STA, 21 December 2018 – With economic growth gradually slowing and Brexit casting a shadow of uncertainty over Europe, 2019 is shaping up to be a year of reforms and consolidation. Structural reforms have been forecast, bank privatisation is set to continue, and measures will have to be taken to address Slovenia's worsening demographics.
Slovenian foreign policy
Campaigning for the 26 May elections to the European Parliament is expected to keep Slovenian politics busy in the first half of 2019, complete with the ensuing search for the Slovenian candidate for EU commissioner, which has proved testy in the past. When the appointments are completed, the focus is expected to shift onto the new multi-year budget framework as Slovenia seeks to retain as much EU funding as possible through 2027.
These processes will take place against the backdrop of Great Britain's exit from the EU, which is not expected to disproportionately affect Slovenia directly but is likely to cause major EU-wide disruptions, in particular in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The Slovenia-Croatia border dispute, now in its third decade, will remain high on the foreign policy agenda, as the EU Court processes a case brought by Slovenia claiming Croatia's violations of EU law. The equally long dispute over Yugoslav-era savings deposits is also expected to get its day in court.
Slovenia will also mark 15 years of EU and NATO membership and step up preparations for presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2021.
Domestic policy in Slovenia
The first test for the new government in 2019 will be adoption of the supplementary budget, but this will be merely the starting shot for a year in which systemic solutions in key areas such as healthcare and long-term care, defence and security, and local government are expected to be tackled against the backdrop of the May elections to the European Parliament.
Combined with lingering demands for higher pensions and the coalition's commitment to establish a demographic fund to improve pension financing, and residual demands by public sector unions for additional pay rises, all these changes have the potential to exert significant pressure on public finances that could strain relations in the coalition quintet.
While there will not be as much staffing on the agenda as in 2017 or 2018, there will nevertheless be some appointments that will demand cross-partisan consensus. A new human rights ombudsman will have to be elected along with the new information commissioner, while another position on the Constitutional Court will be vacated.
Business & economy in Slovenia
With budget guidelines and commitments indicating a significant increase in spending in the coming years, adoption of the supplementary budget early in the year will probably be followed by revenue-side measures in an effort to secure compliance with the fiscal rule. A real estate tax could be put in place in 2019, but other systemic tax measures may take more time.
Forecasts indicate Slovenian and global economic growth will start to cool down, which will require adaptation from the government as well as business. Companies in particular are likely to be caught between wage demands driven by acute labour market shortages and minimum wage increases, and efforts to remain competitive in the face of fierce global competition. Social dialogue should play a pivotal role in balancing these demands, but if recent past is any guide, consensus may prove elusive.
In the financial sector, banks will remain in the focus. The government has to sell ten percent of NLB bank to reduce its stake to 25% and privatise Abanka, the no. 3 player on the market. The sale of a majority stake in Gorenjska Banka to AIK bank of Serbia is expected to proceed as well.
Several major foreign investors are expected to start production, including Magna in Hoče and Lonstroff in Logatec, while clarity is expected about Mercator as the unwinding of its majority owner, the Croatian conglomerate Agrokor, continues.
Arts & culture in Slovenia
Major legislative motions will be on the agenda this year, including a new eight-year national culture programme, which forms the bedrock for state funding, and a national cultural heritage strategy. The Culture Ministry has also announced an overhaul of media legislation, but judging by past experience, implementation is unlikely.
Key events & anniversaries in Slovenia, 2019
1st - Entry into force of a ban on free plastic carrier bags.
31st - The 5th anniversary of an ice storm that caused widespread disruption and damage to infrastructure and forests estimated at EUR 430m.
KOČEVJE - The scheduled start of test production at Yaskawa's new robot factory.
HOČE - The scheduled start of test production at the Magna paint shop.
1st-2nd - Maribor will host the women's Alpine Skiing World Cup slalom and giant slalom.
8th-10th - Ski Jumping World Cup events for women will be held in Ljubno.
19th - Rogla will host a Snowboarding World Cup event.
20th - The 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the banking act, which opened the Slovenian market to competition from abroad.
9th-10th - Men's World Cup slalom and giant slalom events will be held in Kranjska Gora.
20th - The 25th anniversary of the Depala Vas scandal, which led to the dismissal of Defence Minister Janez Janša.
21th-24th - The Ski Jumping World Cup finals for men.
28th - The Statistics Office will release the GDP growth figures for 2018.
29th - The 15th anniversary of Slovenia's entry into NATO.
29th - Official public debt and deficit figures for 2018 will be released.
LOGATEC - Swiss company Lonstroff is expected to launch its Slovenian elastomer manufacturing facility.
1st - The 15th anniversary of Slovenia's EU membership.
8th - The 30th anniversary of the May Declaration, a document written by dissidents which included the demand for Slovenia's independence from Yugoslavia.
26th - Elections to the European Parliament.
19th-23rd - The 26th Tour of Slovenia, the biggest professional cycling race in the country.
30th - The due date by which Abanka must be privatised.
1st - The 20th anniversary of the introduction of the value added tax.
PORTOROŽ - Slovenia Open, an ATP Challenger tennis tournament.
3rd-4th - The 14th Bled Strategic Forum.
12th-26th - Slovenia will be one of the four countries hosting the group stage of the women's European Volleyball Championships.
22nd - Koper will host a triathlon event as part of the world series Ironman 70.3.
27th - The Ljubljana Marathon, the biggest running event in the country.
4th - The 10th anniversary of the signing of the arbitration agreement, which paved the way for resolution of the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute in front of an arbitration tribunal.
3rd - The centenary of the first lecture at the University of Ljubljana.