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Lifestyle: The urban pulse of Slovenian capital

The Slovenia Times, Slovenian magazine in English Language, volume 8, number 141, EUR 4,80

June 2011

Keeping up with standards Is the evolution of Slovenian financial sector on a par with its European counterparts?


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CONTENTS 3

June 2011 Business Partners

POLITICS

6

The independent Slovenia - 20 years on

ECONOMY 10 Mercator remains unsold 12 Krka’s reputation intact 12 SCT finds strategic partner

FDI 14 BSH Hišni aparati gets government subsidy 14 Julon launches high tech project 15 CEED addresses new business challenges 16

Embassy diaries

18

Innovation special: DiaGenomi

FINANCE special 19 21 22 24

Latest developments in the financial sector Is having three financial pillars a good idea? Insurance sector fights off the crisis Interview: Andrej Šketa, president of the board, Ljubljana Stock Exchange 25 Xetra optimising LJSE potential 26 Banking goes mobile 27 Bankers still believe in Slovenian shares

100 95 75

31

Interview: Maja Pak, Slovenian Tourist Boar

100

LIFESTYLE

5

32 33 34 34 35 36 38 41 42

0

CULTURE

95 25 75 5 0 25

Ljubljana’s urban vibe Column: Tine Kračun on Ljubljana vs Maribor rivalry A summer of festivals Interview: Drago Brlek, Ljubljana Festival Interview: Goro Osojnik, Ana Desetnica street festival Freedom of Cycling with BicikeLJ Experience: BTC City Column: Andja Marić on Eurosong Dine with Style: Nebotičnik restaurant

44

A timeless spectacle with Liu Zhengguo and Ljuben Dimkaroski

45

The event guide

Slo times avgust 230x95 mm

SPORTS

11. junij 2009 10:43:56

49

Cycling fever is on

50

Every picture tells a story June 2011


Until the Last Mine

Croatia remains a key priority for the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF), its director Dorijan Maršič has said, speaking after observing a demining operation south of the Croatian town of Karlovac. The ITF, which is based in and run from Slovenia, has already allocated some US $330m to demining activities in Croatia. Maršič says that in the coming year it plans to carry out projects worth another US $3.3m. The ultimate aim is for the country to be mine-free by 2019. Croatia is one of the most mine-infested nations in the South East European region. Some 830 square kilometres of the country – all together 1.5 percent of the territory is still mine-infested, with every fifth citizen living in an area with a potential mine presence. The ITF has been active in Croatia since 1999. As a part of the 348 ITF projects in Croatia, 6,176 mines and 2,224 explosive devices have been found and destroyed. In 2010, the ITF cleaned 1.41 square kilometres of territory and destroyed 235 mines and 31 explosive devices. Mines have claimed many lives even after the end of the Croatian war. The number of victims is now falling each year thanks to demining projects – currently at seven per year.

The National Assembly backed on in seventh attempt changes to the act on lawmakers which abolish the possibility of MPs simultaneously serving as mayors. The motion was filed by coalition Zares MP Franci Kek and was endorsed in a 48:36 vote by the majority of the MPs of the coalition and the National Party. The supporters of the separation of the two offices argued that the existing situation - to end with the next general election - means inequality, a conflict of interests, and the ignoring of the fact that both posts require full-time commitment. The opponents on the other hand believe that the motion was foremost about political prestige and that MPs should trust voters with making such decisions and that mayors are a guarantee that the people and their local problems will be lent and ear and represented at national level. The vote ends years of unsuccessful attempts to separate the posts of mayors and MPs. The first goes back to 1993, while the last one failed in November 2009, when the bill was shot down by a number of coalition MPs, although their parties had expressed their support. Slovenia’s municipality associations expressed criticism of the decision, saying that the step would not solve problems, but curb cooperation between state and local authorities. Currently there are 18 mayors and 4 deputy mayors serving as MPs in the 90-member National Assembly.

Persistence pays off: MP Franci Kek, the most vocal speaker against the MP-mayoral combo.

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The Slovenia Times

Dirty Mayor

Time to Decide

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Editorial office: Trg MDB 12, 1000 Ljubljana

source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

Photo: BOBO

PANORAMA

Photo: BOBO

4

No saint: Kangler with last year’s special guest to Maribor, Dalai Lama.

The police carried out a number of house searches in and around Maribor in a corruption sting, apprehending Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler and another eight persons suspected of illegal gain of over EUR 5m. Kangler, who is suspected of 15 accounts of criminal acts, including abuse of office or rights, denied all allegations, arguing the investigation was politically motivated to discredit him. But according to reports by the daily Večer, the police acquired wiretapping records proving that he acted as a middle man in acquiring deals for companies of his friends. Kangler, who was in late 2010 elected for his second four-year term in office, and seven suspects were released the same evening, while the head of the city’s environment and spatial planning department Vinko Merc remains in custody. He is suspected of accepting bribes for issuing construction permits and delaying certain procedures, Merc however rejected the allegations too. The police said that suspicions were related to wrongdoing in property transactions and a number of construction projects in Maribor. Following the sting, a group of Maribor intellectuals called upon Kangler to resign, as they believe the mayor lost political legitimacy. He should resign over what they called a general ethical and political bankruptcy, and for the sake of the 2012 European Culture Capital project. The police operation was part of an investigation launched in 2008. It involved 116 investigators and police officers conducting 25 house searches at nine individuals and five legal entities.

Editor-in-chief Jaka Terpinc editor@sloveniatimes.com

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Front page by Jaka Terpinc


UNDER THE14 PRESS Days 5 The army

A Minority Government

To Relieve the Minister

The council of the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) put the final stamp of approval on the party’s decision to leave the ruling coalition. The move, coming after a series of clashes with the government and the resignation of one of its three ministers, leaves the coalition with only 42 MPs in the 90-seat parliament. DeSUS, whose withdrawal was initiated by the party’s president Karl Erjavec after the resignation of DeSUS member Duša Trobec Bučan as the minister for local government and regional policy, claims that it was not treated as an equal partner, which became most apparent in the ignoring of its proposals for pension reform. Coalition parties see DeSUS’s withdrawal as the party’s failure to assume responsibility in difficult times and instead opting for political gain before the general election, while opposition parties - bar the National Party (SNS) - repeated their call for early elections.

The Trade Union of Army, Defence and Protection Services (SVOZ) called on Defence Minister Ljubica Jelušič to resign over the situation in the army. Simultaneously the Soldiers’ Union filed a criminal complaint against the minister, accusing her of obstructing the functioning of the trade union. Mileva Štukelj of the SVOZ told the that the social dialogue between the union and the Defence Ministry was inappropriate and that the army was becoming an increasingly uncontrolled organisation, full of retaliations, extortions and violations of regulations. Jelušič said in a response that she is not afraid of any criminal complaint and that the calls for her resignation are nothing new. She added that army trade unions and soldiers have no right to deal with politics. “Our unionists are soldiers first and foremost,” the minister said.

The law

Ups!

A New State Prosecutor

A tight vote has pushed through an opposition-sponsored act, which defines common-law marriage as “a union between man and woman who express their will to live together by signature before a state authority or have a child born from that union.” The controversial amendment, which in fact restricts the current solution that common-law marriage is a union between man and woman over a length of time, was put forward by the opposition and unexpectedly also by the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS). DeSUS deputy Anton Urh said afterwards he had made a mistake in voting for the amendment, which is “taking Slovenia 100 years back”, and that the party would vote completely differently at third reading next month. The coalition, opposed the amendment which is seen as a major step back considering the more liberal solution in force since 1976. The Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry, which drafted the bill, said the amendment was unacceptable and infeasible. According to the ministry, more than a half of Slovenian children were born to parents in common-law marriage.

The National Assembly appointed Zvonko Fišer the new state prosecutor general for a six-year term in a 47-28 vote. Fišer, who was the only applicant for the top prosecution post in the country, was strongly opposed by the SDS because he had prosecuted in 1977 three people for having erected a cross at a chasm where alleged WWII enemy collaborators were shot by Partisans. Also, in the early 1980 he indicted a 16-year-old over a “verbal offence”. Fišer regretted these indictments as mistakes, explaining that as a prosecutor, he had merely followed the law of that time. The government, on the other hand, said that he was an expert with a lot of practical experience in prosecution of criminal acts and that he was also a law theoretician. Fišer was sworn in immediately after the appointment, saying that one of his first tasks would be examining thoroughly the current situation in the state prosecution. Photo: BOBO

Family law

From a distance, she looks so stereotypical: blond hair, blue eyes, high heels, minimalistic elegance. But a closer perspective reveals a striking outlook. Not conventional, but attentive and determined. If she lived in France or the USA, everyone would want her picture, and all tabloids would be full of them. She would be under watchful eyes and criticized for wearing the wrong shoes or even taking a wrong step, regardless of her footwear. Introduction to the interview with Slovenian Interior Minister Katarina Kresal in the Italian Daily Il Piccolo

Photo: BOBO

Politics

A pension system is like high blood pressure. It doesn’t feel like much, but then, all of the sudden, comes the stroke. Mitja Gaspari, Minister of Development and European Affairs on the importance of pension reform (Mladina).

Pahor’s attitude is not as “consensual” as he tries to make it look. It is narcissistic. He wants to please everybody. Such people end up pleasing nobody.

Crime

Professor of psychiatry and the President of Liberal Democrats, Slavko Ziherl on the prime minister (Dnevnik).

The Balkan Warrior Trial A high-profile trial started in Ljubljana against 17 defendants who allegedly make up part of the Slovenian division of the drug cartel headed by Serbian drug lord Darko Šarić. The trial, which is also characterised by unprecedented levels of security precautions, comes after 14 people were arrested in Slovenia in May 2010 as part of an international police operation under the code name Balkan Warrior. The indictment, read by state prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar, charges the defendants with drug-trafficking and racketeering. According to Žgajnar, they were active on an international level, smuggling cocaine from South America to Italy in collusion with Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin citizens. The defendants proclaimed innocence, while refusing to answer questions. Moreover, the defence of Dragan Tosić, the suspected leader of the ring, asked for exclusion of evidence obtained through wiretapping in Serbia of Željko Vujanović, claiming it was obtained illegally. Vujanović is charged in Serbia with organising together with Šarić the smuggling of over two tonnes of cocaine from South America to the Mediterranean in September 2009.

Sometime soon, I will gather up my courage and try one. I’m afraid that I might to like it and then I will have to give up my greatest love: browsing through the books in London book shops; choosing, buying, sorting my books on my shelves. A book is like a woman: completely different to touch than the image on the screen. Author Evald Flisar on e-readers (MMC RTV Slovenia). October 2010


6

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR

POLITICS

20 years of the Slovenian independence

Sabotaging Progress

By Maja Dragović

In Slovenia it seems that we are often told the solution to the country’s problems is introducing more of the things that we’re also being told to cut down on. Case in point: taxes and bureaucracy. The pension reform campaign has been in full swing with Borut Pahor’s government and opposing sides at loggerheads and each desperate to win the vote. A legion of esteemed individuals and organisations are battling it out with trade unions and those who have been established to be the voice of the “less privileged”. While most of the time the government is using an approach based on rational argument, those opposing reform are going for a more populist approach. It is a tactic which threatens to hold the country hostage in its plans to overcome the crisis and prepare for future challenges. Slovenia’s biggest trade union ZSSS is making the majority of the populist and essentially counter-productive arguments to pension reform. One of ZSSS’ suggestions on how to fill the public purse without changing the retirement age is to raise taxes. Now that is one original and ingenious idea. In a country already heavily criticised for its high taxes, the nation’s largest trade union wants to raise them even more. ZSSS and its president Dušan Semolič seem oblivious to the fact that one of Slovenia’s biggest problems is attracting high-calibre professionals and keeping its own talented sons and daughters working in the country. And why is it a problem? Because of the high proportion of wages which already go on taxes. ZSSS also has other brilliant alternatives such as the need to create more jobs. Unfortunately the union does not seem to have any concrete suggestions as to how the government might actually achieve that. What is alarming is that Semolič’s arguments appeal to the proportion of the population which has already lost faith in the current ruling collation. This means that the referendum is in danger of turning into a vote on the government rather than a vote on pension reform. To be fair, ZSSS is not solely to blame for this. However, it is a worrying fact that trade unions have this much power in a country which desperately needs to become more competitive – and which needs to adopt radical measures in order to do so. But it seems that lessons are not being learnt. If there is one thing that Slovenia is criticised for more than its high taxes, it is its ridiculous level of bureaucracy. Yet there is another form filling exercise which is threatening to come our way. If the amendment of the family law passes, obligatory registration of common-law marriage will effectively be introduced in Slovenia. The original purpose of the amendment was to institute gay marriage. But after strong opposition from an alliance of conservative pro-family groups and the centre-right opposition, the government was forced to draft a watered down compromise proposal, which excludes gay marriage. So now we are looking at an amendment which not only fails to give gay couples the equal right to marry if they so wish, but one which imposes a bureaucratic burden on cohabiting heterosexual couples. Rather than resolving a problem, the new bill is simply introducing new ones. What is worrying is that on a macro level, Slovenia seems to have this habit of creating more problems than it solves. And this seems to be breeding an army of saboteurs such as ZSSS whose narrow focus on narrow interests risks holding the country back rather than driving it forward. It is a very concerning situation.

Time for a New Chapter? As Slovenia approaches the twentieth anniversary of its independence, the spirit is one of reflection – and disenchantment. Slovenia might have been a wunderkind of the post-socialist Europe, but the current situation is far from flattering. By Tjaša Pureber

A

n economic crisis, questionable judicial decisions that give people the sense that law only applies to the poor and unprivileged, general dissatisfaction with politicians, record low disapproval of the government, a feeling of no future within the existing forms of democracy, the distance between the decisionmaking bodies and the people, a rising rate of unemployed and those living under the poverty

maja.dragovic@sloveniatimes.com

The declaration of independence in 1991.

line... It seems that 20 years after Slovenian independence, things are a long way from the dream of freedom that was the main motive behind the process that, among other things, ignited the Yugoslav wars. The fact that the same people who were behind the process of independence still more or less run the country is not very encouraging. Not only they are getting old, their authority is .too often a result of informal power,


POLITICS 7

It was during this time that some of the figures that are still at the centre of political power today came into the spotlight. If we take a look at the government, political parties, economy and parliament, we can see certain new faces but many would argue too few. Actors in the process of independence share different roles.

Of course, there are also those who are the target of the public rage for their double role. Igor Bavčar, the first minister for internal affairs, is being blasted because of his role in the multi-million manipulations that caused the heavy financial problems at Istrabenz.

Same old story

Ideological struggle

Independence is not the only important historical event that Slovenia is celebrating this year. 2011 is also the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Liberation

France Bučar: The father of the first Slovenian constitution compares European Union to former Yugoslavia. Photo: BOBO

Some other figures have moved away from active politics but are still considered important in all key issues the country is facing. Despite his retirement, France Bučar – who was the first president of the Slovenian parliament – is still considered one of the most influential conservative authorities in Slovenian politics when it comes to the formation of public opinion. He is a strong critic of the current political crisis in Slovenia. He believes that two decades after independence political parties have too much power, for it is his belief that decisions are not made in parliament by the elected representatives. He believes there are several “centres of power” outside of parliament that are making key decisions instead. He also draws several parallels between the dysfunction of the multiethnic Yugoslavia and the state of the EU today: “The EU lives with even greater difference, so how to integrate these differences into a common entity is a key challenge,” he says. Another key figure from postindependent Slovenia who has returned to private life is the first president Milan Kučan, who was in power between 1992 and 2002. Even though he has had no political function since he finished his last presidential mandate, the right-wing still views him as the “master of puppets of the left”. Occasionally he appears in the media, such as in a recent interview in which he blamed politicians for making numerous mistakes. He is calling for the respect of the law; a guarantee for the respect of human rights, freedom, solidarity and honesty. He believes not all politicians are corrupt but that they have to gain trust of the people again. “They can do that by acting in a way that they set a new crossroad where political parties, civil society and unions will be able to quit the blockades they have created and to start a new dialogue and cooperation,” Kučan says.

Milan Kučan: The first Slovenian president of the republic is now retired, yet many see him as the man who still holds the strings. Photo: BOBO

Fallen kings

Some have sunk into oblivion or retreated from politics back to their professions. For others it seems they may still be waiting for their turn back in first class politics. The list is extensive, yet there are certainly some outstanding people. One such is Janez Janša, who was the first defence minister and the main strategist of independence war. Janša has seen both victories and defeats. Even though he cannot shake the rumours about his involvement in the illegal arms trade in the nineties, he managed to become prime minister in 2004 and, after four years in opposition, public opinion polls show his party has the best chance of beating current Prime Minister Borut Pahor. Meanwhile another independence character, Jelko Kacin – who as Minister of Information played a memorable role in communicating Slovenia’s efforts to the world – is in his second term as a member of the European Parliament. One of the most controversial figures is Dimitrij Rupel, the first minister of foreign affairs. Rupel has since carried this role numerous times in different parties, but has been cut from the political affairs after tensions among former colleagues after the fall of government of Janez Janša. The question is whether he is ready to become active again if his party comes to power. Photo: BOBO

personal connections and even justfied by some historical credits rather than operational capability. Aspirations for Slovenian independence go back decades, but the key moments definitely belong to the eighties when civil society – especially in the form of culture and art – started to question the existence of the socialist federation of Yugoslavia and its ruling mechanisms. After the first multi-party elections in 1990 and the plebiscite in which the vast majority of people decided to leave Yugoslavia and establish an independent Slovenia, long negotiations with Belgrade began. On June 25 1991, Slovenia declared independence, which was followed by the ten days war between newly established Slovenian army and Yugoslav people’s army, which was tasked with protecting the existing borders. Even though it was traumatic for everyone involved, it was quite insignificant compared to the wars that followed in other former federal countries.

Janez Janša: The military strategist of Slovenian independence, anti-communist and undisputed leader of the political right could easily retake the government in the next elections.

Front (OF), which played a key role in the fight against Nazism and fascism. Even though politicians often try to use both events as key elements towards Slovenian statehood, this year’s celebrations again show that there is a huge ideological battle still happening in terms of the interpretation of each event. WWII resistance is tainted with the post-war communist regime introduced by the same Partisans. The independence process on the other hand tends to be monopolised by the Slovenian right-wing. For as long as the same people who fought for independence still hold political positions, it will be difficult to reach an agreement over who contributed most to the process: was it the liberal political force within the existing Yugoslav structures; was it the conservative dissidents, civil society or the angry rock’n’roll? 20 years later, the questions remain. June 2011


8

Economy

FACTS AND FIGURES

source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

Slovenia Gains One Spot in IMD Rankings After losing 20 spots in 2010, Slovenia has gained one place in this year’s competitiveness rankings from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). Slovenia is now in 51st place out of 59 in the rankings detailed in the Swiss institute’s World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2011. The country lost one place in the economic performance category to rank 43rd, preserved 53rd place in government efficiency, was up one spot to 56th in business efficiency, and climbed three spots in infrastructure to 31st place. The director of Slovenia’s Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI), Igor Plestanjak, highlights that the ranking means Slovenia did not regress compared to last year, but has added that a detailed analysis of the results is necessary. It is notable that Slovenia has not reduced the gap to comparable new EU members, such as the Czech Republic and Estonia, highlighting business and government efficiency as the most problematic areas.

The IMD divided its recommendations for improving competitiveness into four groups: measures securing more flexibility on the labour market, public tenders, simpler administrative procedures, and an improved national innovation system. The proposals include simpler procedures for laying off workers, a more flexible wage policy, an overhaul of regulated professions, the introduction of a cap on social contributions, protections for subcontractors in public tenders, simpler construction permit procedures, and more effective investment in research and development. Development and European Affairs Minister Mitja Gaspari says the report is a warning to Slovenia that it should move beyond debates about pension reform and social transfers to also discuss competitiveness. Economy Minister Darja Radić was more cautious. She argues that the competitiveness of the economy did not depend only on the government but also on the managers themselves. She also dismisses the results on innovation, saying that

Igor Plestanjak

Slovenia has done a lot in this field and that the measurements were too subjective and based on the views of managers, who were repeating old mantras. The countries trailing Slovenia were South Africa, Jordan, Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine, Croatia, and Venezuela. Greece lost 10 spots. Topping the IMD’s rankings this year are HongKong together with the US, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Canada, Qatar, Australia and Germany. The US was third, losing the top spot for the first time in decades.

Drinks industry

Retail

Real estate

Tabloid Still BestSelling Daily

Pivovarna Laško Posts Profit

Mercator Group Boosts Revenues

Prices of Flats Level

The Slovenia Times

Photo: PL archive

Slovenske novice remains the most popular Slovenian daily newspaper according to new data released by the Slovenian Advertising Chamber. The tabloid, which sold most copies in the first quarter of 2011, was followed by broadsheets Delo and Dnevnik. The best selling weekly paper was Nedeljski dnevnik, followed by Delo’s Sunday edition Nedelo and women’s tabloid Lady. TV guide Vikend was the most popular supplement, followed by Pilot and Ona. The most popular free newspapers remain the weekly Zurnal and the daily Zurnal24.

The group around brewer Pivovarna Laško has recorded a dramatically increased operating profit in the first quarter of 2011. The group generated more than EUR 6m, a leap from the EUR 1.6m generated in the same period last year. Sales revenues also increased, by about ten percent, to EUR 66.3m. The group recorded EUR 11.5m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), a 41.1 percent increase over the same period in 2010. The core company Pivovarna Laško generated EUR 2.6m in net profit, up 20 percent over the same period last year, which is 12 percent more than planned.

Photo: Mercator

Media

The Mercator group has posted EUR 676m in revenues in the first quarter of 2011, up six percent year-on-year. Net profit stood at EUR 10.18m, slightly above projections. In the first three months of this year, the group spent EUR 47.4m on investments or 38.1 percent of the annual investment plan. In other developments, the company’s management and supervisory board have proposed a dividend of EUR 8 gross per share for 2010. If this is confirmed at the shareholders’ meeting scheduled for 22 June, the company will give over EUR 30m for dividends on over EUR 40m in distributable profit.

The average price of existing apartments in Slovenia has remained flat for the fifth quarter in a row. No increase in prices was recorded in the first three months of 2011. The average price per square metre stood at EUR 1.745, with Ljubljana and the coast having the most expensive apartments, with prices exceeding EUR 2,500 per square metre. Apartment prices in the capital did grow, by one percent over the previous quarter and three percent yearon-year. Prices increased in Koper too, by eleven percent over the previous quarter, but sales remained low. The number of flats and houses sold decreased by 26 percent and 40 percent respectively over the last quarter of 2010, according to the Surveying and Mapping Authority.


9 Banks

Telekom Back to Profit

Petrol to Buy Croatian Gas Firms

Tourism Chamber Separates from GZS

Slovenia’s incumbent telco Telekom Slovenije returned to profit in the first quarter of 2011, finishing the period with net earnings of EUR 14.5m, despite a 4 percent drop in revenues. Operating revenues at the group fell by 4 percent to EUR 196m, both on account of lower sales at the parent company and its mobile wing Mobitel. But the firstquarter profit compares to a EUR 0.6m loss in the same period last year. The company is on the way of meeting the plan for 2011 of EUR 28m in net profit, Telekom management said. Meanwhile, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 11 percent to EUR 72.5m, while operating profit doubled to EUR 22.9m. Chairman Ivica Kranjcevic said that one of the goals was reducing the costs for salaries to 16 percent of revenues, adding that the current share is at almost 19 percent. Telekom wants to boost its activities in cloud computing and intends to participate in all major projects in this field, such as e-health and e-administration as well as toll collection.

Slovenian energy company Petrol plans to invest EUR 15m in the Croatian market this year, its chairman has announced. Tomaž Berločnik says Petrol, the market leader in Slovenia, will invest a total of EUR 75m in the Croatian market in 2010-2014. Half of that will go into expanding the network of service stations (from 80 now to 100 by 2014) and half into the gas business. Berločnik has also announced the acquisition of two minor Croatian gas companies. The group around Petrol increased its gross profit by 14 percent to EUR 78m in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year, while net profit was up seven percent to EUR 9.8m. The group’s net sales revenues amounted to EUR 749.3m in the first three months of 2011, up 23 percent year-on-year.

Fitch Lowers LongTerm Rating of Probanka

Simobil Aiming to Rival Telekom Slovenije Slovenia’s second-largest mobile operator is planning a foray into the fixed telephony market. Simobil says its vision is to become a strong alternative to Telekom Slovenije. The firm aims to rival Telekom Slovenije across the board of services, including fixed landlines. Simobil chairman Dejan Turk believes the easiest way to enter the fixed market is through a wholesale model. He says tie-ups with other firms will be key.

Logistics Investment

Ensuring High Returns The transformation of the investment company KD ID into a mutual fund KD Equity Income has been completed. The mutual fund will invest its shares globally into stocks that will provide long-term rising dividend payouts. The focus will be on companies in mature industries such as healthcare, telecommunications, energy and supply. Companies included are those such as Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson. To mark the commencement or its operations, the new fund has started a campaign that will last until end of August 2011 and will allow a single payment for all existing and new investors without subscription fees.

Labour

Slovenia amongst Hardest Working Nations Slovenia is one of the hardest working nations according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Organisation examined the number of hours the population of its member countries spent in paid and unpaid work and how much they spent in leisure activities. Slovenia ranks 10th on the list of the hardest working nations with an average of 8.15 hours worked daily, possibly as a result of the fact that Slovenians do three hours and 51 minutes of unpaid work each day, 24 minutes more than the OECD average. Slovenia has the lowest income inequality in the OECD and low relative income poverty rate. However, the report finds that the country is rated in the highest third of the OECD for perceived corruption and the lowest third for confidence in national institutions.

Photo: Interevropa

The Chamber of Tourism and Catering of Slovenia (TGZ) has formally separated from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS). Majda Dekleva remains the director of TGZ, while Terme Olimia spa director Zdravko Počivalšek has been elected president. The chamber has over 1,000 members from all sectors of tourism and catering, mostly small companies, but also joins the majority of large and medium-size companies in the sector. Despite going independent, the chamber will remain strongly connected to its former umbrella organisation, with its members remaining GZS members.

Fitch Ratings has lowered the longterm credit rating of Probanka, a small Maribor-based private bank. The rating has been changed from BB to BB- though all other ratings remain unchanged. The international rating agency says its decision is based on extensive amount of bad loans and weak profitability, which weakened Probanka’s capital strength. The share of bad loans, when borrowers are more than 90 days in default on their loan agreements, surged from 6.5 percent at the end of 2009 to 14 percent at the end of last year. A further problem as pointed out by Fitch Ratings is that a large portion of loans is limited to a small group of borrowers, which increases risks. Fitch also highlights the bank’s moderate liquidity, while quoting its regional presence and the Slovenian economy’s return to moderate growth as positive aspects.

Intereuropa Sees Recovery Intereuropa is back in the black after a loss-making 2010. The logistics group generated sales revenues of EUR 56.7m in the first quarter of the year, a 28 percent percent increase compared to the same period last year. The group’s net profit for the first quarter amounted to EUR 0.7m, while its operating profit stood at EUR 2.3m, which is 32 percent above plans. According to statements from the firm, all three of its divisions – land transport, logistics solutions and intercontinental transport – saw growth in sales in the quarter. The biggest growth was registered by the land transport division, where sales were up 38 percent compared to the same period last year.

Economy growth

Predicted Growth of 1.9 Percent The European Commission is predicting that Slovenia’s economy will grow by 1.9 percent this year and 2.5 percent the following year. The Commission’s growth forecasts for Slovenia are above the average growth for the eurozone and the EU as a whole for the current and next year. The Slovenian Finance Ministry pointed out that the growth forecasts were 0.1 points and 0.3 points higher than those sent by Slovenia to the European Commission in its Stability Programme in April. The figures are, however, little changed from those envisaged by the Commission last autumn. The Commission says Slovenia’s economy is Modest forecast for 2010 2011 2012 continuing a slow recovSlovenia ery based on exports. It GDP growth (%, yoy) 1,2 1,9 2,5 believes quicker growth Inflation (%, yoy) 2,1 2,6 2,1 is being hindered by a Unemployment (%) 7,3 8,2 8,0 drop in competitiveness during the financial crisis Public budget bal-5,6 -5,8 -5,0 and high reliance on exance (% of GDP) ports to countries in the Current account bal-1,1 -1,4 -1,9 Western Balkans, whose ance (% of GDP) economies remain fragile.

Source: European Commission

Telecommunications

Photo: Terme Olimia

Tourism

Photo: Petrol

Energy

Photo: Telekom

Telecommunications

June 2011


10 ECONOMY

Retail

Desperately Seeking a Sale On the surface, the issue is an incredibly simple one: in order to address its heavy debts, a company wishes to sell its stake in another firm. Yet this does not do justice to the monumentally complicated matter of the desire of Slovenia’s biggest brewer to sell its share in Slovenia’s biggest retailer. In the past month the number of twists and turns in this lengthy saga has continued to increase and yet a resolution seems as far off as ever.

Photo: Boris Kravanja

By Claire Read

Pivovarna Laško needs to sell Mercator shares to repay part of its EUR450m worth of debts

The firm has now decided to sell its shares in a consortium with fellow owners, and an announcement of this arrangement was expected by the end of May. The Slovenia Times

T

here is really only one thing that is clear about Pivovarna Laško’s wish to sell its stake in Mercator, and that is the motivation behind it. The brewer is struggling with EUR 450m worth of debts – the majority of which are due in June, if media reports are to be believed – and is therefore on a desperate search for possible sources of capital. The sale of its 23.3 percent stake in Slovenia’s leading retailer has long seemed like an obvious course of action to pursue. Obvious, but far from straightforward. Last month, just as Laško was debating quite how it would sell its Mercator shares – alone, or in conjunction with five banks which are fellow owners – the Competition Protection Of-

fice banned the sale. The watchdog’s decision is said to be based on actions at Mercator’s 2009 annual general meeting; an event at which the CPO claims Laško acted in concert with NLB, NKBM, Abanka Vipa, Banka Celje, Gorenjska Banka and Banka Koper. The outcome, as far as the CPO is concerned, is that neither Laško nor the banks should be allowed to sell their stakes in Mercator without its prior approval.

owns several major food and beverage production companies and there have been fears that, were it to gain a stake in Mercator, shelf space for Slovenian products would be significantly reduced. These concerns have been backed up by Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Dejan Zidan who estimates that up to 40 percent of the food produced in Slovenia is sold on Mercator’s shelves.

Dismay and confusion

It now seems that there is no longer a chance of Agrokor buying Laško’s stake. The firm has now decided to sell its shares in a consortium with fellow owners, and an announcement of this arrangement was expected by the end of May. Even so, the deal is far from done. The CPO still has not lifted its ban on Laško and the banks selling Mercator shares without its approval, and the Supreme Court’s ultimate verdict on the ban could take some time. In addition, it is expected it could take up to a year to find a buyer for the consortium shares. That’s without factoring in the controversies likely to be caused if foreign competitors declare interest in the stake. The consortium agreement is expected to state that the banks will aim to reprogramme their loans to Laško in a way which allows the group to bridge the period until a buyer is found. In the meantime the brewer has announced a cash injection plan which envisages a doubling of share capital. The management expects this will raise nearly EUR 70m in cash. And it is planning to sell its 100 percent stake in newspaper publisher Delo and an outright stake in fruit drink producer Fructal. In spite of all these plans, there is no doubt that the firm is not yet out of the woods. And that the ongoing saga of the struggling brewer that wanted to sell some shares is far from reaching its conclusion.

Within Laško, there has been dismay at the decision. It quickly filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court saying that the ban put its urgent restructuring plans in jeopardy and that it would use “all legal means available to protect the interests of the owners, companies involved, and of the workers.” Some economists have also been appalled. Bogomir Kovač – a professor at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana and a member of the Fiscal Council, an advisory body to the government – has described the move by the CPO as “unusual and irresponsible”.

Home or away?

Daily newspaper Delo has concluded that the company is the hostage of competing interests. For there are few potential share sales which have generated as much attention as this one. Despite repeated and ongoing assurances from Prime Minister Borut Pahor that Slovenia is open to foreign investment and that all investors with fair intentions are welcome in the country, there has still been much opposition to the idea of Slovenia’s leading retailer falling into foreign hands. The concerns have intensified since the revelation that the best response to Laško’s February call for bids on its stock came from Agrokor. The Croatian company

No clearer


ECONOMY 11

Real Estate

Real Vienna

EIRE 2011 Gets Under Way

Return of the Optimism

The EIRE real estate show is right around the corner. The seventh edition of the event will be held in Milan, Italy, from 7 to 9 June. The inauguration of the show – on Tuesday 7 June at 9.45am in the Blue Conference Room, pav. 4, Fieramilano – will coincide with a national summit. This grand inaugural conference is entitled “What is Real Estate in Italy?”.

Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI) and The Slovenia Times attended region’s prominent property fair, whereby a number of Slovenian investment opportunities were presented.

T

he conference will be divided into a series of events dedicated to the areas of finance, foreign markets, retail, social housing, logistics, hospitality and tourism, leisure, stadiums and free time, communication, trades, developers, facility management, construction systems, universities and public administrations. The seventh edition of EIRE is intended to represent a “place for reflection on the growth and development objectives of our system”, continued Intiglietta, “where a true Italian real estate community can begin to take

shape, capable of promoting dialogue and the comparison of various opportunities within our country, whilst at the same time attracting the attention of the international market”. EIRE 2011 has also widened its international scope thanks to the presence of private institutions and operators from various countries around the world, such as the European Mediterranean area and the East European Balkan area. For the first time ever, the show will also welcome exhibitors from the USA and the Dominican Republic.

“Survival of the Fittest in hotel business” a panel with Slovenia Times’ Jaka Terpinc

R

eal Vienna is one of the top events in real estate, where exhibitors and visitors gather around the platform designated for commercial property and investment in Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the fair being slightly reduced throughout the crisis years, a general impression was that the positive thinking is returning to the sector. Exhibitors,

most of them government investment agencies and independent investment firms, have showcased a number of exciting projects. Slovenia was represented by the national agency for foreign investments – JAPTI - and The Slovenia Times magazine. The publication’s editorin-chief, Jaka Terpinc, also moderated a panel dedicated to the situation in hotel development.

The International Trade Fair Event for Real Estate Professionals, where the EIRE Community gathers to: • Compare with new market trends • Attract new investments • Present new projects and opportunities • Consolidate and develop business network

7 - 9 JUNE 2011, MILAN - ITALY JOIN EIRE COMMUNITY: WWW.ITALIAREALESTATE.IT

®

June 2011


12 ECONOMY

Pharmaceuticals

Krka Continues with Upward Trend The pharmaceuticals maker Krka group continues to register good results, posting a EUR 48m net profit in the first quarter of 2011, a two percent increase on the same period last year. That in spite of the fact that Krka alone saw a five percent lower net profit than last year, at EUR 47m. By Maja Dragović counted for EUR 53m or 21 percent, remaining level with the same period last year, while South East Europe grew by six percent to EUR 37m to represent 14 percent in total sales. In Slovenia, sales were down two percent to EUR 24m, which is just over none percent of total sales.

Krka shares drop slightly price per share in EUR 70

65

60

Good reputation

The reputation of the company and its chairman continues to be very good, according to a survey carried out by daily newspaper Dnevnik. The firm was chosen as the most respected Slovenian company and Jože Colarič as the country’s most admired business executive. Attention is now turning to July’s general assembly meeting.

Source: LJSE

U

naudited results presented last month show that the whole group also registered an increase in sales revenues in the first three months of the year – EUR 258m, up five percent on the first quarter of 2010. In this area, the core company also saw an increase. Sales revenues amounted to EUR 236.1m, up two percent year-on-year. According to Krka chairman Jože Colarič, 93 percent of the sales were carried out on foreign markets, with the biggest share falling to Central Europe, where sales were up two percent from previous year to EUR 77m. Eastern Europe followed with 26 percent, recording 15 percent growth to EUR 67m. Western European markets ac-

55 31 May 10

27 May11

Shareholders will be deciding on a proposal to allow the management to buy the company’s shares in the coming 36 months, with the expanded option to list the shares on stock markets abroad. Krka bought

five percent of its own shares last year out of a possible 10 percent. At the same meeting the shareholders are expected to decide on the proposed dividend payout for 2010 of EUR 1.4 per share.

Construction

Helping Hand Construction giant SCT, which is undergoing court-mandated debt restructuring amid accusations that it is just delaying bankruptcy, has revealed its planned new strategic partner. By Maja Dragović and STA

Not final yet

In order to secure the partnership and restructuring of SCT, its three owners – Ivan Zidar, Aleksander Meze and Janez Jamnik – have already renounced their ownership in SCT Holding, which has a majority holding in SCT. But the plan still needs to be approved by SCT’s biggest creditor, NLB, which provided some EUR 150m The Slovenia Times

in bank guarantees in addition to the outstanding loans. According to Jure Krajnc, CPL executive director for sales and marketing, “the proposal is approved on the level of SCT and CPL, but the creditors must also give their opinion. The matter is not final, as it has not yet been approved by one of the parties”. The funds from CPL must be on SCT’s fiduciary account by 14 June,

when SCT needs to pay out salaries and severance pay, according to SCT crisis manager Dušan Mes. The money from CPL is to come from different sources, but Kranjc has declined to reveal which. A new owner and measures for business restructuring have been included in the new financial restructuring plan for SCT. It is not clear how big a share the creditors can hope to get repaid. The

Annual turnover

SCT

in EUR ‘000 000 600

CPL

Source: Finance daily newspaper

C

estno podjetje Ljubljana (CPL) is set to become the partner and majority owner of the troubled construction giant. Under the proposal, CPL would provide EUR 10m in a capital injection and some EUR 20m in current assets for SCT. The company’s deals would be taken over by a debt-free subsidiary dubbed Novi SCT, while the parent company SCT would go into court-mandated debt restructuring. CPL would become SCT’s sole owner after providing the financial injection.

500 400 300 200 100 0 2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

minimum laid down by law is 40 percent. The proposal also provides the possibility of conversion of debt for creditors. Kranjc says that currently CPL and SCT are partners in a number of deals that SCT could no longer carry out. CPL will not give any of its deals to SCT and any new deals would be acquired by the newly established subsidiary.

Ensuring its own survival

The reasons behind CPL’s decision to take over SCT are similar to CPL’s recent acquisition of an asphalt facility TAC from SCT, according to Kranjc. “This way we can be certain to have the materials we need for our primary activity at the peak of the construction season. If TAC went down, CPL would be finished as well. It is the same with SCT because of the concrete facilities and everything else.”


FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT 13

NEWS IN BRIEF

source: STA, Slovenian Press Agency

Trade with Italy

Automotive industry

Trade with Norway

Looking for Ways to Boost Business

Revoz Scaling Down Production

Strengthening Ties

Energy

Hungary’s MOL Buys Tuš Oil Slovenia’s third largest operator of service stations has been sold to a Hungarian energy group. Tuš Holding sold Tuš Oil to MOL last month, explaining that the decision is part of the optimisation and stabilisation of its business. “While Tuš Oil has until now fully met our expectations, the company is at a point where it needs a new dimension which it will be able to achieve with a new owner,” Tuš Holding says. The sale had been anticipated by Slovenia’s media as part of a deal that Tuš Holding, owned by Slovenia’s wealthiest man Mirko Tuš, reportedly reached with banks on a moratorium on loans worth EUR 450m.

Eyewear

Banks

SKB Bank Marks Carrera Optyl to Dismiss 150 Workers 10th Anniversary Eyewear products maker Carrera Optyl is to cut its workforce due to a drop in demand. The Ormož-based company, owned by the Italian group Safilo, is to reduce its workforce by 150 to around 900 employees. These will be far from the first layoffs at the firm, which has been hit hard by the economic crisis. At the end of 2008 and in 2009, the management announced 303 redundancies, although only 152 workers ultimately lost their jobs. Since the situation did not improve in the second half of 2009, another 350 layoffs were announced in September that year, but only 35 people received notices, as orders started picking up again. In 2010, demand increased so much that the company rehired 280 workers.

The management of the SKB banka, the Slovenian subsidiary of Societe Generale, last month to mark the bank’s 10th anniversary under the French ownership. The chairman of the management Cvetka Selšek said the decision for foreign ownership proved to be the right one. The bank has managed to increase the number of individual clients from 150,000 to more than 200,000, and the number of company clients from 10,000 to over 20,000, and increased loans to individuals fivefold. According to SKB banka executive director Andre-Marc Prudent, the bank’s goal is to increase the number of clients in Slovenia from the current 220,000 to 230,000 by 2015.

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

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

Revoz is scaling down production in response to problems in the supply of car electronics from Japan. The problems have been caused by the March earthquake and tsunami in the Eastern nation. It has been reported that Renault, which owns the factory, has appointed a task force to introduce measures to stabilise the supply of electronics from the Sendai region and secure operation of Renault plants across the world. However, the measures are not currently sufficient for Revoz to keep up the present scale of production. As a result, the night shift at Revoz was temporarily scrapped on 23 May and some 390 temps and 130 employees on fixed-term contracts will lose their jobs for the time being. Once the normal supply of automotive electronics is reestablished, the plant will increase production and rehire staff.

Trade with Norway is low (in ‘000 EUR) 5000 Export 4000 3000 2000 1000 Import 0 Feb 08

Feb 11

The King of Norway and the President of Slovenia have called for a strengthening of cooperation between the two countries. Harald V and Danilo Türk were speaking at a conference held as part of the king’s state visit to Slovenia. Some 300 representatives of Slovenian and Norwegian businesspeople were on hand to listen to the address. Trade between Slovenia and Norway is still relatively modest, but after Slovenia joined the EU it nearly tripled and recorded a 14 percent growth last year. Türk believes the countries have a good basis for enhancing cooperation and has called for more investment. He points to tourism, infrastructure, IT, energy, environmentally friendly farming and health services as possible areas for investment.

Trade with Estonia

Stronger Cooperation in IT An Estonian-Slovenian business forum has highlighted new opportunities for stronger cooperation, especially in the area of information and communications technology. Kaja Kallas, who chairs the Estonian parliamentary economy committee, pointed to Estonia’s strong role in the Baltic and Northern Europe and Slovenia’s in the Western Balkans. She sees opportunities in ICT where Estonia is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of the application of ICT in society. Igor Zorko of IT firm ZZI was one of the representatives of the 25 Slovenian companies present at the forum and said that Slovenian companies from the sector see opportunities for joint forays into third markets. Small companies in both countries should join forces above all in Russia, Trade between Slovenia and Estonia Scandinavia as well as the Balkans (in ‘000 EUR) he argues. Following a longer period 2500 Export of fast growth, both Slovenia and 2000 Estonia were hit by the crisis and are recovering now. Estonia, whose 1500 economy contracted by almost 14 1000 percent in 2009, is slightly more dyImport namic and is expected to grow by 3.1 500 percent this year. The forum was held 0 as part of President Danilo Türk’s Feb 08 Feb 11 visit to Estonia last month. Source: SURS

Source: SURS

The Chamber of Commerce and Italy is top trading partner Industry (GZS) has hosted a Slovenia- (in ‘000 000 EUR) Italy forum with a view to strength350 ening cooperation between the two Import 300 nations. Around 80 business repre250 sentatives and officials were present 200 at the event, including the economy Export 150 ministers of the countries. According 100 to Italian Economy Minister Paolo Feb 08 Feb 11 Romani, Italy perceives Slovenia as a partner of equal importance as China or India. He sees opportunities in green energy, biotechnology, construction and agriculture and urged a transition from words to actions. Slovenian Economy Minister Darja Radić highlighted the importance of Italy as Slovenia’s second biggest trade partner, but noted there is still room for improvement. Trade between Slovenia and Italy stood at EUR 5.7bn in 2010, with Slovenia exporting EUR 2.2bn and importing EUR 3.5bn worth of goods.

Source: SURS

FDI

Division for FDI Verovškova 60 1000 Ljubljana Slovenia tel.: +386 1 5891 870 fax: +386 1 5891 877 e-mail: fdi@japti.si www.investslovenia.org June 2011


14 FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT

BSH Hišni aparati

Supporting Success An investment project at the Slovenian wing of a home appliances giant has gained a significant boost with a government subsidy.

T

he Ministry of Economy has signed an agreement with Bosch and Siemens Home Appliances Group and its Slovenian subsidiary BSH Hišni aparati under which the company will get a EUR 7.89m subsidy for a EUR 26.3m worth investment project.

Wide impact

The investment is aimed at expanding and diversifying production of small household appliances at the company plant / factory in the northern town of Nazarje. It will create at least 51 new jobs for technical experts, subsequently also additional employment in production, but will also have wider implications as 50 percent of the suppliers are Slovenian companies. “The important thing is that the expansion will also include the development division and development activity in Slovenia,” Economy Minister Darja Radić says.

According to Rudolf Kloetscher, chief executive of BSH Hišni aparati, the investment “is a recognition that the Slovenian government acknowledges our efforts and the resources that we have invested in the past years and recognizes our potential for the future, worth investing in”.

Research cooperation

As a result of the investment, the production premises in Nazarje will be enlarged by 1,300 square metres. The new facilities will mainly serve design construction, laboratories and support services. In addition, the company plans cooperation with the research institute Jožef Stefan and the Faculty of Engineering in Ljubljana. A predevelopment unit will be launched in Ljubljana later this year. The whole investment is due for completion in 2014, and the subsidy will be allocated in three installments.

Praise: Darja Radić emphasized the importance of the project in terms of creation of new jobs

Slovenian know-how

BSH Hišni aparati is one of Slovenia’s most successful companies, generating EUR 271m in revenues last year, up 12 percent on the year before and five percent above targets. Kloetscher calls the first

quarter results “very satisfactory”. “The planned investment in this project indicates a long-term interest not only in keeping this location, but also in adding value to Slovenian know-how and human resources,” Kloetscher adds.

Recycling

High Tech Project Launched by Foreign Investor Synthetic fibres manufacturer Julon has launched a large investment project which it says will bring technological development and high-quality jobs to Slovenia.

T

he EUR 17m Econyl project was formally launched last month. It involves recycling waste into a compound called caprolactam, the basis for the manufacturing of widely-used plastic polyamide 6. The project was conceived by Julon’s owner,

Italian firm Aquafil, and is expected to create 45 skilled jobs. Julon boss Edi Kraus describes it as “the beginning of a new story.” When the project was first announced, Julon was importing 98 percent of its caprolactam. It was anticipated that Econyl would al-

From left: Edi Kraus, Paolo Romani, Darja Radić and Giulio Bonazzi The Slovenia Times

low it to manufacture 26-27 percent of the compound through recycling, enabling it to cut down on the use of oil by 10,000 tonnes, the consumption of gas by 18,000 cubic metres and of water by 150,000 cubic metres. The resulting cut in carbon dioxide emissions was estimated at 20,000 tonnes. The expected impact is such that Econyl has gained government backing – the state has contributed EUR 3.6m to the project. Economy Minister Darja Radić says that in addition to bringing higher added value to Slovenia, the project is particularly important because it is a joint investment between Italy and the Balkan nation. Italy is currently Slovenia’s second biggest trade partner, and fourth biggest foreign direct investor, but there is a desire to extend trade beyond the currently-dominating

northern section of the country. It is believed that Econyl will help in this respect. While the announcement of Econyl was welcomed by daily Delo, the paper emphasised that the advantages it will bring – increased employment opportunities at a time of crisis – have come at a significant cost. With the government having to chip in EUR 3.6m in grants to make the project happen, the state will have paid EUR 45,000 per new job created. This exceeds these employees’ annual pay and contributions. Julon, which is based in Ljubljana, manufactures a range of plastics and synthetic fibres. Its Italian owner Aquafil specialises in the production of Nylon 6 and fibres for carpeted floors. Last year it generated turnover of EUR 432m, up from EUR 330m in 2009.


FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT 15

CEED

Entrepreneurial Spirit Over 250 entrepreneurs from across South Eastern Europe gathered at the fifth regional conference of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) in Bled last month. A theme quickly emerged: the fast-growing businesses represented at the conference are looking for opportunities and ways to attract foreign investors. By Maja Dragović employment of quality work force has grown, however.

The right focus

Look for the money: Rohit Talwar encouraged participants to focus on growth markets

T

he participants of the conference, titled “Business Game Changers & What You Need to Know” were addressed by Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Borut Pahor. In his speech Pahor acknowledged that Slovenia’s exports fell considerably in the economic crisis, but added the country is now witnessing a new momentum, boosting economic growth. “Slovenia is aware of the necessity to boost the competitiveness of our economy,” Pahor stressed, adding that a strategic goal was to remain in a monetary union with France and Germany. Pahor – who normally voices strong optimism over the country’s economic situation and recovery from the crisis – pointed out that Slovenia was “too small to be over-optimistic” and too small to finance its own development, so it needs foreign investments. He added that the state would be selling off many of its stakes in companies, as he believes the government needs to do everything it can to boost economic growth and competitiveness.

three crisis years, which he argues is something to be proud of given the circumstances. And Plestanjak emphasised that a third of foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2010 were in the field of research and development, which is a remarkable result for the country’s recognisability. By increasing salaries in 2008 and 2009, Slovenia entered the world of developed countries and is now fighting different wars than before, Plestanjak noted, adding that this has increased unemployment somewhat. The

Conference attendees were also treated to a speech by Rohit Talwar, one of the ten most prominent global futurists. He reminded the entrepreneurs that they are the driving force of the economy. “First and foremost we have to go where the money is,” Talwar said. “We must choose the right group of trainers and consultants who will be able to guide us. It is crucial that we are seen in public; that partners and potential partners know who we are. In addition to visibility, attraction is extremely important; we have to be the magnet that will draw business opportunities. In short, we have to play to win.”

New trends

Participants also had the opportunity to learn about new business models, consumer trends, technology, new opportunities and changes in the way business is conducted from professionals like Sandi Češko (Studio Moderna), Villu Arak (Hill & Knowlton, Estonia), Ives Decraene (IDPoint

DigitalMedia SA, Belgium/Luxemburg) and Robert Kwiatkowski (Warsaw Stock Exchange). In contrast to Talwar, Češko argued that entrepreneurs should focus on where the problems are, rather than on money. Talwar countered that addressing problems is not enough since there is no guarantee that solving an issue will bring in revenue – not least because some companies or industries may not have the finance required to resolve their problem. However, both Talwar and Češko agreed that is important for startups to remain visible by different means such as attending conferences, advertising and so on. By the conclusion it was clear that the event had met its goal, as stated by director of CEED Slovenia Barbara Bregar-Mrzlikar: “The purpose of this conference is to expand business horizons, gain inspiration for new business ideas and motivation to learn something new, and to get know new people and potential partners.” The different views and different success stories presented at the conference were not only interesting to listen to but also a good educational tool for those seeking advice.

Reason for pride

Igor Plestanjak, the director of Slovenia’s Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI), added that Slovenia does not have many foreign investments because it did not sell large companies. However, he pointed out that the country has managed to keep foreign investments at the same level in the

Popular: This year’s CEED conference in Bled attracted more than 250 entrepreneurs June 2011


16 DIPLOMATIC SOCIETY

EMBASSY DIARIES US embassy

British embassy

Hungarian embassy

Grant for Primary Schools

Royal Wedding in Slovenia

A Fashion Show

The US Embassy Ljubljana has awarded a grant to Foundation “Together” for a project of interactive workshops in five Slovenian primary schools. Pupils in Murska Sobota, Maribor, Novo mesto and Koper will learn about global humanitarian issues and development aid during the workshops. The foundation wishes to ensure a better future for children and contribute to peace and stability in the regions in which it operates.

The British Royal Wedding has been celebrated in Slovenia just as over the rest of the world. To mark the occasion British Ambassador Andrew Page hosted a reception for members of the British community in Slovenia and friends of the Embassy. Slovene viewers were able to watch live coverage of the wedding on two Slovenian TV channels and also on the official Royal Wedding website.

One of the highlights of last month’s Hungarian Cultural Semester was a Fashion Show organised by the Hungarian embassy under the motto “Industrial Design & Creativity.” The desire was to uphold the basic principle that art should have its place in industry so that functionality and rationalism can relate to aesthetics. The show displayed the designs of prominent Hungarian and Slovenian fashion designers showing their exceptional creativity and innovation.

Polish embassy British embassy

Threesome Cycling The British Embassy in Ljubljana together with the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency has promoted sustainable mobility and team spirit by organising a cycling competition dubbed “Threesomes”. The aim of the project was to encourage people to use a bicycle to get to work or school instead of using a car. Any team of three that cycled to work more than it drove qualified for a chance to win folding bikes. 212 teams applied to take part in the campaign, which went on for the whole of May.

Hungarian embassy

Dance Spectacle Hungary’s most important contemporary dance and theatre company has performed in Slovenia for the first time. The Szeged Contemporary Dance Company – famous for its creative choreography and the exceptional skills of its dancers – last month performed Carmina Burana in Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana. The performance was organised by the Hungarian Ambassador to Slovenia István Szent-Iványi.

British embassy

Unveiling of Memorial for Peace in Maribor Ambassadors and Defence Attaches from 24 countries whose nationals lost their lives in Maribor in World War II have taken part in a ceremony to mark the unveiling of a new memorial. The Memorial for Peace is at the Maribor Cemetery and the ceremony was the initiative of cemetery director Lidija Pliberšek. The groundbreaking event, which brought together countries on opposing sides in the war, was strongly supported by the British embassy. British Ambassador Page and Defence Attache Lt Col Ian Stafford both laid wreaths at the ceremony.

The Slovenia Times

Seminar Celebrates Polish Writer The 100th anniversary of the birth of famous Polish writer Czesław Milosz has been marked with a special session at the University of Ljubljana. The honorary guest at the seminar was professor of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Aleksander Fiut, who was a friend of Milosz and lectured on the poet’s life and work. Subsequent speakers – Igor Grdina, Boris A. Novak, Nikolaj Jež and Jana Unuk – spoke on a wide range of topics related to Milosz, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. The seminar was also an opportunity to name the winners of the translator contest organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Faculty of Polish Language and Literature at the University of Ljubljana. First prize went to Lara Unuk, second to Anže Strehar and third to Saša Pavlović.

US embassy

Social Reform in Photos US Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli opened a photo exhibition “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Angry Words: the Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis” at Ljubljana City Hall as part of America Days organised by the US Embassy. The photo reporter Riis stirred society at the turn of the nineteenth century with photos of immigrant families’ poverty in Manhattan and triggered social reform demands. Daniel Czitrom, an expert on Riss’s work and professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, gave a lecture at the opening.


DIPLOMATIC SOCIETY 17 US embassy

Polish embassy

Bob Dylan Volunteering Project

Special Celebration

The US Embassy in Ljubljana is honouring the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan with a special project. The aim is to pay tribute to the music icons work while encouraging volunteering among Slovenia’s youth. The embassy has already released a CD with Dylan’s songs performed by numerous famous Slovenian musicians, each of them leaving their unique mark on them. The non-profit project – which will raise awareness about of issues including trafficking, violence against women, child abuse and child health, mental health and disability – will also include a documentary film, a film festival, and a big concert this autumn in Križanke.

The Embassy of the Republic of Poland last month organised a special concert and reception to celebration Constitution Day, the country’s national day. The event was attended by a variety of prominent guests, including Poland’s Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Grażyna Bernatowicz. Prominent Polish oboe player Tytus Wojnowicz gave a concert which was recorded for Slovenian Public Radio and the event was rounded off with a special reception attended by 180 guests. This year marks the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the Polish constitution. The document was the first written constitution in Europe, and only the second in the world after the US constitution.

Polish embassy

Polish Minister Visits Ljubljana Poland’s Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has visited Slovenia. Grażyna Bernatowicz held talks with a variety of Slovenian during her trip to the country, including State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dragoljuba Benčina; Director-General for European Affairs and Bilateral Political Relations Igor Senčar; and Secretary of State in the Office for Development and European Affairs Andrej Jerina. The main topic of the discussion was the forthcoming Polish presidency of the European Union. Both sides also exchanged views on the new EU financial perspective, the enlargement process of the EU, and issues related to the Western Balkans.

US embassy

The Cloud Arrangers Exhibit An exhibition of jazz photography has opened in Tivoli Park as part of this year’s America Days. The exhibition by Žiga Koritnik is entitled “Urejevalci oblakov/The Cloud Arrangers” and is a key aspect of this year’s festival of American culture and history sponsored by the US Embassy in Ljubljana. The exhibition of photos from international jazz concerts is one of the biggest not only in Slovenia but also in the world. The opening event was co-organised by Ljubljana Tourism.

June 2011


18 Innovation SPECIAL

DiaGenomi

When Business Meets Research With the healthcare system largely in the domain of the public sector, starting a healthcare business in Slovenia is a small revolution. But this hasn’t discouraged Klemen Španinger and Rok Košir from setting up DiaGenomi, the start-up company of the year in Slovenia. By Simon Demšar preneurial spark inside him or her, follow it and makes the ideas happen,” argues Španinger. Together with his business partner Rok Košir and Alja Videtič, a postdoctoral researcher, he forms the backbone of the company. “Technically, we are still employed with the Faculty of Medicine, while for the future, we are planning to work in our company and at the same time staying in touch with research circles.”

American dream

From left: Klemen Španinger, Alja Videtič Paska and Rok Košir

With personalised medicine being the core of DiaGenomi’s philosophy, they plan to sell their services to cardiology clinics, private clinics, spas and individuals in the form of personal medical examinations – that is, to institutions where personalised contact between the physician and the patient is a priority. The Slovenia Times

DiaGenomi has a precisely defined product, it has the know-how to realise the product and it knows to whom to sell it. These are key features which each company should be aware of if it is to penetrate the market successfully.” So said Matej Rus of the Start:up Slovenia contest when explaining the decision to award the prize to DiaGenomi. DiaGenomi describes itself as a high-tech company, offering services and solutions in molecular biology: the genetic analysis of breast and colon cancer samples – which allows physicians to quickly and effectively adapt treatment decisions for individual patients – and the genetic test of the cardiovascular system. This gives individuals guidelines for a healthier lifestyle and reduction of potential cardiovascular complications. The tests are innovative for their comprehensive approach to dealing with diseases or threats. Besides the genetic code, they also take into account the influence of patient’s lifestyle, family history and general medical condition. For the purpose of educational workshops

in the field of molecular techniques DiaGenomi has also developed standalone software for data analysis and normalisation.

Personalised

With personalised medicine being the core of DiaGenomi’s philosophy, they plan to sell their services to cardiology clinics, private clinics, spas and individuals in the form of personal medical examinations – that is, to institutions where personalised contact between the physician and the patient is a priority. According to Klemen Španinger, chief executive of DiaGenomi, personalised diagnostic tests are on the increase. “Some analyses predict annual growth in the range of up to 80 percent,” he says. “Consequently, the number of providers is increasing and the quality of services has improved. But at the same time, European regulations in terms of permissions are changing.” Bringing research and entrepreneurship under one roof might seem unusual in Slovenia while but internationally such a mentality is the norm. “It is important for a researcher to find the entre-

Španinger started to think business while working on his doctoral thesis at Harvard. “As we know, the USA is the businessman’s promised land and I could feel this positive spirit through my co-mentor,” he explains. “This is where the idea to start a company was born but the setting-up itself was carefully planned. It helped that I am still young and now is the time to enter the realm of business.” DiaGenomi’s goal for the future is to penetrate foreign markets in Europe, North America, South America and Asia. The trio plans to do so via two strategic partners who provided immediate access to marketing channels in Southeastern Europe. An important part is played also by the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Simultaneously, they work on Western markets through a business partner. Being a young company, DiaGenomi is putting the finishing touches to its products, entering the market in the forthcoming months. They of course don’t generate any profit yet and are mainly financed by start-up capital. According to Španinger, the entrepreneurial environment in Slovenia has changed in recent years due to the economic crunch. It is becoming increasingly difficult to raise funds to start a company. On the other hand, Slovenian membership in the EU helps and coming from “a small Slovenia” is no drawback.


19

Photo: Dreamstime

FINANCE SPECIAL

Out of the Woods? Recent months have seen mixed news from the banking sector. Slovenia’s largest bank has finally recorded profit after several quarters’ worth of losses. Its second largest bank is performing well too, in spite of a controversial credit increase. And yet credit risk in the sector remains high. Is this a sector out of the woods or still in them? By Maja Dragović June 2011


20 FINANCE SPECIAL

F

ollowing five consecutive quarters in the red, NLB is celebrating a return to the black. The state-owned bank reported a EUR 3.4m net profit of the core bank and a EUR 3.9m net profit at group level for the first quarter of 2011. It attributes the results to strict implementation of measures, a cut in operating costs, and fewer additionally formed provisions as key reasons. NLB chairman Božo Jašovič has recently announced additional provisions of EUR 180m in 2011, but the bank is still sticking to the plan that it will end 2011 in the black. The results follow a EUR 250m capital increase at NLB, which also helped raise the capital adequacy ratio to an estimated 12 percent by 31 March. This is 1.8 percentage points above the ratio at the end of 2010. The first quarter profit ends a negative streak at NLB which began back in 2009, when the bank reported a EUR 82m loss at the end of the year. The situation further deteriorated in 2010, when the loss increased to EUR 202m due to write-downs and provisions stemming from bad loans. Although pleased with the results, Jašovič says it is still too early to say whether things are finally changing for the better.

The volumes of loans issued by banks to companies in 2010 grew by a modest 0.3 percent, with the growth being contributed by domestic banks. Courting controversy

The share of bad loans rose by 66 percent last year, amounting to 3.7 percent of the total loan portfolio of banks. As a result, banks in Slovenia increased impairments and provisions by 33 percent to EUR 2.4bn by the end of last year. The Slovenia Times

In the meantime, Slovenia’s second biggest bank, NKBM – which last month became the first Slovenian company to be listed on Warsaw Stock Exchange – has been courting controversy. The issue is its recent EUR 104m capital increase through the issuing of new shares. The arguments are still hot on whether the State Assets Management Agency (AUKN) was right to force three state-owned companies – Pošta Slovenije, Gen Energija and ELES – to buy the majority of shares in the recent recapitalisation. The move has certainly had some negative impact on the bank with international credit rating agency Fitch Ratings lowering the long-term credit rating of NKBM from A- to BBB+. Com ment i ng on the news, NKBM said that “although Fitch took into account that the state has preserved its roughly 51 percent stake in NKBM, it also considered the conflicting official statements about the preservation of the state stake, which were given during the capital increase procedure, as well as the absence of a clear government strategy regarding the future ownership structure”. The controversy has not hurt the bank’s financial performance, however. It has posted a EUR 3.7m operating profit in the first quar-

The recapitalization of NLB has cost tax payers EUR 250m NLB needs another EUR 250m this year ter of 2011. The bank’s total assets at the end of March stood at EUR 4.87bn, which is 1.4 percent or EUR 67.1m more than at the end of December 2010. Measured with total assets, the bank’s market share at the end of March was at 9.4 percent, which is 0.2 percentage points down compared to the end of 2010.

Caution remains

The situation when it comes to loans being given by the banking sector remains mixed. The volumes of loans issued by banks to companies in 2010 grew by a modest 0.3 percent, with the growth being contributed by domestic banks. Foreign-owned banks reduced loans to companies but did increase them to consumers – they issued 10 percent more loans to this group last year than the year before, and provided the money at a lower interest rate than domestic banks.

The share of bad loans rose by 66 percent last year, amounting to 3.7 percent of the total loan portfolio of banks. As a result, banks in Slovenia increased impairments and provisions by 33 percent to EUR 2.4bn by the end of last year. In comparison, banks in the eurozone have already begun reducing their impairments and provisions for bad loans. Ba n k a Sloven ije Gover nor Marko Kranjec says that the central bank expects credit risk to peak this year, meaning that provisions and impairments would stabilise and begin to turn downwards. The capital adequacy ratio of banks in Slovenia stood at 11.3 percent last year, compared to 13.2 percent in the eurozone. To reach the eurozone average, banks would require an additional EUR 1.2bn in fresh capital, Košak says. Just how this will be acquired remains to be seen.

Recapitalisation of banks in Slovenia in 2011

Source: Finance daily

The first quarter profit ends a negative streak at NLB which began back in 2009, when the bank reported a EUR 82m loss at the end of the year.

(in ‘000 000 EUR) 250

NLB

200

150

100

50

0

NKBM

Unicredit

Others


FINANCE SPECIAL 21

Government measures

Pillar boxing To follow the Slovenian political and economic scene for more than a few months is to quickly lose count of the number of times the government declares it wants to scale back state involvement in business. In recent weeks, however, it has become clear that in the financial sector at least a strong state presence is here to stay. While subtle changes are being made to the exact nature of that involvement, the fight over the rights and wrongs of majority state ownership of Slovenia’s financial institutions goes on unabated. By Claire Read

W

hen the Capital Assets Management Agency of the Republic of Slovenia (AUKN) was created last year, it seemed to be a move which would ultimately lead to the reduction of state involvement in business. The independent organisation would, it was announced, review all state assets and determine which should be retained and which should be sold off. Could it be, at long last, that the endless and largely unproductive debates over privatisation in Slovenia would be concluded? The perhaps obvious answer: no. For the moment, it seems that AUKN is far keener on retaining assets than it is on selling them. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the financial sec-

tor. In April, the Agency orchestrated a move which ensured the state took an indirect part in the capital increase at NKBM – an increase in which the government had previously said it would not be involved. It was a move which ensured that the state retained a large stake in Slovenia’s second largest bank.

Three pillars

It has now become clear that this highly criticised development was central to the government’s plans for Slovenia’s financial services industry. That clarity has been provided by the Financial Sector Strategy, discussed by the cabinet last month, currently being reviewed by AUKN, and expected

to go to parliament for confirmation by the end of June. The strategy envisages three separate independent financial pillars in Slovenia – one around NLB; one around NKBM (a pillar will also include insurance firms Zavarovalnica Maribor, Zavarovalnica Tilia and reinsurer Pozavarovalnica Sava); and one around insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav. The government has keenly promoted the strategy as a real break with tradition. Prime Minister Borut Pahor has gone as far as to label it a “milestone decision”. He argues it is centred on a desire not to preserve majority stakes in the companies at any cost but instead as a “tool for having good banks and insurers.”

Three financial pillars Total assets

17,89 mrd EUR Total assets or resources

6,47 mrd EUR

In control

The strategy comes with lots of advice for those companies it concerns. The recommendations to NLB include a need to raise sufficient capital for growth and to form a suitable risk management strategy. NKBM is urged to harmonise its long-term strategy with all shareholders and improve its risk management and cost efficiency. Meanwhile Zavarovalnica Triglav is advised to bolster corporate governance at all its subsidiaries, to seek growth on the regional markets in which it is already present, and to expand its range of life insurance products. It is that sort of detailed guidance, coupled with the emphasis on retaining controlling stakes, which has disappointed those who believe Slovenia’s future lies in privatisation. It is true that the proposals would see the government greatly reduce its stakes in these firms – back to 25 percent plus one share in all instances. But the fact remains that this is only on the condition that the state remains the single-largest owner. Critics therefore believe the strategy is nothing but an entirely unsatisfactory compromise – a way to formally reduce state involvement in finance without really losing any influence.

A bad document

Resources

Photo: Dreamstime

NLB Group

NKBM Group + Sava Re Group

Zavarovalnica Triglav Group

3,02 mrd EUR

Igor Masten, a lecturer at the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics, has damned the proposal as “a bad document”. He believes it has merely confirmed the goal of preserving the state’s dominant role in the companies involved and criticises the lack of any clearly stated, economically justified goals. “Anyone who knows how a strategy is written and justified sees that this is not a strategy,” he argues. “It is not justified. There is no evaluation of effects. This is not a strategy.” Perhaps not a strategy in the way Masten defines one. But it is clear it’s the government’s financial strategy nonetheless – and it’s far from being a non-controversial one. June 2011


22 FINANCE SPECIAL

Insurance sector

Fighting off the Crisis In general, Slovenia’s 18 insurance and two reinsurance companies have registered positive business results during the economic crisis. Last year, insurance companies posted gross written premiums of EUR 2.1bn, an increase of one percent over the year before. Non-life insurance accounted for EUR 1.4bn, two-thirds of the total and a drop of 0.4 percent year-on-year. Life insurance premiums meanwhile rose four percent to EUR 655m. Even so, changes are afoot are many companies. By Mateja Novak

T

Positive results

As for 2011, the results so far are promising. Zavarovalnica Triglav has posted a pre-tax profit of EUR 18.6m in the first quarter of the year, which is 26 percent more than in the same period

Triglav

The Slovenia Times

Chairman of Vzajemna Dušan Kidrič said that the group needs to raise the premium if it is to avoid making a loss in 2011.

last year. Net profit stood at EUR 12.8m. According to the company, the strong earnings stem from a consistent implementation of crisis measures and the company’s investment policy. Gross premium revenues in the first three months of the year amounted to EUR 205.1m, down three percent over the same period last year, which the company attributes to the sluggish economy. The slow economy has affected demand for life insurance, accident insurance (due to growing unemployment) and insurance of claims (due to drop in consumer loans), the firms says. Over at Adriatic Slovenica, the country’s second biggest insurer, they are looking back at a steady performance. In 2010, the

firm posted a net profit of EUR 10.5m for 2010 on premiums of EUR 261m. Both figures are flat year-on-year. “Despite the economic crisis and last year’s natural disasters, Adriatic Slovenica was successful,” according to chairman Gabrijel Skof. Insurer Zavarovalnica Maribor also posted a profit in 2010 of over EUR 9m.

Adjusting to new climate

While most firms have registered good results, adjustments are planned in order to cope with changing market trends. Triglav Insurance is planning a capital increase of EUR50m, due to be decided during a shareholder meeting on 21 June. According to a call

Market share in 2010 4th quarter Company

Amount (in EUR)

Market share

Change form Q4 in 2009

TRIGLAV

719.864.103

34,37

-3,12

ADRIATIC SLOVENICA

261.179.708

12,47

0,2

MARIBOR

259.598.666

12,4

-2,42

VZAJEMNA

240.262.920

11,47

-3,27

KAD

147.497.371

7,04

5,92

GENERALI

80.252.364

3,83

15,86

TILIA

73.784.991

3,52

2,25

Source: Slovenian Insurance Association

he biggest insurer, Zavarovalnica Triglav, registered almost EUR720m in premiums, a figure which represents almost 35 percent of the market. The firm is followed by Adriatic Slovenica (EUR 261m) and Zavarovalnica Maribor (EUR259m), both representing just over 12 percent of the whole market. Compared to 2009, most insurance companies registered growth with the exception of Zavarovalnica Triglav, Zavarovalnica Maribor, GRAWE and SOP. Yet even in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the financial collapse, Slovenian the insurance sector managed to cope well. »The growth trend continued in the Slovenian insurance market in 2009,” explains Mirko Kaluža, director of the Slovenian Insurance Association. “[This confirms] both the vitality and to some degree the resilience of the market in facing the global financial crisis. Admittedly insurance companies generated only 2.7 percent more in gross insurance premiums than the previous year, but given the significant fall in general economic growth, even that result is encouraging.”

on the website of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, the increase in share capital will be funded from retained earnings, which amounted to EUR 252.5m at the end of 2010. No new shares will be issued, so the extended share capital will be distributed among 22,735,148 ordinary shares. The shareholders of Zavarovalnica Maribor last month also backed a EUR 12.8m capital rise which will be carried out in June. The fresh capital will raise the insurer’s solvency margin in property insurance following the 2008 and 2009 heavy storms in Slovenia and increase its reserves in line with the Insurance Market Agency’s September 2009 demand for a capital rise. The Maribor-based insurance company will issue 2,238,893 fresh shares at EUR 5.7172 apiece, with existing shareholders enjoying a priority right. Following an earlier demand from the agency, Zavarovalnica Maribor was already supplied with fresh capital to the tune of EUR 14.2m before the end of October 2009.

Paying a premium

Customers are also being expected to give more capital. Some insurance companies that offer supplementary health insurance – such as Adriatic Slovenica and Vzajemna – have raised their premiums in 2011. Adriatic Slovenica blamed the growing costs of health services and a negative result from supplementary health insurance for the hike. Vzajemna must raise the premium to preserve capital adequacy, considering last year’s expenditure on health services and drugs, and the projected costs for this year, according to chairman Dušan Kidrič said. He added that if the premium stayed unchanged, Vzajemna would generate a loss of some EUR 14m in 2011. Slovenian insurance companies may have weathered the storm of economic crisis but it is clear that they are now striving to do more than simply survive – they want to prosper.


Tobačna City IMOS GROUP ® Fajfarjeva ulica 33, p.p. 2599, 1001 Ljubljana telephone: +386 1 47 33 300

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fax: +386 1 47 33 378 e-mail: info@imos.si www.imos.si

A City – In the City On the Ljubljana estate once home to Tobačna tovarna (Tobačna Factory), three 70m high skyscrapers are about to be built. The new development will provide a space for business and cultural activities and public programmes. “The idea for Tobačna City dates back to the summer of 2004, when I found out that Tobačna Factory was on the market,” Branko Kastelic, the President of the Management Board of IMOS GROUP, the investor, explains. In the Tobačna area the heavy machinery and fenced off building site hint that construction work is already underway, although no buildings are yet to be seen. “There is indeed nothing to be seen but after five years of intense documentation preparation, the project is finally taking physical shape,” says Kastelic. The idea is to build a residential-business complex where cultural institutions and public programmes, such as the already running public administration centre, will also be located. The project comprises two phases. Apart from the new constructions, it is also engaged with preservation of cultural heritage, as one third of the area is a cultural heritage site. “The buildings have 23,000 square metres of useful space, and some – for instance, public administration and some agencies – are already open for business” explains Kastelic. “We will preserve five objects, the biggest, the Administrative Unit building is already renovated, while other three will be finished in the following years.” The total project budget is just over EUR 300 million and the investor has succeeded in acquiring all the necessary permits for the first construction phase. This amounts to about a third

of the planned project activities, which entails three skyscrapers with 230 residential units, some 6,800 square metres of business areas and more than 900 parking spaces. The process of acquiring permits was smooth, but the procedure itself is rather long, explains Kastelic. “The former industrial area required a broad compromise, in professional and general public alike. We took ample time for this,” reiterates Kastelic. “From among 16 bids to the public call in early 2007, our project won,” continues Kastelic, who expects that when finished, Tobačna City will see daily some 4,000 visitors. “The advantages this location has to offer are, as compared to the city centre, ease of access and car parking, and a pedestrian zone reaching from Rožna doline to the Rožnik hill”. He emphasises that the City will not expand outside the designated area, but rather use existing areas to their full capacity.

but keep them to the present market conditions,” promises Kastelic. He estimates that the first phase of the project – the construction of the three skyscrapers – will be finished by 2014, and admits that finalisation of the subsequent phases cannot yet be precisely defined. Nevertheless, the Imos Holding President of the Management Board says: “The plan is to finish Tobačna City by 2018.”

Residential unit prices will reflect the market Kastelic says that the price for residential units has not yet been set. Analysis of the real estate market in Ljubljana shows that prices in comparable new constructions range between 3,500 and 6,000 EUR per square metres, though can be considerably lower, sometimes starting at 1,300 EUR. “Despite the excellent location and its advantages, we will not skyrocket the prices,

Branko Kastelic, President of the Management Board expects that when finished, Tobačna City will host 4,000 visitors daily.


24 FINANCE SPECIAL

Interview: Andrej Šketa, president of the board, LJSE

The Driving Force for the Slovenian Capital Market The Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LJSE) was founded in December 1989, the first stock exchange founded in Eastern and Central Europe before the liberalisation of economies in the region. In its 22 years of existence it has been the main driver and the channel for the privatisation and development of the Slovenian economy. Since 2009 the exchange has been part of the Central European stock markets CEE Stock Exchange Group (CEESEG), together with the stock exchange in Vienna, Prague and Budapest. President of the board of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange Andrej Šketa says these partnerships have helped drive the exchange forward and that much more is planned for the future. tion, domestic investors were most important in the past and together with the state they still account for a majority stake in the ownership of Slovenian companies. In recent years, the greatest interest from foreign institutional investors seeking investments in emerging markets has come mainly from the USA, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Foreign investors (funds) are mainly looking for future business growth, since they anticipate that the growth will subsequently be followed by an increased value of these companies. Those successful Slovenian companies that attract most interest are the same as elsewhere in Europe – those that boast a good free cash flow and high dividend yield.

What are the advantages of operating within CEESEG? Our mission is to integrate the supply and demand of investors with the needs of companies seeking capital for their development projects. We believe that in the context of regional cooperation we can all achieve much more by working together rather than working on our own. CEESEG represents the largest capital market in Central and Eastern Europe with a market capitalisation of EUR 160 billion and a monthly turnover of EUR 12 billion, which represents more than half of the total turnover in shares in the region. A total of 69 international and 113 local financial agents operate within the CEESEG market. What are the most important products at the LJSE? Shares of all major Slovenian companies are listed on the LJSE. These include Krka, Gorenje, Mercator, Petrol, Telekom, NKBM bank from Maribor, Luka Koper and 65 others. They come from a variety of interesting industries: pharmaceuticals, trade, telecommunications, finance, energy, appliance manufacturers and others. Companies from the Prime market operate internationally, and some of them achieve more than 90 percent of their revenue outside of Slovenia. Because of their dynamic development, Slovenian companies are comparable with other foreign companies within their respective industries, and also outdoing them on many indicators. The total market capitalisation of the stock market of EUR 6.6 billion achieves 18 percent of Slovenian GDP. To what extent is the LJSE already included in international capital flows? In 2010 the share of foreign investors in blue-chips turnover was 43 percent and in the future The Slovenia Times

we expect that their presence will be even greater. At the end of 2010, we introduced a successful international trading platform Xetra, which is used by Deutsche Boers in Frankfurt. In the first few months after the introduction of Xetra we acquired new members on the market – three international investment banks – and more are expected in the future. Information on Slovenian companies and their shares is available to international investors via a number of financial information providers, including major firms Thompson Reuters, Bloomberg and Teletrade, which means that the information is available to over 30,000 professional investors.

Where do LJSE’s most important investors come from and what are they most interested in? The share of international investors in the ownership of Slovenian companies is growing steadily. Due to the method of privatisa-

Can we continue to expect new products or shares on the market? The dynamic development of the Slovenian economy will continue and the most successful Slovenian companies will fund part of their development through their equity, raised via the stock market. The government has already indicated further progress on privatisation. Domestic and international investors should be offered part of the state capital in major Slovenian companies and even banks. The Stock Exchange and CEESEG group have all the necessary infrastructure to support these upcoming activities.

Czech Republic

Austria Hungary Slovenia


14 Days 25

Xetra

Optimising Potential The Ljubljana Stock Exchange has recently implemented some significant changes that are promising to optimise its potential. By Maja Dragović

By Erni Curk, BSc, Profil d.o.o.

A Lesson Learnt The financial sector in Slovenia has been going through quite some changes in the last few years. While the reasons for these changes are global, the difference is in the consequences of the economic crisis and its impact on individual markets. Not all divisions within financial services were equally struck by the crisis. The most affected were investment management and brokerage houses that are dependent on market growth. Quite a few smaller companies on the market went through different organisational transformations (mergers, restructuring, etc) in their struggle to adapt and survive, and some inevitably failed. The impact of the crisis in the banking and insurance sectors, meanwhile, was cushioned a bit due to the nature of the business. Nevertheless even companies in those sectors could not entirely escape various cost-cutting approaches.

Photo: Dreamstime

O

ne of the most important aims for the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LJSE) is to attract more international institutional investors. Heinrich Schaller, head of LJSE majority owner Wiener Boerse, says that the presence of such investors will prevent the biggest players from fleeing to other markets. To that end, the Exchange has recently introduced the Xetra trading system. Xetra is already used by more than 250 financial firms with more than 4,800 stock brokers. It has been used at the Vienna Stock Exchange since 2002 and also in Germany, Ireland and Bulgaria. Investors access the system directly from 18 countries in Europe and the Middle East. According to Darko Jurčevič, an independent broker from Alata Invest, LJSE will reap numerous benefits from the system: “[The possibility of] different types of contracts; [access to] J-Trader, an internationally recognised trading platform; remote access of foreign brokerage firms or investment banks in the trading system Xetra, as long as they are members of LJSE; a single European trading completion of the final auction as well as unified European way of making the final rate, instead of the obsolete single rate; a simpler presentation and marketing of LJSE.”

Profil d.o.o. Parmova 53, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia Phone: +386 01 280 54 00 Fax: +386 01 280 54 09 E-mail: profil@profil-group.com www.profil-group.com

Adapting to the new system

New rules have also been applied to accompany the introduction of the new trading system. The main change is the adoption of the closing price as the official share price. Closing auctions, which accumulate supply and demand, have now been introduced to improve the formation of closing price. With the introduction of Xetra the exchange is also abandoning static price limits (daily changes are restricted to plus or minus 10 percent compared to the previous day’s closing price) in favour of dynamic price corridors. The fixed limits will be replaced by different safeguard mechanisms, such as extended volatility interruptions and market order interruptions. The new rules further align the market segments and disclosure obligations of prime market companies within the CEESEG, the exchange group to which the LJSE belongs. The positive impact of the Xetra system has been immediately obvious as the liquidity of the LJSE has improved. However, Schaller says that the new system alone is not a key to greater liquidity; the Ljubljana Stock Exchange also needs support from the government, companies and the banking sector to develop.

Over the last 10 years foreign banks have undoubtedly become better at goal determination and management strategy, which has helped them to maintain (or develop) long-term orientation towards market trends, internal organisation and employees. Slovenian banks, on the other hand, have done little to adapt their management or ownership philosophy. In addition they have been open to political influence, which has mostly been reflected in their support to major companies, sometimes against economic logic. The crisis revealed not only poor investment decisions but also inefficient management. A general overview of the finance sector shows that “crisis” has wrought the most damage in companies where the executive recruitment policy was based on nepotism rather than on professional competency. In the past a lot of recruitments in the finance sector were oriented in specialist positions only. Lately executive recruitments are more frequent, showing that the mentality is changing and top-down approach is actually being implemented also at the top level. But in these times good candidates are not always willing to make quick changes in their career just to climb one step higher. For that reason, the value of a mediator, alias head-hunter, in this process could be much valued. The candidates need to be approached professionally, discretely and also assessed thoroughly to ensure their adequacy both professionally and personally. We should not forget that when an organisation is trying to evolve in changing economic conditions, it is good that it stops for a moment and takes a look in the mirror in order to impartially assess present capabilities related to organisational efficiency and people development. Should you have any questions related to your future management challenges or changes, we will gladly take the time to support you in your quest.

PROFIL is an independent human resources management consultancy, established as a limited company with private capital in 1989. It was the first consulting company in Slovenia and in SE Europe to provide executive search and selection services. They operate in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. The logo says it all: Three smiling faces, representing happy Client, happy Appointee and happy Consultant.

June 2011


26 FINANCE SPECIAL

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Banking Goes Mobile There are two things that pretty much everyone checks they have with them when they leave their house: their mobile phone, and their purse or wallet. In the very near future, however, chances are that only one of those will be needed. For we are about to enter an era in which a smart phone acts as your personal assistant, colleague, navigator, computer and, yes, even wallet.

Photo: Mobitel

By Miran Varga ing is no exception. Bankers and mobile operators have long been looking for ways to enable mobile banking and mobile payments and it looks like all the pieces are finally falling into place. The technology is here, devices are here, new services keep showing up trying to prove there are fewer boundaries out there and, last but perhaps most importantly, users want easy mobile banking to become a reality.

Mobile financial services explained

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Predicted penetration of mobile banking among adult users of mobile phones (USA, 2008-2015) 60

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Source: eMarketer

here are now roughly 5.3 billion mobile subscribers on the globe, representing an incredible 77 per cent of the world population. No wonder mobiles make a great target for just about every business out there. Bank-

Mobile financial services can be split into two main types. One regards mobile as a channel. This is where mobile banking comes in as it enables mobile access to financial services. It is basically an extension of e-banking where banks prepare special applications for mobile devices. A more simple form, called SMS banking, is also involved as it offers users alerts, balance inquiries, simple predefined payments and so on. The other aspect involves mobile payments. The definition of a mobile payment is as simple as it gets – it is all about payment for goods or services with a mobile device. Today there are many solutions enabling micro payments (bus and other similar fares, parking tickets and so on). There are several banked and unbanked options available to mobile users; the potential of these solutions is virtually limitless. As the technology and users evolve we should also see banks offering high value payments over mobile.

Mobile banking market

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Mobile banking is still a relatively new concept. Until recently it was not very common and not used for many reasons, not least the lack of smart mobile phones and the unreasonably high data transfer prices. As there were numerous mobile phones with completely different operating systems on the market, banks were not motivated to create and support a bunch of different solutions. All of this has changed rapidly in the last decade. Smart-

er than smart phones, falling data transfer prices, and alignment of operating systems has increased m-banking demand substantially. The growth now seems irreversible – it is expected that within a few years more transactions will be carried out via m-banking than e-banking. Mobile phones use is already a routine for the younger generations, and older users are getting accustomed to it too. Business and advanced users are already demanding to have access to the bank anytime and anywhere. A research report from the analyst firm Berg Insight shows that the worldwide number of users of mobile banking and related services is forecasted to grow from 55 million in 2009 at a compound annual growth rate of 59.2 per cent to reach 894 million users in 2015. The eMarketer analysis and predictions support these finding.

Advantages for banks

There are very sound reasons why banks are pushing for the rapid adoption of mobile banking. Customer desire for mobile services is such that having a good mbanking system represents a competitive advantage, with existing customers reporting higher satisfaction and new customers generating new revenue and enhancing profit.

Starting easy

When choosing an approach that will convince most users that mobile banking and payments are easy, affordable and secure, most banks start with SMS mobile payments. Short text messages are a well-known form of communication and are easy to use for all generations. Therefore they are a great first step into mobile payments and e-invoices, with SMS utility bill payments getting the most attention at the moment. As there is no real mobile operator assistance needed, implementation of such solutions is relatively easy. But have no doubt: SMS is just the start of the mobile banking revolution. Much more is to come.


ČRNUŠKI BAJER IMOS GROUP ® Fajfarjeva ulica 33, p.p. 2599, 1001 Ljubljana telephone: +386 1 47 33 300

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fax: +386 1 47 33 378 e-mail: info@imos.si www.imos.si

A Green Oasis for Life Once upon a time there was a brick factory and a clay pit, over the years, work at each of them stopped. Consequently, water from the nearby stream started to accumulate due to the impermeable clay ground and a pond was created. The area in the north of Ljubljana below Rašiški Hrib Hill slowly became a neglected part of the greater city, inexorably dying down. However, the lush green district has inspired ideas which have led to an innovative answer to the challenge of how to thoroughly revive the region. The developer behind the project entitled Črnuški bajer Residential Area is IMOS, one of the leading companies in complex and project engineering in Slovenia. Their approach to the project in Črnuška gmajna settlement is to create a high-quality building complex to cater for the needs of all population segments, from children to the elderly. The plan is also to complement the existing residential area there which already resembles a satellite town with a well-developed social infrastructure.

The entire area is going to be car-free; the many parking spaces are going to be placed on two underground levels so pedestrians and cyclists will be able to roam the neighbourhood freely. The peace and quiet created will be deepened by the forest microclimate which marks the very edge of the apartment complex and adds its share in creating a green paradise in the outskirts of the capital. Nevertheless, Črnuški bajer is easily reachable by car and bus and the motorway ring is conveniently close.

Air and water

Innovation for the future

The new complex is going to consist of apartments of a diverse typology and size, suitable for all generations. 250 family-type flats are going to be on offer, among which are also a few dozen sheltered housing flats suited to the elderly. Besides that a retirement home is going to be built and also a kindergarten for the youngest, both with a wonderful view over the well-kept pond. The proximity of the two institutions aimed at the youngest and the eldest is going to enable the building of intergenerational ties, one of the underlying goals behind the IMOS’s master plan. The entire complex is based on this principle – to open up society and strengthen social contacts. The buildings are set in an order which allows the air into its streets, thus also allowing the free flow of people and creating an atmosphere of an open society, gravitating towards the pleasant setting of the pond which is seen as the focal point of the area.

Construction will take place in two phases. The restoration and relocation of the pond has already taken place. This summer the company plans to acquire the required building permit and later on start with the first phase which includes six apartment buildings with 150 apartments including 30 sheltered accommodations and a kindergarten. 100 more flats in four buildings are

planned for the second phase. The firms behind the construction are going to be Bevk Perovič Arhitekti in the first phase and Guzič Trplan Arhitekti in the second one. The new Črnuški bajer apartment complex offers everything one needs for life in the city, but at the same time its sublime location detaches one from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment making it possible to enjoy the calm serenity only nature can offer.


28 FINANCE SPECIAL

Do You Still Believe in Slovenian Shares? Božo Jašovič: “I disagree with the generalisation of the critical situation in Slovenian companies. At the same time I do not understand those who do not believe in business growth, and only rely on investments financed by debt or real estate.”

Jože Lenič, President of the board, ABANKA

Jože Lenič, President of the board, ABANKA

Božo Jašovič, president of the board, NLB bank

The Slovenia Times

“I believe in Slovenian shares because I believe that the economic environment in Slovenia will improve. It is true that Slovenian companies are currently too indebted and not effective enough, but I believe the situation will improve in the coming years. I expect a rise in stock prices, especially for companies that are oriented towards development and export. I disagree with the generalisation of the critical situation in Slovenian companies. At the same time I do not understand those who do not believe in business growth, and only rely on investments financed by debt or real estate. Without long-term effective and efficient companies, other forms of investment assets will come under serious question. I believe that Slovenian managers recognise the new realities

in the markets and will be able to successfully adapt and take advantage of opportunities. I am convinced that the development could be faster and the economic situation would be better if Slovenia had more foreign investment and more private sectors. I am a reserved optimist for 2012 and beyond.”

Božo Jašovič, president of the board, NLB bank

W hen we talk about a potential influx of foreign capital we must be aware that any investor, before deciding to invest in Slovenian companies, will thoroughly review the macroeconomic and political situation in the country and the guidelines of the latter for the coming period. If we talk about foreign investment in general, we have to mention, from the viewpoint of the investor, Slovenia’s not particularly attractive tax laws, while in regards to the current situation on the Slovenian stock market we need to emphasise some other factors. Our stock market is currently quite illiquid, as our equity trading volume cannot be compared with other Eastern European stock exchanges. Liquidity is the main reason for the continued decline in share prices, and we often feel that in some cases this does not reflect the way some companies are operating. According to figures from the Central Securities Registry, in the past year all major issuers have seen an increase in the share of foreign holders of securities, while the overall number of holders has fallen. This leads to the conclusion that, in addition to the lack of interest amongst foreign investors,

the decline in rates is also due to the attitude to sale by domestic investors. As a result, we are in the middle of a general state of distrust in domestic securities. This is particularly evident after the publication of business results when, in the vast majority of cases, investors are not even rewarding those companies that demonstrate good results. There are quite a few such companies in our country. I have no fear that their good business results will sooner or later be reflected in higher share prices. In illiquid markets this will, however, take some time. In the future we can also expect that companies that have a good strategy and want to grow will begin to seek listings on foreign stock exchanges. Recently we have been reading an increasing amount about this in the media. In these cases the abilities of the management teams of Slovenian companies will become evident. This is because for such moves a number of “roadshows” are necessary where companies’ future plans are presented and which aim to convince potential investors to put their capital into the company. The problem remains with the low profitability of our companies compared to our competitors abroad, and consequently lower net return on capital. Another aspect which needs to be addressed here is the amount of large companies whose shares are included in the index of major European stock markets, which, in order to increase their own recognisability, have to spend significantly more abroad than in Slovenia.

Klemens Nowotny, president of the board, Raiffeisen Bank


»Yes, I have confidence in the Slovenian economy and its competiveness. I further believe in the future improvement of the economic and legal environment. This will support further development, strengthening and substantially increasing the Slovenian high tech industry segment, and attracting foreign direct investment. Slovenia will need both to continue its successful ways.”

vative business models of these companies present a gateway to the global market, thus showing a good example of small countries worldwide.

Cvetka Selšek, president of the management board, SKB Bank

Matjaž Kovačič, president of the board, Nova KBM Bank

Slovenia is a country that despite its small size boasts many successful, interesting, creative and profitable enterprises. At Nova KBM we believe in Slovenian companies and their good business ideas. It is true, however, that the Slovenian capital market is in crisis. For two years we have been eagerly awaiting the recovery, but it is yet to happen. The reasons for this are multiple. Among the most important are certainly the tougher conditions in the economy, Slovenia’s attitude towards foreign investors, and the extremely poor liquidity of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange. However, this in no way changes the fact that the Nova KBM has confidence in the Slovenian shares. We believe that we need to trust in them first – both companies and individuals – and only then will they also gain the trust of foreign investors.

A Trustworthy Partner for Banking Services Raiffeisen Bank is a modern bank with professional and financial support provided by the Raiffeisen Financial Group, one of the leading banking groups in Central and Eastern Europe. The relatively small size of the Bank is one of its advantages, since it can adapt much faster to changes in the financial market and provide its customers with a more personal approach. At the same time, being part of the Raiffeisen Financial Group means ample funds are available to the Bank as well as security of operation and know-how, based on over 100 years of experience and knowledge of local markets.

“You are asking an interesting question and it is becoming more urgent for Slovenia to show foreign capital that it is capable of transparent and complete transactions, even in the case of larger companies. Foreign investments are generally those that revive the economy. A small economy such as Slovenia’s therefore needs even more such investments. I’m currently working on a case which will, if successfully implemented, certainly have a positive impact in strengthening the image of Slovenia in international financial circles. In short, the answer is yes.”

Raiffeisen Bank offers services of the highest quality helping our customers realise personal and professional goals. The network of offices across Slovenia employs over one hundred people. The entire international network services over 15 million customers through around 3,000 business outlets on 17 markets. The entire Raiffeisen Group employs around 60,000 people.

The fine line between good and excellent A new service line developed for our most distinguished customers, Raiffeisen Premium Banking offers a holistic approach to professionals whose priority it is to enrich and protect their assets. We first try to understand personal needs and circumstance and then offer our customers a comprehensive financial plan that is stable and secure. With this style of banking, you no longer have to wade through a sea of products. Rather, we do all that wading and then construct an integrated product pool that is just right for you. With Raiffeisen Premium Banking, a range of benefits will be at your fingertips—a Personal Financial Advisor, priority treatment at bank branches, exclusive banking products and services. The high quality of this personal service will make your financial everyday life easier, allowing you to spend more time enjoying your favourite activities and with people who mean the most to you. If you believe that Raiffeisen Premium Banking is the right choice for you, please visit the nearest branch of Raiffeisen Bank where we will be happy to present the numerous benefits of this prestigious package in more detail. More information is available online at www.raiffeisen-premium.si or www.raiffeisen.si.

We mustn’t forget that one of the main pillars of the Slovenian economy is small and medium-sized enterprises. At Nova KBM our own entrepreneurial centres represent one of the key solutions for creating such companies by providing them financial and economic consultancy, advice on obtaining subsidies from the European Union and helping them to achieve business objectives. And to the best of those companies – which are chosen by an expert committee – we approve loans and financial and economic support. We support the idea of start-up companies. We believe that the inno-

Matjaž Kovačič: “We mustn’t forget that one of the main pillars of the Slovenian economy is small and medium-sized enterprises.” June 2011


30 TOURISM

Interview: Maja Pak, Head of Slovenian Tourist Board

Products to Make you Feel Good Maja Pak, head of the Slovenian Tourist Board, expects a challenging season with a wave of exceptional guests from far away. Some of the mare Slovenian emigrants and their descendents, who are about to visit their home country for the 20th anniversary of independence; others are the increasing number of guests from non-traditional tourist countries, the Middle and Far East. By Blanka Markovič Kocen and Jaka Terpinc How is STB going to respond to the changes in the tourist markets? Due to the changes that we constantly study, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the world around them. They are aware of the influences of harmful climate change and therefore they mostly inquire about environmentally friendly holidays. Also, the demographic structure of people is changing. Furthermore, there has been a great development of information and communication technology, which influences the different ways of enquiry and holiday decision-making.Of course, the offer and the manner of communication need to be adapted also according to the economic and financial crisis. That’s why we outlined our priority bases last year when we were preparing our programme. We’re going to especially strengthen the activities in our key European markets – Italy, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Great Britain, Benelux and Russia – which account for two thirds of all overnight stays in Slovenia. There are increasing numbers of active seniors for which services need to be adapted. Slovenia has great options and opportunities due to the previously mentioned trends, natural resources and itsfavourable position at the crossroads of the Germanic, Roman and Slavic worlds. More and more tourists appreciate nature, outdoor activities, and products that lead to well-being. And Slovenia has all of this! Since we are committed to sustainable development, we also encourage theincorporation of sustainable business models into the tourist industry and the creation of the so-called green destinations. Among the main strategic goals of STB are an increase of tourism turnover and competitiveThe Slovenia Times

ness. How are you going to achieve this and with what activities? Besides the already mentioned orientations in the key European markets, we’re also going to focus a great deal of attention on the new markets, especially the distant overseas ones that are predicted to grow fast.What is also going to be important is the intensive use of the brand, be it in the tourism as well as in other sectors. The thing is that the unified, consistent communication of the “I feel Slovenia” brand makes it stronger and ensures a more successful marketing venture. Regarding the massive development of information-communication technology, we are going to enlarge the internet marketing share in our communication web. One of the main tourist events of this summer is the Homecoming project. What is it about? It is a campaign that has been made together with the Office for Slovenians Abroad and the Government Communication Office. For the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence, we wantedto invite home all those Slovenians who live abroad. We collected interesting offers by particular tourist services and published them on a special webpage. There are going to be many events to mark the 20 years of independence, and this will add to the appeal of Slovenia for our compatriots. Which destinations are the most interesting? Definitely health resorts. Our huge advantage is that guests can spend their holidays in one place but can actually see all of Slovenia’s key sights, its natural and cultural beauties, due to its small size. Our mountains and hiking are also wonderful; mountaineering and other sports are developing. Traditionally, the Slovenian coast and

Ljubljana are, of course, also great attractions. You have mentioned the “I feel Slovenia” trademark. Is it recognisable enough? This brand has been greatly accepted abroad; it is also receiving positive feedback here in Slovenia. If we want to strengthen its recognisability, we will have to be well organised – in tourism and also beyond. We will also have to carry out the promise given by the brand, so we will have to develop our services and facilities in the direction of sustainable tourism and products with a high added value that wil l exceed tourists’ expectations. Our aim is that they have a first-rate experience and feel really good in our country. There is a well-known problem in attracting guests from the “new markets” –our visa policy. Have you been trying to influence the responsible ministries to act? Accessibility is certainly a segment where more can be done, meaning infrastructure. Air connections are a matter of bilateral deals: We are making efforts to link northern Russia via St. Petersburg with Ljubljana, which is a matter for the Ministry of Transport. Visa policy is also a question of accessibility; both the Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been making moves to loosen demanding visa procedures. Such is the case with Russia; hopefully other areas, such as the Gulf countries, would follow that. New markets – where are you aiming? There are three groups. The first is the already mentioned Eu-

ropean favourites, where the core of our promotion is focused.Then there are the remaining European countries, where we mostly conduct business activities.The third group are attractive overseas markets who currently contribute no more than 4% of stays, but are on the increase. These markets are not to be left to happenstance. In order to approach them, we are joining forces with Croatian Tourist Organisation as well as European Tourist Organisation. These campaigns, aimed at tourist promoters, entitled “Experience Croatia, Feel Slovenia” were extremely successful. We need to focus and join forces. So, it seems like the future of tourism will be a colourful one... Indeed! Very diverse. If you take our first group, every market is specific: half of Austrians visiting Slovenia choose thermal resorts, Germans and Britons head prefer the mountains, Italians the coast. So the non-traditional guests, for example from China, still need a bit of research? For sure. And to adapt the services and facilities. Also for the Gulf countries, who need a special approach. These guestsstay the longest. While the average stay is three days, it amounts to six days for Russians.


The Urban Pulse of Slovenian Capital Experience

Photo: I. Maher

A Day at BTC City

Dine with Style

Neboticnik Restaurant


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Photo: STO

LJUBLJANA

City Life

As the summer pulls more and more people out onto the streets of Ljubljana, we have asked ourselves a question: is life in Ljubljana close to what a contemporary urban metropolis should have – or is this just an idea of wannabe locals? This edition of The Slovenia Times lifestyle presents a few views on the matter. Is Ljubljana a town or a city? It’s a contentious question yet commonly asked. We’ve been through this with a number of experts and just as many smart arses and can’t get a definitive answer. Most dictionaries define a city as “a population, commercial and cultural centre; a town of significant size and importance”. Many people lean heavily on the second part of this definition to deny Ljubljana’s claim to city status, saying “No way… with such a small population and no skyline to speak of or any other indicators of real urbanity, Ljubljana is just a town”. Others self-indulgently claim that Ljubljana’s administrative and cultural functions accord it city status. So, depending on the context, we can use either label. In Slovene, the word “mesto” could be translated either way, so a place such as Škofja Loka, which is an administrative, economic and cultural centre of a wider area, could end up being mentioned in the same breath as Moscow. Of course, the entire Slovene-speaking world (estimated at 2.2 million people) would barely fill a few suburbs of a “town” like Moscow. Anyway, according to our government, a “mesto” is any settlement that has more than ten thousand inhabitants and Slovenia has 67 of these, including Ljubljana. Definitions aside, according to common sense, one thing is certain: The Slovenia Times

Ljubljana is the most city-like place in Slovenia. Even more obviously, Ljubljana’s urban attributes are getting a boost in a very mod-

ern sense. Even without a metro system or a larger airport, Ljubljana has many urban attributes to show visitors, but its compact size makes it very accessible.

A Collection of Mix Tapes The place you choose to live is a gift you give yourself. For me, Manhattan is a largely ignorable, hyperactive show dog on a costly special-needs diet. Dallas is a pleather wallet full of photos and customer rewards cards. And Ljubljana is a well-decorated, well-documented parcel of mix tapes. At times: sentimental, oddly industrial, rambling and inefficient, DIY, totally self-contained, Ljubljana has all the watermarks of a fantastic mix tape. And, it’s a city filled with music: from the sonic spillage pouring out of Križanke to the “čefur” sports cars in Rakova Jelša to the audio smorgasbord you’ll find at Metelkova any given weekend. Its architecture colludes in this symphonic bearing. Stara Ljubljana sings jazz standards. Bežigrad grunts Oy! through distortion. Vic rehearses scales. The low, old relic buildings give every neighborhood that proper sky-to-structure ratio where sounds can disappear. Ljubljana more than anywhere I’ve lived culls its musicality from its silences, like some high-flown John Cage experiment. This collection of mix tapes, Ljubljana possesses a beautiful economy of scale. In these days of iTune playlists that quickly get out of control through their excesses, Ljubljana keeps it limited to the bare necessities. This is partly because it’s a small town, and partly because the people living there know the rest of Slovenia has to come to them. Whatever it offers will be locally revered. Because it’s populated with Slovenians, Ljubljana lacks a certain amount of confidence. A place this picturesque and sociable should not be standing as consistently


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Ljubljana’s bursting energy, Maribor’s fading charm Photo: Mediaspeed

The definition of the term is flexible. We have consulted Helena Peterlin, chief editor of City Magazine, Ljubljana’s lifestyle freezine, who thinks of it as an urban subculture with a variety of different groups with particular common interests, styles, views etc. “To me, the real representatives of urban lifestyle are people who enjoy their urban life, meaning they follow the trends, love to socialize, go shopping and attend cultural events. Ljubljana folks are indeed adopting the urban lifestyle, which is still developing and slightly behind other European cities due to the lack of choice in certain styles.” Peterlin also thinks that Ljubljana is in a way too young to become a trendsetter. Still, despite its small size, Ljubljana is well aware of its search of urban identity and thus making effort to become more recognizable as “we still lack our own Sachertorte…” When it comes to critics, most agree that Ljubljana has potential in many ways, still waiting to develop. Expecting a metro might be a bit utopian, but the ideas of making the centre a pedestrian-friendly public space, offering all a metropolis, are well within a reach. Also, a decent airport with a good transit link to the city centre is not a demand too high. Ljubljana does indeed have monumental public buildings, a good choice of bars and restaurants, plus – of course – a vibrant cultural life. Solid, but not enough to be completely satisfied. “Maybe another ten years will bring a unique culture that others will see and want to become a part of it. Ljubljana, the way it is, remains small, yet lovely city with an ambition to become a metropolis in the future,” concludes Peterlin.

Diplomats, foreign businessmen and government officials drinking wine on a Thursday afternoon in the old town make Ljubljana feel like a European capital. Wherever you look during this fine spring weather, old Ljubljana is bursting with energy; the bars and the streets are packed as the light breeze cools the people walking down the Ljubljanica river. For a local or tourist, Ljubljana has that special feel. Everyone who comes here wants stay and live here. Everyone, that is, but those who have lived in Maribor – or so a prominent Slovenian once told me. This historic rivalry between Maribor and Ljubljana is slowly being transformed into a rivalry with other prominent European capitals. Maribor, as the second largest city in Slovenia, has perhaps not offered much competition lately but its position as the European Capital of Culture 2012 is giving hope. Arguably Ljubljana has already taken big steps towards becoming a modern cosmopolitan centre. But does Ljubljana really have what it takes to become an important centre?

Looking for a legend

Urban life in the contemporary world means a specific mixture of culture, sports and lifestyle. Big cities have big stories. Big stories about when one came from the countryside to the city and made it. Evita Peron came barefoot from Los Todos to Buenos Aires and a few years later she addressed the crowds from the Casa Rosada. How many stories have we heard of women or men coming with empty pockets to New York and succeeding? Or London? Do we have a story like that for Ljubljana? We may, but it has not become the sort of legend which gives personality to urban centres. In a recently-released song, famous Slovenian singer Jan Plestenjak sings about how a girl longs to move from her village to Ljubljana. Such a story is most common to post-industrial societies. Slovenia, with its agricultural history, has never really had an industrial revolution (apart from the planned development in communism). Industrial revolutions are one of the foundations of the contemporary urban culture and therefore, Slovenia and Ljubljana are largely missing out on this.

Sporting chance Jeremy, copy-writer and former Slovenia Times correspondent from New York. Lived in Ljubljana for two years.

in its own shadow as it does. I always imagine Ljubljana being hit by some social earthquake—like the one in the 1500s that defined its current physical look. In my mental stereo, I turn up the bass and wait for the rumbles.

Column: Tine Kracun

Urban Lifestyle

What of sports in the city? With the new stadium and basketball venue, the facilities for an urban centre are certainly in place. But while the local basketball team Olimpija has a fitting sports followers group with decent cultural movement, its football counterpart lags behind. There is no real football culture as there is no real team. The current Olimpija is only a shadow of what it used to be, and even then, Ljubljana was not enthusiastic about it. In those terms, Maribor is more developed – there is a strong football fan base which follows the local team closely. Maribor is apparently more integrated

into European streams through its football club. Every city has one specific aspect that it is recognised by. For Ljubljana that is definitely its old town. The magical architecture, beautiful Ljubljanica river, the Castle and the narrow passages give the foundation for the up and coming bar scene, focusing on the Slovene specialty – wines. The stories of these architectural and social aspects have inspired so many writers to write fantastic fictional pieces. This fiction needs to be made big, in order to magnify Ljubljana’s character. Find the stories and legends that have been written about Ljubljanica, the castle and the bridges and print them big! This is the story Ljubljana needs to offer to the outside world. This is its urban added value that will make it a point on the map. And it will be unique.

The ongoing fight

Two of my uncles were kids growing up in the sixties; one lived in Ljubljana and the other in Maribor. They constantly fought which city had what. Whilst Pohorje was unbeatable for Ljubljana, Maribor couldn’t match the zoo. However, a great tale of urban development was the competition with traffic lights. Whilst Maribor had none, Ljubljana had one. Today, Ljubljana beats Maribor in many more aspects that just the zoo and the number of traffic lights. Maribor may have that special charm with vineyards and skiing, but I regret to say that it is unfortunately slowly fading away. Ljubljana on the other hand is up and coming, moving outside towards Europe. Tine Kračun spent the first twenty years of his life in Maribor. At the age of fourteen, he could no longer contain his local patriotism and therefore joined the organised football supporters group Viole. He is still proud that he held a torch on their fifth anniversary and that he witnessed the first win Maribor had over Olimpija in Ljubljana in late October 1995. After living overseas, he returned to Slovenia and moved to Ljubljana in line with his wife‘s wishes. However, he still has MB license plates on his car and will forever do so. He will not get rid of his accent. And his heart will always beat faster when he sees Zoran Predin (one of the main pillars of the special charm of Maribor) walking the streets of Ljubljana. June 2011


A Summer of Festivals At last, summer is here, and in Ljubljana this means the beginning of many festivals and various other cultural events.The choice is wide and without doubt it offers something for every taste, so go out there and find your favourite.

By Polona Cimerman

Some of the festivals go on for throughout the summer, while the others last for a month or less. The Ljubljana Summer Festival is the longest-running one; it starts in June and continues until the end of the season. The festival primarily stages events of high artistic value, with special attention paid to opera, ballet and classical music. At the opening of the 59thfestival, spectators will see a grand performance of Mahler’s 8thsymphony,

with more than a thousand performers; throughout the summer, the festival will host many internationally famous names. Another summer-long festival is Summer in Ljubljana Old Town which takes place in various churches, inner courtyards and squares in the old city centre, mostly without an entrance fee, while the larger concerts take place in Cankarjev dom and in the superb acoustics of the Križanke Open Air Theatre, beloved by many acclaimed

Festival Ljubljana

Bigger Than a City of Million Inhabitants The man behind the capital’s most prominent cultural events foresees a bright future for Ljubljana’s rich and diverse cultural events. Photo: Mediaspeed

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Darko Brlek is the general manager of the Ljubljana Festival and the president of European Festivals Association. Last year’s Ljubljana Festival brought us several notable performances, such as those of the Munich Philharmonic and the London Symphony orchestra. This season will open with a spectacular open air performance of Mahler’s 8th symphony with over a thousand people on the stage (see the event guide). We will be also able to see Filharmonica della Scala with Daniel Harding, guitarist Al Di Meola, Teatro Espanol’s “Twilight of Gods”, directed by Slovenian Tomaž Pandur, and many more – and these are only in the first two weeks of the festival. The program ranges from classical to jazz, from avant-garde theatre to fine arts and is focused only at the The Slovenia Times

best there is. As such, it attracts a varied and appreciative audience, some 80% of whom are from Slovenia. Next year, the Ljubljana Festival will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Can you, despite the diverse nature of its events, define the Festival’s programming concept? It’s about events at the highest level possible, which we attempt to make accessible to anyone. The term “elite festival” is frequently misinterpreted. It is about elitism on the stage, not in terms of snobbery toward the audience. On the contrary, we do our best to make our program accessible to basically anyone. So our pricing policy has many discounts. For the upcoming 8th Mahler Symphony on Kongresni trg square, prices for seats range from EUR 9 to 99 for the first row. The standing audience listens for free. It’s a wide spectrum, indeed; one that not only involves the artistic aspect, but the social and the political as well. Is it possible to define Ljubljana’s audience? In our case, the actual Ljubljana audience is a minority. Ljubljana, apart from some smaller stages around the country, creates events for the whole country. With some sixty thousand students, who stay here at least until July, I’d prefer to speak about Slovenian audience. Has this audience changed over the years? Is it easier to offer certain music today than it would be a decade ago?

Mostly, it is easier to attract performers, compared to the first years after independence. The audience, on the other hand, has become more educated, owing mostly to the internet. Anyone can access information and check out what we offer. What we are presenting are pure originals, and the audience is becoming aware of that. If la Scala or the Bolshoi appears, it is the real thing, the original setup, not just one original member and the rest from who knows where. Is the audience feedback in line with the event’s prominence? Of course. Quite interesting is the growing number of loyal audience, who are following all the high-profile events. Ten years ago, this kind of audience mostly consisted of single, highly educated women, from 35 and 50 years old. Today this has changed significantly – there’s more and more young people attending. Meanwhile, we also make an effort to educate young people at our workshops. Do many foreigners visit your events? There are many Italians. Our “gravitational zone” seems to be reaching as far as to Trieste and Trevisio. Many international guests, be they from Israel, Iceland or the Netherlands, buy their tickets through internet presale, knowing they will be in Slovenia during that period. There are also tourists who decide on an event on the spot. How do you view Ljubljana’s cultural venues? Are there enough of them? Definitely! In proportion to its size, it boasts an exceptional cultural infrastructure. I regret the Kolizej project [a planned cultural complex with a concert hall] is on hold; it would add even more to our options. Still, all the recent achievements such as Kino Šiška, Španski borci and Stožice make a significant contribution. How would you compare Ljubljana to other European capitals? I shall put it differently: anyone from other capitals who visits Ljubljana is surprised by our rich and diverse offer, wondering how such a small city copes with it. Everyone is excited by the number of professional orchestras and theatres, opera, galleries etc. Ljubljana has the cultural range of a city of a million – four times the actual size.


35 artists, Nick Cave being just one of them. The festival ends witha special evening: a Night in Ljubljana’s Old Town. Little ones also will be able to enjoy culture – at the Mini Summer Festival, the largest and most important children’s festival in Slovenia, offering international puppet and theatre plays, usually every Sunday for the whole summer, on different venues, from the Ljubljana Castle to the streets.

Short but sweet

There will also be shorter festivals this summer. Jazz lovers will be able to enjoy the finest the genre has to offer during the four-day Ljubljana Jazz Festival. The

many venues, as well as the streets will offer an intriguing programme.August belongs to Trnfest, a one-month-long indoor and outdoor festival with a wide array of events from concerts, theatre performances, improv events, stand-up comedy, DJ evenings and much more. The end of August will see the Young Lions international festival adding another piece in the event mosaic with theatre, music and exhibitions. Those who prefer being outdoors will love the festival Ana Desetnica at the end of June. For the 14th season, this international festival of street performers will offer big spectacles and small performances, musical shows, circus acts and various

workshops. This festival brings a different dimension to Ljubljana and is extremely popular.Another street festival is the EmonaPromenade in Trnovo, traditionally hosting international artists with a great deal of the programme intended for the youngest audiences. Apart from festivals, one can attend events in the new Stožice hall, a new cultural venue contributing to making Ljubljana truly a vibrant city, booming with culture and events, attracting big names to the country. And another thing: even if you just want to go for a stroll or an ice-cream, culture awaits you there as well due to the daily organised concerts in many of the cafes. So,this summer just hit the streets, let the culture come to you and – enjoy it!

Ana Desetnica

A Happy Urban Party

The Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival is the most prominent and acclaimed brainchild of the Ana Monro Theatre. This loud, happy, funny, critical and extraordinary event will once again rule the streets of Ljubljana for four days in the end of June as well including events at seven other locations across Slovenia. A varied selection of mostly small and mid-sized shows will be on offer, as well as educational workshops. Arguably the highlight will be The Beast performance by Slovene and French artists. This will spread to all bridges in Ljubljana and audiences will be able to see the performance from a very special perspective – the water. According to Goro Osojnik, programme director of the Ana Monro Theatre, such events meant that the fourteenth incarnation of the festival is just as worth seeing as the previous 13 editions. By Polona Cimerman

Where do the artists come from? Since Ana Desetnica is an international festival they come from all over the world, including the more exotic countries like Kyrgyzstan. More and more we realise that Slovenia has a very favourable position as we are on the border between the West and the East. We wish to become a meeting point between these worlds. This June we’re hosting performers from thirteen countries, among them Mexico, Colombia and Ukraine. Are foreign artists happy to perform in Ljubljana? Absolutely yes since we at Ana Monro Theatre know that taking good care of the

artists and their working conditions is crucial for good shows – and they get all this here. At the same time Ljubljana offers a distinctive challenge to the artists because it has extremely picturesque and special venues. The bridges over the Ljubljanica are very specific, demanding, and at the same time attractive for street art. The fact that everything is close in the “small capital” that is Ljubljana creates a positive festival atmosphere which is famed all over the world. This special ambience makes Ana Desetnica a truly unique festival. Which shows are the biggest successes in Ljubljana? The audience has formed its taste to perfection and today they expect a comprehensive programme from which they later on make their picks. At the same time part of the audience takes a random approach. The most popular are clown shows and circus but also more serious performances get a good response. However many times the audience reacts differently from what we expect, so there is no general rule as what works and what does not.

Do foreigners come to your shows? A bit less than one fifth of the visitors are from other countries and we are happy to say that there are more and more of those plan their visit to Slovenia to coincide with the dates of our festival. Does Ljubljana offer enough options for the development of street theatre? The public space in Ljubljana is excellent and diverse and its core has changed greatly in the past years – for the better. However, despite the generally great and efficient renovation there are things which could be solved differently and sometimes we miss the dialogue of the city with its users. Photo: Mediaspeed

What defines Ana Desetnica this year? As always the festival aims to be a happy event where art meets sociability and where various aspects of urban life intertwine. The programme is made accordingly. However, the key factor this year was space, as most of Ljubljana’s programme is going to take place at the new promenade along the river. We wish to attract the citizens into the festival so we’re organising a special event in Prule called The Feast of Cultures while in Maribor we’re having Live Courtyards for the second time. On the one hand Ana’s programme has changed though the years since it keeps up with the times and modern trends but on the other it hasn’t: we’re still bringing something different to everyday life.

What kind of audience are the Slovenians? The audience here is very good and active and people respond to what they see to a great extent. This also is the reason why the foreign artists really like to come to Slovenia as apparently the audience is not as positive everywhere. June 2011


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Bicike(LJ)

Ljubljana joins a growing number of cities with a free bike rental system. By Jaka Terpinc

The BicikeLJ network features thirty stations with smart terminals and 300 available bikes. The stations in central Ljubljana should not be more than 400 metres apart. Since the purpose of this system is to offer bikes for a single ride between stations, the first hour of bike use is free of charge.

The bikes are designed exclusively for this purpose: robust, with solid puncture-resistant tires, which should handle any weather conditions, as well as vandalism. The project was created as a publicprivate partnership with the adspace provider Europlakat. Ljubljana is already crowded with advertising space and this partnership takes advantage of a law requiring any extension of ad space to be accompanied by an extension of urban infrastructure.

Changing habits

Prof. Janez Koželj is aware that getting people out of their cars is a complex and lasting process. The Slovenia Times

The introduction of free bikes is one element of the long-term traffic policy plan, which the municipality is planning to adopt. However, the plan does not merely involve planning and laying out new traffic routes– it is a thorough process, going so far as to affect the mentality of the people of Ljubljana. Ljubljana’s vice-mayor and expert in urban architecture, Prof. Janez Koželj, explains: “Changing the traffic order interferes with individual freedoms, one of which is freely choosing the means of transportation. This freedom is connected with our beliefs of what is common and private, what is a luxury and what is economical, and what is healthy and unhealthy. It’s a matter of values and lifestyle. However, the state can do much to influence this free choice.” An enthusiastic bicycle user himself,

Koželj views Slovenia as a country that has not yet overcome its obsession with automobiles. This is in contrast to “more culturally advanced European states, which make a great effort to promote using other transport than cars.” In Ljubljana, the conditions worked more or less in favour of cars from1993 to 2003. The end of 20th century saw increasingly fewer people combining walking and using public transport. While this way of moving around Ljubljana went down by more than 10%in ten years, car traffic has increased by 20%. The number of cyclists remained at around 10% of inhabitants. “What we should be aiming at is to turn that pyramid upside down. It is a huge project. It is difficult to establish consent. Some consider driving the most economical way. Moreover, the ability for everyone to own a car is considered to be a significant value. Therefore, it seems too radical to exchange this perceived achievement for walking. It requires too much of a re-evaluation of our consumer society. Bicycling is an acceptable alternative.” The question is whether the users will be able to recognize the extensive list of benefits here, which, according to Prof Koželj, stem from the fact that Ljubljana a flat city with manageable distance works, i.e. very cyclist-friendly. “Cycling retains much of walking’s

Photo: Maja Kaplan

The Freedom of Cycling

characteristics: it is healthy and flexible. It is also the quickest option as we can use shortcuts, aren’t stuck in traffic jams, and we don’t need parking spots. This all saves energy and preserves nature. There’s no CO2, no noise... Cycling in combination with walking and public transport leads to a brighter traffic future for the city.” Ljubljana’s vision is to allocate transport by thirds: one third bicycles and walking, another third with public transport and the rest with cars. This goal is set for 2020. Traffic is indeed a complex system. The city is already reducing motorized vehicles, pushing them to the outskirts and there by liberating space for pedestrians and cyclists. We are already experiencing the benefits of expanded car-free zones in the city centre. The city has gained a new dimension of increased freedom of movement and new event venues. Another important element to this is the city bike – BicikeLJ. The concept originates in Paris with its Vélib’ (veló liberté) and has quickly become an example for other European capitals. “Ljubljana takes the example of Barcelona for innovation, Copenhagen for the world’s best organized place in the terms of traffic and Vienna, which offers the best quality of life. All these cities have had city bikes for a while,” says Koželj.


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The Capital

A Green Oasis in the City

The largest and the most beautiful park in Ljubljana has a really famous name – Tivoli. However, here it does not indicate an amusement park as in the case of its famous Danish namesake, but it nevertheless is a park where you can have a really good time and – most importantly –also find a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. By Polona Cimerman Photo: STO

Over the past decade, Jakopič’s Promenade has been a venue for photography exhibitions, which change every few months. Currently on display are the artisticblack-andwhite jazz photographs from around A place for art and culture the globe by the music photographer Žiga Koritnik. The exhibition, “Cloud One of the focal points of the park Arrangers” is one of the biggest, is Jakopič’s Promenade, named not only in Slovenia but also in the after one of the central figures of world. Slovenian painting, which is the link From art to nature, and in many between the city and one of the two types of recreation, Tivoli is one manors in park: Grad Tivoli. This is “Library under the tree-tops,” one of Tivoli park’s summer delights. of the most important parts of a beautifully decorated mansion and Ljubljana. If it is true that the green practice yoga or learn Nordic walkSituated so close the city core that today the home of the International spaces of the city determine the ing techniques there. some regard it as part of the centre, Centre of Graphic Arts, which hosts quality of life of its citizens, it is In the past, you could also go rowTivoli Park – covering more than 5 many exhibitions. The second oglas LJ- KARTICA - 113x155 mm 6/24/10 15:12 Pagedoubt 1 without that Slovenia’s capital ing and ice-skating on the Tivoli km2 with grass and trees has been mansion is Cekinov Grad, which is a great place to live. pond, but today only eager sport a popular getaway for citizens of houses the National Museum of fishers try their luckthere. Besides Ljubljana ever since it was opened Contemporary History. fish, turtles and frogs also live in the in 1813, designed according to the pond, while water lilies flourish on French engineer Blanchard’s plans. the water surface. A full century later, between 1921 and 1939, the legendary Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik made signifiPlant and animal heaven cant changes the park, and today The park is part of the Tivoli it has numerous walking trails, Landscape Park, which includes the colourful flowerbeds, fountains and Rožnik and Šišenski Hrib hills, and statues, the newest of which isan enjoys a protected status. The park interesting monument to the novelist abounds in lush vegetation of variEdvard Kocbek. ous plant species, and it also hosts home without a pocketful of nuts for the squirrels that jump between the trees, plucking up courage to feast on the treats straight fromthe hands of their admirers.

Ljubljana tourist card

A place to relax

In the second half of the 20th century, the park went through many changes and various sports facilities were built there, including the famous outdoor swimming pool complex Ilirija, the Tivoli sports hall, which used to be a concert venue and home of Olimpija indoor sports teams before Stožice was opened. There are also a fitness complex with swimming pools, a bowling centre, as well as tennis, basketball, roller-skate and mini golf courts. Options for recreation are plenty and many people come to Tivoli simply to unwind. Strolls along the sandy pathsare popular or just relaxing on the benches or lawns observing the world, while families enjoy the two children’s playgrounds. In recent years, many amateur sports groups have organised their practices in the park, including those of the Ljubljana. Besides that, you can also

a greenhouse that belongs to the University Botanical Gardens; visitors can see some examples of exotic plant species, including carnivorous plants. Furthermore, those interested in flora can take the Jesenko Path, named after a famous Slovenian botanist, where they can learn about thirty different tree species. The landscape park offers a vast habitat for animals of over 509 hectares of land. It is home to large numbers of birds and one part of it is even called Tičistan (“birds’ home”).The caretakers have placed bird houses and birdfeeders there, planted appropriate trees and bushes, and erected information boards for visitors and bird lovers who can observe robins, blackbirds, nuthatches, blue tits and woodpeckers –these are but a few of the species that dwell there. However, birds are not the only animals people come to Tivoli’s to watch. Many visitors never leave

• free admission to the main sights • free public transport, boat ride, funicular, tourist train • other attractive free services 24 hours: € 23.00 • 48 hours: € 30.00 • 72 hours: € 35.00 Sales outlets: • Tourist Information Centres and major hotels

www.visitljubljana.si

June 2011


experience

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BTC City

Time Well Spent

BTC City is a commercial quarter unlike any other in Europe, attracting 21 million visits each year. With an abundance of leisure activities alongside great shopping there is no way to get bored at this city within a city. It’s a Saturday afternoon and it’s raining. Outdoor activities are out of the question but staying at home doesn’t seem like an option during the precious free time of the weekend. What’s a family to do? For most of those living in central Slovenia, the answer lies in a visit to BTC City. This city within a city is one of the few places

in Slovenia which caters to every member of a family. Once advertised as a “small city of big shopping” BTC soon advanced into something way beyond shopping itself. The complex is now home to a plethora of entertainment, recreation and food and drinks options. Consider that the spot to

the north-east Ljubljana where BTC now stands was once home to the “public warehouses,” that stored goods for the socialist economy and you quickly get a sense of how Ljubljana has changed and expanded in the past fifty years. The warehouses now host a number of small specialised stores, different in sizes, even more so in the products they offer. Additional construction projects brought about another bunch of facilities, all rounded up with a fluent traffic infrastructure and plenty of parking options.

Anything your heart desires

Imagine a family with forty-something parents, a teenage daughter, and a pre-school son. On their rainy Saturday afternoon they arrive at BTC’s D-hall with its famous

The Slovenia Times


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Emporium store, the haven of top fashion brands. Browsing through Armani, Calvin Klein, Fred Perry and tens of other famous fashion brands takes time and focus – both of which tend to be in short supply with a young child around. But all is taken care of. In the basement of the same hall, Beti in Cej children centre provides care, entertainment and even education for the kids while their parents get on with some shopping. This novel service is a further boost to the family friendliness of BTC. With the little one has been taken care of, the shopping can begin. BTC boasts 450 shops and there’s literally no item that you cannot find there. To narrow down their shopping adventure, our family could head for the A-hall with “only” 180 shops – plus restaurants, hairdressers and other services. This hall is the “historical” centre of BTC City and is easy to access, with many parking spots in the surrounding area (8,500 in the whole BTC area – all free of charge). It is proudly overlooked by the Crystal Palace, a newly built skyscraper which currently holds the title of the tallest man-made object in the country; a title it is likely to retain for some time. Down at A-hall, shoppers swarm through specialised stores – from many boutiques dedicated to shoes and clothes, to all sorts of technology goods; from unknown budget brands to prestigious ones. One such is the new Orchestra boutique, dedicated to children’s wear from this popular French label. There are even some truly exclusive places here such as Soccerbox, dedicated to all the outfits and equipment which is the inventory of the world’s best players. Some people say they forget about hunger whilst shopping but that’s not the case for our imaginary family. After an hour in A-hall, a snack is inevitable. To keep them going, they need something quick and tasty and there’s no better place in A-hall than restaurant Pavza. Their healthy menu of sandwiches and snacks is right for anyone who doesn’t want to waste time. But if you’ve got longer to linger over a meal, BTC has a number of restaurants which can suit every occasion – including romantic dinners. And for those in need of food with no delay, there’s something to grab at every corner.

After another hour of exciting shopbrowsing and a few bags full of stuff our imaginary family pick up their young son from Beti in Cej and start to think about a treat for all four of them.

Play, Drive or Dive

The options are numerous. Have you ever driven a go-kart? There is an exciting indoor track right there, in hall 18. You can join races or even attend one of their racing schools. Electric go-karts are safe and fun to ride, even for the kids. In the entertainment quarter of BTC you can drive, bowl, play pool or video games and so on. But the family we are following decide on something they can all equally enjoy: a visit to Atlantis, an amazing waterpark where both toddlers and seniors can find ways to play or relax. Whirlpools, slides, waves, saunas… Time runs fast in Atlantis and by the nightfall, our family is a bit tired. Not exhausted, though, so perhaps there was just enough energy for some more fun; perhaps a trip to the cinema. Kolosej, a huge cinema complex, fits the bill with its massive variety of blockbusters – most of which are shown in the original language. It is clear then than BTC is nothing if not a family venue. Actually it sets no limits in age or walk of life. There’s literally everything. Therefore it is difficult to suggest quite how to spend time there. All there is to know is that it offers so many things that it can be tailored to anyone.

BTC d.d. Šmartinska 152, Ljubljana Phone: +386 (0)1 585 11 00 info@btc-city.com www.btc-city.com

100 95 75 100 95 25 75 5 0 25 5 0

June 2011 Slo times avgust 230x95 mm


news

Bosch dishwashers with the highest marks

Home appliances

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1000 Year of Bled Castle

Tourism

“In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Henry, made king by the Divine providence ...” This is how the text in the gift document from 1011 starts when the German king Henry 2nd gave Bled castle, known as Castellum Veldes in those times, to the Brixen bishop Adelberon. Bled castle was the administrative centre of the Brixen real estate in Gorenjska region and in the medieval sources the name of Bled appears in the German form Veldes. Bled castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia according the time when it was first mentioned. The reputation of Bled’s beauty and its castle was spread far by respected travellers, among which was also Janez Vajkard Valvasor in his extensive book Glory of the Duchy of Carniola from 1689.

The Pleasure of Business

Wellness

History

Bosch dishwashers received excellent marks in the free-standing as well as in the buildin segment on the international dishwashers test, published in April issue of the Slovene Consumers’ Association’s VIP magazine. In the built-in segment the Bosch ActiveWater SMV69M40EU dishwasher has earned the highest grade among the tested appliances. Its combination of efficient cleaning, low energy consumption, silent operation and handiness proved to be a winning combination. In addition Extra Drying function is available to fully dry any surface. Furthermore; this appliance is distinguished by an extremely low water usage: in order to clean 13 place setting its water consumption is only 6.5 liters in Eco 50°C program. To top it off the dishwasher remains very economical with energy and belongs to A++ energy class.

Some light and fresh snacks accompanied with ice coffee, hand massage and deep breathing will suffice that the congress guests in Thermana Laško forget about their overloaded workdays also during the summer. Thermana recommends: “Socialising in fresh air outside of the hustle and bustle of the city means an escape to a place where the sunshine is for the business events attendees. After the business part the invigoration of the bodily energy in the outdoor swimming pool of the thermal centre comes since swimming is an important recreational end of a business day. Before leaving for home we recommend the guest to take one last step of health Thermana has to offer – a visit to the neighbouring Zdravilišče where you can find a source of the Laško drinking thermal water. Water helps to detoxify the body, improves the biological cell environment and intercellular communication.”

Home of the Finest Horse Breed

A new museum dedicated to the stud farm and the famous white Lipizzaner horses opened in Lipica. The opening was addressed by the Norwegian Ambassador Guro Katharina Helwig Vikor, as a majority of the funds for the EUR 800.000 worth project was contributed by the Norwegian financial mechanism and the financial mechanism of the EEA. The museum was set up in one of the studs’ characteristic buildings, an old outbuilding encompassing 300 square metres. In the museum, visitors will be able to learn about the history of the town and the Lipizzaner breed through interactive multimedia presentations. The stud farm in the village of Lipica not far from the border with Italy was established in May 1580, when Archduke Carl II, the ruler of Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Istria and Trieste, bought the property and a diocesan horse farm from Trieste Bishop Coreto.

Ljubljana Water Games

, 1 1 ce 0 a r 2 1 n 2 itio e n b i u h J x ke Tuesditaheyatre Kaya the river kline over Ampstahrski bridge by Su

Slac Children workshops

Alya - rock concert on river

The Slovenia Times naravna izvirska voda


Straight to Istanbul

The Smoking Legend

Tobacco Museum

Turkis Airlines, one of the fastest growing air companies is opening up several new routes primarily in the U.S. and the Middle East from its base airport in Istanbul. This is good news for travellers from Slovenia, especially because the frequency of Ljubljana – Istanbul flights is growing: from July onwards it will be five times a week. The recipients of the Best Airline in Southern Europe and the Best Catering in Economy Class awards keep adding wings to its fleet and bolstering their infrastructure to assure comfortable, more pleasurable journeys also with the introduction of the Comfort Class.

As tobacco company Tobačna Ljubljana celebrates 140 years, Ljubljana’s Tobacco Museum has been re-opened with an exhibition. The company has stopped making tobacco products in 2004 but remained a wholesale and retail tobacco company. The 20-year-old exhibition has been reopened in what used to be bathroom facilities for workers, built in 1885. The focus of the upgraded exhibition is on Tobačna in its hay-day: a large company that employed as many as 2,500 people in the 19th century. Tobačna Ljubljana was one of the few tobacco factories that for decades produced a wide range of products: from chewing and sniffing tobacco to tobacco for pipes. However in the 20th century the cigarette superseded all other products.

Eurowhat? After a long day of cycling in the nearby park, I finally put my exhausted son to sleep and turned on the TV to keep me company. I searched through the programs but quickly found it was impossible to ignore the Eurovision Song Contest and so, with some hesitation, I started watching. I instantly remembered my childhood, and the excitement that was triggered in us children by the legendary Eurovision broadcasting theme song. Those were the golden days of the contest; the days of Abba, Johnny Logan, Toto Cutugno, Brotherhood of Man with their legendary tune “Save Your Kisses for Me”, Celine Dion for Switzerland; the days the times when this contest was a festival of the best in the business. We would sit down in front of the TV with our families and wait with our baited breath for the best new songs in Europe, the new trends in music and fashion. Yes, those were the good ol’ days, when presenting your country on the contest was a matter of prestige. So, what went wrong? Abba are no longer on friendly terms, Johnny is probably nursing his grandchildren, Italy keeps sending people to represent them who are nowhere near the top of their field, and Celine and the likes of her now wouldn’t be caught dead performing on Eurovision, afraid it might damage their careers. If you compare the charts and the selection of songs seen at this Eurovision, one cannot help but ask what the contest is good for. It has become a self-sufficient contest, a musical genre of its own – dated and almost always content-less. If you are a performing artist and want to compete in EMA – the Slovenian contest to select a song for Eurovision – you have to be invited by the board of EMA, or by a performer who has been invited. It’s all about a crew of songwriters who keep sending their songs to Europe, without much success. Like Matjaž and Urša Vlašič, who have written five EMA-winning songs but without much of a result at the main contest. Still, every now and then, someone who is actually successful agrees to participate as a songwriter or a performer, like when EMA got lucky and Magnifico somehow said yes to the invitation and produced a hit for the

Column: Andja Maric

By Air

41

transexual trio Sestre, the only song that has had any real success abroad. But that was almost a decade ago, and since then a lot has changed for the worse. Now we have raging vampires, hellish creatures from the Scandinavian countries, opera singers, feministic male singers or shemales singing with angelic voices that are the only thing that determine the artist’s sex, and no hit songs, whatsoever. If you compare the pop charts in Britain with the people it sends to represent them in Eurovision, the difference is huge. In short, this is a contest which is a pale shadow of its former self because for years now, the winning song is usually forgotten after a month. So what’s the point? Even though I like Maja Keuc and her refreshing talent and enthusiasm, and the Vlašič couple’s catchy song that she sang – catchy because it was a very crafty mix of various vocal lines and musical themes “borrowed” from at least four hit songs, but none of them provable – it again didn’t work. They sent Maja along with an incredible four back-up singers, all too young and dressed as cheap gogo dancers, instead of using the attractive Maestro dancers. The result was this: Maja looked uncomfortable in the latex and stripper boots, resembling a girl who has raided her porn star aunt’s wardrobe with her gal-pals and run away from home to try her luck as a singer. I bet she concentrated more on keeping her balance in those heels than on performing and the image overshadowed her obvious talent and vocal abilities. Sound familiar? Try watching Burlesque with Cher and Christina Aguillera – Maja’s too obvious singing idol.

And the winning Azerbajan song? I guess it was their time to bring home the prize. Eurovision is in its Eastern European phase, increasingly clinging to the musical taste of the ex- Soviet Union countries who have just discovered the meaning of the words TV Show. What of Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden and the old trailblazers? Is it possible that they have trouble finding good performers and songwriters? Probably. It’s sad. It was a great idea, once. A dream of Europe, united in its love for music and art, now turned into a chaotic kitschy nightmare.


42

Dine

wit h St yle Kavarna Restavracija Nebotičnik Štefanova 1, Ljubljana T: 0590 70 396 info@neboticnik.si, www.neboticnik.si Open Sun to Wed: 9am – 1am Thu to Sat: 9am – 3 am (Restaurant operates until 10pm, Sun closed)

Nebotičnik

Price range Lunch menu: from EUR 15 Tasting menu: from EUR 35 Food type

continental Reservations recommended

Smoked trout and marinated with spicy aioli

The Mile High Club Jade Van Baaren visits Nebotičnik (Slovenian for “skyscraper”), a renowned building in the centre of Ljubljana, which is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. The upper three floors have recently been renovated into a stylish restaurant, nightclub and bar.

Scallops on top of cauliflower puree with bacon and curry

Home catch Sea Bas fillet on top of parsnip puree, asparagus and mustard sauce.

English sauce and banana mouse served with puff pastry wedges.

A trio of dessert; Mango ice cream with a biscotti cake crumble, caramelized banana drizzled in

Nebotičnik is a unique and dramatic setting for a restaurant and when you first walk in you are transported into another place and time. Designed by Slovenian architect Vladimir Šubic in 1930, it was upon completion the tallest building in Yugoslavia and the ninth-tallest high-rise in Europe. The owners have retained many of the original features as well as the original name. There is always something so opulent and gangster-like about Art deco, and Neboticnik is no different – its thick, royal blue velvet curtains; high ceilings; gold plating; and period lighting are all finished to a very high standard. The original oak spiral staircase runs throughout the building and the views at the top are by far the best in town. The mezzanine bar has a full circle terrace with stunning views of the castle or, for more greenery, Tivoli Park. At the bar you can enjoy a variety of drinks mixed by award-winning bar tender Tomaž Fartek, and/or enjoy a light lunch basking in the Ljubljana sunshine. Neboticnik is also home to a trendy nightclub decorated in plush, coloured leathers, which hosts great live performances by various up-and-coming artists. This jewel is a destination hot spot.

High standards

The restaurant, meanwhile, has something for everyone. Dishes use locally sourced ingredients and all are cooked to Michelin guide standard. In addition, the Neboticnik menu provides a range of fixed-price options incorporating seasonal specials, which is available every lunchtime and in the early evening. With influences such as Thomas Keller, you will understand why Chef Kordež’s food resonates with artesian delicacy. His culinary skills and his exceptionally high personal standards leave you relishing every morsel. Kordež is also very much inspired by nature and the changing of the seasons.

Starters

We started our meal with an aperitif. Uncertain of what took our fancy, our waiter was kind enough to give us some helpful suggestion. We settled on a glass of bubbly from their extensive wine list – we needed a minute to take in this great room and all the history and secrets it held. Once seated at our table we were served a warm trio of fresh baked breads accompanied by the house smoked butter with crushed almond: quite simply


Top choice Vila Prešeren

Veslaška promenada 14, Bled Tel: +386 (0)4 575 25 10 vilapreseren@sportinaresorts.si Open: 11am – 11pm In Issue 131

Pule Estate

Drečji vrh 16, Trebelno Tel: +386 (0)7 34 99 700, (0)51 373 662 marketing@pule.si, www.pule.si Open: Wed-Sat: 12am-10pm, Sun: 11am-8pm; Pule Estate is also available for rental Traditional Slovene cuisine with other culinary delights In Issue 132

Cafe Central

yummy! Now I am not always a fan of smoked produce, as often they are over smoked and you lose the flavour of the actual food. However, this smoked butter was light and fluffy with just the right amount of nutty flavour from the almonds. Perfect. With smiles on our faces we were then handed our amuse-bouche. I was delighted to see wine-soaked cherries with almonds and gorgonzola. This was a sign that the chef has his finger on the pulse of the seasons (I had just been picking my first crop at our weekend house in the east a few days before). For our starter the waiter suggested the house smoked trout. Being so impressed with the chef’s smoking techniques, I was eager to see if his trout was going to come together as well as his smoked butter. It did. Not only did this dish look like a thing of beauty – with its miniature spring flowers and colourful pickled vegetables, finished with pearls drops of trout caviar and a spicy aioli – it was also a flawless blend of flavours.

Perfect wine

Our friendly and helpful waiter assisted us in picking the perfect wine to go with

our tasting menu. We opted for just the one bottle as it was lunchtime and we had the rest of the day to get through. He suggested Edi Simčič Rebula and it proved a great choice. It had notes of honey, nutty, limpid nose with small floral notes. Very nice fruit sweetness, with depth and balance, with just the right amount of freshening mineral acidity. Our second course was caramelised seared scallops on top of the most gorgeous cauliflower puree, a thin slice of crispy pancetta, and a floret of cauliflower curried tempura. This looked and tasted amazing. Everything that I look for in a dish – colour, texture, taste, seasonality – was here and it was shouting at me.

Grand Hotel Portorož ***** Obala 33, Portorož Tel: +386 (0) 5 692 1050 info@lifeclass.net, www.lifeclass.net Open: Every day, 8am – 9pm In Issue 133

Promenada Gourmet Restaurant Cesta svobode 15, Bled Tel: +386 (0)4 579 18 39 restavracija.promenada@hotelibled.com www.sava-hotels-resorts.com 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@vgs-bled.si www.hotelastoria-bled.com/castle restaurant Open: Every day, 10am –10pm

A beautiful combination

Then it was on to the main dish – local caught sea bass fillet on top of parsnip puree, served with asparagus, baby carrots and a heavenly mustard sauce, finished with mustard foam. The parsnip puree was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of seasoning. The sea bass was cooked to perfection and the asparagus and carrots had just the right amount of bite to them. Exceptional cooking. We rounded off our meal with a trio of desserts: mango ice cream with a biscotti cake crumble, caramelised banana drizzled in English sauce, and banana mouse served with puff pastry wedges. Tomaz, our bar tender, kindly brought us a recent award-winning drink he has come up with for the restaurant. I think it should be called the “skyscraper”. With its multi layers of cognac and creamy liqueurs; it was a delicious end to a scrumptious meal. I often go to places in Slovenia were either the design of the restaurant is exceptional, but the food falters or the food is exceptional and the décor falter. Here at the Nebotičnik, you have it all. I have worked and eaten in many Michelin stared restaurants, and I believe that Chef Kordež is definitely someone to keep your eye on. I urge you to go and see for yourself this masterful blend of architect and gastronomic fare.

In Issue 136/137

City Restaurant - BTC CITY Ljubljana Poslovna stolpnica, 13th floor, Šmartinska 140, Ljubljana Tel: +386 (0)1 585 19 97 www.btc-city.com 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

M

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CM

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CY CMY

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JB Restaurant

Miklošičeva 17, Ljubljana Tel: +386 (0)1 430 70 70 restavracija.jb@siol.net, www.jb-slo.com 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 booking.grad-otocec@terme-krka.si www.castle-otocec.com Open: Every day until midnight

Composite

In Issue 140

Kavarna Restavracija Nebotičnik

Štefanova 1, Ljubljana T: 0590 70 396 info@neboticnik.si, www.neboticnik.si Open: Sun to Wed: 9am – 1am, Thu to Sat: 9am – 3 am (Restaurant operates until 10pm, Sun closed)

In Issue 141


44 CULTURE

Music

A Timeless Spectacle Impressive… outstanding… brilliant! These were just some of the reactions evoked by the concert of two flute virtuosos, Chinese Liu Zhengguo and Slovenian Ljuben Dimkaroski, held at the Slovene Philharmonic in midMay. The musicians were also met with similar enthusiasm three days before at their first concert in Maribor.

Photo: Alenka Slavinec

By Polona Cimerman

T

he long-expected event was an introduction to the series of cultural events organized to honour two important anniversaries – the first anniversary of the Confucius Institute in Ljubljana and the 19th of the signing of the diplomatic agreement between Slovenia and China – alongside the opening of the days of Chinese culture in Ljubljana. Dušan Mramor, the president of the board at the institute and one of the honorary speakers at the concert, emphasized that culture unites and also creates business opportunities, which are important elements of the collaboration between the two quite different, yet at the same time similar countries. However, the first part of the evening was entirely about music. The two musicians gave an exquisite performance on ancient instruments; Dimkaroski (who was later on joined on the stage by the vocal quartet Pella) played on the what is believed to be the oldest instrument in the world, the Divje Babe flute, while the Chinese guest played on four ancient flutes, dating back nine thousand years, together with two of his students. The Slovenia Times

The concert was opened by Dimkaroski, who demonstrated how music from prehistoric times might have sounded. Later, he also played some classical pieces, including Bach, and Slovenian national songs. He thus proved that despite not knowing what music prehistoric man played, the instrument has the capacity to produce music and that its musical potentials are comparable to modern instruments. The sounds of Chinese traditional songs brought a completely different dimension to the concert; while the Slovenian audience was experiencing something new, the Chinese guests murmured and even silently sang along while Zhengguo with his students, Dong Jun and Huang Xiaowei were accompanying. One of the highlights of the evening was definitely Zhengguo’s performance on two flutes at the same time; he is the only musician in the world who gives such performances. Later, he and his flute student, accompanied with a pianist Marina Horak, also played a piece from the European classical music heritage, Monti’s famous Csardas, showing that their ancient instru-

ments are also able to produce music from a different continent and time period, with great success and effect. In the end, all the musicians gave a joint performance and after many bows the audience was so keen that the Chinese performers had to come back and play three more pieces which were met with utmost enthusiasm.

Amazed

Excited about the concerts and the entire Slovenian experience, Zhengguo said he had fallen in love with the beauty of Slovenia: “It is wonderful to see that Slovenians are interested in such music and I’m amazed by the high level on which the Slovenian audience is. In my opinion, the dialogue and the cultural exchange between the East and the West was the highlight of the evening.” The Chinese ambassador Sun Rongmin, who was greatly impressed and amazed by what the musicians can do with their instruments, shared a similar view about the importance of the event: “I believe the concert exceeded all my expectations and adds to the mutual understanding between the countries, and I hope there

will be more opportunities like this for dialogue building.” Dimkaroski pointed out the amazing fact that he and Zhengguo perfectly understand each other even though they do not speak each other’s languages: “Music is about pristine communication. This collaboration has been really intensive for me and I am honoured to have been a part of it.” Both organizers were greatly satisfied with the two concerts, including the Institute’s Danijela Voljč, who initially had the idea for the concerts, and Mramor: “The musicians completely surprised me – I did not expect the instruments were capable of producing such sounds.” Irena Kržan, project manager from The Slovenia Times, saw the concerts as “…real treats for the soul. This merging of the cultures through the world’s oldest instruments was a premiere on the European stages, and we organised it to enable the European audience to feel Chinese culture through music.” And the pleasant atmosphere and the many newestablished ties proved that this evening really made true exactly that.


EVENTS 45 Exhibition

Dragica Čadež, Retrospective Thu 5 May–Sun 3 Jul, Art Gallery, Maribor, no admission Academic sculptor Dragica Čadež, one of the most consistent representatives of the Slovene Neo-Constructivism, spent her youth in Maribor where Gabriel Kolbič introduced her into the art of small-scale sculpture. In 1963 she graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. Her sculptural oeuvre consists of several connected series in terms of structure and content, focusing mostly on a firm constructivism of the sculpture and considering the significance of the space. The artist turned her ideas into sculptures made of wood, which is one of the oldest materials man had been using in order to express his creativity.

Photographs

Žiga Koritnik: Cloud Arrangers Thu 5 May–Sun 31 Jul, The Tivoli Park, Ljubljana, no admission The exhibition Cloud Arrangers, Koritnik’s first large retrospective, has been prepared in collaboration between the photographer and the US Embassy in Ljubljana. It brings together a selection of Koritnik’s best photographs of some of the key protagonists of jazz and contemporary improvised music created since the beginning of his career in 1987. The photographs currently on display have been published in music magazines in Slovenia and abroad, and used in CD, poster and advertisement design. They depict jazz musicians at different moments during concerts, both on and off stage. The place of honour in the exhibition will be occupied by African musicians.

Photographs

Žiga Koritnik: A Point of Light Wed 18 May–Sun 25 Jun, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, no admission The renowned Slovenian photographer has gained acclaim especially in the field of jazz and concert photography. In 2009, his book Punto di luce was published in Italy, focusing on the Sardinian carnival. Through B&W photos, taken since 2004, Žiga Koritnik

Slovenia Times Recommends

The Idrija Lace Festival The traditional Idrija Lace Festival attracts many domestic and foreign visitors to Idrija every year. Throughout the town there are numerous events, exhibitions and lectures during the festival days, all dedicated to the Idrija Lace. The Lace School Idrija offers guided tours of lace exhibitions. Exhibitions present lace made by the pupils of the Lace School itself, lace of other lacemakers from Idrija and lace from other Slovene towns or from abroad. Different lacemaking workshops are organized, too. The main event of the Festival is the state competition in bobbin lacemaking for the Award of Ivanka Ferjančič. Lacemakers of all ages participate in the competition – the levels are different, according to the age and lacemaking knowledge the participants have. Adults can choose between two patterns. The best quality of work and the most beautiful appearance together grant the title of the best lace of the annual Festival. During the Festival you can: •  visit the Gala Fashion Show in Idrija (Idrija Lace in Evening Creations),

•  participate in professional lectures, •  take part in lacemaking workshops, •  see exhibitions of domestic and foreign lace, •  taste the special local dishes of Idrija, •  join the state competition in lacemaking and •  relax with good music and entertainment in the late evenings. The special feature of this year’s edition will be a fashion collection made from lace, in particular lingerie. We will be seeing creations from the following designers: Alenka Stopar, Barbara Plavec Brodnjak, Borut Šulin, Maja Svetlik, Damiana Bitežnik Logar, Irma Vončina, Lidija Anzelm, Urška Guček Pagon, Maja Štamol Droljc, Mojca Celin, Stanka Blatnik Blagotinšek, Tanja Zorn Grželj, Tina Koder, Urša Drofenik, Urška Pirc and Tanja Padan.

17 Jun–19 Jun, Idrija, no admission

foregrounds morsels from the celebration at the end of winter. When the carnival takes over, people take their leave of absence to participate in the festivities, while those who live in the mainland inevitably return home. The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to feel the spirit of the true Sardinia.

Dance

Kjara´s Dance Project Tue 7 Jun, 9pm, Križanke Summer Theatre, Ljubljana, EUR 19 After the immensely successful premiere in Cankarjev dom, Kjara’s Dance Project is coming to Križanke due to the wishes of the many fans who were enthralled by this group. Kjara Starič created a new choreography for this special performance for this modern

dance group, which includes many talented young dancers. The show is composed of four parts: three parts were choreographed by Kjara and one was done by the American choreographer Christopher Huggins.

Hip hop

Arrested Development Wed 8 Jun, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 22–25 Arrested Development is an American alternative hip hop group founded by Speech and Headliner as a positive, Afrocentric alternative to the gangsta rap popular in the early 1990s. They are legends of American hip hop, which is infused with soul, funk and socially conscious and intelligent lyrics. They rose to fame in the early-to-mid 1990s with pieces like Tennessee and People Everyday.

Singer-songwriter

Đorđe Balašević Wed 8 Jun–Thu 9 Jun, 9pm, Križanke Summer Theatre, Ljubljana, EUR 39–49 Đorđe Balašević is a man of many talents. He is best known as a

singer, poet and a lyricist. He has also tried his hand at acting and writing, but now he comes back to Slovenia as a screenplay writer and director as well, having just finished his movie ‘Kao Rani Mraz’ (Like the Early Cold). His performance will therefore be quite special. On the first night, the audience will be able to see his latest movie and on the second night, we will be able to enjoy his music as well.

Classical

Red Thu 9 Jun, 7.30pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 6–19 At the final concert, we will listen to three very different pieces. Claude Debussy is a representative of the impressionism movement in music and a great French composer who knew how to create lines of melody just as his fellow artists were able to paint lines with a brush. Jeux was written on commission for Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the June 2011


46 EVENTS occasions, including this year, for the first time in English, with Love in Rewind. His songs are some of the best known pieces among people from former Yugoslavia, so this concert is bound to be full of nostalgia and romance.

Slovenia Times Recommends

The Lent Festival Every year, the Lent Festival supplies us with a host of unforgettable performances, great outdoor activities for all ages and a general feeling of positive energy. Once again, Maribor will host this legendary festival which brings joy to so many. Can you imagine anything more pleasant than listening to a concert under the starry summer sky? Do you feel excited about a classical concert in a 400 year old synagogue? What about some jazz rhythms? Maybe a performance on the floating stage on the river Drava will attract your attention. Why don’t you just take a nice walk along the picturesque streets of Maribor? All this and a lot more makes up Festival Lent, changing the banks of the river Drava into a lively cultural and sociable centre, beating with all kinds of rhythms. We believe that this year’s festival will for the fifteen time attract a lot of visitors, especially because of its top-quality program. So why not start this year’s summer with Festival Lent? A variety of more than 400 performances and half a million of visitors make Festival Lent, one of the biggest festivals in Europe, moreover it is also known across the pond in America. This multicultural festival that has its origin in the folklore festival Folkart has received several awards, among them 40 awards from The International Festival and Events Association (IFEA).

Comedy

Jason Rouse Mon 13 Jun, 8.30 pm, Cvetličarna, Ljubljana Wed 15 Jun, 9 pm, Jazz Club Satchmo, Maribor

Master of rhythm Trilok Gurtu

To date, many internationally acknowledged musicians have performed at Festival Lent, particularly at Jazzlent. Along the banks of the river Drava, stars such as Ray Charles, B. B. King, James Brown, Jose Feliciano, Jimmy Whitterspoon, Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon & The Animals, David Byrne, Joe Zawinul, Living Colour, Solomon Burke and Keziah Jones and many others have attracted numerous visitors. This edition will also feature some renowned performers, including: Monster Magnet, Asian Dub Foundation, Black Stone Raiders, Trilok Gurtu and Vlatko Stefanovski.

Jason Rouse (Canada) is breaking the mould in June!Jason Rouse is a renegade touring stand-up comedian taking the mainstream comedy world and turning it upside down. Over the last decade this comedy outsiders has been sharpening his teeth in clubs and festivals all over the world. Rouse has made it his mission to forge a new road and write a new chapter in stand-up comedy. Middle of the road mainstream comedy will be left for dead. Instead this Jester from Hell will be unleashed onto international stages with all of the power of a derailed comedy freight train.

Fri 24 Jun–Sat 9 Jul, various venues, Maribor Ballets Russes in Paris. Experts are convinced that the musical world would be poorer by at least a dozen important works that were created at the instigation of this important choreographer before World War I.

Punk

Misfits Thu 9 Jun, 9pm, Cvetličarna, Ljubljana, EUR 25 The Misfits is a band that owes a lot of its popularity to the strange lyrics and music of Glen Danzig. The Misfits played a style called horror punk and they still remain unchallenged in this field until this day. Glen Danzig left the band a long time ago, but Misfits are still capturing audiences all over the world with their unique style. Even without Danzig, Misfits are still misbehaving.

Festival

June 2011 in Ljubljana Fri 10 Jun–Thu 23 Jun, Prešernov trg square, Ljubljana, no admission Light entertainment by day, high culture by night – available in the The Slovenia Times

heart of the city free of charge. That is what the June in Ljubljana festival is all about. City life in Ljubljana will be livened up by more than 40 free events held in the Prešernov trg square. Those taking place in the morning will be particularly intended for children, afternoons will be reserved for light dance and music performances, and evenings for top quality dance, theatre and music events.

Pop rock

Sting Fri 10 Jun, 8pm, Stožice Sports Park Arena, Ljubljana, EUR 48.5–182 Sting’s Ljubljana concert will be part of the artist’s Symphonicity tour, in which he and his band are accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Sting is well known for combining a variety of different genres in his music. His Symphonicity tour features symphonic arrangements of his greatest hits, both those written over his solo career, such as Englishman in New York, Fragile, Russians, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, Fields of Gold and Desert Rose, and those by his former band The Police, such as Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Roxanne,

Next to You and Every Breath You Take.

Folk punk

Jazz

Thu 16 Jun, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 29–33

Darja Švajger Sat 11 Jun, 8pm, Hotel Mons, Ljubljana, EUR 20 Darja Švajger is one of the most highly regarded female vocalists in Slovenia. She can pull off any style she chooses and has the ability to perform under basically any circumstances. This performance will see her perform some jazz standards, accompanied by the Big Band of the Slovenian Radio and Television. This evening of fine music can be topped off by some fine wine and cuisine from the hotel’s restaurant.

Pop

Dino Merlin Sat 11 Jun, 9pm, Križanke, Ljubljana, EUR 35 Dino Merlin is the most established songwriter from Bosnia and Herzegovina and undoubtedly one of the biggest and most popular musicians in the Balkan area. He has represented his country at the Eurovision Song Contest on several

Flogging Molly Flogging Molly, the seven-piece Irish-American Celtic punk band from Los Angeles, California that is currently signed to their own record label, Borstal Beat Records, is coming to Kino Šiška. They have five studio albums under their belt and are no strangers to creating magic on stage. If you’re a fan of folk punk in the style of The Pogues, you should definitely enjoy Flogging Molly.

Hard rock

Siddharta Sat 18 Jun, 9pm, Stožice Sports Park Arena, Lubljana, EUR 29–49 In 2003, something amazing happened. A Slovenian band sold out the stadium in Bežigrad. This was of course Siddharta, probably the biggest name in rock and pop


EVENTS 47 music in Slovenia in the last years. Now they are attempting to do the same at the Stožice stadium. Some have said that Siddharta is nowhere nearly as popular as back then, but this will certainly be a spectacular show, no matter if they manage what they have set out to do, or not.

Experimental

Arbe Garbe & Eugene Chadbourne Mon 20 Jun, 10pm, Gromka, Ljubljana, EUR 8 Eugene Chadbourne is an American improvisor, guitarist and banjoist. Highly eclectic and unconventional, Chadbourne’s most formative influence is free jazz. Chadbourne started out playing rock and roll guitar, but quickly grew bored with the form’s conventions. He then studied other genres, including blues, country, bluegrass, free jazz, and noise, eventually synthesizing all those heterogeneous influences into a unique style of his own. For this performance he will be joined on stage by the Udine band Arbe Garbe, a unique phenomenon in its own right, using ancient languages to get their musical point across. Get ready for an intense and oneof-a-kind show.

Pop rock

Zucchero Wed 22 Jun, 9pm, Križanke Summer Theatre, Ljubljana, EUR 45

The world famous Italian singer Zucchero started his career in the 1970s as a singer in various bands. Zucchero is not only renowned for his numerous hits, but also for his collaboration with famous international musicians. The turning point in his career was his appearance at the San Remo Festival in 1985, when his debut hit Donna won him second place. He is perhaps best remembered for his duet with Paul Young and the song Senza una dona.

Metal

Suicide Silence Wed 22 Jun, 8.30pm, Gala hala, Ljubljana, EUR 20–22

The Slovenia Times Recommends

The Walkmen The pre-summer music euphoria concludes by the appearance of American self-made indie-rock band The Walkmen in Kino Šiška and their forerunners, domestic attraction Arhibald Arhibaldovich. The Walkmen are not just another trendy indie rock one-hit wonder. Despite standing out in the crowd of typical “hipster” bends, their exceptional album “Lisbon” that was released last year climbed to the amazing 21 position of the album chart as selected by the indie Bible, Pitchfork. Lisbon is the sixth album of the band that launched its career at the Washington D.C. scene as a merger of the bands Jonathan FireEater (Paul Maroon / guitar, piano, Walter Martin / keyboards, bass, Matt Barrick / drums) and The Recoys (Peter Bauer / bass, keyboards and Hamilton Leithauser / vocals, guitar). The Walkmen is a bend that marches on slowly, yet persistently and impetuously. As their status of one of the most interesting contemporary rock bands

and their reputation as excellent live performers are being reconfirmed again and again, it is only a matter of time for them to join the celebrity arena of their indie rock contemporaries. This might be one of the last occasions to see them in the atmosphere of a club gig!

Tue 28 Jun, 9pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 15–22 madrigal story for choir, 10 ballet soloists and 9 instrumentalists. Gian Carlo Menotti set the story to music in 1956, and the piece was first staged on 15 January 1957 by the New York City Ballet.

Reggae

Gentleman & The Evolution, Mon 27 Jun, 8pm, Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, EUR 25–29

Suicide Silence is an American extreme metal band from Riverside, California. The group consists of vocalist Mitch Lucker, guitarists Chris Garza and Mark Heylmun, drummer Alex Lopez and bassist Dan Kenny. Formed in 2002, the band has released two full-length studio albums and three EPs. Suicide Silence are champions of deathcore, with growling vocals, devastating guitars and drums that make you feel like you were hit by an asteroid. They will be joined by two other US bands, All Shall Perish and After the Burial.

Classical

The Unicorn Wed 22 Jun–Thu 23 Jun, 8pm, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, EUR 12–20 Gian Carlo Menotti was an ItalianAmerican composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors among about two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste. The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore, or Three Sundays of a Poet is a June 2011


48 EVENTS

The Slovenia Times Recommends

Symphony of Thousand For the opening of the 59th Ljubljana Festival the magnificent ensemble will bring together musicians from two central state orchestras - the Slovenian Philharmonic in the Zagreb Philharmonic - 21 choirs from Slovenia and Croatia, and acclaimed vocal soloists. Mahler’s music will write a new chapter in the history of Congress Square in Ljubljana, while its symbolic significance will highlight the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the states of Slovenia and Croatia. The Eighth Symphony is known in music history has the “symphony of a thousand”. The composer called it “a message of love in a time without love”. The premiere performance on 12 September 1910 in Munich, conducted by the composer, was a magnificent event in which some 1030 musicians participated. The name of the symphony is not an entirely appropriate expression of Mahler’s masterpiece. In its external and internal framework the work surpasses the limits of symphony construction known at the time. In the score Gustav Mahler specifies eight soloists, two mixed choirs and a children’s choir, as well as an orchestra of 120 musicians. The conductor will be Valerij Gergijev, whose recordings of Mahler’s music

Jeff Beck, one of the best rock guitarists of all times, regained public attention last year, when he received two Grammy Awards for his album Emotion & Commotion. Beck rose to fame in the 1960s, first as a member of the legendary Yardbirds and later as a solo artist. He was regarded as one of the three unsurpassable British guitarists of the time, along with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. His music has influenced several musical styles, including hard rock, jazz fusion and rockabilly, among others.

Jazz

52nd Ljubljana Jazz Festival Wed 29 Jun–Sat 2 Jul, various venues, Ljubljana

with the LSO in the jubilee season were met with enthusiasm throughout the world. Honorary sponsor of the event is the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Danilo Türk.

Sun, 3 Jul at 9pm, Congress Square, Ljubljana EUR 9 - 99

At barely 35, Gentleman has made himself a name as a tireless ambassador of reggae. Indeed, with masterly albums like “Journey To Jah“ and “Confidence”, he has given this genre a new, distinctive profile and the kind of contemporary relevance which reggae hasn’t had hereabouts since the days of Bob Marley. Moreover, Gentleman has long since become an internationally renowned star. He is a recognised constant in several European countries as well as South America, Africa and even the US. He will be accompanied by The Evolution, a transformation of his Far East Band. The supporting act will be BRO.

Each year, the Ljubljana Jazz Festival features some of the world’s biggest names in jazz, attracting music lovers from home and abroad. Since 1960, when it was founded as a festival presenting classical jazz bands from former Yugoslavia, the Ljubljana Jazz Festival has kept pace with international developments in the genre. Today it provides a connoisseur’s choice of music and offers an exciting insight into creativity in contemporary jazz. Some of the names to grace this year’s stages: Angles, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Ken Vandermark and many more.

Pop

Elton John & Band Sat 2 Jul, City stadium, Izola, EUR 43–85

Rock

Jeff Beck Tue 28 Jun, 8pm, Križanke Summer Theatre, EUR 45

The Slovenia Times

Elton John is one of the most respected rock and pop musicians in the whole world. Having started his career already in the late 1960s, he released a host of critically acclaimed albums, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973. He has also released many hit singles which are still remembered today, like Crocodile Rock, Nikita, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Blue Eyes, I’m Still Standing, Sacrifice and Candle in the Wind (also re-arranged for Princess Diana’s funeral).


SPORTS 49

Cycling

The Fever is On Recreational and professional cycling are worlds apart, but they both enjoy immense popularity in Slovenia. Community races are among the most visited recreational events and professional cyclists are a force to be reckoned with on the international level. By Simon Demšar

G

iro d’Italia, which ended on 29th May, featured three Slovenians: Simon Špilak, Gorazd Štangelj and Borut Božič. The former two played supportive roles for their Lampre and Astana team leaders, respectively, while the latter is a sprinter and prefers rubbing elbows with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi. His best individual result in this year’s Giro was a fifth place. One step further up is the Tour de France where all Slovenian hopes are on Jani Brajkovič. Learning the ropes alongside Lance Armstrong throughout his professional career, Brajkovič has come of age. With Armstrong’s retirement, Brajkovič is poised to become team captain of the RadioShack team for the Tour, which starts on 2nd July. “The team has told me clearly that I would be the captain, subject to the level of fitness expect-

Tour of Slovenia 16 – 19 June Stage 1 (Time trial): Ljubljana (Kongresni trg – Trnovo – Dolenjska cesta – tunnel under the castle – Town Hall – Prešernov trg. Stage 2: Koper – Črni Kal – Sežana – Komen – Ajdovščina – Nova Gorica. Stage 3: Tržič – Kranj – Kamnik – Črnivec – Kranjski Rak – Mozirje – Golte. Stage 4: Ptuj – Podčetrtek – Poklek – Studenec – Šentjernej – Novo mesto.

ed from me,” said the 27-year-old from Metlika. Being the captain in the company of such proven stars as Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer is something that no Slovenian cyclist has achieved. “Should things go wrong, Andreas and Levi will take over and I will assist the best man. Our objective is a high position in both individual and team rankings.” It’s noteworthy that Brajkovič is only the second Slovenian after Tadej Valjavec, who will carry the flag of his team. Earlier this year, Brajkovič finished the Tour de Romandie in 7th place. Two other guys have made cycling news this year. Jan Tratnik became the next Slovenian professional when he joined the Belgian team Quick Step, while Robert Vrečer won the Tour of Poland, racing for Perutnina Ptuj, the only Slovenian professional team. On the domestic stage, the Tour of Slovenia has established itself as a respectable race, attracting thousands of spectators along the roads. The race is traditionally organised by the Adria Mobil cycling club and they rarely fail to surprise: from obvious delights, such as a stage over Vrščič (the highest mountain pass in Slovenia), they moved on and took the race to Italy and Austria. This year, the big thing will be the first ever stage on the streets of Ljubljana on 16th June, with the start from Kongresni trg and the finish at Prešernov trg. “Financially and logistically, this has been the major undertaking this year, but with the support of city authorities, who are very en-

thusiastic about the race, we have made it,” said Andrej Filip of the organising committee. Replacing Vršič, the highest point this year will be Golte, an equally demanding climb. Filip has also revealed that five ProTour teams (Cofidis, Geox, Lampre, Liquigas and Saxo Bank) will attend the race. Their line-ups are not known yet, but we can be sure that even their reserve riders will be a mighty force. Should they decide to send their Slovenian cyclists (Špilakom, Boletom and Kristjan Koren), it would be just the icing on the cake. With the success of Jure Robič, who tragically lost his life in an accident last year, endurance cycling became an equally popular form of racing, and Robič was one of the most popular athletes

in Slovenia. In his memory, two teams will enter the Race Across America (RAAM), which Robič won five times. Marko Baloh admits that he will take part thanks to Robič’s encouragement. “Before his accident, he was repeatedly telling me that my time had come and he was even considering being part of my team,” said Baloh, 43, whose best results in the RAAM are a second and a third place. For the first time, a Slovenian team will enter the relay part of the RAAM. The team consisting of Damjan Rupnik, Franci Klun, Alen Štucin and Damjan Mohorič, is aptly named “Homage to Jure Robič”. The 4,821-kilometre race starts on 18 June in Oceanside, California, and ends about a week later in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Franja Marathon Sat 11 Jun–Sun 12 Jun, BTC City, Ljubljana Marathon Franja, the most celebrated community race in Slovenia, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The event has grown in organisation and this year took another step forward when it became part of the official UCI (International Cycling Union) programme of recreational events. The main event is 156 kilometres long. There are also a shorter, 97-kilometre version, plus a 1.5-kilometre test for kids. 11 June (4.30pm): kids’ course (3-7 years), 1450 m 11 June (4 pm): family & school marathon, 28 km (Ljubljana BTC Sneberje - Šentjakob - Dol - Dolsko - Zalog - Sneberje - Ljubljana BTC) 12 June (10:30 am): Little Marathon Franja BTC City, 97 km (Ljubljana BTC - Tromostovje - Dobrovo - Horjul - Vrzdenc - Gorenja vas - Škofja Loka - Šmartno - Tacen - Ljubljana BTC) 12 June (9 am): Marathon Franja, 156 km (Ljubljana BTC Tromostovje - Brezovica - Vrhnika - Logatec - Kalce - Godovič - Idrija Cerkno - Gorenja vas - Škofja Loka - Šmartno - Tacen - Ljubljana BTC) June 2011


A display of tradition: Foreign Ministry’s excursion to Bela Krajina for foreign diplomats. Europe Day: The Celebration at Ljubljana’s Prešeren square (Photo: Stane Sršen)

Synchronous hockey: Slovenian team may not have been successful at World championship in Slovakia, but they do look good. (Photo: Slovenian Hockey Association)

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

Back to the nature: Scouts in Postojna, celebrating World Earth Day along with 60 years of Slovenian Scout Association. (Photo: Tomaž Sinigajda)

Just for fun: Maribor’s glavni trg during the performance of The Klaxons at Ortofest festival. (Photo: Žiga Intihar)

It’s good to be a student: A presentation at Škisova tržnica, the annual all-Slovenian student event. (Photo: Maja Kaplan)

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