386 1 5891 877 e-mail:


FDI Summit 2011

Exploring Advantages The second international conference FDI Summit, focusing on foreign investments and development strategies in Slovenia, took place last month in Ljubljana. The conference, organised by The Slovenia Times together with the Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI), featured seven panels with over 20 Slovenian and foreign managers and economy experts taking part. The event also attracted a lot of attention from investors looking for potential projects in Slovenia. Text by Mateja Novak and Jaka Terpinc, photos by Alenka Slavinec


n 2010, when the summit took place for the first time, the agenda centred mainly on the problems that surrounded the lack of influx of foreign capital into the country. This year the focus shifted to the benefits that Slovenia can offer foreign investors – and the benefits that foreign investors can offer Slovenia. “At a time of financial and economic crisis, one looks for stability in the business environment and business relations; FDI is one of the most stable types of economic cooperation,” President Danilo Türk said in opening the conference. One of the major debates focused on the need for enhanced efforts to promote the country as a regional hub for local markets with a combined 45 million consumers. Türk urged participants to think outside the box, noting that South East Europe should not only be considered as a source of outgoing FDI for Slov-

enia, but also as a source of inbound investment.

Know your neighbour

The opening panel – moderated by Tine Kračun, director of the Institute for Strategic Solutions – focused exclusively on the potential of Slovenia as an entry point to the Western Balkans. The three panellists, all chief executives of major companies in Slovenia, agreed that the country has the potential to develop as an investors’ hub for regional markets. Its skilled workforce, infrastructure, historical links to the Balkans and shared culture all count in its favour. However, chief executive of retailer Mercator Žiga Debeljak argued that these advantages will be less important once the Balkan countries join the European Union. “Soft elements will be more important,” he said, noting that companies would have to develop competence centres with highly skilled labour and cutting-edge

Brane Krajnik, CEO of the Slovenia Times

President Danilo Türk

know-how. He also dismissed the possibility of Slovenia serving as a hub for Eastern Europe, noting that its links to Bulgaria, for example, were not strong enough.

However, he argued that Slovenia can be a springboard for European companies wanting to do

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November 2011



Time to Get Serious

By Tilen Majnardi

The second international Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Summit 2011 was characterised by two themes. The first was fairly straightforward: Slovenia is experiencing a socioeconomic crisis that is not only the result of the global financial crisis but also a failure to speedily implement crucial reforms. It was the second theme, however – the crisis in the public sector – that really triggered alarm bells. Slovenia’s public sector is struggling. Revenues from the pension fund are increasingly falling out of step with predicted expenses. The health sector is experiencing ineffective organisation, with revenues no longer able to cover its expenses. The indebtedness of the state budget is barely maintainable, state investments are declining, the economy is critically undercapitalised, indebted banks are obsessed with their own problems instead of financing the economy. The conclusion reached by all attending this year’s FDI Summit is that foreign investment could offer a lifeline. The problem is that Slovenia has traditionally struggled to attract it; not least thanks to a failure to design clear policies in this area. Those at the conference noted a gap between the public words of the Slovenian government when it comes to FDI and the actual behaviour towards foreign investors. Most feel this is significantly reducing the credibility of the country as a whole.

A labyrinth

Investors, as a rule, are concerned by what they see as an endless labyrinth of artificial political problems in Slovenia, both on the local and national levels. A key conclusion reached at the conference was that Slovenia has run into problems due to anomalies in its own socioeconomic system. The global economic crisis uncovered Slovenia’s unwillingness to change in the international business environment and also showed that Slovenia lacked a clearly designed development concept to follow its successful transition and entry into the European Union. The consequence is a decline of interest in Slovenia by foreign capital owners who, in many cases, no longer consider the country a serious investment destination. Often the nation is viewed as a friendly and nice but unreliable partner. Slovenia’s economic position has become even more serious following the reduction of its credit rating by the Moody and Standard & Poor credit rating agencies, and it’s a clear warning that the problems in the banking system and unsuccessful balancing of public expenditure could result in a further reduction. Debt is a real concern. The country has over a billion Euros in loans that will mature in 2012, while banks owe over four billion. There is concern that the government will be forced to confront this issue rather than dealing with development problems.

Exploring opportunities: Biljana Weber (Microsoft), Christof Droste (Hella Saturnus Slovenija), and Žiga Debeljak (Mercator) discuss Slovenia’s potential to serve as a hub for companies that want to expand into the Balkan region continued from page 15

business in the Western Balkans as well as for Balkan countries wanting to penetrate EU markets.

The Swiss example

Biljana Weber, the director general of Microsoft Slovenia, highlighted the Swiss recipe for a successful hub, with ingredients including high spending on research and development, a high rate of innovation, excellent scientific institutions and very efficient public institutions. Christof Droste, chief executive of German-owned lighting equipment maker Hella Saturnus, added that there were three possible hub models for Slovenia: as a hub for the Balkans, a springboard for Central and Eastern Europe, and, through the Port of Koper, as an entry point for goods from across the world. Debeljak said before the Balkans started growing at doubledigit rates prior to the crisis, re-

gional players had been shielded from big international players by the sheer complexity of the fragmented markets, which acted as a repellent. But now this same complexity is a problem as it makes the region unattractive to investors compared to other emerging markets. This is a drag on muchneeded foreign direct investment in the region, Debeljak added. For Weber, one of the key challenges for the entire region is skills: in 20 years jobs will have changed so much that completely different skills will be required. Hence she argued governments needed to motivate students to study technical professions.

Current successes

Slovenia’s potential to become a regional hub was further explored at the conference’s second panel. During this discussion, Matjaž Rakovec, chief executive of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, said that the high reputation of Slovenian brands, hard-working workforce,


Despite the critical findings, the conference also showed that Slovenia is by no means in a catastrophic state. Yes, the seriously negative trends need to be halted. But there does seem to be commitment to short-term solutions such as an immediate reorganisation of public administration in the broadest sense. This doesn’t only mean reduction. It also means adapting state needs to realistic capabilities – an economic tax base, defining key strategic national economic projects and, in particular, acquiring foreign capital as the country’s own assets are insufficient for starting-up a new development cycle. With key decision makers finally realising these facts, the hope is that people, companies and expert institutions will finally be able to influence key development decisions. In this area as in so many others, all eyes will be on the new government. Presenting the Hong Kong example: Stephen Kai Wong, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office The Slovenia Times


and good knowledge of language and culture all counted in the country’s favour. He also pointed out that the country’s size meant it was not perceived as a threat to the position of other nations. Similarly, Rudolf Kloetscher, chief executive of German-owned firm BSH Hišni aparati, highlighted the four “Qs” Slovenia has going for it: quality links to regional markets, high quality of infrastructure, quality workforce, and quality of life. Describing the experiences of BSH Hišni aparati, which has used its venture in Slovenia to penetrate the markets of the former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, he said it was possible to use Slovenia as a springboard. “It is possible, it is profitable, and we can show global investors that it is worth investing in Slovenia.” JAPTI director Igor Plestenjak added that other companies are recognising Slovenia’s potential as a hub, with some relocating their regional offices from Vienna to Slovenia.

tract strategic high-value-added-FDI. Again, the appeal of the country’s quality labour force was highlighted but representatives of foreign investors also emphasised the need to make it easier to do business. “Slovenia needs to create an environment in which investors can make a profit,” said Giulio Bonazzi, the boss of the Italian Aquafil group, which owns Slovenian chemical company Julon. Nonetheless, his company obviously sees the potential to make profit from being in Slovenia as it has invested close to EUR 150m in Julon in the last 15 years – EUR 17m of it this year alone. Bonazzi also said further investments were planned as the company intends to remain in Slovenia. Thierry Villard, director of Goodyear Dunlop Central and

South-East Europe, also argued the state should make it easier to do business and change the mindset about FDI, which is still perceived as a threat to the national interest. Like Aquafil, Goodyear Dunlop plans to continue investing in its Slovenian wing as investments during the crisis have proved to be a good decision, Villard said. Saša Bavec, director of Škofja Loka-based insulation maker Knauf Insulation, revealed that the German owners of the company were having problems with decision-making in Slovenia. It is not clear what the actual rules are and how they are implemented, he said. continued on page 18

Branko Žibret, partner at A.T. Kearney Slovenia

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The right recipe

The closing panel of the first day explored how Slovenia might at-

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The Tuscan way: Luca Olivari of A.T. Kearney Italy explained how Tuscany is becoming a local and international hub for life sciences

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Nurturing a good reputation: Rudolf Klötscher (BSH Hišni aparati), Matjaž Rakovec (Zavarovalnica Triglav), and Igor Plestenjak (JAPTI) all agreed that Slovenia’s cultural and business links with the Balkans represent a huge opportunity

Staff problems: Saša Bavec (Knauf Insulation), Thierry Villard (Goodyear Dunlop Central and South-East Europe), and Giulio Bonazzi (Aquafil group) pointed out that Slovenia needs to address the problem of producing enough high-skilled professionals

The Slovenia Times

continued from page 17

Location and education are the key

Good projects can always secure investment but clearly the economic crisis has made those with capital behave much more cautiously than prior to 2008. The question of attracting money in the current conditions was the topic of the first panel of day two of the FDI Summit. The topic was discussed by two eminent guests: Marjan Hribar of the Ministry of the Economy and Damir Kuštrak of Agrokor, the Croatian company which is the main bidder for shares in Slovenian retailer Mercator. Kuštrak detailed

the FDI practice in Croatia, which has been slightly less conservative than Slovenia’s. He also said that as Croatia looks forward to joining the EU, cooperation and partnerships with Slovenia will be eased, along with cross-border acquisitions. Praising good capital exchange with both Serbia and Slovenia, Kuštrak mentioned difficulties when it comes to the still unstable Bosnia. Challenged by the moderator who mentioned the fears provoked by Agrokor’s possible acquisition of Mercator, Kuštrak emphasised that the takeover would by no means be a hostile one. Agreeing that the Slovenian market has been relatively closed to foreign capital, Hribar pointed

out that while more and more companies are approaching JAPTI with business ideas the problem remains putting them into practice. That said, the ministry is preparing to target the areas that make it difficult – payment delinquency, high taxes, labour costs, building permits and so on. Feri Gönc of Mura Development Agency argued from the audience that taxation of wages might be an issue, while many others problems, such as building plots, can be effectively dealt with at the municipal level. Speaking of Slovenia’s benefits, Hribar once again highlighted the four “Qs” of Slovenia. But Kuštrak mentioned that in a global sense labour costs are losing their importance and the focus is instead on an area’s specialities.

Avoiding the Greek scenario

The second panel of the day discussed how to create a development concept for Slovenia which would effectively respond to global trends. The discussion kicked off with the question of whether it is possible to compare Slovenia’s recent negative trends to the “Greek scenario”. Dean of the Faculty of Economics and former Finance Minister Dušan Mramor argued such a comparison was overblown, pointing to Slovenia’s very favourable macroeconomic pointers. On the other hand Marko Voljč – chief executive of KBC Group, which is part owner of NLB bank – contended that the Greek crisis is the ultimate result of a state of denial and resistance to anything that would cut one’s privileges. Both speakers did agree, however, that current trends are less than optimistic and urged the future Slovenian government to take reforms seriously, including the improvement of the legal system. Director of Technology Park Ljubljana, Iztok Lesjak, pointed to another aspect of the Greek crisis – the distri-


Negative outlook: Marko Voljč (KBC group), Dušan Mramor (Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana)) and Iztok Lesjak (Technology Park Ljubljana) agreed that the new government will have to take reforms seriously if Slovenia is to attract more foreign capital Easing cooperation: Damir Kuštrak (Agrokor) and Marjan Hribar (Ministry of the Economy) believe that capital exchange between the two countries will increase once Croatia joins the EU

bution of public money. The worst things, he said, happen when the money is only given away and not invested, a charge of which Slovenia is not entirely innocent. One of the general complaints about Slovenia’s attitude to FDI

is taxation policy, but the current state of public finances leaves little space available for fiscal stimulus, the panel agreed. Indeed it argued that the country needs to decrease the deficit, reduce the items with lowest multipliers on GDP and

the public sector, the panellists argued. According to Voljč, Slovenia has exhausted the opportunity to do that without cutting wages. Lesjak argued the action was nonetheless essential, if Slovenia is to avoid experiencing a massive brain drain. Even though there are no simple solutions available to re-

spond to the “rude awakening of 2009”, the panellists expressed some moderate opt i m ism. Mramor recalled a period when Slovenia was widely admired for doing things right and with great success. The country has the means to get back on that track – it just has to overcome challenges first.

New Politicians – New Policies? There is little doubt that unity is needed to push through the hard times that Slovenia currently faces. But after the failures of the outgoing government, the question remains as to who can unite the fragmented Slovenian nation – and whether newly formed political parties can bring about change. By Jaka Terpinc


he entrance of the two new candidates has set the Slovenian election alight. Representatives of Zoran Janković and Gregor Virant joined members of the established political parties at a panel which wrapped up the FDI Summit 2011. The debate – entitled “How to integrate professional economic principals and practical experience into daily state governance?” – was moderated by the conference’s co-organiser Tilen Majnardi. It began with an admission from Andrej Horvat of the ruling Social Democrats that the government may have neglected the competitiveness of the country on account of social stability. This decision, however, was made in good faith that the crisis would not last long, Horvat said. For mer e conomy m i n i ster and Slovenian Democratic Party member Andrej Vizjak was quick to criticise the outgoing government. He argued that it was not enough to want foreign investment – measures must be taken to encourage it, including lowering taxes and cutting red tape.

Tomaž Orešič from the Liberal Democrats shared that view that FDI is something Slovenia needs and now is the time to get serious about. Meanwhile Miran Gajšek – head of Ljubljana’s spatial planning and a representative of Zoran Janković’s list – sees the first step as being clearly defining priorities. He called for the formation of a clear strategy in public infrastructure development. To il-

lustrate, he mentioned the example of the Habsburg Monarchy’s Southern rail work, which has delivered enormous progress to the local area. Economist Janez Šušteršič, one of the potential candidates on a list being put together by Virant, called for the state to be governed according to the principles of the private sector.

“Slovenia is an interesting partner for the FDI,” Šušteršič said. “Entrepreneurs know how to attract investments, all they need the state for is to take care of the investment environment.” The bottom line: Slovenia’s politicians need to set aside their differences and all acknowledge the need for change. Only then can the country face its challenges and deal with the obstacles it is facing.

Election campaign: Miran Gajšek, City of Ljubljana; Janez Šušteršič, Gregor Virant list; Tomaž Orešič, LDS; Andrej Vizjak, SDS; Andrej Horvat, SD; Uroš Rožič, SLS November 2011


FDI Awards ceremony

Evening for Those Who See and Dare Foreign direct investment is always an important segment of a country’s economy but it takes on an additional importance during difficult times of financial crisis. To honour companies which refuse to give in to fate and stand strong in the face of adversity, the sixth annual FDI Awards ceremony took place at Ljubljana Castle in mid-October. Text by Polona Cimerman, photos by Alenka Slavinec

We are here tonight because of those people who dared to search for positive changes,” were the opening words of the first honorary speaker Zoran Janković, the mayor of Ljubljana. The event to celebrate foreign contributions to the Slovenian economy was organised by The Slovenia Times, the Public Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Investments and Entrepreneurship (JAPTI) and the Ministry of the Economy and was attended by numerous key figures in the field of business and investment alongside diplomats and other guests. Th is year four prest ig ious awards were given. The winners were selected by a special expert jury who focused not only on business success but also on the extent of social responsibility the company has shown. Any company

with at least 10 percent of foreign capital, a positive business result in 2010, more than EUR 1m in revenues and at least 10 employees was eligible for the competition.

A role model

The first award was bestowed upon Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tyres. The judging panel decided to give the firm a special prize, concluding that the company’s size and tradition is such that it cannot be compared to other candidates for the FDI awards. The Slovenian-based tyre-manufacturing company is a hub for all markets of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the jury described it as a role model of financial management. In 2010 it increased revenues and profit, both of which were high above the Slovenian average. In

Long-term commitment: Thierry Villard, chief executive of Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tyres, sees the FDI award as an encouragement for the future The Slovenia Times

addition, the company invested EUR 11m in technology development. The company’s chief executive Thierry Villard accepted the award and was clearly very proud of the achievement: “It means a lot to me and to all of us,” he said. “I’m very proud of our workers. Regarding that being recognised is a long term commitment, I see this award as an encouragement for the future.” When it came to the large companies award, it was the achievements of Julon which impressed the jury. The firm, which produces filaments for buildings and cars, significantly increased sales in 2010 and achieved a high added value for their products. Their performance, the jury argued, is proof that it is possible to achieve success even with negative global economic factors. Giulio Bonazzi,

the chief executive of Italian firm Aquafil which owns Julon, sees the award as proof of his employees’ good work: “Companies are successful only if they have a good team and this award says just that which is very important. However it is not common to receive such recognition and I am happy to have come to work in Slovenia.”


Bonazzi highlighted that his company has invested close to EUR 150m in Slovenia since 1995 and says that such investments will continue. Julon was praised for the innovation that investments have brought about. Earlier this year, it launched a hightech project in Ljubljana. Some EUR 17m has been ploughed into Econyl, a unique project which involves recycling waste into the

Reaping rewards: Giulio Bonazzi, chief executive of Aquafil which owns Julon, said the award is proof of the company’s employees good work

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT 21 base material for the manufacture of fibres, foils and raw materials. Another organisation recognised for its efforts in improving the environment was company performance award winner Saubermacher. The waste management company is heavily involved in recycling and has seen constant and stable revenue growth. This, along with support from JAPTI, has allowed it to increase its workforce by 20 percent since 2008. There are now 128 members of staff at the company. Director Mojca Letnik said the company has not expected the award: “We are very honoured that someone has noticed our work and results. All our employees and management are Slovenians and the owners are very proud of that. The award is an additional challenge to perform even better.” The final award went to a newly established firm. Glass manufacturer Ertl Glas took home the Greenfield award for its project to launch a new production facility in the southern town of Ribnica. The EUR 8m project will create 80 new jobs and, according to company director Andrej Zrinski, the prize will motivate these new members of staff: “The award is a motivation for the employees as they are all only beginning a certain project. Also it means recognition of the fact that such investments are possible in such difficult times.”

Changes on the Horizon

Indeed JAPTI director Igor Plestenjak emphasised that, in spite of the crisis, there are lots of developing opportunities in Slovenia: “We set a record in delivering projects and giving incentives last year. According to researches, we can expect a bright future.” Minister for Foreign Affairs Samuel Žbogar was also at the event and said he is aware that

Zoran Janković, Ljubljana mayor; Igor Plestenjak, director of JAPTI; Samuel Žbogar, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Blaž Golob, director of the Centre for e-governance Development; and Brane Krajnik, chief executive of the Slovenia Times

it is not always easy for investors to find their way in the Slovenian market due to the regulatory system. He praised the determination, courage and confidence of existing investors but acknowledged that the government must do more to attract firms from overseas: “To improve competitiveness and increase FDI, reforms are a must to unleash the full potential of Slovenia. But those who see beyond the current economic situation can experience that persistence pays off.” With the serious business of the evening out of the way it was time for fun. The ceremony concluded with an outstanding performance from singer Maja Keuc and guests were then able to relax, network and enjoy good food and

Performance award: Mojca Letnik, director of director of Saubermacher, said the award is an additional challenge to perform even better

glorious Miro Vino, Prinčič, Santomas and Vinag. wines. Business met pleasure and appreciation of the event was felt everywhere, as Gertrud Rantzen, director of the Slovenian-German Chamber of Commerce explained: “The entire event is a stimulation for companies and is a very important platform for exchanging ideas, experiences and transmitting certain information towards the official authorities.” Such platforms are surely more important than ever in a time of economic crisis. And with the government promising to do more to attract foreign investors, there is hope that next year will see more companies than ever in the running for one of these prestigious and important awards.

The entertainment factor: Maja Keuc sang for the guests

Greenfield award: Ertl Glas took home the award for its project to launch a new production facility in the southern town of Ribnica. November 2011


Interview: Darko Bevk, Knauf Insulation

Insulated Against Tough Times Knauf Insulation is the biggest Slovenian producer of insulation material. According to Northern Balkans commercial director Darko Bevk the crisis in construction has brought challenging times for the market in which the company operates. But with insulation one of the best ways to guarantee energy efficiency, and with the established expertise of Knauf Insulation, he is confident that the company will continue to prosper. One of our strategies is to expand our sales range and introduce new, innovative products. We invest great efforts into promotion of the benefits that quality insulation brings in terms of energy efficiency. Our estimate is that renovations are the one segment where activities can be expected to go on unhindered, or even increase. Energy efficiency today is the most important issue on individual, social and economic levels. How does good insulation make a difference to energy consumption and the environment? In Europe, 40 percent of energy is consumed by our buildings. Insulation materials are proven to be the key factor that contributes most to smaller energy consumption. Renovation of building’s thermal insulation brings savings for owners and users, and also helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Apart from lower energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gases emissions, insulation can, from the national economic perspective, bring a number of parallel positive changes with immediate effect: crisis recovery in the construction sector and the economy in general, new jobs in building and civil engineering industry, economic growth, energy independency and systematic curtailing of the grey economy. The Slovenia Times

How would you sum up the work of Knauf Insulation? We offer the widest range of insulation materials in the region and this enables us to offer the best technical solution for any application. Our goal is to offer our clients a top end service, from planning to completion of the construction project. The company is part of the Knauf Insulation Corporation, which has production facilities across Europe and America. How is the sales system organised at the local level? Slovenia is part of the Central European sales region which also includes Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and Bosnia. Personally I am in charge of sales of construction and technical insulation in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. In addition to a production unit in Ĺ kofja Loka we also have one in Novi Marof, Croatia. Our sales range includes stone

and glass wool, extruded polystyrene, wood wool and various foils, which are produced in other corporation factories. What is the situation on the insulation market like today? The situation today is particularly difficult. Over the last two years we recorded a significant decline in residential and nonresidential building activities. The real estate market is saturated and the recently issued building permits give little reason for optimism. Most construction companies are in an unenviable condition, payments are not procured regularly. The situation in Croatia is fairly similar, the drop in residential segment activities started in the same period as it did here, while greater decline in non-residential, commercial buildings was recorded in 2011. How do you manage to maintain sales rates?

How can insulation influence the national economy? Apart from lower energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gases emissions, insulation can, from the national economic perspective, bring a number of parallel positive changes with immediate effect: crisis recovery in the construction sector and the economy in general, new jobs in building and civil engineering industry, economic growth, energy independency and systematic curtailing of the grey economy. What resources are you using to try to influence market and social developments? Our stance is proactive, innovative and collaborative. In November 2010, together with other producers we established a Trade Association of Economic Interest of Producers of Facade Systems and Thermal Insulations (GIZ PFSTI). The Association aims to get producers of construction materials, particularly energy efficient ones, actively involved in shaping the economic policies regarding the construction segment.



Slovak embassy

Spanish embassy

American Chamber of Commerce

Insight into Slovak Theatre

Seating as a Contemporary Metaphor

Business Breakfast

Polish embassy Photo: Gorazd Kavčič

Polish Days

The Polish embassy is showcasing its country with “Polish days”. The initiative kicked off with the opening of Joanna Zajac-Slapničar’s art exhibition entitled Mosaic of Dreams in Kašča Gallery at Župnijski dvorec with a reception following the opening. The artist focuses on a person and his or her interests, passions, experiences and also everyday life. There is also an exhibition of 35 posters of Chopin and an exhibit about Polish UNESCO sights, both in Graščina. The posters have great artistic value and represent a continuation of the Polish poster school tradition while the UNESCO sights exhibition informs visitors about the rich heritage the country has.

Portuguese embassy

In Vogue The Embassy of Portugal in Ljubljana supported a fashion event in mid-October. The show focused on Portuguese brand Scripta which is coming to Nama department store and included a presentation of Portuguese wines that are coming to Slovenia’s supermarkets by the end of the year. Guests could taste several wines from Esporao and Quinta do Vallado, cheese from Queijaria Tavares, and smoked ham from Fumeiros Serra da Estrela.

US embassy

Spanish embassy

Columbia Marionette Theater in Slovenia

Avatar Dance Spectacle

The Columbian Marionette Theater from South Carolina toured Slovenia at the beginning of October. They staged Edgar Allan Poe’s three most famous stories from “The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories” – the Masque of the Red Death, the Raven and the Tell-Tale Heart – and offered the audience an hour of horror, excitement and lost love. The theatre, established in 1988 by famous puppeteers Allie Scollon and his son John, was described by a South Carolina newspaper as the first family theatre of South Carolina and as a true cultural treasure. It is the only theatre ensemble in the state that devotes itself solely to puppetry. The company is active throughout the year and tours around the world.

Photo: Nada Žgank / City of women festival

Slovak drama and theatre received special attention at this year’s edition of the Maribor Theatre Festival. Slovene translations of three Slovak plays were presented as staged readings by students of the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television as part of two days of “Slovak Focus”. The plays are all part of the book Contemporary Slovak Drama, edited by A. Predan for the occasion. Vladislava Fekete, director of the Theatre Institute in Bratislava, outlined the history and broad scale of institution’s activities while E. Knoppová, theatre researcher and author of the foreword to the book, delivered a lecture on Slovak drama and theatre.

The Spanish embassy has taken part in the first edition of a public art project between Slovenia and Spain focusing on Slovenian chairs. The project was presented by the cultural councillor at the embassy Sergi Farré, Spanish artist José Luis Vicario along with Tadej Glažnar, vice-dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Alen Ožbolt, the vicedean of the Fine Art and Design Academy, Roman Uranjek, the artist, and two students. The event was moderated by Tevž Logar, the artistic director at Škuc gallery.

AmCham Slovenia organised a business breakfast meeting to discuss the current burning issues facing Europe. Guests discussed financial markets, the survival of Euro, the crisis and the dilemma of whether to establish greater connections or stronger individual nations. Speakers Matej Accetto, assistant professor for European Law at the Academy of Law in Ljubljana; Jos Douma, Dutch ambassador to Slovenia; Aleksandar Kešljević, assistant professor at the Faculty for Economics; and Christof Droste, managing director of Hella Saturnus Slovenija also focused on Slovenia and the changes it needs to make. The panel was opened by Matej Potokar, chief executive of Microsoft Services for Central and Eastern Europe and president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia.

As part of the City of Women festival, the Spanish embassy supported the dance performance of “Avatar” by Erre que erre. The ensemble develops its work from the experimentation and creation of new dance and movement forms and concepts. Their performance Avatar is a solo dance in which the performer is in a constant dialogue with software responsible for different pre-programmed event narratives. The reactions of the software are based on movements, gestures and attitudes detected through the screen by cameras. The software sends position signals to the computer which then forwards them to the stage area in real time. The performance is an interpretative and conceptual premise. Two top-class dancers performed at the event – Mariangeles García Angulo and Román Torre – which took place in the Old Power Station in Ljubljana.

AmCham event – save the dates:

AmCham Brunch Make your lunch hour different and come to AmCham’s preNew Year and pre-election brunch next month. Sponsored by Summit Car, the event will be taking place on Friday 2 December from 12.00pm until 2.00pm at Hotel Lev, Vošnjakova ulica 1, Ljubljana.

For more information please contact AmCham: November 2011


EMBASSY DIARIES British Chamber of Commerce

Spanish embassy

British embassy

First Meeting in the North-Eastern part of Slovenia

Spanish National Day

Fair Play

The British Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia (BCCS) has organised its first meeting in the Dravskopomurska region. The event was attended by BCCS representatives including the British ambassador to Slovenia Andrew Page, director of British Council James Hampson, founder of British International School in Slovenia Jeremy Hibbins and president of BCCS Kevin Morrison. A large number of business and public representatives of the region were also in attendance. The Chamber is now planning further activities in the region.

The Spanish embassy held a celebration of the Spanish National Day in the National Gallery in Ljubljana. The event also marked the twentieth anniversary of Slovenia’s independence. The invited guests were treated to a concert by Spanish pianist Sylvia Torán and the Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra. Two wineries were present at the reception, one from Spain and one from Slovenia, to represent the bilateral relations that have existed between the countries for the past 20 years.

British embassy

Lord Bates in Slovenia Lord Michael Bates has visited Ljubljana as part of his “walk for truce”. Lord Bates is travelling from the Greek Olympia to London, walking in countries in the hope that he can persuade all signatories to the Olympic Truce to do at least one thing to implement it. He was received by the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held an informal meeting with a veteran representative of Slovenia’s National Olympic Committee Marko Račič, a competitor at the 1948 London Olympics, while walking along the memorial friendship lane in Ljubljana’s Rožna dolina.

We are going green - Conference on Renewable Energy in Tourism Infrastructure On 22 November, the Slovene-German Chamber of Commerce - in cooperation with its German partners Ministry of Economy and Technology and management consulting firm Eclareon GmbH - organises the seventh Slovene-German conference on renewable energy. For the first time the conference will be dedicated to the specific but very perspective field of warmth in tourist infrastructure. More than hundred expected visitors of the conference will be given a very detailed and high-valued information on development, business opportunities and latest technology in the concerning sector. The conference will also be visited by numerous German companies, offering a unique opportunity to make news business acquaintances. There is no participation fee. To apply please take a look at the web page: Tomšičeva 3, 1000 Ljubljana Tel.: +386 1 252 88 60,

The Slovenia Times

The Slovenian Tennis Federation has hosted the International Club (IC) of Great Britain on a tour organised by British ambassador Andrew Page. The tour included matches in Ljubljana and Portorož among men and women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. The Club encourages fair play and fellowship through tennis and this was its first visit to Slovenia. Speaking at the match dinner hosted by Slovenian Tennis Federation president Marko Umberger, Page commented: “Slovenia has huge potential in tennis. Already you boast a Wimbledon champion in Katarina Srebotnik, who won the Ladies Doubles at this year’s Championships. I hope that Slovenia will become the thirty ninth country to form an IC – ahead of regional rivals, and tennis playing giants, Serbia and Croatia”.

German embassy

German National Days Celebration On 4 October the German embassy held its yearly reception in celebration of German National Day. More than 400 guests joined ambassador Werner Burkart and a delegation from the Federated State of Brandenburg to commemorate the twenty first anniversary of German reunification. They were entertained by a brass ensemble of the renowned Film Orchestra Babelsberg while enjoying a rich buffet of wine, cheese and chocolates donated by German companies. On the occasion of the German National Day, Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck of Brandenburg visited Ljubljana and had talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor, Development Minister Mitja Gaspari and business representatives. In his speech Ambassador Burkart underlined the excellent relationship between Germany and Slovenia that began 20 years ago when Germany was the first country to recognise the state’s independence.

Hungarian embassy

Hungarian National Day Hungarian ambassador to Slovenia István Szent-Iványi and Dorottya Veress organised a reception to celebrate the National Day of the Republic of Hungary which this year was also the 55th anniversary of the revolution. The event was held at the National Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana.

Spanish embassy

Literary Dialogue In collaboration with the Slovene Writers’ Association and the University of Ljubljana, the Spanish embassy has opened a cycle of “literary dialogues”. The aim of the initiative is to enable writers, critics, editors, journalists, literary agents, students and the broader public to present and share their ideas and experiences to create new original suggestions. Above all the idea is to bring together the two countries and increase mutual understanding through literature and thinkers. The first event took place in Cankarjev dom where Drago Jančar and José María Merino talked about the role of writers in contemporary society. The embassy opted for a very original way of attracting attention to the event – it organised the so-called “Book Rain” where they placed Spanish books around Ljubljana for people to take.

DIPLOMATIC SOCIETY 25 German Chamber of Commerce Dance “Der deutsche Ball”

Slovenia and Germany join forces again at Hotel Kempinski The Slovenian-German Economic Chamber of Commerce has held its second Gala German Chamber of Commerce Dance called “Der deutsche Ball”. More than 350 guests attended the dance, enjoying German culinary specialties prepared by Curt Scheffler, one of the top chefs in Slovenia. Also on hand were Sm!le, a band from Munich. Its members have performed at a number of larger opera and economic galas throughout Germany. The evening was crowned by the glamorous performance of the Slovenian diva Helena Blagne, who charmed guests. The event also saw the President of the Slovenian-German Economic Chamber name the current President of the Supervisory Board of the Chamber and former director of Hella Saturnus Slovenia, Andrej Lazar, as honorary president. The event – which was hosted by TV moderator Igor Bergant and held at the Hotel Kempinski in Portorož – continued until the early hours with guests enjoying cognac and cigars.

Austrian dance group Mackh Dance & Show Company

Samo Kupljen, Bauhaus and Werner Burkart, German ambassador to Slovenia

Gertrud Rantzen, president of the Slovene-German Chamber of Commerce, and Jože Andrelič, director the Carniolan Investment Company (KID)

Klaus Josef Holeczek, director of Odelo, with spouse Samo Kupljen with wife Lidija Kupljen

Christof Droste, managing director of Hella Saturnus Slovenija, with spouse

German music band Sm!le

Jožef Klajnšek, director of Baumüller Dravinja, with spouse

Rudolf Klötscher, chief executive of BSH Hišni aparati, with spouse

Tone Strnad, director of Medis, with spouse November 2011


Interview: H. E. Werner Burkart

A Reliable Partner in the European Union Germany is Slovenia’s closest trade partner and has been a faithful political ally ever since independence: it was the first to recognise Slovenia’s sovereignty and to forge diplomatic ties, with an embassy opening as early as January 1992. The current German ambassador to Slovenia Werner Burkart praises the good relations but sees some room for improvement. By Jaka Terpinc How would you sum up the current economic relations between Germany and Slovenia? What do you see as your major tasks in this area? The economic relations between our two countries are excellent. This is due in the first place to the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of German and Slovene business representatives. In this regard my job as ambassador is quite easy. However, since “better is the enemy of good” there is always some scope for improvement. That is why it is one of the main tasks of this Embassy and of the GermanSlovene Chamber of Commerce is to promote trade and investment activities in both directions. I hope that the future will see a new wave of investment opportunities in Slovenia like those shortly before and after the accession of Slovenia to the European Union. Without doubt that will also help to further increase the trade volume between our two countries. The links between the nations go way back in history. Do you see opportunities to further enhance relations in the academic and cultural spheres? This year the Republic of Slovenia celebrates its twentieth year of independence and I am a little bit proud that Germany was the first country to recognise Slovenia as a sovereign state. Over the past 20 years we have become close political, economic and cultural partners. We work together in the European Union, we share The Slovenia Times

a common currency and there is a lively and diverse cultural and academic exchange. For me, the exchange of young people is one of the best ways to further enhance the relationship between our two countries. We have many different exchange programmes and we are especially proud to offer numerous scholarships for students, academics and others in Germany. In addition an increasing number of German and Slovene students visit a university in the other country within the framework of the Erasmus program. This is a great way for young people to explore a foreign country and to become part of an ever closer European Union. You have served in both Turkey and Macedonia, two countries with EU aspirations. Does the example of Slovenia act as a positive reason to expand the EU in the Western Balkans? I don’t think the cases are comparable – each and every candidate for accession has to be judged on their own merits. But it is clear that both countries have indisputable reasons to become members of the EU, as do the other countries in the Western Balkans, provided that the criteria are met. Concerning the accession of the Western Balkan countries, Germany and Slovenia share the same views, which in turn are embedded in the enlargement policy of the European Union. On a recent visit to the Balkans, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that Serbia

might be required to recognise Kosovo before it is allowed to join the EU. Yet the current Slovenian government is adamant that this will not be the case. What is your view on this? I would like to point out that during her recent visit to Belgrade, Angela Merkel stressed that Germany was exactly not pushing Serbia to recognise Kosovo. What Germany expects is a solution to the existing problem, a normalisation of the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade in the spirit of regional cooperation and neighbourly relations. This would mean that all the practical problems which exist for people living in Serbia and Kosovo can be dealt with. History proves that even if entities do not recognise one another as foreign countries, they still can enter into agreements covering all aspects of life and in the end can even end up sitting next to one another in the United Nations! Events in Greece are causing more and more concerns and pessimism for the future of the Eurozone. In light of the financial crisis, many in Slovenia object to the bailout of Greece. Do you think that helping Greece will save the Euro? Well, I very much hope so. Our concern is that Greece’s problems could spread to the other countries of the Euro-group. This is why it is so important to help Greece and to create a financial stabilisation system that will protect other

vulnerable countries from coming under the same kind of pressure. The planned extension of the Eurozone rescue fund is necessary to avert the possibility of Euro states declaring insolvency and thus triggering a kind of chain reaction where one country infects the other. So helping Greece is indeed a measure to save the Euro. Slovenia faces snap elections. What are your expectations for the future government? First of all, I would like to stress that it is up to the Slovenian people, to the electorate, to express expectations for their future government. But if I could express a wish, I would like to see a government that continues to be a good, reliable partner in the European Union and with regard to the Euro, and a government that continues close cooperation with my country. And I’m sure that this will be the case. More openness to foreign investment and to privatisation would help the economy. As far as foreign policy is concerned, I don’t expect many differences. Recently, your American counterpart Joseph Mussomeli expressed harsh criticism of the Slovenian political elite, arguing it was corrupt and inefficient. Would you agree with such views and have you had any negative experiences yourself? I have not had any specific negative experiences myself. But if there is a problem, this is certainly an issue that the future government will want to tackle.

DIPLOMATIC SOCIETY 27 Photo: Mediaspeed


Ladies’ Power Each year the Slovenian International Ladies Association (SILA) organises a bazaar to help raise money for various charities and for people in need. It is their most famous activity but it is far from the only one. By Polona Cimerman


ILA is a non-profit organisation dedicated to social, cultural, philanthropic and educational exchange among its members and within Slovenian society in general. It is a dynamic organisation and the ladies who are members burst with ideas so perhaps it is not a coincidence that in Slovene the abbreviation SILA means “power” or “strength”. The organisation was founded in 1993. The idea was to meet the growing need for a society to make newly arrived diplomatic wives feel at home in Slovenia. Today SILA has around 150 members who come from international diplomatic and business circles. Some members are married to Slovenians but the majority have been born and raised in the country and simply wish to be active in an international environment.

“SILA is an organisation where you can give and also take, but on a different level,” explains Aleid Douma, the president of the organisation, which originally began in the Netherlands. “SILA provides its members a chance to experience Slovenia and expand their knowledge of the country in all its aspects. To achieve this we organise many activities – guides around cities and museums, hiking, cycling, skiing and language courses to name but a few.”

The Famous Bazaar

The society’s biggest event is undoubtedly its annual bazaar, the eighteenth edition of which takes place later this month. On 26 November, Gospodarsko razstavišče in Ljubljana will be home to approximately 34 stalls

where people from all over the world will sell the products of their nations. Visitors get the chance to buy something special and original and at the same time help raise money for selected charities. “Last year we raised EUR 60,000,” notes Douma. “The items on sale on the bazaar aren’t bargains – they serve a higher purpose.” Raising the funds is the main purpose of the event but it is not the only one: “In my opinion the cultural aspect of the bazaar are also crucial as one can get in touch with a great variety of countries and their cultures,” comments Douma. “And what is also vital is friendship, appreciating each other, having fun and establishing links between Slovenia and other countries.”

Annual event: SILA’s bazaar is an opportunity for Slovenes to buy trademark products from different countries while at the same time raising money for charities

Aleid Douma, president of SILA


As always, there will be a rich cultural programme at the bazaar with many school choirs and dancing and folklore groups set to perform. There will also be a raffle and an area where visitors can bring books they no longer need. This year the bazaar is going to introduce a new important theme – the environment. Only paper bags will be available and recycling will be a priority. Douma has been president of SILA for a year and she conducts her mission with great care and seriousness: “I am a teacher by profession and thus I always have the urge to teach experience, knowledge and most importantly guide people to goals that would expand their horizons,” she says. “I wish to do this with SILA as well – bring it to a different level through building community and stressing the importance of people being together and collaborating even more.” “If one just sits idly at home, does nothing and closes themselves from the world, there is no gain in this for anybody.”

“FROM INNOVATION TO SUCCESSFUL MARKET IMPLEMENTATION” 2011 COBIK CONFERENCE Wed, 15 November 2011 from 2 pm Faculty of Economics, Ljubljana “Technological and non-technological innovations and the development of new products and services represent the healthy core of the most competitive world economies. Slovenia also has plentiful ideas and know-how, it just has to properly translate them onto the market.” Maja Makovec Brenčič, Head of the Program Board

Program and free registration available at

November 2011


Automotive SPECIAL

Going Strong It seems there is no stopping Slovenia’s automotive industry: most of the companies are generating profits with favourable forecasts for the future. The key to their success seems to lie in a focus on innovation. By Maja Dragović


he massive role the automotive sector plays in Slovenia is self-evident: 213 companies generating EUR 3.4 billion in revenues in 2010, representing one tenth of the country’s gross domestic product. This year too, the sector is registering good financial results. Take car parts maker Cimos group. The company generated a net profit of EUR 4.1m for the The Slovenia Times

first six months this year, which is 32-times more than in the same period last year. Sales revenues reached EUR 232.1m, a 14.4 percent increase on 2010. It’s a similar story at car electronics maker Iskra Avtoelektrika, which recorded sales growth in the first six months of 2011. Turnover stood at almost EUR 100m at the core company and EUR 128.5m at the group, with profit at EUR 2m and

EUR 3.5m respectively. To add one more example, Hella Saturnus Slovenija – the German-owned motor vehicles lights maker – has generated revenues of EUR 250m with EUR 21m in profit for the year 2010 to 2011 (ending in May).

Significant employer

With 14,600 employed, the sector is also one of Slovenia’s biggest employers. The number of highly

qualified people working directly and indirectly for car and truck manufacturers totals 147,000. Some 7,500 students are enrolled in undergraduate courses in mechanical, electrical and electronics engineering. The number of students in secondary schools for automotive and related industries is nearly 7,000. “It is the quality of industrious and creative Slovenian peo-

AUTOMOTIVE SPECIAL 29 ple that ensures high professional and technical standards, process and financial controls, management systems and customer satisfaction,” the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investment says on its website. “Knowledge of foreign languages and high interpersonal skills are an asset in an industry where only the best get to supply original equipment manufacturers.”

Innovation is key

IN PRIME, Hidria’s new facility focuses on efficient use of alternative energy sources and development of solutions for hybrid and electric vehicles. Iskra Avtoelektrika also attributes its good financial results to its focus on development projects and investments aimed at securing further growth of the company. Chief executive Edvin Sever has pledged the company will continue to follow the same strategy in the future. Other manufacturers are also aware of the impact innovations have on their business as they try to create added value. In TPV Novo Mesto, engineers have recently developed an innovative seat with a self-adapting headrest; Unior develops and manufactures hardware and various forgings; while Cimos and LTH Ulitkitry are out to beat the competition in the field of castings of various components.


The sector’s innovation, as well as the crucial role it plays in the economy, is also evident from the number of awards garnered by companies in the field. This year, the prestigious Golden Gazelle

award for fastest growing companies went to KLS Ljubno, a medium-sized manufacturing firm. The firm specialises in starter ring gears and mass rings for flywheels for the automotive industry, a niche in which it has a 40 percent market share in Europe and 12 percent globally. The company posted a net profit of EUR 1.2m on sales of EUR 24.8m last year, both figures marginally higher than in the year before. Similarly, one of the FDI awards for 2011 was given to Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tyres. The Slovenian-based tyre-manufacturing company is a hub for markets of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the jury described it as a role model of financial management. In 2010 it increased revenues and profit, both of which were high above the Slovenian average. In addition, the company invested EUR 11 million in technology development. With the crisis in the financial and construction sectors grabbing the headlines, the success story of the automotive industry balances out the common view that everything in Slovenia is gloom and doom. Certainly when it comes to automotive industry, the country is on the right road to recovery.

Keeping ahead of the game: Hella Saturnus Slovenija is heavily investing in research

With 14,600 employed, the sector is one of Slovenia’s biggest employers. The number of highly qualified people working directly and indirectly for car and truck manufacturers totals 147,000. Some 7,500 students are enrolled in undergraduate courses in mechanical, electrical and electronics engineering.

Productivity/value added per employee, 2010 Company

Recognition: Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tyres won this year’s FDI award

Value-added per employee (in EUR)

KLS Ljubno






Hella Saturnus Slovenija


Sogefi Filtration


GKN Driveline Slovenija


TPV Johnson Controls






Iskra Avtoelektrika


Source: JAPTI

What else has been the secret to the automotive industry’s success? According to Dušan Bušen, president of the Automotive Cluster of Slovenia, a dedication to innovation has been important. “On average, Slovenia’s automotive companies invest five percent of their turnover in development and 12 percent in new technologies,” Bušen says. “That means we have been able to seize the opportunities offered by development trends in the automotive industry including hybridization and making vehicle technology electric so as to radically reduce the use of engines.” Hella Saturnus Slovenia is just one company seriously investing in research. Since June 2008, it has spent more than EUR 85m on development projects in Slovenia. And in January 2012 it will be opening its third competence centre in the country, focusing on developing single function lamps such as those used for licence plates, indictors and so on. Hidria is another example of a Slovenian-based automotive firm dedicated to research. A global leader in the supply and development of a variety of automotive subsystems and components, the company has built its third research and development facility in Slovenia. Located in Spodnja Idrija, it is worth EUR 7.4 million and was co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund. Part of the technology park

November 2011


Car parts

Made in Slovenia For a small country Slovenia has an impressive tradition in the automotive industry, and it’s a tradition the sector now wants to enhance and reinforce. Doing so will involve adapting to a rapidly changing market with continually evolving demands. By Laura Bovec


round Europe, there are many cars on the road which contain Slovenian components and know-how. Generally speaking, the companies which produce these components are valued by their customers. They usually excel with their knowledge, technology and innovation. The problem used to be that there weren’t as many customers as there could be, mainly because the automotive workforce here still costs significantly more than in some Eastern and Southern countries. However, the sector is tackling this issue successfully, with export figures speaking for themselves. Slovenia’s automotive industry accounts for 21 percent of the country’s entire exports and, nota-

bly, 80 percent of what is produced by the industry is exported. When director of the Automotive Cluster of Slovenia Dušan Bušen gives a list of some of the sector’s clients, it reads like a who’s who of the automotive industry: “Audi, BMW, Citroen, Daimler, DAAF, Deutz, Ford, GM, Iveco, Jaguar, John Deere, MAN, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, Saab, Škoda, Toyota, VW, Volvo and system suppliers: BNP, Remy, Continental, Johnson Controls, Perkins, Bosch, Brose, Magna, TRW, Valeo, Grammer, Faurecia, Denso, Aisin.” Automotive components may be widely produced by Slovenian firms but since Cimos discontinued the assembly of Citroen cars in Koper, Revoz (owned by French company Renault) has become the

country’s only car manufacturer. It is also Slovenia’s number one exporter with a 3.7 percent share of the global market. The cars produced by Revoz Novo Mesto are renowned for their uncompromising quality and it is one of the company’s most productive factories.

Closer to customers

Many international automotive companies locate their regional headquarters in Slovenia attracted by its proximity to the emerging regional markets and strong ties of local managers, engineers and other professionals with their counterparts in the Western Balkans. But the sector is also expanding its production facilities to

Key products •  Seats and seat components •  Components and materials for interior furnishing •  Car body parts •  Components for braking systems •  Mechanical and electric/electronic components for engines •  Exterior equipment and body lighting equipment •  Exhaust systems •  Engine and gearbox components •  Steering system components •  Drive components •  Other systems and components •  Manufacturing spot welding equipment •  Tooling for automotive industry Expanding production: Hidria recently opened a new production facility in China which the company hopes will enhance its role on the global market The Slovenia Times

•  Research, testing and other development activities

AUTOMOTIVE SPECIAL 31 other countries. Slovenian industrial conglomerate Hidria opened a new production facility in the Chinese city of Changshu just last month. The company will be making diesel engine ignition systems for international corporations such as Great Wall, JMC, Shanghai Automotive, Cummins, Perkins and SAIC. The facility in the city located 100 kilometres north of Shanghai will employ 50 people by 2013 and enhance Hidria’s role on the global market, the company has said. So far, the firm has been supplying ignition systems for the Asian market from Slovenia, but now it will become more efficient in meeting the needs of its partners from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Malaysia and other Asian countries. Speaking at the opening of the facility, chief executive Edvard Svetlik emphasised that the launch of production in China does not mean the company is relocating production: “but merely expanding the production of ignition systems, because Hidria’s customers, big international corporations with production facilities in China and the wider region, want local suppliers.” Hidria currently has subsidiaries and offices in 20 countries around the world and sells its products in 80 countries. Every eighth diesel engine in the world has Hidria’s ignition system. Furthermore, the company ranks among top four producers of the systems in the world and is the first among them to launch production on the fast growing Chinese market.

Global leader: Iskra Avtoelektrika has recently signed a deal with US corporation Nexteer Automotive for the production of electric motors for power steering systems worth EUR 240m

tems. Regular production under the 14-year contract is to start in mid-2013. With the contract, Iskra Avtoelektrika is becoming one of

the leading global producers of motors for electric servo steering systems and expects considerable growth, the company says. The

project will create 30 new jobs. The new production line will also comply with the company’s strategy of moving to green technology projects with high added value. According to the company, the electric motor made by Iskra Avtoelektrika has several advantages over regular motors, including less noise, increased lifespan, power and torque, while it is also more efficient and can save up to half a litre per 100 kilometres. It may be a small country with only one car manufacturer but thanks to the massive number of its companies which produce car components, Slovenia is at the centre of the automotive industry. With those firms dedicated to diversification and innovation, it’s a position that the country should maintain for some time yet.


Diversification is another common theme in the sector. Iskra Avtoelektrika, a maker of car electronics, has signed a four-year deal with Swiss company Busch Clean Air for the supply of electric motors used to power air pumps in exhaust purifiers. The component, which was developed in the company’s own research and development department, will be installed in the large diesel engines used to power heavy working and construction machinery. Volvo will be the first to install the system into its machinery equipped with Deutz diesel engines. Iskra Avtoelektrika hopes that the contract will help it enter this new and promising market segment which is expected to grow in the near future, as environmental requirements for car producers are stepped up. The company has also recently has signed a EUR 240m deal with the US corporation Nexteer Automotive for the production of electric motors for power steering sysNovember 2011


Green vehicles

Static electricity? With conferences, consortiums and political commitments, it seems as though electric vehicles are starting to be taken seriously in Slovenia. The issue may be frequently in the headlines but some fear that it is a case of too much talking and not enough action. By Claire Read often made the headlines, whether through the launch of a consortium of Slovenian companies seeking solutions in green transport or the opening of an electric bike shop in BTC City. Even the outgoing prime minister seemed to get on board. Speaking at a debate on environmentally friendly transport held last May in Ljubljana, Borut Pahor hailed electric vehicles as a key part of building a low-carbon society in Europe.

Talk is cheap

Electric vehicle enthusiast: Andrej Pečjak has converted multiple vehicles to run on electricity alone

Slovenia is quite advanced concerning electromobility. We have electric aeroplanes produced by Pipistrel, electric ship Greenline 33 from Seaway and the small electric car Chebela EV produced by SŽ Oprema Ravne. In addition, Etrel, Elektro Ljubljana and Elektro Maribor are involved in several electric car research and development projects and other advanced mobility projects The Slovenia Times


t the end of October, a host of experts in electric vehicles gathered at the Austria Trend Hotel in Ljubljana for the International Electric Mobility Conference. Organised by staff at Slovenia’s National Institute for Chemistry – in cooperation with other Slovenian academics and managers at leading local automotive firms – the event saw discussion of some of the most pressing issues surrounding electric transportation. Speakers from as far afield as Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Belgium detailed everything from the latest advances in vehicle batteries to the sociological impact of electric mobility to the experiences of those who use electric cars. The event is indicative of the extent to which electric mobility is becoming part of the national conversation in Slovenia. In the past year it is an issue which has

It all sounds good but some fear that the increasing prominence of electric mobility as a topic of debate does not reflect increased action. Andrej Pečjak, a keen electric vehicle enthusiast who has converted multiple vehicles to run on electricity alone, is blunt when summing up recent events. “Pahor is an actor, like most politicians are,” Pečjak argues. “What he says are just words without meaning.” He feels the same way about the SiEVA consortium. The collaboration between Hidria, Cimos, Kolektor, Iskra Avtoelektrika, Iskra Mehanizmi, MLM, Polycom and TPV aims to develop a “Synergetic, environmentally friendly, safe car” (hence SiEVA) but Pečjak fears little real action is taking place: “It’s a lot of talking and no actions,” he argues.

Behind the scenes

This is not to say that the man who is arguably Slovenia’s biggest private champion of electric vehicles feels the situation is hopeless. Pečjak says that there have been

several initiatives going on behind the scenes which “really push EVs in Slovenia”. “One of the most important changes has been the granting of EUR 5,000 and EUR 4,000 subsidies for new and converted electric vehicles,” he says. “This was the work of Jernej Strith and Jure Leven of the government office for climate change and it will definitely boost not just sales of new vehicles but also workshops that convert used vehicles.” Pečjak is particularly enthusiastic about the latter since he points out that car conversions are actually more environmentally valuable than new electric vehicles: “When you convert a used car it does not end up at a car junkyard and it stops burning fossil fuel.” “There are also many mayors in small cities that are pushing for electric mobility,” Pecjak says. “So I think we are moving forward, inspired by enthusiastic people and companies.”

Enthusiastic individuals

Many of those enthusiasts are members of Slovenia’s Association for Electric Vehicles (DEVS). The organisation counts around 330 individual members as well as notable corporate participants such as energy company Petrol and state electricity company Elektro-Slovenia. “Slovenia is quite advanced concerning electromobility,” contends DEVS vice-president Miha Levstek. “We have electric aeroplanes produced by Pipistrel, electric ship Greenline 33 from Seaway and the small electric car Chebela EV produced by SŽ Oprema Ravne. In addition, Etrel, Elektro Ljubljana and Elektro Maribor are involved in several electric car research and development projects and other advanced mobility projects. And we have a strong sector of original equipment manufacturers and producers of electromotors.” The clear hope is that politicians will move away from big words and towards proactively supporting the work being done by such companies and individuals. It will be yet another item on the “to do list” of the new government.


Hella Saturnus Slovenija

Competent Investment Car light manufacturer Hella Saturnus Slovenija has been making the headlines for a long time and for all the right reasons: generating profit, investing, and creating more jobs. It’s an unusual story for a Slovenia still struggling with the financial crisis. Now the positive headlines look set to continue thanks to the establishment of a new competence centre. By Maja Dragović


ust last year, Hella Saturnus generated revenues of EUR 257m with EUR 21.5m in profit. Slovenia is central to the success of the German owned firm. The country is already home to two competence centres for the company – teams specialising in specific areas of the business. Come the new year, these centres for auxiliary lights and Hella sports cars will be joined by a third focused on single function lamps such as those used for licence plates, indictors and so on. “The main reason [for establishing another competence centre] is to concentrate resources for one topic at one location,” explains company chief executive Christof Droste. “This will bring a lot of advantages which could be felt by our customers. The other reasons include the already established know-how and experience of our Time-to-Market (TtM) area and the availability of well-educated engineers.”

headlamp and auxiliary lamps projects, in new know-how and in new technology for lacquering of the inner side of headlamp lenses.”

Government support

Christof Droste, managing director of Hella Saturnus Slovenija and Manager of the Year 2011

More jobs

The creation of the centre will once again mean Hella is generating jobs in Slovenia – 50 new engineers will be hired for development and to support all activities. The company plans to make only domestic appointments but, with a view to the possibility of needing to fill any vacancy gaps, is “working very closely with our sister companies in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, India and China

as well as external engineering offices, for example ones in Croatia”, says Droste. Just as new jobs are continuing to be created at the firm so too are new investments being planned. Since June 2008, the company has invested more than EUR 85m in development projects in Slovenia. There are also possibilities for further investments, in the value of EUR 60m. Droste explains this includes investment in three pillars – “new

Hella also continues to forge links with leading Slovenian academics. In setting its latest competence centre, the firm worked closely with the Faculties of Mechanical Engineering from Ljubljana and Maribor and with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering from Ljubljana. There were discussions with Darja Radić, former economy minister, too. The hope was to obtain government support for the project. Political developments have caused the negotiation to stall temporarily but Droste remains optimistic: “We are looking forward to the continuation of the discussion with the new government,” he says.

USTVARJAMO SVETLOBO CREATING LIGHT 90. obletnica Saturnusa Obdobje napredka in uspehov

90th Anniversary of Saturnus A Period of Progress and Success

HELLA Saturnus Slovenija d.o.o. Letališka c. 17 1000 Ljubljana/Slovenija

November 2011


Interview: Dušan Bušen, ACS

A Cluster of Opportunities In the ten years since the Automotive Cluster of Slovenia (ACS) was founded, the industry it represents has faced a number of challenges: not least an ever-increasing need to move from traditional vehicles to more environmentally friendly ones. ACS director Dušan Bušen says that the connections forged by his organisation are helping the Slovenian automotive sector to meet those challenges head on – and to prosper. By Maja Dragović and Claire Read maintaining development intensity in the industry. They enable the realisation of new projects won by Slovenian development suppliers against tough international competition. This ensures the longterm competiveness of Slovenian automotive suppliers. Do you think that further government support is needed? In the European Union, the automotive industry is one of the three development priorities. It is supported by the European Commission with the EUR 5 billion green vehicle initiative. Considering the importance of the automotive industry, it should get similar attention in Slovenia.

We have derived numerous innovations from the excellent collaboration with universities – some of these innovations place the Slovenian automotive sector at the very top end of the global automotive industry. The Slovenia Times

The Automotive Cluster of Slovenia (ACS) was established in 2001. In that time how has it helped the Slovenian automotive industry? Together with its member companies and research support institutions, the ACS brings solutions to marketing, technology and research and development (R&D) challenges. Through productive cooperation we keep increasing our competitive advantage, discovering new business opportunities, reducing costs and business risks in joint market approaches, as well as investing in R&D and educational environments. Importantly, we also create new products and services that will lead to increasing demand on both existing and emerging markets. The organisation has been constantly growing since 2001, from the initial 12 members to 61 now (55 companies and six R&D institutions). What would you say are the major strengths of the Slovenian automotive industry? With state-of-the-art production, high productivity, quality, and

cost-efficiency, the Slovenian automotive industry can play the role of an equal partner to car manufacturers. We also have effective collaboration with the research sector and global connections in supplier chains. We have derived numerous innovations from the excellent collaboration with universities – some of these innovations place the Slovenian automotive sector at the very top end of the global automotive industry. We specialise in important areas such as energy efficiency, safety applications, locking mechanisms which improve passenger safety upon impact and car seats and head rests. How did the sector cope with the crisis? At the first signs of the crisis ACS, in collaboration with automotive industry companies and support institutions, managed to establish a dialogue with the government. This resulted in longterm loans from the SID Banka for the Slovenian automotive industry. In addition, refundable grants are and have been crucial for

How does the pre-crisis Slovenian automotive industry compare to the post-crisis one? In 2008, sales reached EUR 3.08 billion, but dropped to EUR 2.4 billion in 2009. In 2010 the number climbed to EUR 2.8 billion. Experts predict that we will reach the 2007 figure in car sales in 2012 and in commercial vehicles by 2013. In any case, the promising results achieved in the first half of 2011 demonstrate that the pre-crisis sales level is not that far away. How does the sector here compare to that in other countries? In Slovenia, we have development and pre-development suppliers, but most importantly we have competencies which can play an important role in seizing new opportunities: vehicle hybridisation and electrification, radical lowering of consumption in internal combustion motors, mechatronic systems, light-construction vehicles, etc. What would you say are the main issues facing the automotive industry today? Today, the industry is facing important ecological, safety and reliability challenges and challenges in material and technology improvements. The main goal is to make an affordable car which will offer more comfort and safety and comply with stricter ecological standards.

AUTOMOTIVE SPECIAL 35 What activities is ACS involved in at the moment? What successes have there been? Thanks to our incessant innovation method, we have managed to intensify activities in optimising production, identification and work on joint development projects. We run regular skills and education programmes, such as project management in automotive industry, ACS school of quality and development of new automotive products. So far, two consortia with ACS members have been successful in Slovenian Economy Development Centres bids, one in the automotive industry (Si.EVA) and the other in materials and technologies (SIMIT). The crucial activity at the moment is the successful realisation of opportunities opened up by the cooperation of Renault-Nissan and Daimler in 2013/2014, carried out in Revoz. Are there any international projects? Yes – we have intensified activities in the field of internationalisation through organising business delegations, cluster members’ presentation to car manufacturers and system suppliers, successful joint presentation at fairs in Stuttgart, Togliatti (Russia), Kragujevac

(Serbia), and Munich (Germany). We continue our cooperation with Japanese car manufacturers and system suppliers and have established cooperation with Korean partners. We have also signed a memorandum on cooperation with the Association of Ukrainian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (Ukrautoprom) and continue to work on the network of suppliers and support development institutions projects in Serbia and Samara region in Russia, which will enable us to enter Fiat and Avtoavaz global supplier chains. Do you have connections with other countries’ automotive associations? Through Autoclusters and AutoNet projects we have developed cooperation with EU automotive clusters, mostly Central and Southeast European ones. These entail important inter-company meetings and thematic business conferences that offer new business opportunities. Together with interested cluster members we are participating in an EU project dealing with the use of recycled tyres in producing price-efficient plastic and rubber automotive products. What are the plans for 2012 and what will be the focus for ACS?

In 2012 we of course plan to carry on the work started in 2011. But we will also enhance activities in joint development projects, intensify work in the area of internationalisation and new markets developed over the past years. Particular attention will be devoted to celebrating ACS’s 10th anniversary in March and to the intercompany meeting. Another key focus will be the JAMA-CLEPA exhibition in September 2012, which aims to create new business opportunities for Japanese car manufacturers and European suppliers as well as enhance existing ones.

Renault’s Revoz is the only car manufacturer in Slovenia

The crucial activity at the moment is the successful realisation of opportunities opened up by the cooperation of Renault-Nissan and Daimler in 2013/2014, carried out in Revoz.

We increase our competitiveness with innovative solutions and new products in car passenger safety. Our future is in the company of development suppliers in the automotive industry. the r o m c e of f rd mer wa n a f C om gi on e o ld re G o mb er jska r ajina a o len la k h C he D Be mt and f r o e r of d r b a aw ham ve r i a n C e r c e l i S ve n mm Slo C o

Vertical position of seat and selfregulating headrest for drivers of different sizes.

SAFETY IN A TPV SEAT TPV trženje in proizvodnja opreme vozil d.d. Kandijska cesta 60, 8000 Novo mesto, Slovenija T: +386 (0)7 391 81 60, F: +386 (0)7 391 82 11,

In 2011 we patented an innovative solution which enhances the driver’s safety by preventing head and spine injuries in the case of an accident. The height of the headrest automatically adjusts according to the seat position.

November 2011



A Proper Burial Some time ago the European Union set an ambitious target for the recycling of used motor vehicles. But thanks to a series of difficulties, Slovenia is still struggling to reach it. By Jaka Terpinc stance has to deal with hazardous and flammable parts. The next operation is drying, which means removing of all liquids from windshield washer to motor oil and brake fluid; each of them requires proper disposal. Then the vehicle gets stripped part by part for shredding, dumping or recycling. In the meantime the recycler removes any useful spare parts. The Ministry for Environment reports that on the basis of the current composition of vehicles all relevant laws can be met. But it is having second thoughts about the 2015 goal. Reaching the magic 95 percent depends mostly on recycling plastic parts, which requires technologies that have not yet been fully developed.


n average, a car’s lifespan is bet ween 10 and 15 years. Then in most cases it becomes a large piece of junk, which needs special treatment. Nowadays, the European Union recycles some 75 percent of an obsolete motorised vehicle. But a directive passed in 2000 sets a target of 95 percent recycling by 2015. It has become clear that Slovenia faces a problem in meeting this ambitious target. Despite recycling procedures being followed correctly by the authorised operators, few vehicles that are to be disposed of actually reach the recyclers. Each year, just 10 percent of the cars to be scrapped are dismantled by registered scrap yards. That’s why the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning

The Slovenia Times

has received a reprimand from the Court of Audit. It has been criticised for failing to set up an efficient car disposal system that would allow the capture of all end-of-life vehicles or encourage owners to have them dismantled.


The environmental ministry says that are a number of reasons for the low percentage of recycled vehicles. Some are straightforward: the growing number of exported used vehicles, for instance. Others are more alarming – the number of illegally dismantled, abandoned or stored cars, some even legally sold to cover up criminal activities. The problem also lies in the exchange of information between

scrapyards, the vehicle registry and the police, resulting in inconsistent control over the matter. This also makes it difficult to estimate real figures. The system seems easy to cheat because cancelling the vehicle registration requires only a declaration of where it will be stored. The Ministry is working hard to confront the issue but it is still a bit too early to proclaim the case solved.

The process

Under legislation passed in 2004, there are 57 facilities where you can legally say farewell to your car. After your car is left for dismantling you get a paper that lets you cancel the registration. The vehicle is transported to the recycler, which in the first in-

Scrap business

Dismantling is free of charge for the owner, since the dumps are supposed to earn from selling the spare parts or recyclable materials. But it wasn’t always like that. Up until 2002, Slovenians had to pay to dispose of their car. From the business side, recycling doesn’t seem to be a glorious opportunity. Marko Vergo, the head of one authorised dismantling centre estimates constant demand for a couple of years now. At the current state of demand, the profit made is “around zero”. All they can earn from is selling scrap metal to the industry, while disposing of the rest comes as a cost. However he hopes for more efficient legislation which would create more business.

Photo: BOBO

An Interesting Vintage

The unusual weather conditions of this summer contributed to slightly different wine crops. It means that the vintage of 2011 is set to be a very interesting one. By Herman Kovačič While the summer of 2010 was kind of sour, resulting in a below average wine crop, this long and hot summer just gone brought about a whole different condition for grapes to ripen, resulting in an early picking. Maribor-based Vinag reports a massive harvest – 30 percent up on last year – with healthy grapes with high sugar values. But the biggest winemaker in east Slovenia still has some concerns. “The crops may not be so wonderful for the process of winemaking itself”, explains Miha Tramšak of Vinag. “There are several traps in other chemical parameters, apart from the sugar. Wines have lower acid and high PH – something winemakers should be cautious about, unless they want to run into troubles.” As for products, Vinag still holds an ace from the previous season – its premium line of 2010 is about to be released and will be eagerly greeted by lovers of matured wines. Sales manager Mateja Štabuc hopes the customers will recognise the line’s quality: “The price/quality line has fallen. It is difficult to convince a customer that they are

paying a reasonable price for a really good wine.”

less pruning, the result being more mature, full-flowered grapes.

Early ripening

Slightly less

In the meantime, a smaller winemaker a few hills over is cautiously optimistic. “In general, we are satisfied,” reports Miro Munda from Kog. “It may not be the year of the century, but it’s certainly a good one.” “At first we suspected the year would be similar to that of 2003, but it wasn’t so: there was enough rainfall and the year held on despite high temperatures. The acids, the typical freshness of Štajerska region, were preserved, which is evident with the young wines that have already matured. The aromatic element might suffer a bit.” When it comes to production, he is paying extra attention to Šipon, a typical representative of Prlekija as well as Blue Franc, another typical grape extending across the Panonian plain. As for quantity, he has decided to limit production. In the future he wants to get back to the roots of winemaking – literally – and plant the vines as the grandparents did. The idea more vines per acre and

Over in the Mediterranean West, quantities have not been quite as high as in the white wine dominated east. According to Aleksej Erzetič from Goriška Brda, 2011 was generally a good one but the harvest was 20 percent lower than the year before due to high temperatures and lack of rainfall. Picking started as early as 20 August and the juice had already fermented and in some instances even been bottled as a young wine. Erzerič is known for his innovation, or more accurately his skill at reinventing traditions. One such brainwave is using clay amphoras to store the wine along with stainless steel and oak barrels. Their next move is to plant a few acres of Black Rebula, a grape that disappeared from the market years ago. It is these sorts of innovations which keep the Slovenian wine market fresh. And with the interesting weather conditions of this past summer, it seems likely that the 2011 vintage will be an especially exciting one. November 2011


The Capital

Cheers to Young Wine!

November is always marked on the calendar of anyway who enjoy wines. It is on the 11th that tradition states St. Martin turns grapes into young wine. It is a festival that sees numerous celebrations all over Slovenia, both in the countryside and in the capital thanks to the Ljubljana Wine Route festival. By Polona Cimerman The organisers aim to unite lovers of wine, good food and great fun. This year the event takes place on 5 November, less than a week from the official holiday. More than 70 winemakers and traditional culinary delicacies providers from all over Slovenia will be on hand, as well as some representatives from abroad. Family wineries, larger wine cellars, caterers, tourist information centres, various societies and associations and also some institutions linked with countryside development will all be taking part. The stalls will be on the squares and the streets of the scenic old part of Ljubljana, from Mestni trg, Stritarjeva ulica to Tromostovje, Cankarjevo nabrežje embankment, Šuštarski most bridge and Breg.

A Variety of Choices

The young wine festivities are called “martinovanje” and are a season highlight for every winemaker. The barrels are opened and young wine is ceremonially tasted for the first time. All this is of course accompanied by a proper St Martin’s dinner, which usually consists of a roast duck or goose, red cabbage and

The Slovenia Times

“mlinci”, Slovenian pasta tatters made from thin dried dough. It is all a treat for the tastebuds. Traditionally such celebrations were confined to rural areas of Slovenia. In recent years, however, the Ljubljana Wine Route event has been organised to ensure city dwellers can share in the festivities.

“In addition to exquisite wines, the stalls will offer local cheeses, meat products, juices, processed fruits and bread and pastries,” says Tatjana Čop from the organising board. And the Ljubljana Wine Route will cater for other needs too – a rich accompanying cultural programme has been organised. Brda Wind Orchestra, folklore groups, accordion players and folk singers and musicians will perform at various locations in the heart of the city and visitors will be greeted by a special guest star, current wine queen Simona Žugelj.


New this year are presentations from the municipalities that surround Ljubljana as well as from Kozjansko nature park and Sevnica castle. In this way, the event boosts tourism and helps forge relations between the capital and the surrounding areas. “The majority of visitors are Slovenians who come from the capital, neighbouring towns and also other parts of the country. Every year

we get more and more tourists too and among our regular visitors are foreigners living in Ljubljana,” notes Čop.

Diversity Mosaic

She says visitors appreciate the unique chance to get to know the whole of Slovenia in one place – in the heart of its capital city. The

organisers firmly believe that the Ljubljana Wine Route is a manifestation of everything Slovenia has to offer regarding wines and food and further proof that the country has exquisite wines and original cuisine. “True, Slovenia is a small country but despite the size of its territory it offers an amazing variety of tastes,” Čop says.” There are many tourists who come to Slovenia and realise

they did not plan to spend enough days here to experience all its culinary diversity so the Ljubljana Wine Route is a splendid opportunity for them. It also allows Slovenians to discover all the variety and wealth of their country’s food and wine and soak up the amazing atmosphere of the marvellous old part of Ljubljana.”

November 2011


Golden drum in press: Stalinclaus by Ogilvy Prague. The Slovenia Times


The Smell of Slovene Bread

Žito bakery has launched a new product called the Slovene. The loaf – launched on 16 October, World Bread Day – has a thick shell and soft core and is designed to remind customers of the good old days of bread coming right out of the oven. The firm has also introduced a new red-diamond pattern packaging as their trademark. And to make their products even more domestic, they have decided to exclusively use Slovenian flour by the end of 2011.


Ulrich Proeschel, VP of business development at TBWA/Europe, took the stage at this year’s Golden Drum International Advertising Festival and spit science. I had an out-of-body experience, where all my irritation with this business burbled out of the mouth of a stranger. From the splintering of agencies into ‘advertising,’ ‘media,’ and ‘digital’ to the mass crib death ads experience in tandem with any nation’s economic ego trips, Proeschel laid out an industry that 6 years ago was at such a nadir he could not counsel anyone he met to go into it. I know all about that. I left New York advertising in 2005 to move to Slovenia and wrote for this publication. Proeschel shortly left all this doom-and-gloom and gave the most intriguing presentation of work I saw in Portoroz. His resonating credo was “There are no campaigns; only brand behavior.” This became a clear example of advertising learning from the failures of politics, where promises disappear once the ‘product’ is off the shelf. While it’s certainly sad we live in a world where many great global minds go into governing ephemera rather than policy, it’s also incredibly exciting. One of the best overall campaigns out of New Europe came from Romania where BV McCann Erickson revitalized the national chocolate bar Rom by rebranding it as a wholly marketed American franchise complete with ‘stars and stripes’ packaging. This tongue-incheek assault on Romanian patriotism garnered an extreme Facebook presence and market share domination. And, for me, it’s always funny to see American ‘bestness’ mocked on foreign soil. From Hungary’s Ackio 360, we saw a brilliant fast-and-cheap approach to getting taxpayers to contribute 1% of their rates to charity, specifically the World Wildlife Fund. Using only the cost of two panda costumes and one color photocopy, they gained 300,000 Euros of free media exposure. And, on a truly sparse budget for the telecom category, Rabarba out of Istanbul got over 3.6 million reaches through Twitter and word-of-mouth by engaging Internet die-hards in a simple PostIt-themed phone-and-data-minutes giveaway. All these works can be seen on the Zlati Boben website. What does this have to do with Slovenia? Well, Patrick Hanson-Lowe, the Chief Marketing Officer of Publicis, a timeless and timely European megaplex of advertising gave a talk titled ‘Fortune follows Fame.’ In it, he showcased a Renault Megane interactive stunt that was perfect in tone and reach, but to my Slovenian-bent attitudes, it did not hit a bull’s eye. This tactic used a French car to transform a miserable British town. I found in my 2 years as a resident, you can’t sell Slovenians on self-worth by playing product (influencer) against location (influenced). He also expressed a well-rehearsed appreciation for Slovenian ‘hospitality’. He is British, so I never doubted his sincerity. But Slovenia is not particularly hospitable. We need only look at this summer’s Metelkova Mesto banners which read: ‘Immigrants Welcome. Tourists Fuck Off.’ to see how much in the way of budget hospitality one might expect here. In Trieste, waiting for a late bus to LJ, I introduced myself to a coterie of 5 student travelers by saying ‘Of course, you’re from Slovenia, so you speak perfect English…’ After the giggles died down, one student offered me an ice cream candy bar from her backpack. I countered with “Are you sure you’re Slovenian?” She said, “We’re in Italy. I can be generous here.” Funny and factual. On the Slovenian successes at Golden Drum, I loved the reimagining of Kratochwill’s corporate identity by local team Futura, where the words for ‘beer’ in numerous languages (made as froth) spilled out of a golden kozarec lock-up. This is concrete poetry for commerce. It’s what Slovenians do well. Hyper literacy suits them. Whereas Brazil and Singapore win awards for their graphic, language-less work, Slovenians should embrace how wordy they are. Slovene makes a talky, analytical people who truck no silence in their conversations and have a hundred borrowed expressions for getting their point back into the mix. My final thoughts on the course of Slovenian advertising are cribbed from Farid Chebab of Leo Burnett. To his thinking, the next step is gossip; something advertising (or even PR, for that matter) has never done well. The population here is small and chatter is infectious. An Ljubljana buddy of mine just started dating a Macedonian girl to get out of the Slovene rumor mill. Slovenia, reap this whirlwind.

The Caveman in Us

Postojna Cave has already beaten last year’s visitor figures, marking an exceptional year for the attraction. More than half a million people had already visited by October this year and Predjama castle and Proteus cave also report a significant increase in visitors. Most are Italian, German, Slovene and Japanese but the annual statistics show people from 160 different countries have seen the attractions.


Column: Jeremy Wilson

The Beat of Golden Drum

Beer Pampering

Laško thermal water has been at the core of a wide range of medical wellness programmes for many years but now Wellness Park Laško is offering a different liquid treatment. The spa is using beer in masks and massages, scrubs, baths, and soon in shampoo and soaps. The products are all based on raw materials produced in the Laško Brewery.

A New Fashion Smile, don’t Worry

Diagnostic centre Clarus has opened a new dental-surgical centre. The facility, in Ljubljana’s BTC City, offers a range of highend dental services ranging from preventive diagnostics, aesthetic interventions and demanding oralsurgeries. The centre also offers facial correction (botox treatment and non-surgical facelift). The combination of dental experts and advanced technology – the centre has a digital dental x-ray – is expected to attract a wide range of clients.

Unless I have a performance, getting the motivation to leave my flat is a difficult feat. After tucking my daughter Astrid into bed, couch potato mode kicks in and nothing sounds better than watching television with a nice glass of wine. Or two. But when I heard that Slovenia was to launch its own fashion week, the idea of leaving the flat suddenly became much more attractive. One of the things I usually enjoy most about most about fashion weeks is the number of different venues. In Slovenia’s case, the Philips-sponsored fashion “week” actually lasted two days and was held in only one location, Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture. But with its capacity for large crowds and its history of playing host to numerous cultural events, it was a fine choice of venue. Upon entering the event hall, there was a surprise. The catwalk was horizontal and covered the area where the audience normally sits. No vertical extension of the stage here. With runway and seating at the same level, the experience for visitors was much more intimate than the norm. The stage concept was the brainchild of Den Baruca, who was in charge of art direction for the entire event. His aim was to convey the idea of having solid ground for building a successful story. Visually this was conveyed with stacked white cubes, or “building blocks” if you will, from which models would emerge to walk the runway. Each designer had his or her own custom backdrop projected onto the cubes creating a 3D effect. These backdrops


Nina Šušnjara

Column: Hannah Mancini

Dental medicine


were accompanied by selected music to support each designer’s individual story. In my typical eagerness to see relations between fashion and art, I loved these visual effects and thought that they created just the right mood for the show. The audience was treated to a varied collection tastes and styles. There were the more feminine collections, like those of designers m*faganel and Nina Šušnjara. Designers with a novel and whimsical approach garnished the runway with details like brightly coloured pom poms which decorated different pieces in their collection (Almira Sadar and Niti Niti). Well coordinated clashing hues and colourful, hand-woven statement necklaces adorned the catwalk for “street couture” designer Sanja Grčič. There were also the more minimal and deconstructionist collections of Zoran Gorevski (Squat), Akultura, and Nataša Hrupič, whose appealing use of sharp contours and clean lines pleased the modern fashion enthusiast. There was no lack of talent to be had at Slovenia’s first official fashion week, and the only thing seemingly missing were buyers. Some would say Slovenia is too small to attract considerable attention in the fashion world, but I am a firm believer in the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. If a small country like Slovenia can excel in sports, technical achievements, and have internationally recognised and respected artists and musicians, why can’t it also gain more recognition in the fashion industry? I eagerly and optimistically look forward to the next fashion week and to once again have a good reason to bid a temporary goodbye to television and wine. Hannah Mancini is an American singer, songwriter, and a fashion enthusiast known for her sense of style on and off the stage

November 2011



wit h St yle Restavracija Proteus Titov trg 1, Postojna T: +386 (0)81 610 300 Open Monday to Sunday: 8am – 10pm Price range Vegetarian business menu: EUR 28 Fish business menu: EUR 30 Meat business menu: EUR 32 Food type A modern twist on Slovenian classics, Mediterranean, Inner Carniolan – Carstic Reservations recommended

Chopped fennel, goat cheese and prosciutto on a slice of freshly baked bread

Mushroom soup with dough cover Trio of Carst potato rolls, eggplants au gratin and yellow pumpkin risotto served in a thin crispy bread cup

Stuffed Pivka rabbit with pistachios in pork net on a cushion of kale

Stuffed Pivka rabbit with pistachios in pork net on a cushion of kale

Persimmon panna cotta

Proteus Restaurant Old and New

The recently renovated Proteus restaurant has built on the foundations of its glorious past and is flourishing thanks to its first class culinary delights, finds Polona Cimerman. Located less than a mile away from Postojna cave is a beautiful, traditional old house typical of the region. It was there when Postojna was a focal point for cart drivers called furmani. It was there between the First and Second World Wars, a time of great feasts and cave parties. Today it is home to Proteus restaurant. Proteus is an offspring of the luxurious Jamski dvorec restaurant, a place frequented by guests with the highest demands and sophisticated tastes. Both share chef Slavica Smrdel who brings her best to each establishment, treating both menus with equal care and attention. On a cold, rainy autumn afternoon we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to taste some of her creations. It was an unforgettable experience, not only because of the food. Also striking was the interior of the restaurant – a combination of modern and ancient. We entered the building through a preserved stone portal and found ourselves surrounded by unique dining booths made out of white strings that together form a gentle curtain,

resembling those from the cave and creating a pleasant feeling of privacy. The room retained the old stone arches which, together with a priceless collection of Leo Vilhar’s dripstone paintings, help create a unique atmosphere.

A Symphony of Tastes

The gourmet ride began with chopped fennel, goat’s cheese and prosciutto on a slice of freshly baked bread. A vegetarian edition which excludes the meat is also available. We were amazed by the taste of the rarely-used fennel: a truly unique start to the meal. We

chicory, eggplant au gratin and braised spinach with coriander. Absolutely perfect. At the same time meat-eaters delighted in a stuffed Pivka rabbit with pistachios in pork net on a cushion of a special type of kale. Up next was an equally lovely creation made of angler in shrimp sauce with potato puree wrapped in spinach. By the time we came to the desserts we were convinced our stomachs were full, but when Smrdel brought us mouth-watering sweets we miraculously discovered that there was some room left after all. The refreshing persimmon slice was a revelation. Meanwhile I was absolutely thrilled by the caramelised sugar decoration that evoked associations of the old times of kings and queens that decorated a wonderful chestnut mousse, coupled with caramel cream and pumpkin seeds. While digging in we sipped sweet muscat. What an end to a royal feast!

Passion for Old Recipes realised we were in for a lunch of truly original dishes and the second starter of fried prunes with bacon proved it. So too did the third one: a scoop of smoked Cerknica trout mousse coupled with thin crispy slices of bread, made with cuttlefish ink that added enchanting wavy dark stripes to the dish. In common with all of Smrdel’s dishes it was a real pleasure to the eye – she firmly believes that food tastes even better if it is presented well. Then the soups arrived. We were taken aback by how delicious a simple dish like pumpkin and mushroom soup with an eye-catching dough cover can taste if made by a top-notch chef. The sweetish pumpkin warmed us from the inside and our appetites were now fully awakened. We were curiously anticipating how Smrdel was going to surprise us in the main course. As a true professional, she carefully prepared vegetarian and non-vegetarian main dishes to cater for everyone’s needs. Vegetarians were first treated to a trio of Carst edition potato rolls, eggplants au gratin and yellow pumpkin risotto served in a thin crispy bread cup. Then it was time for carrot rolled dumpling with semolina, mushroom sauce, toasted wild red Carst

Slavica Smrdel’s concept is to put a modern twist on traditional Slovenian dishes, focusing on the rich heritage of the Carst and Inner Carniola regions. She places special emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients and soon only organic ones are going to be used in her kitchens. Smrdel’s great source of inspiration is a 160-year-old cookbook: “I am completely in love with old recipes and I adore preparing dishes that were popular in the Middle Ages and in the Augsburg monarchy,” she says. “Also the times of cart drivers whose hub was in Postojna stir my imagination and I revive their food.” Smrdel is a restless culinary spirit whose craving for knowledge is such that she is constantly attending various cookery courses to further broaden her horizons. At the same time she teaches others secrets and collects and invents recipes; some of them she published in a book Navdih (Inspiration). “I dislike making the same dish over and over again. I constantly need challenges,” she explains. Proteus is aiming to become the central exclusive restaurant in Postojna and the establishment and the chef are clearly a perfect match. With the building’s ambience and her culinary creativity and skills the goal will undoubtedly be achieved.

Top choice Promenada Gourmet Restaurant Cesta svobode 15, Bled Tel: +386 (0)4 579 18 39 Open: Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm–10pm In Issue 134

Bled Castle Restaurant Grajska cesta 6, 4260 Bled Tel: +386 (0)4 579 44 24 restaurant Open: Every day, 10am –10pm In Issue 136/137

City Restaurant - BTC CITY Ljubljana Poslovna stolpnica, 13th floor, Šmartinska 140, Ljubljana Tel: +386 (0)1 585 19 97 Restaurant open: Mon-Fri, 11am – 4pm Bar open: Mon-Fri, 7.30am – 6pm

In Issue 138 JB logo 4/15/08 4:32 PM Page 1 C







JB Restaurant

Miklošičeva 17, Ljubljana Tel: +386 (0)1 430 70 70, Open: Mon-Sun, 11am – 11pm Sat, 5pm – 11pm In Issue 139

Otočec Castle Restaurant

Grajska cesta 2, Otočec Tel: + 386 (0)7 384 89 00 Open: Every day until midnight


In Issue 140

Kavarna Restavracija Nebotičnik

Štefanova 1, Ljubljana T: 0590 70 396, Open: Sun to Wed: 9am – 1am, Thu to Sat: 9am – 3 am (Restaurant operates until 10pm, Sun closed) Bon Appétit Miklošičeva 28 1000 Ljubljana T: +386 (0)1 430 80 80 Open: Monday to Friday: 12pm-3pm; 7pm-10pm Saturday and Sunday: by reservation)

In Issue 141

In Issue 143

Smrekarjev hram Nazorjeva 2, Ljubljana T: +386 (0)1 308 19 07 Open: Every day from noon till 11 p.m. In Issue 144

Restavracija Proteus Titov trg 1, Postojna T: +386 (0)81 610 300 Open: Monday to Sunday: 8am – 10pm In Issue 145 133



Kempinski Palace Portorož

The All Stars

Kempinski Palace Portorož has long portrayed itself as the best hotel in the country. During a trip to the coast, editor-in-chief of The Slovenia Times Jaka Terpinc finds that it is not an unreasonable contention. “With white hats and kisses on their faces, they come out of gardens like eternal ghosts - on the pictures with greetings: Portorož 1905...”. So goes the chorus of a Slovene pop song, which unwillingly played in my mind upon arrival in the coastal town of Portorož. The song is trying to capture the sprit of a time when the town’s beach was one of only a handful of famous European seaside resorts. It was at exactly this time that the Port of Roses got its prestigious Grand Hotel Palace. Its glory however didn’t last long as the first world war left it abandoned. It was an abandonment that lasted up until the nineteen-fifties, when the facility was put back into business as a place for eminent guests of the then Yugoslavia. Needless to say, there were more than a few: from the omnipresent Marshall Tito to film stars and singers such as Yul Bryner, Orson Welles, Rita Pavone and Adriano Celentano. Years went by and a thorough reconstruction became unavoidable, but the trouble was that such work had to meet the requirements both of a new spatial plan The Slovenia Times

and of strict heritage protection. It was a challenge which saw the property gradually decline until it ultimately closed, in 1990. Then it took 18 long years to put it back in business. The hotel, which served two different kingdoms and two republics was finally reopened, shining


its five stars as the only “superior” facility in the country.

Autumn in the palace

My visit proved that it was worth the wait. My short stay fell in Autumn, a time at which the Grand Palace finally shifts into a lower gear. During the hot summer period the thrill is out there on the beach and the promenade; now the hotel itself needs to cover more of your leisure time. It does just that. Needless to say, but anyway: the concierge was nice and quick. So was the receptionist. The rooms spacious, well arranged, nicely decorated, mindfully lighted, Wi-fi everywhere… Minibar keeps all the essentials. Even if you are not ready to spend 1400 EUR on a bottle of 1995 Cristal Brut Rosé Roederer champagne, it feels good to have it available, along with other delicacies in the extensive room service menu. The view of the sunset over the Piran Bay is charming, but of course, not every room has it. Then there is the hotel itself. It was a special challenge for the architect to combine the old structure with the ultra-modern glass extension and hi-tech infrastructure. The old part was largely rebuilt, but has retained its classical look and partly the configuration with the fabulous Crystal hall. Other places too retain the spirit of early times: the piano hall, the bar, Sophia restaurant… The gentlemen’s club and the ladies’ one at the other end of a hotel is a reminder of the age of sexual segregation. Imagine lads smoking cigars and discussing politics while the dames playing bridge. Nowadays the rooms serve as

slightly isolated party spaces for anyone. Bon appetit!
The hotel boasts two restaurants: Fleur de Sel is a modern, trendy, fusion food place, while Sophia impresses with a traditional atmosphere, where both the ambience and personnel bring that discrete charm of the golden ages. The restaurant is actually a temple for goddess Sofia Loren, who was a guest at the hotel too. The food here is simply divine. German chef Curt and French pastry chef David put both creativity and a sense of prestige on the plate. The meal began with a special Seawater jelly, the product of the chef’s limitless creativity, and was followed by New Zealand Wagyu beef with foie gras. The memory of that meal will linger a long time and I would highly recommend Sofia restaurant to non-guests as well. Breakfast is delightful too, both delicious and healthy. Brunch in the Crystal Hall lasts until noon, so if the night was short there is no need to have only a few hours’ sleep in order to catch the first meal of the day.

Pampering on hand

And if you need a little more to help you start the day, the on-site Rose spa is ready to pamper. Its indoor swimming pool with jaccuzzi might not be the biggest, but it is perfect in the cold months when bathing in sea water becomes a luxury. Then there is a series of feel-good services available

at not exaggerated prices. With a congress hall and meeting rooms also found within the hotel, the place is ideal for both private and corporate events. After all, my travelling career started as an adventurist backpacker when the worse the hole meant the more excitement. Then, over the years, comfort gained in importance. Privately, I still don’t find enough reason to seek out high-end attributes. And I believe that star ratings can be misguiding, so I rely on Tripadvisor and the agencies who solve the equation and define the hotel’s real feel simply by the price they set. On the other hand, as a journalist I sometimes get lucky enough to spend time in the best places there are. Early this year I visited an Asian country, where the host put me into an elite hotel with a hot reference: a few months earlier, US president Obama had been there too. So make no mistake – I know what excellence means... And when it comes to Kempinski Palace in Portorož, it is definitely one place I would recommend to my hotel buddy Barack. Quite simply, this luxurious hotel fulfills the expectations of its reputation: five star, superior, plus an extra that comes with the Kempinski franchise standards. With lounges, restaurants, bars (“from black bikini to black tie”) and terraces, the hotel appears very social. It’s a perfect companion to Portorož itself, a town of many exciting recreation and leisure options.

Kempinski Palace Portorož Obala 45 6320 Portorož Slovenia T +386 (0)5 692 70 70

November 2011


Going Classic Slovenia may not be traditionally famous for its classical music scene but this segment of music is nevertheless very much alive in the small country on the sunny side of the Alps. When it comes to creativity, size apparently does not matter. By Polona Cimerman

The numbers of sold tickets and season tickets for classical music concerts in Slovenia are impressive,” explains Ingrid Gortan, Classical Music, Opera and Ballet Programme Manager in Cankarjev dom, one of the most important Slovenian music venues. Ljubljana may not be Vienna, but that’s not to say that centuries’ old music doesn’t have a big following in the city. Cankarjev dom hosts numerous classical music concerts despite not having an orchestra of its own. Its regular guest is the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the oldest philharmonic orchestras in the world and boasting a rich tradition. Its home is the legendary Slovenian Philharmonic, located in the heart of Ljubljana right next to the magnificent Kongresni Square, this year celebrating its 310th season of existence. Over the years the building has become a symbol of persistent efforts for high musical culture in Slovenia and many respectful artists became its honorary members: Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Carlos Kleiber and JoThe Slovenia Times

hannes Brahms to name but a few. The orchestra, currently conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, gives 36 season concerts a year in Cankarjev dom, numerous occasional concerts and musical matinees, tours around Europe and beyond and plays at important international festivals, records CDs and hosts world-class conductors and soloists.

Several orchestras

Another major contributor to the Slovenian classical music scene is RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra which was established in 1955 within the Slovenian public TV and radio service. Its basic activities are archive and concert recordings – on 200 CDs and almost as many records and audio cassettes they have recorded nearly the entire Slovenian symphonic repertoire and many international pieces, receiving numerous high awards. The orchestra – conducted by En Shao since 2006 – also gives concerts home and abroad and plays various pieces, from Baroque to modern symphonic music, operas, oratorios, cantatas,

stage and film music, mostly with an emphasis on Slovenian composers. Lately the orchestra has been introduced to a broader audience through crossover projects with the bands Siddharta and Terrafolk. Ljubljana is also home to the SNG Opera and Ballet Orchestra, while the fourth of the country’s orchestras, SNG Maribor Symphonic Orchestra, is based in the country’s second largest city. Mostly they both perform operas, however they are also engaged in many external collaborations.

Booming Students’ Creativity

Many of these orchestras’ members along with conductors, composers and musical teachers got their education at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana. Established in 1939, it is the only musical academy in Slovenia and one of the very few in the world which offer their own concert cycle with season tickets. “Ever since 2003 the best students have get an opportunity to perform and express themselves in this way,” says

Hinko Haas, deputy dean for artistic activity who is in charge of the versatile programme consisting of symphonic, chamber and soloist concerts. “This is an important contribution to the classical music scene in Slovenia and it is very well accepted – we have nearly 400 regular audience members,” adds Haas. According to Gortan, musical education is well-developed in Slovenia and classical music reaches a fairly broad audience. However, classical music performances still depend strongly on state budget due to the fact that “classical music cannot be commercialised because it is simply too expensive. Serious musicians are topmost specialists and professionals who practice daily and devotedly, schooling is individual and expensive, their instruments are valuable, also suitable concert halls cost a lot,” says Gortan. Despite these hesitations classical music scene in Slovenia seems to flourish. “We have a demanding audience and a very favourable average age of those who attend the concerts,” asserts Gortan.


The Magnificent Five of Slovenian Classical Music Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak, pianist Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak is one of the most internationally recognisable Slovenian artists. She performed her first recital at the age of five and by the age of 17 had graduated from the famous Julliard School of Music in New York, receiving two special awards. During her rich career she has performed on concert stages around Europe, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Tasmania, Russia, Asia and Africa. She has collaborated with numerous prestigious orchestras and famous conductors and recorded more than 90 CDs for renowned publishers like Vox Classic and for radio and TV stations around the globe. She is also a jury member for many international piano competitions and a teacher at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana.

Marjana Lipovšek, mezzo soprano Immediately after she completed her studies, Marjana Lipovšek was engaged by the Vienna State Opera, a beginning of an amazing career in which she has conquered the world stages. She has sung all the important roles of her voice type in the world’s leading houses, including Dorabella

(Cosi Fan Tutte), Dalila (Samson Et Dalila), Amneris (Aida) and Miss Quickly (Falstaff). In her concert and recording career, she has completed major tours around Europe, Japan and the USA and appeared with all the world’s great orchestras. Numerous composers have dedicated song cycles to her due to her great voice and musical qualities. She has received many awards, including the Honorary Order of Merit in Gold, 1st Class of the Republic of Austria and the Grand Prix du Disque.

Irena Grafenauer, flautist Irena Grafenauer started her musical education at the age of eight and for the past 40 years has been recognised as an exceptional flautist. She has won many international prizes, including first prizes in Belgrade, Geneva and Munich. She used to be the principal flautist with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. As a soloist she has successfully toured most European countries, the USA, Japan and Australia. She has regularly worked with numerous famous musicians and successfully performed in her own duo with harpist Maria Graf. She also has a rich recording career. In 1987 she was appointed Professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum where she teaches to this very day.

Igor Ozim, violinist Ozim completed his studies at the Royal College of Music and his career has taken him all around the world. He has given over 70 concerts for violin and orchestra, many other violin solos and chamber pieces rang-

ing from Baroque to modern. For 25 years he played in a duo with another big name of Slovenian music, pianist Marjan Lipovšek. He has recorded numerous CDs in Europe and the USA and has received many awards. He is renowned as an international topclass violinist and also as a popular teacher; he has taught in Vienna, London, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Australia and Slovenia and currently educates students at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Janez Matičič, composer Matičič’s first compositions were strongly influenced by Classicism, Romanticism and Impressionism. However, while studying in Paris with French composer Nadia Boulanger he focused on contemporary composition currents. He has created many electroacoustic pieces and was member of Groupe de Recherches Musicales. In the past he taught at various conservatories in Paris and also at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, resulting in a strong feel of these cosmopolitan influences in his music which is emotionally intensive, technically perfected and innovative. Among other instrumental pieces two symphonies can be found in Matičič’s opus alongside many chamber pieces for violin and piano, and string quartet, violin and other soloist pieces. He has received many awards for his works, among them the prestigious Prince Rainier in Monaco. Besides composing he also gives piano performances.

November 2011


Bratko Bibič

The Accordion is Just a Method of Expression Bratko Bibič is one of the most renowned experimental accordionists in the world. He first rose to prominence as the driving force behind Slovenian avant-garde progressive rock band Begnagrad and then joined Swiss ensemble Nimal but perhaps remains best known for his part in the all-star accordion band, Accordion Tribe. On 7 December he takes the stage in Kino Šiška with an expanded The Madleys line-up and a special guest Otto Lechner of Accordion. As always, he will be striving to show off the capabilities of what is sometimes an underappreciated musical instrument. By Rok Podgrajšek that was until recently not standard practice. I am still surprised that people cannot believe that it is possible to play anything on the accordion other than ethnic pop music. From the 80s, the accordion has played a role in different musical genres and all areas of the world. One of the most important people to bring the accordion back as an “instrument” was Astor Piazzolla, while his student Galliano started incorporating the accordion into jazz. How did you decide on the accordion?

I wanted to play the accordion myself. My family wanted me to play the piano, of course, as was to be expected. The accordion was my choice because it reminded me of the organ the most and I was already a big fan of Bach and organ music as a child. The accordion was the most accessible way to get an organ. My cousin had an accordion and I picked it up and tried to play. Also, the accordion is an orchestral instrument, just like the organ. You can be a one-man band and you have the same kind of sounds in different registers,

Photo: Jože Svetličič

The public in Slovenia tends to be favourably disposed towards the accordion, but more as an instrument in ethnic pop music. How do people view your accordion playing? It is hard to say. The accordion is just one of the instruments I play, even though I don’t play any other [musical] instruments. It is just a method of expression. I do not know how people look at it. The critical analyses and reviews of my music are usually more concerned with the music and not with the instrument, even though the accordion is used in a context

just like an organ – sounds like violin, flute and oboe. Do you think the accordion is an under-appreciated instrument? I think that it is less and less so, though it was under-appreciated for a while, mostly because it was associated with certain types of music. In our country it was, of course, associated with ethnic pop music, more so than with ethnic music. The Academy of Music in Ljubljana has only recently started teaching the accordion at university level, if at all. In other places it can be found in many different genres of music, like Tex Mex. I think that the keyboard accordion in particular has become a universal instrument. Is this a kind of elitist attitude? Yes. When the accordion first came to the fore, there was opposition from two musical circles – one was from the high classical music circles and the other from traditional music. There is also the fact that you do not need much practice to play the accordion. Anyone can play it. This was very important in the 19th century, when the accordion made its appearance because live music was very rare. Only the aristocracy could listen to it, basically. Does your concert in Kino Šiška have any special meaning? Will you be presenting any new compositions? It is a new repertoire, with only a couple of exceptions. We will be playing my newer pieces, which have either been played publicly only once, or never. It is a summary of two years of composing. The special feature will also be the enhanced line-up. There will be 10 of us, or maybe 11, whereas our basic line-up consists of five or six members. Two of the guests will be Otto Lechner and Irena

The Slovenia Times

The Culture pages are supported by the Minstry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia

Will there also be any album with The Madleys? The concert in Kino Šiška will be recorded. I will also take some recording from our previous concerts for the new album, especially some improvised pieces and soundtrack pieces. Does it even pay off any longer to release a studio album, or is it better to release live CDs? Studio albums can be done by people who have their own studios or for big productions. I personally have no other choice but to release a live album – especially with this kind of line-up. What about any financing from the government? It is getting worse and worse, especially in the last two years. If they do give anything, it is only for printing. Everything else is up to you. Do you have any philosophy of composing? My compositions are very intuitive. I play it by ear and by associations. I have gone back and analysed my compositions, also because of what other people have said and written about me. So, basically, my compositions are intuitive but never accidental. I basically use the principles of film making in my music, in the sense of perspective, zoom, speeding up, slowing down, parallel montage and so on. So you may have a part of the composition which is a short transition at first, and you can then transform it into the main part. What kind of influences are there in your music? I hear a lot of classical music, Balkan music and so on? Of course. This is the environment I grew up in. I listen to a lot of so-called “serious” music, even though it is not all serious. One of my biggest influences is Shostakovich and I would hardly call it serious music. He always pokes fu n at someth i ng a nd makes jokes with his music, but most people do not really see it. I am also influenced by the likes of Bach and Mozart. If you listen to heavy metal music, a lot of it comes from Bach and the Baroque period in general. I was often compared to Zappa as well, but I do not feel we have all that much in common, except for our mutual fascination with Shostakovich.

Lojze Slak (1932-2011)

Down in the Quiet Valley A musician who put many gems in the Slovenian music treasury and managed to bridge the generation gap and unite the tribes of music lovers. By Gregor Bauman


hen it comes to Slovenian popular music there are two separate streams, traditionally incompatible with each others. On one side, the defenders of rock and roll. On the other, the domain of “popular folk music”, which is defined by accordion, folk costume, consommé, a stupid smile and not very intelligent jokes. The sort of music that is prevalent on TV programmes called “Cheers!” or “A rocket under hayrack” and on basically any local radio around Sunday lunch. Lojze Slak, who has died at the age of 79, was one of few who managed to overcome those divisions. From the late fifties onwards he composed many pieces now proclaimed as part of the public domain. As with any real folk musician, he started his career in the countryside inns and provincial weddings. Yet he finished up among the constellations of stardom. At that time, young boys from his village (Jordankal near Mirna Peč), could only do only two things in his life – become a priest or a farmer. Slak found a third way. There are several reasons his work appealed to so many, but the major one was his mastery of being different in a very hermetic genre. Slak successfully built new bridges from the past to present and in the same leap took care about the future. It is an achievement which was encoded a TV series entitled “Our local community” – now two three old. In one scene the generation gap between the youngsters and the granddads is illustrated with their argument about the kind of music the band should play at a certain celebration. The ultimate solution is Slak’s folk song Pri farni cerkvici (By the parish church) played in a rock and roll manner. His compromise between the traditional and the modern had nothing to do with the idiotic

Photo: Mediaspeed

Tomažin on vocals. There will be more vocals included this time and we will also be playing a couple of Otto’s pieces. Other guests will include Klemen Hvala on cello, Tibor Kerekeš on trumpet and Sašo Vollmaier on piano.


‘Popular folk-rock’ medley, with which Slovenia has shamed itself in recent Eurovision song contests. Instead, Slak’s songs were compatible with rock and roll making them acceptable to the younger and urban generations: the chorus of V dolini tihi (Down in the quiet valley) is not a surprise, but rather a homage to some common folk melodies, adhered to the basic Slovenian identity. In this group there are also tunes like Na golici or Na Roblek by Avsenik. All are songs which are not only cross generations but also borders, being particularly well received in Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland and the Polka Hall of Fame in USA. They quickly became recognised as part of the Slovene cultural identity or “typische slowenische tanz musik”. What also made Lojze Slak special was his innovative approach to the accordion. This was someone who dared introduce changes in the technique of playing the instrument – changes that accordion purists may have considered blasphemy. Yet

nowadays the self-same purists listen to Slak’s work with respect, appreciating the extra button and additional six basslines he added to the instrument. His work helped the diatonic accordion become a respected instrument in several genres and ultimately find its way into the mainstream. What Les Paul did for the guitar Slak did for accordion. Despite his ground-breaking innovations and popularity, Slak remained a modest country guy, who never took anything for granted. He never lost his “folkish” approach and that was one the reasons that his smile was never a fake. Only few weeks after Slak’s death, his good friend poet Tone Pavček passed away too. The two men once used to joke about what they would do in the afterlife. “Dear folk musician, come visit me in paradise and play for me here,” they taunted each other. What is sure is that their earthly legacies will remain immaculate for generations to come. November 2011


Janez Lotrič, Opera singer

The People’s Tenor Slovenia’s leading operatic tenor divides his life between performances on the most famous stages in the world and the simple, yet honest folk events in his home country. By Simon Demšar

Lotrič believes it crucial that opera singers do not stick to one theatre. “You get bored and the audience gets bored with you. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to show something new in each role.”

Too Good for La Scala When practising for Troubadour at La Scala, Lotrič ended the stretta with high C, which is not written in the score, but was highly recommended even by Verdi himself to able singers. A few hours later, Lotrič received a phone call from La Scala’s secretary who accused him of showing off. “I obeyed the request [to stop singing the note] but, if allowed, I would have produced high C as I did in all of my eight performances in Vienna.” The Slovenia Times


anez Lotrič has a habit of smiling when he sings. Part of the reason, of course, is that this renowned tenor enjoys sharing his gift with the world. But his facial expression is also the key to making his voice as melodious as possible. “In order to produce a wellrounded voice the singer should lift the hard palate and the smiling muscle, which requires lifting your cheeks,” he explains. It’s a voice which has been heard in diverse venues. On the one hand, Lotrič has performed in almost every notable opera theatre in the world, but on the other hand, he is glad to grace the most local of events with his presence. “If only I have time, I respond to every invitation but there should be some mutual attractiveness between me, the place, the people, the organisers,” he explains. “When I go to places like Davča, Sorica or visit mountaineers in Bohinj I go to my people.”

Despite his dedication to his homeland, Lotrič was relatively unknown in Slovenia until the early 2000s. He does not try to conceal a little bitterness at that fact. “The most difficult thing is to please your own nation. At the Vienna State Opera alone, I had played 13 different main characters in 117 performances, yet Slovenian critics were not particularly interested and only one representative of the old generation of critics attended one performance,” he recollects. He clearly feels a particular responsibility to his countrymen: “I was probably more nervous ahead of my first major role at the National Opera Maribor than today at the most renowned venues. However, there is an element of responsibility for any audience, especially if they have been used to listening the best opera in the world.”

Cowshed opera

Vienna is one such place and it was here where Lotrič made his breakthrough into the world’s top class of tenors. The year was 1996 and the role was Canio in Pagliacci at the State Opera. “I am still its regular visiting singer and there were times when I appeared in up to 30 performances per year in Vienna.” Regarding the pressure, Lotrič admits to feeling anxious if

It’s this down to earth attitude which saw Lotrič perform in a cowshed on a remote farm in the village of Davča near Železniki, the singer’s birthplace. “With all its arches, the acoustics in the cowshed were actually very good. In its fragrant and clean environment I actually felt much better than in an unsuitable hall,” he remembers.

Around the world

he is not 100 percent fit “but otherwise, I cannot wait to go on stage. I am hungry like a lion.” Since this breakthrough there has barely been a major opera house in which Lotrič hasn’t performed. In 2005, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with the role of Alfred in J. Strauss’ masterpiece The Bat. But this came only after he had taken Vienna, Milan’s La Scala, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, London’s Covent Garden, Paris’

The People pages are supported by the Minstry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia

Mistaken for Domingo In 1994, Lotrič released a record with a collection of duets with Russian baritone Igor Morozov. Part of the record was used in Woody Allen’s film Match Point. When the film was shown in Slovenia, film critics attributed Lotrič’s voice to Placido Domingo.

Opera Bastille, Berlin’s Deutsche Oper and many others by storm. He feels at home in Vienna but he speaks particularly fondly also of Japan, where he even has a fan club. “A few dozen members would come to European opera theatres, collecting autographs and photos after the performance, only to greet you again in their home towns of Tokyo, Yokohama, Sapporo or Osaka!” Lotrič occasionally rewards them with a private concert in small halls for 20 to 50 people. He used to spend several months per year in Japan.


Lotrič believes it crucial that opera singers do not stick to one theatre. “You get bored and the audience gets bored with you. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to show something new in each role. If I had stayed in Maribor or Ljubljana throughout my career, it would have been nothing, compared to what I have achieved on the international scene.” His road to Italy was particularly rough. “Geographically, we are too close to North Italian opera houses and the political history also did not make the jour-

ney any easier. But when I sang in Rome, for example they accepted me with open arms, shouting ‘Bravo, Janez!’” He is especially proud of his appearances in Palermo, in Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers. “Can you imagine an Italian singing the main character in Slovenian traditional opera Gorenjski slavček? Well, my Arrigo role in Sicilian Vespers was something like that.” It was a huge success and he was invited to Palermo for many other roles. Lotrič was also invited to the famous Sydney opera but he turned the offer down: “I should have stayed there for six months and learnt a whole lot of new stuff.” Regarding Slovenian venues, opera singers are more or less limited to Maribor, Ljubljana’s Cankarjev dom and now also to the renovated opera theatre in Ljubljana, due to open early next year. “There is no ideal place in Slovenia. Cankarjev dom is a good if the orchestra is down in the pit, while we still have to see what the new opera theatre in Ljubljana will bring in terms of acoustics.”

Quick learner

Lotrič’s success is partly down to his incredible ability to relearn a role literally overnight. “I cannot tell you how many times I was called to places like Vienna, Paris, Hamburg or Berlin to step in for somebody at five minutes to midnight.” He has a large repertoire of roles, including some of the most challenging. “Coupled with good health, this [knowledge] is a prerequisite in cases when little more than a chat with the director and the conductor is possible, and everything on the stage is in your hands. I may not be a model but I have been able to master the most difficult roles better than some of the more athletic tenors.” Lotrič is currently working on two big projects. The first is recording Richard Strauss’s Daphne opera with the Budapest Philharmonic, in the role of Apollo. “We originally did it last year and it was such a success that it was decided to record it live. For me, this is a highly important project.” The other task on his to do list, which he sees as probably even more important, is staging Slovenian composer Marij Kogoj’s Črne maske (Black Masks). “For the first time, I will sing the baritone role of Lorenzo, the main character,” Lotrič explains. “But because the role of Lorenzo is so difficult that no-one can sing it on two consecutive evenings, it will be split among two or even three singers.”

iting the note manuscripts for several years – will premiere on January 13 next year in Maribor. The opening will be followed by performances in Ljubljana, which will coincide with the opening of the refurbished opera house. In total, there will be ten performances in Maribor and another five in Ljubljana. It is clear that Lotrič is still as passionate as ever about his vocation. “My singing is about a


combination of passion and responsibility,” he reflects. “When I take the stage, the audience must experience catharsis, some sort of healing, which was the original purpose of ancient theatres. I take the greatest pleasure in proving myself again and again. There are times when an opera is not directed to your liking or there are other distractions but the audience should not sense it.”

Ongoing passion

The project – led by maestro Uroš Lajovic, who had been edNovember 2011


Slovene Octet

Stages Change, the Octet Remains For the past 60 years, the Slovene Octet has loyally fulfilled its fundamental mission of spreading the Slovenian language and songs around the world. More playful today yet still devoted to tradition, it continues to enthral home and foreign audiences alike. By Blanka Markovič Kocen


ew musical or singing ensembles can boast of having reached their sixtieth anniversary. Yet for the Slovene Octet, 2011 represents that milestone. Its constituent singers are steadfastly convinced of the quality of Slovenian folk music, as highlighted at a magnificent anniversary concert held in Ljubljana’s Križanke open air theatre.

Number one

The Octet has been constantly active over the many decades since it was established. Artistic director Jože Vidic argues the reason is a deep and abiding feeling of belonging to Slovenian vocal music and the Slovenia language, “and also pride in the fact that the ensemble has been chosen for a certain special mission – to spread the Slovenian spirit around the globe – has aided the octet’s existence and helped it to upgrade itself.” Over the years, the ensemble has become the first name in Slovenian vocal chamber music. Many generations of singers have sung in the octet. The current cast has performed together for a little more than a year and is a result of the change of generations; the previous one decided to bid farewell to active singing collectively and thus made room The Slovenia Times

for changes and a new era to commence.

Professional amateurs

The Octet has recorded nearly 40 CDs alongside its intensive rehearsal and performance tempo – they give more than 70 concerts a year, more than many professional ensembles. For, yes, despite the professionalism of its members the Octet remains an amateur ensemble. As such they, at least partly, cover their expenses through giving concerts. “A decade ago we had a chance of becoming financed by the state but our predecessors decided not to opt for this,” explains Vidic. “This enabled us to keep our jobs and most importantly – our au-

tonomy and vision. And we have followed this attitude up until this very day.” Even so, Vidic says many see the Octet as cultural ambassadors for Slovenia: “When we go abroad foreign statesmen recognise us as the highest Slovenian vocal authority and this tells a lot about our professionalism. Being a member of the Slovene Octet is a lifestyle, a mission and as long as one feels this way nothing is too difficult to do.”

New wave

In the past, the ensemble had more concerts abroad than at home but lately the balance has shifted somewhat. Vidic says that the audience at home is much

more demanding, even merciless, in a way not seen among the Slovenian expats who tend to be the audience when travelling abroad. Even so, the home audience at the gala concert in Križankedid not easily let the singers leave the stage. The ensemble charmed its spectators with both parts of the performance. The first consisted of pieces that represent the Slovene Octet tradition, while in the second one they presented their latest CD Kaktus (Cactus) which is very different from what they have been singing in the past. “We have recorded this CD to show everybody that the Octet can also be something else than what everybody has been used to,” explains Vicic. “This is a kind of excursion to a musical genre we have not dealt with before; it is vivacious and playful.” And so the Slovene Octet remains true to its tradition but expands horizons with new projects such as Kaktus. Vidic sees the variety of the audience as good prospects for their type of music: “The sold-out Križanke, the presence of the president and his honorary sponsorship of the concert, the numerous young people who came – this is great recognition for us and proof that we are walking the right path.”

EVENTS 53 Photography

Miran Kambič: Architecture in Photography Mon 3 Oct–Thu 1 Dec, The Tivoli Park, Jakopič promenade, Ljubljana, no admission Architecture in Photography is an outdoor exhibition featuring 116 photographs of Ljubljana’s Art Nouveau heritage. In his photographic work, Miran Kambič, born in 1965 and educated as an architect, specializes in architectural photography. His photographs are regularly published in specialist magazines home and abroad. He is considered one of the finest photographs in Slovenia.

Graphic design

5th Slovenian Biennial of Visual Communication Tue 25 Oct 2011–Sat 26 Nov 2011, National Gallery, Ljubljana

place in the history of Slovenian music. The quintet will be working in collaboration with various highprofile guest musicians and will perform new or rarely performed works of music, in which wind instruments play the leading role.


LIFFe Festival Wed 9 Nov–Sun 20 Nov, various venues, Ljubljana Every year, the Ljubljana International Film Festival, better known as LIFFe, adds vibrancy to the city’s autumn cultural life by presenting the best and the latest in European and international film production. The main competition strand, Perspectives, will feature films by emerging film directors, who will compete for the Kingfisher (Vodomec) award. Other awards to be handed out include the FIPRESCI prize, voted for by a panel of judges from the International Federation of Film Critics, the Dragon (Zmaj) audience award, and the Best Short Film Award. Festival screenings will be accompanied by a programme of talks with film directors and other film artists.


Elton John The Slovenian Biennial of Visual Communication is aimed at providing an overview of graphic design creativity in Slovenia and showcasing the best achievements in Slovenian graphic design. The Biennial’s overview exhibition features the best graphic design works created in the period 20092011. The mission of the organiser of the Biennial, the Brumen Foundation (Fundacija Brumen), is to promote design as a young discipline and establish criteria for excellence in Slovenian graphic design. At the exhibition opening, the best graphic designers selected will receive Brumen Awards, Slovenia’s highest level design commendations.

Fri 11 Nov, 9pm, Stožice Sports Park Arena, Ljubljana, EUR 43–85 Sir Elton John is one of the most successful music stars of all time. After a career of forty years he is still renowned for delivering energetic concerts. Since 1967, when Elton John began his collaboration with the songwriter Bernie Taupin, he has recorded more than 30 albums and scored countless hits, the greatest being I’m Still Standing, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Nikita, Sacrifice, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest and Candle in the Wind, the latter dedicated to the deceased Princess Diana in 1997.

Classical Classical

Slowind Festival 2011 Wed 9 Nov–Fri 18 Nov, Slovenian Philharmonic, Ljubljana The Slowind Festival, organised by the Slovenian wind quintet Slowind, is dedicated to chamber music, which has always had a special

Collegium Vocale Gent Sat 12 Nov, 8pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 20–56 One of the world’s finest professional vocal ensembles, Collegium Vocale Gent is celebrated for its transparent but expressive sound. The flexible

ensemble dexterously adapts to diverse music styles and repeatedly (re-)invents the synergy among the interpreters. Noted for its renditions of Bach’s vocal works, the Collegium has lately specialised in oratorios and works of romanticism; since 2009 it has joined in its efforts with the Accademia Chigiana Siena, and also performs in conjunction with renowned instrumental ensembles and orchestras as well as famed conductors.


Don Quixote Mon 14 Nov–Tue 15 Nov, 7.30pm, Slovene National Theatre, Maribor, EUR 20

Don Quixote is a famous ballet based on the epic masterpiece (the first European “modern” novel of its kind) by Miguel de Cervantes. The most successful choreography for the ballet was created by Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus and choreographer Marius Petipa, who was then at the height of his artistic career. The first important production took place in the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow in 1869. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the two main figures in Cervantes’s novel, are not heavily involved in the storyline, but rather represent a conceptual frame and sentimental ambient of the ballet.

of the larger organism to which it belongs, an apt description of the musical language that Threadgill has developed for this band.


Amon Amarth Tue 15 Nov, 8pm, Cvetličarna, Ljubljana, EUR 25 Amon Amarth is a Swedish melodic death metal band from Sweden founded in 1992 and takes its name from the Sindarin translation of Mount Doom, a location in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The band comprises vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Fredrik Andersson. Amon Amarth has released eight studio albums, one EP, one DVD, and seven music videos. Their most recent album, Surtur Rising, was released in June this year and Amon Amarth are touring to promote this effort. They will be supported by As I Lay Dying from the USA.


Sex Mob Wed 16 Nov, 8.30pm, Satchmo, Maribor, EUR 7


Henry Threadgill & Zooid Tue 15 Nov, 8.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 14–17 Since the early 1970s, composer, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Henry Threadgill has been one of the key figures of avant-garde and instrumental music. He has created an extensive music opus encompassing over 150 records. Although his sound stems from the great American tradition of black music, Threadgill often resorts to forms and instruments that have historical connection to chamber or orchestra music. A zooid is a cell that is able to move independently November 2011

54 EVENTS present selected makers of cheese, prosciutto and other dry-cured meat products, oil, bread, vinegar, honey, chocolate, truffle products and other delicacies from Slovenia and abroad. Apart from being a showcase of selected culinary produce from mainly Slovenian farms, the Culinary Festival is a business event and an opportunity for a premium gourmet experience for a wide-ranging audience.

Slovenia Times Recommends

The Ten Tenors One of the most unique musical attractions around, The Ten Tenors, is coming to Slovenia. Some people think classical music and rock are at opposite ends of the spectrum.The Ten Tenors are not most people. During ground-breaking achievements in 2010, not only were ‘The TEN’ gaining new audiences in South America, Sweden, Japan and the Baltic States but also some famous new friends, leading to an appearance on Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure,all through the roaring success of the show The Power of Ten, where they brought rock and classical music together,. It is clear this is a continually evolving group. What was once known as a group of university friends who banded together for extra beer money during their studies at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music has powered through 14 years on the international stage, morphing into a troupe of road warriors, respected and adored throughout the world. The Ten Tenors respectfully tip their hats to their


Tabernacle Tue 22 Nov, 8pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 8–12

classical roots and share with audiences unique renditions of the genre’s best loved pieces, but they also push the boundaries of what it means to be a ‘tenor’ and to sit in the ‘classical’ genre in today’s world. The TEN see rock opera as not only a way of keeping their show fresh and reaching new audiences, but appealing to the myriad of musical preferences a ten-piece musical act shares. Amidst incredible international success, this Australian troupe has become known as one of the hardest working touring acts; performing an average of 250 shows per year across seven continents. The Ten Tenors continually strive to challenge themselves and their audience, so get ready for a concert like no other.

Thu 1 Dec, 8pm, Tivoli sports hall, Ljubljana, EUR 39–59

Sex Mob is a band of the now: post-modern waltzes mutating into dub-echoed free jazz. Sex Mob is social music: a rollicking midnight set with clatter and drinks and a band. Sex Mob is a happy contradiction: an experimental jazz outfit whose music has slid readily into the mainstream via Saturday Night Live, MTV, and National Public Radio. They will play Duke Ellington, Nino Rota and James Bond.


Lenny Kravitz Thu 17 Nov, 9pm, Arena, Zagreb, Croatia, EUR 34–80 Lenny Kravitz’s first rose to fame when he inked a recording contract with Virgin Records and issued his debut release, Let Love Rule, in The Slovenia Times

1989. Kravitz’s debut proved to be a surprise hit due to the success of the title track, which became a hit single and oft-aired video. He won the Grammy Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category and most consecutive wins in one category. He has been nominated and won several other awards as well. His live shows are in support of his latest studio album, Black and White America, released in 2011.


14th Slovenian Wine Festival Thu 17 Nov – Fri 18 Nov, Hotel Slon and Grand hotel Union Executive, Ljubljana

Tabernacle is beautiful new dance piece from one of Ireland’s leading choreographers Fearghus Ó Conchúir, set to an evocative soundtrack of Irish music from Grammy-nominated singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. Tabernacle takes a thoughtful and courageous look at the changing attitudes to religion in Ireland, a country whose identity has been defined by it for so long. It puts the Catholic Church in the spotlight to investigate how its authority and control has impacted on our search for purposeful living. With all that has happened, can we still find shelter in God’s house?

Reggae The annual Slovenian Wine Festival (Slovenski festival vin) will bring together Slovenia’s top winegrowers and winemakers and selected winemakers from abroad, who will be offering their wines for tasting. The festival sessions will be accompanied by a programme of educational events, including guided tasting, lectures and workshops. Slovenian wines are not generally known around the world, but due to their diversity and excellent tastes they attract a lot of attention wherever they are presented. At the Slovenian Wine Festival they are available for tasting to both the general public and connoisseurs, experts and businessmen.


4th Culinary Festival Thu 17 Nov – Fri 18 Nov, Hotel Slon and Grand hotel Union Executive, Ljubljana Ljubljana’s Culinary Festival (Festival kulinarike), held simultaneously with the annual Slovenian Wine Festival, will complement the latter with tasting sessions of culinary creations. It will

Ernest Ranglin Tue 22 Nov, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 19–38 Ernest Ranglin is a living legend of Jamaican music. The 79-yearold musician’s spell-binding electric guitar has been featured on hundreds of albums recorded in Studio One. Having mentored the likes of Bob Marley, he is considered the godfather of ska. He has released many albums, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other respected musicians. The performance will mark his first appearance in Slovenia ever.


Ab Baars Trio Tue 22 Nov, 9.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 11–14 In celebration of 20 years of Ab Baars Trio, the band will be touring through Europe with Invisible Blow. They will present new compositions by Ab Baars inspired by William Carlos Williams, Charles Bukowski, Hans Faverey, Anneke Brassinga, Aeschylus, Joyce Carol Oates, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, Weldon Kees, Robert Creeley and


Seamus Heaney. The theme of Invisible Blow is inspired on boxing as a metaphor for life. The focal point is on growing older and the inevitable confrontation with the invisible blows of life.


Ivan Skrt Wed 23 Nov, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 9–20 Ivan Skrt studied piano at the P. I. Tchaikovsky Music Conservatory in Moscow. Graduating in the class of Professors Naum Starkman and Michail Lidsky, he furthered his studies in Paris at the École Normale Nationale with Professor Henri Barda. While studying under Siavush Gadzhiev he received numerous first prizes and won various Slovenian and international competitions. The programme will include works by Rachmaninov, Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky.


Ibrica Jusić Thu 24 Nov, 8pm, Narodni dom Maribor, EUR 13–15 His career spanning over four decades, Ibrica Jusić is a legendary singer-songwriter and is regarded as the personification of Croatian chanson. He has also gained international recognition, performing at some of the world’s most renowned venues and festivals: Olympia Hall in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Montreux Jazz Festival, to name just a few.


Starfucker Thu 24 Nov, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 8–12 The rising American indie-hipsterpop band is in Slovenia for the first time. Starfucker, the new protégés

of the piercing independent label Polyvinyl Records (Xiu-Xiu, Deerhoof, Arhitecture in Helsinki, of Montreal…) will promote their new album while touring Europe. Starfucker might stand out on paper due to their provocative name; their live performance, however, makes an impression with their animated dance rhythms and the so-called melodic hooks. The guys from Portland are also famed as unpredictable (self-)ironists with a great sense of humour, who often appear on stage dressed as women or offering another kind of surprise...


Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra Thu 24 Nov–Fri 25 Nov, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 6–20 The leading name of Croatian musical modernism, Blagoje Bersa, matured as a composer in Vienna. It therefore comes as no surprise that in his symphonic works we encounter the Mahlerian concept of musical programme, realised in sound with an extraordinary sense for colour revealing Strauss’s orchestral fingerprint. Amongst Bersa’s most performed compositions is Sunny Fields, his masterfully orchestrated symphonic poem from 1919.


Yes Fri 25 Nov, 8pm, Palasport di Chiarbola, Trieste, Italy, EUR 25–39 Regarded as one of the archetypal bands and pioneers of the progressive rock genre, Yes have survived multiple trends within popular music to sell nearly 50 million albums, retained a large following and sustain a career of over 40 years across many line-up changes. The band’s music blends symphonic and other classical structures with their own brand of rock music. The band’s current line-up is Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes and lead singer Benoît David. The band’s latest album, “Fly from Here” was released on 12 July, 2011, on Frontiers Records.

Sat 26 Nov, 8pm, Hala Tivoli, Ljubljana, EUR 29–49 The Imperial Russian Ballet has one of the oldest traditions in ballet dancing in the world. Its dancers are still considered to be some of the most talents and established performers in the world. On this unique occasion in Slovenia, this ballet company will present perhaps the most renowned ballet of all time, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The ballet is a great reminder of Russia’s achievements and contributions to world dancing.

Their latest line-up consists of: Xavier Charles, clarinet, harmonica; Ivar Grydeland, guitar, banjo, shruti box; Christian Wallumrod, prepared piano, harmonium; Ingar Zach, bass drum, percussion.


Whitesnake Wed 30 Nov, 9 pm, Hala Tivoli, Ljubljana, EUR 31–34


Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2011 Sat 26 Nov–Sat 3 Dec, Cinematheque, Ljubljana The Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has become a tradition in Ljubljana and works as a kind of companion to the LIFFe Festival. The programme of the festival features films by gay and lesbian filmmakers and other films dealing with themes related to homosexuality. With its 27-year history, the Ljubljana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival enjoys the reputation of being Europe’s oldest festival of this kind.

Hard rock legends Whitesnake and David Coverdale are coming to Hala Tivoli in Ljubljana. Whitesnake were founded in 1978 by David Coverdale after his departure from his previous band, Deep Purple. The band’s early material has been compared by critics to Deep Purple, but by the mid 1980s they had moved to a more commercial heavy metal style. The band’s 1987 self-titled album was their most commercially successful, and contained two of their most recognisable songs, “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”. Their latest album “Forevermore” was released in March 2011.


Dans Les Arbres


Tue 29 Nov, 8.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 11–14

Altera Pars

The quartet stems from work that Ivar Grydeland and Ingar Zach began as a duo toward the end of the twentieth century. Grydeland and Zach established the label SOFA, performed as a duo, and started several ensembles in which the two worked with musicians from the European improvised music scene.

Wed 30 Nov, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 9–12 Altera Pars is the new musical composition by composer and guitarist Etbin Stefančič. The thread that runs through Etbin Stefančič’s artistic endeavours is music – composing as well as playing classical guitar. Especially


The Imperial Russian Ballet November 2011

56 EVENTS devoted to graphic design, the extremely versatile artist is also involved in film, theatre, radio, television and multimedia projects. A maverick musician of idiosyncratic sensitivity, Etbin’s art reveals a significant measure of inventiveness and high-minded creativity.


Lamb Thu 1 Dec, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 18–22 The cult Manchester trip hop/ drum’n’bass/electronica duo present their new album and full live band! The iconic duo Lamb is known to the general public thanks to their major hit Gorecki, the gracious singing by Lou Rhodes and the smooth, yet diverse production by Andy Barlow. Following a break of several years, Lou and Andy reunited in 2009 and this year (after eight years) they released their fifth album carrying the symbolic title “5”. Finally, the sophisticated electronic sounds of Lamb will resonate in Slovenia for the very first time!


Hammerfall Sat 3 Dec, 8pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 25

Swedish heavy metal giants Hammerfall are touring Europe in support of their eighth studio effort titled “Infected”. On their “European Outbreak 2011” tour they will play in Ljubljana. Following their formation in 1993, Hammerfall underwent numerous personnel changes before settling on their current lineup, which includes principal songwriters Joachim Cans (vocals) and Oscar Dronjak (guitars). In Flames skinbeater Jesper Stromblad contributed to their debut, although Patrick Rafling replaced him soon after. Their most recent album Infected was issued this year.


Like in Heaven – Music of Silence The Slovenia Times

Sun 4 Dec, 7pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 28–32 The people who have experienced a concert by Lex van Someren know that this sound artist has the talent to embody the dimensions of the soul in his music and performance art. His singing and chanting are like a poetic language of the heart that touches a profound space within. Meditative music, enthralling melodies, mystical soundscape experiences, chanting, Lex’s soulful voice and silence blend into a harmonious synthesis, creating a sense of wellbeing and a healing atmosphere that have a profound and long-lasting effect on the audience. Lex is accompanied by a selection of top-class musicians including: Nils Tannert, Karoline Stroeher, Johannes Hustedt, Carolin Kriegbaum and Frank Steiner.

Skoraj poletje, and many hits from their long career.


December 2011 in Ljubljana Sat 3 Dec–Mon 2 Jan, Old city centre, Ljubljana, no admission The festively decorated old city centre will see a range of different events intended for people of all ages and different tastes. The festival will traditionally begin with the event entitled Let’s Turn on the Light, People!, part of which is the turning on of the Christmas street lights. Some of the most interesting events at the start of December include the St. Nicholas Fair (from 3–6 December on Prešernov trg square), the Festive Fair in the city centre and the St. Nicholas Procession in the city centre (5 December at 5pm).


Henry Purcell: The Fairy Queen Mon 5 Dec, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 13–28 A semi-opera by Purcell, The Fairy Queen is a series of masques (a dramatic entertainment of the 16th to 17th centuries in England) interspersed throughout an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare’s text to music. The musical score has retained an extreme flexibility of rendition, in masterful hands tending to become a unique spectacle. This also holds true for the version created by Philip Pickett, the celebrated conductor of the New London Consort and one of the world’s most prominent specialists in the interpretation of early music, and the brilliant Mexican director Mauricio García Lozano.


Hiša Mon 5 Dec, 8pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 14–22 The legendary Slovenian folk/rock band Hiša, described by some as the Slovenian Crosby, Stills and Nash, is celebrating its 20th anniversary of existence and the publication of a new album. The jubilee concert of Hiša, which has released ten records and received several major awards, will feature various special guests. Faithful to its creative orientation and style, cosmic folk, the band will play songs from their latest album,

Animated film

Animateka Mon 5 Dec–Sun 11 Dec, Kinodvor, Ljubljana The main, competition programme of the 8th Animateka animated film festival, which has been becoming more and more popular in Slovenia and abroad, presents short animated films produced in Eastern and Central Europe, which compete for a jury and an audience award. The main festival programme is accompanied by other programmes and retrospective screenings of animated films from around the world.


Katalena Tue 6 Dec, 8.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 11–14 Indisputably one of this century’s finest Slovenian bands, Katalena has garnered widespread attention with its singular style and singer Vesna Zornik Stonič. Each of its five albums has taken Slovenia by storm. The autumn 2011 part of the Tuesday Clubbing series will be concluded in the spirit of Halloween (i.e. Noč čarovnic, the title of their last album) that reveals Katalena’s vision of witchcraft in Slovenia.


Bratko Bibič & The Madleys feat. Otto Lechner

Wed 7 Dec, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 8–13 Accordionist, vocalist and composer Bratko Bibič and his principal band The Madleys (Vasko Atanasovski, Boštjan Gombač, Uroš Polanc and Matjaž Sekne), as well as the Vienna-based accordionist, vocalist and composer Otto Lechner and other guest musicians present the unique poly-metric fusion of heterogeneous rural and urban folk music, jazz, rock, contemporary chamber and improvised music from here and there.


The Plastic People of the Universe Wed 7 Dec, 10pm, Menza pri koritu, Ljubljana, EUR 7–10 The Plastic People of the Universe is a rock band from Prague, Czech Republic. It was the foremost representative of Prague’s underground culture (1968–1989). This avant-garde group went against the grain of the Communist regime and due to its non-conformism often suffered serious problems such as arrests. The group continues to perform even after the death of the founder, main composer and bass player, Milan Hlavsa. Going on before them will be the cult Croatian avant-garde band, Tigrova Mast, reunited and crazier than ever.


Ronnie Baker Brooks Thu 8 Dec, 9pm, Jamski dvorec mansion, Postojna, EUR 20 In the Olympic tradition, when the torch gets passed on, the flame transfers from one sure hand to the next – keeping it burning, while at the same time moving forward. It’s a fitting image for young Chicago guitar hero Ronnie Baker Brooks on his aptly titled third release, The Torch. Ronnie is one of the most talented new blues guitarists out there and he is set to prove that the torch has indeed been passed on.



A Breath of Fresh Air Slaviša Stojanivić has become the sixth coach of the national football team. Succeeding Matjaž Kek, he has big shoes to fill. Photo: BOBO

By Simon Demšar


t’s the same all over the world: coaching the national team is one of the most coveted jobs in football but at the same time one of the most stressful. This is a post which is constantly monitored by thousands of sports fans, all convinced that they could do better at leading their countrymen to footballing glory. Outgoing coach Matjaž Kek went from hell to heaven and back in his career and his time at the helm of the national squad arguably placed him in purgatory. He took over the role in 2007, with much scepticism surrounding both him and the national team which was then in 77th position in the FIFA rankings. Against all odds, Kek, 50, was the writer of a fairytale which culminated in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He led the national team 49 times, with 20 wins, 20 defeats and 9 draws, which makes him statistically the most successful Slovenian national team coach.

friendly matches against Georgia and Belgium and it becomes clear that the team was struggling. Even fans, whose love for the squad seemed eternal, booed them when they lost against Belgium. Team members responded by firing back (“you should never boo anyone in a friendly match”) and largely ignoring the media. A change at the top seemed inevitable. But when, in early October, Slovenia played its last qualifying match for the competition and won it 1-0, there was speculation that Kek might just hang on. It was a suggestion that was quickly quashed by the man himself. “We did some great things, showed some great performances, sold out stadiums... but recently, negative energy has built up and. It is time for new people and new challenges, but the foundations are solid,” said Kek, who turned down an offer from an unnamed Arabic country after the World Cup.

From success to struggles

And so one of the toughest jobs in the country now falls to Slaviša Stojanović. The 41-year-old was already a leading contender for the job back in 2007 but the then president Rudi Zavrl opted for Kek instead. “His time will definitely come,” said Zavrl. It has. Stojanović’s career has been a steady progression. It started back in 1998, in Ljubljana, where he trained young prospects. In 2002, he became the head coach of Domžale to help promote the

Riding on the wave of the World Cup, expectations were high ahead of Euro 2012 qualifiers. In a group with Italy, Serbia, Estonia and Northern Ireland, second place seemed like a realistic goal. But it wasn’t to be. The only respectable achievement was winning in Estonia, but a home defeat against the same team was the final blow which effectively dashed all hope. Add two more defeats in

New blood

club from the Ljubljana suburb to the Slovenian premier league. He won two championships in 2007 and 2008. In his most recent coaching job, he served as an assistant coach of the United Arab Emirates national football team, where he worked alongside the legendary Slovenian coach Srečko Katanec. Stojanović has admitted that his time in the Middle East and working alongside Katanec was an invaluable experience: “This was without doubt a great experience and I owe a lot to Katanec. I learned a lot from him,”

said Stojanović, whose first goal is of course qualifying for the World Cup.

First challenge

Stojanović will have almost a year to prepare the team for that mission but his first test will come on 15 November in Ljubljana, when Slovenia will host a friendly match against the United States. “I am aware of the responsibility attached to the task ahead of me... This is no longer some local story, I am now at the helm of a team that is always a mirror of the state of Slovenian football as a whole,” Stojanović commented, announcing some fresh blood in the team and an aggressive playing style. If it were down to the fans, Stojanović would offer more opportunities to young players, such as Josip Iličić, Armin Bačinović and Tim Matavž, who were not given a proper chance under Kek’s command. There is also a demand for Robert Koren and Milivoje Novaković to be dropped but Stojanović has announced that his work will be more of evolution rather than revolution. “The selection of players is not about choosing between the young and the old but between the good and the not so good,” the new coach has said.

Table Tennis

Tokič Takes Two Bronzes Table tennis player Bojan Tokič has won bronze in the men’s singles at the European Table Tennis Championships in Gdansk after already winning the same medal in doubles in Slovenia’s biggest feat in this sport ever. Tokič defeated the Ukrainian-born German player Dimitrij Ovtcharov 4:3 in Saturday’s nail-biter to clinch Slovenia’s first ever singles medal in major tennis tournaments. However, he was no match for the title defender, Germany’s Timo Boll, in the semi-finals going down 0:4. “Timo is a world apart. None of those who haven’t played with him can ever imagine how difficult, how good his shots are...,” Tokič said after the match. Tokic already won bronze in the doubles with his playing partner Aleksandar Karakašević of Serbia. They defeated the Hungarian pair of Janos Jakab and Daniel Kosiba but lost to the Russian duo of Alexander Shibaev and Kirill Skachkov 2:4 on Saturday. Tokič is a Bosnia-born athlete, who has so far changed many clubs, currently playing for the German Frankfurt. November 2011

The winners of CACIB Koper dog exhibition: the swiss white shepherd Toruk Makto, the bullmastif Bravi Ragazzi Bye Bye Baby and the American akita Need for Speed de Gabritho (MS)


Folklore group from Adlešiči, southern Slovenia performs at a festival in Belgrade.

The grand opening of Mengeš bypass with the motorcade of oldtimers.

Aleksander Kamenik successfully concluded his 93 kilometer charity marathon swim along the Slovenian coast both ways.

The first passenger of the short-lived Maribor - London route by Golden Air (MS)

The actual and former skiing champions Jakov Fak and Jure Košir posing in front of a new 118i at the BMW show.

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The Days of Slovenian Tourism 2011 Tourism is an important segment of a country’s economy as it accelerates its national and regional development and for the first time ever it is going to be discussed from all aspects possible on the new event – Days of Slovenian Tourism in Portorož in December. The two-day event will bring together all the major events and experts from the field, including the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), Ministry of Economy, the Tourist Association of Slovenia, the Tourist-Catering Chamber, the Chamber of Crafts and Entrepreneurship of Slovenia, Association of Tourist Agencies of Slovenia and Slovenia Convention Bureau. To further stress the significance of tourism for the Slovenian economy, the Days of Slovenian Tourism are going to be dedicated to aligning the views of future strategic moves and tourism marketing on the national, regional and local levels. As such, they are a great opportunity for networking between experts, businesspersons and decision-makers in the tourism industry.


The 14th Slovenian Tourist Forum will be held as a part of the Days of Slovenian Tourism.

The Forum is about to focus on change as the only regular feature of future. Change is going to be examined through a broader prism of the changed economic and social circumstances. Also tourist reactions regarding their habits and values to the crisis are going to be studied; at the same time answers to challenges of the Slovenian tourism are going to be searched for. Many respectable lecturers and guests from Slovenia and abroad are going to be engaged in finding the solutions and the main speaker of the first day is going to be Daniel Levine, a renowned international expert on trends. Among the rest there are going to be Olivier HenryBiabaud, director of TCI Research, Tinkara Pavlovčič Kapitanovič, Head of e-business department at STB and Helena Egan, manager of destination marketing and sales at TripAdvisor to name but a few.

For more information contact Ms Špela Ivančič, Event Coordinator Manager at STB,

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Safety together * Compared to the average performance of two leading competitors. Braking distance on snow from 50km/h to 5 km/h, measured by TÜV SÜD Automotive in December 2010; Tire Size: 205/55R16 91H; Test Car: Golf VI; Location: Ivalo (FIN) for snow, Mireval (FR) for wet; Report nr: 76244609.

The Slovenia Times 145  

Slovenian magazine in English Language

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