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Matjaž Han, Slovenian Minister For The Economy, Tourism And Sport

Committed To Technological Development And Innovation

Our objective is to foster a competitive business environment, promote entrepreneurship and innovation, and address challenges facing society. Achieving this requires integrating research, education and businesses. While that may sound simple, it is actually a challenging task to accomplish

Matjaž Han, Minister for the Economy, Tourism, and Sport of the Republic of Slovenia, recently announced significant interventions to ensure that Slovenia remains well-prepared for the changes to the structure of global trade and the transition to Economy 4.0. We therefore took this opportunity to discuss all of these long-term advancements in order to better understand their scope and impact on the region, and Serbia in particular.

You’ve mentioned the reform of legislation as being one of the major lines of action for your Ministry. Can you provide examples of specific legislative reforms you plan to undertake in order to improve the legislative framework for businesses?

– The Ministry of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport in Slovenia has a plan to support a favourable environment for businesses. One of our important actions is to update the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act. This update will incorporate two EU regulations that aim to enhance transparency and fair competition in online intermediation services and the digital sector. This amendment will give more authority to our national competition authority, which will enforce these regulations and ensure that all businesses have an equal opportunity to succeed in these areas.

In addition, our ministry, along with other ministries and agencies, is actively working on two regulatory reforms. The first reform focuses on digitising our Company Law and simplifying registration procedures for businesses. By embracing digitalisation, we aim to streamline registration processes and enable the use of electronic identification and other digital tools. This reform seeks to enhance the Slovene business environment, rendering it more efficient and accessible for entrepreneurs.

The second reform focuses on streamlining registration procedures for businesses in the primary and business registers. It includes digitising procedures, harmonising cross-border merger rules and allowing electronic and virtual meetings for joint-stock companies. These changes will encourage the digitalisation of business processes and promote fair competition.

How do you envisage Slovenia achieving its objective of generating 100,000 euros of added value per employee by 2030? What steps will be taken to increase the ambition of the business sector?

– We have developed several strategic documents, including the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030, Slovenia’s Sustainable Smart Specialisation Strategy S5 and the Slovenian Industrial Strategy 2021- 2030. Our main goal outlined in these strategies is to increase the value added per employee by improving productivity. To achieve this, the government is increasing funding for innovation and knowledge. We are committed to technological development and innovation, which is why our government has just signed a historic agreement for strategic cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, independent research institutes and the Rectors’ Conference. Our common goal is to increase public and private funds for research and innovation to at least 2.8 per cent of GDP by 2027.

The World Handball Championship, which was held in Slovenia last year, generated a remarkable economic return of 1.7 euros for every euro invested. Such sporting events not only have a significant impact on tourism through international promotion, but also align well with our portfolio

Another approach to boost value added is investing in strategic national projects, particularly in the green and digital transformation of the automotive industry. For instance, the government recently pledged 200 million euros for the GREen MObility Mission, which complements other state investments in the automotive sector. These investments, combined with business innovation, are expected to contribute to higher value-added per employee in the industry.

What strategies will be implemented to place Slovenia among the group of countries that are innovation leaders? Do you see possible synergies in the region?

– I have already mentioned the Slovenian Industrial Strategy 2021-2030, which is all about making Slovenia an innovation leader. We want to create a competitive business environment and to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as tackling societal challenges! We focus on going green, being creative and embracing digital development. This sounds simple and logical, but to stay ahead of the game in this rapidly changing world, you need to bring together research, education and businesses. As you know, this is far from being simple – it is a highly complex process!

That is why we are supporting companies at different stages and levels with technological investments, encouraging new ideas and even helping with the employment of researchers. We are also offering various measures to support companies on their innovation journey. Overall, the ultimate goal is to ensure that businesses can thrive in this rapidly evolving world.

Could you provide more details about plans to strengthen internationalisation and economic diplomacy? How are your plans being impacted by current trends, such as the geographical repositioning of global value chains, rising tension between the U.S. and China, and other global developments? Where doe Serbia and the region stand with regard to this plan?

– It is a fact that global changes are impacting the Slovenian economy, as we are an export-oriented economy with high dependency on global trends. In order to adapt, we are focusing on diversifying our exports and increasing the value added per employee. While our exports to EU member states are already significant, we are taking extra measures to further internationalise by exploring new markets and establishing diplomatic missions accordingly. The objectives outlined in the Programme for the Promotion of Investment and Internationalisation of the Slovenian Economy include enhancing the resilience and competitiveness of Slovenian companies, expanding exports to third-country markets and increasing the export focus of businesses, capitalising on high-tech niche markets. We are also attracting foreign direct investment, promoting Slovenian investment abroad and improving the visibility of the Slovenian economy in global markets.

Through various measures, we have been promoting investment and the internationalisation of Slovenian green, creative and smart products and services in specific breakthrough and priority areas. I believe this helps to improve the positioning of the Slovenian economy in high-value-added segments of resilient value chains.

We are committed to technological development and innovation, which is why our government has just signed a historic agreement for strategic cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, independent research institutes and the Rectors’ Conference

The Western Balkan countries are our important trade and investment partners, which is why we aim to continue strengthening our economic relations through various projects and programmes.

We are actively implementing the Scientific Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia 2030 in order to position Slovenia as an innovation leader. We are also collaborating with neighbouring countries to leverage synergies in the region. These collaborations aim to promote joint research projects and exchanges of knowledge, and to facilitate the mobility of researchers. We have additionally established the Public Agency for Scientific Research and Innovation Activity, which actively supports technological development and facilitates knowledge transfers within the innovation sector.

Would you comment on the role of the Slovenian Business Club, which is this year commemorating its 20th anniversary in Serbia, when it comes to the development of the economies of both countries?

– The Slovenian Business Club is a trusted and valued organisation in the business community. It has grown significantly over the past decade and offers assistance with market implementation. The Club has a positive reputation and fosters strong cooperation and connections between countries. It contributes to the competitiveness of the economies and facilitates a joint presence on other markets through various events and meetings. In summary, it is a credible and highquality player on the business landscape.

In the field of tourism, how do you plan to increase the quality of services and subsequently added value? What measures are needed to enable the more efficient development of tourism and hospitality services?

– To put it short and sweet, the Slovenian Tourism Strategy 2022-2028 aims to enhance and benefit tourism through stakeholder cooperation. The vision is “Green boutiques. A smaller footprint. Greater value for all”. It focuses on five goals: quality and year-round offer; satisfied residents, employees and guests; positioning tourism for value and sustainable development; decarbonisation and balance; and, lastly, efficient management. To achieve this, the Strategy includes 94 measures across 23 policy areas, supported by strategic and horizontal policies.

Sport became part of your portfolio as of January this year. Could you elaborate on the potential synergic effects between the economy, tourism and sport? How do you plan to leverage these synergies?

– As you know, Slovenia and Serbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in sport in 2015. Regarding the synergic effect, we can start at the end with sport, which, according to recent studies, is a multiplier for the economy. Each euro invested in the World Handball Championship that was held in Slovenia last year produced 1.7 euros of economic return. This kind of sporting event also has a high impact on tourism, by way of international promotions, as well as on the sports or sport-related industry, which in Slovenia particularly developed in medium-sized or small companies and entrepreneurs.

What specific actions will your ministry take to promote sports tourism and increase the construction of sports infrastructure?

– In the medium term, our focus is on three pillars. Firstly, the National Programme of Sport 2024-2033 will prioritise sports tourism, sustainability and green initiatives. Secondly, we have allocated 150 million euros through a special law for investment in sports infrastructure from 2023-2027, ensuring safety, sustainability and energy-saving standards. Lastly, we will introduce new legislation to organise and co-finance major sporting events, promoting tourism and health-enhancing activities.

REGION

Given the Western Balkan countries’ status as important trade and investment partners, our objective is to further enhance economic relations and strengthen our mutual ties

CREDIBILITY

The Slovenian Business Club is a trusted and valued organisation in the business community and a credible and highquality player on the business landscape

BREAKTHROUGH

In addition to our significant exports to EU member states, we are implementing additional measures to enhance our international reach by exploring new markets

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