STA, 9 June 2020 - China and Slovenia have had good relations in all fields. As Chinese Ambassador to Slovenia Wang Shunqing told the STA, a new opportunity to deepen the relations will be the 17+1 initiative summit in Beijing, which has been moved to the second half of the year due to the pandemic. Wang hopes Slovenia will be pragmatic in picking 5G technology.
In an interview conducted last weekend, Wang said that the exact date of the 17+1 summit was not known yet. When the date is known, the ambassador expects information about Slovenia's participation.
Slovenia's participation had already been announced by former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, but Wang has not had the opportunity to speak about this with representatives of the current government due to the coronavirus epidemic. The ambassador has only met with Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek.
Wang expects that the good bilateral relations between China and Slovenia, which were confirmed by the visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi last December, will continue also with the government of Janez Janša taking over.
China is the most important trade partner to Slovenia in Asia, and Slovenia is the most important partner to China in the Western Balkan region, he said. "It is true that Slovenia records a trade deficit with China, but the countries are striving to balance the trade," Wang added.
According to the ambassador, China uses various platforms to promote Slovenian products. One of them is the China International Import Expo fair in Shanghai, where Slovenian companies get invited every year.
The Chinese state and local authorities provide all necessary support for Slovenian investments in China, among which Wang singled out the investments by the ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel.
As for Chinese investments in Slovenia, the ambassador noted the takeover of the household appliance maker Gorenje by Hisense two years ago. "The Hisense investment is currently the most important Chinese investment in Slovenia," he said, adding that China supported Hisense in its further expansion and investments in Slovenia.
Wang is concerned about the announced lay-offs in Gorenje. "Lay-offs in companies, although they are part of the business, are always very sensitive, but it is not unusual that something like this takes place during the pandemic," he said.
The ambassador has been in constant touch with the management of Hisense Gorenje lately. It was explained to him that the lay-offs are a consequence of the new coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced orders considerably, and of a low efficiency in comparison to competitors in the industry, an issue Gorenje has been facing for quite a while.
"Measures should be made to make the company competitive. This needs to be our common goal," he said. In talks with the management of Hisense Gorenje, Wang said that lay-offs should be carried out carefully and gradually, and in accordance with the Slovenian legislation.
Wang is convinced that the management will make a lot of effort to this end as, after all, it has reduced the planned number of lay-offs, which it will try to carry out using soft methods as much as possible.
Wang stressed that - the company donated protective medical equipment to Slovenia at the end of March - has a long-term interest in Slovenia. "Cooperation with Hisense and Gorenje is strategic," he said, noting that Hisense had picked Slovenia for its seat of European operations. In this light, he also mentioned Hisense's plans to build a new television plant this year and to invest in a development centre in Velenje.
Wang would like to see Chinese companies in general participate in projects in Slovenia. With four Chinese companies currently in play for the main construction work on the planned new railway line between the port of Koper and Divača, Wang would like to see one of them succeed in the tender.
"Chinese companies have a lot of experience in rail construction, as they have built them all around the world, they have well-developed technology and a lot of experience in construction of tunnels and in constructions in unpredictable terrain, such as karst."
The ambassador hopes that the selection procedure for the main contractor for the railway line will be "just and fair", but he is worried about the EU guidelines which allow for the exclusion of bidders from third countries from public procurement contracts. "I hope that Chinese companies will be able to participate," he stressed.
Wang also touched on the implementation of the fifth generation mobile network (5G) and the technology of the Chinese company Huawei, which is a thorn in the US's side, and the US is calling on its allies to reject Huawei's 5G technology for security reasons.
"But let's look at the facts. In the last 30 years, Huawei operated in more than 170 countries, and none of them reported about security issues. The US is talking about espionage, but there is no proof for this whatsoever. It is a question of technology which has been completely politicised by the US. We strongly object to this," Wang said.
The Chinese ambassador hopes that Slovenia will take a decision on 5G based on its own interest and needs, while taking into account the costs and quality of the selected technology. "I hope that it will take a pragmatic approach and that it will not succumb to the US influence," he said. As for security, Wang said that security risks could be avoided by setting common standards.
Wang admits that the coronavirus pandemic has eroded the relations between the EU and China, but he believes that problems can be bridged with cooperation. He sees potential for cooperation in the economic recovery measures presented by the EU. Wang stressed that the EU and China share similar ideas, especially when it comes to measures for combating climate change and protecting the environment. "Efforts have been made on both sides for cooperation to be facilitated."
China encourages European business executives to visit China, to re-start their businesses which had to be suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We also support European companies to relaunch their operations in China," he said, adding that China was offering a special visa regime to Slovenian business executives.
Besides the 17+1 initiative summit, no high-level political or business visits or events between the countries are planned for this year. The plan was different but, as Wang put it, they were blown away by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I hope that we will also make agreements about this after the situation normalises," said Wang, who also announced China's support to Slovenia's presidency of the EU Council in the second half of next year. He also pointed to the links in culture and education among the important elements of the countries' cooperation.
"I don't dare to be an optimist," Wang said when asked how he imagines the new reality after the pandemic. The disease is far from being defeated, he warned, adding that if China developed a vaccine for Covid-19, it will be made a global public good, as announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly.
Countries must defeat the new coronavirus together and in solidarity, he said to conclude the interview for the STA.
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STA, 22 April 2020 - The Chinese-owned group Hisense Europe is planning to close 2,200 jobs by the end of the year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including as many as 1,000 in Slovenia, TV Slovenija reported, citing a trade unionist.
According to the report, the management of household appliances maker Hisense Gorenje set its plans at a meeting featuring Chao Liu, one of the executive directors, production manager Tomaž Korošec, staffing officials and representatives of the works council, trade union and the employees' representative on the board Drago Bahun.
The management presented data on the situation resulting from the pandemic. Production in Velenje has not yet returned to full capacity after being completely suspended for three weeks.
The head of the in-house trade union Žan Zeba told the public broadcaster that Hisense was to make 1,000 people redundant in Slovenia, including 700 at the production facility in Velenje and 300 in the Ljubljana-headquartered company Hisense Europe.
Zeba said the staff were shocked by the extent of planned layoffs, noting that the company had received state aid "probably also in order not to make redundancies".
The first meeting with employees on layoffs are to be held after May day holidays.
Gorenje is to set out detailed plans about job cutbacks on Thursday.
STA, 10 April 2020 - Ljubljanske Mlekarne, Slovenia's largest dairy, has dispatched the first shipment of its iconic Planica ice cream to China, part of a total of 43 tonnes planned to be exported there this year.
The shipment of almost 35,000 one-litre boxes of Planica tropical and chocolate flavours, sent on its way from the Koper port on Thursday, is expected to reach its destination within five weeks.
Named after the alpine valley that is home to Slovenia's ski jumping centre, the ice cream has been manufactured by Ljubljanske Mlekarne since 1974.
Initially coming only as a family pack combining three colour chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavours into one, the brand has since been expanded to come in various shapes, sizes and flavours.
"At a time of global disruption to business due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are the more enthusiastic about the deals such as this one," the Ljubljana-based dairy said.
The company deems the breakthrough the more important due to the excess supply of milk throughout Europe as a result of the fallout from the pandemic.
The dairy said its milk sales in China were doing well with the customers there associating Slovenian dairy products with high quality.
Ljubljanske Mlekarne buys more than 500,000 litres of milk from Slovenian dairy farms every day, which represents a third of Slovenian raw milk production.
Slovenia produces 30% more milk than it consumes.
STA, 25 February 2020 - A company in Chinese ownership that used to lease the Maribor Airport plans to file a damage suit against the state after it terminated the lease in early 2019, whereupon the airport management was turned over to a state-owned consulting and engineering company.
The company, Aerodrom Maribor, said in a press release Tuesday it will demand EUR 2.1 million in damages, the equivalent of the lease payments for the duration of the agreement, plus costs and lost profits.
The lawsuit will claim that the state dragged its feet on the adoption of a zoning plan that would have allowed the Edvard Rusjan Maribor airport to extend the runway.
Aerodrom Maribor will claim that after the company terminated the lease, the state engaged in violations of the law by continuing to use real estate at the airport that remains in the ownership of Aerodrom Maribor.
Consequently, they will demand the erasure from the land register of an easement on the property that they say the state entered into the records based on a contract that never took effect.
Aerodrom Maribor also accuses the state of continuing to deceive potential investors by stating in a recent call for public-private partnership that a zoning law was in the making.
"It appears the state continues with its contentious conduct - by misleadingly attracting new investors willing to invest in the Maribor Airport in the conviction that the state will fulfil its promises," the company said.
After the lease was terminated, the management of the airport was entrusted to the state-owned firm DRI, which also hired all workers.
The move was designed as a stop-gap measure to keep the airport open until a new operator is found so as to prevent a scenario under which it would have to return EU funds: in accordance with the commitments accompanying a EUR 6 million injection of EU funds, the airport must stay open at least until mid-November 2021.
The termination of the lease ended a testy relationship between the state and a lessee that promised investments in excess of EUR 600 million and passenger numbers reaching two million by 2028, figures widely seen as unrealistic considering the location of the airport and nearby rivals Graz and Zagreb.
The company however maintains that its plans had been viable, assuming the state would keep its promises.
Outgoing Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek responded to the development today by arguing the first assessments indicated the plaintiff had absolutely no chance of success.
She stressed that Aerodrom Maribor stopped paying rent almost immediately after she became minister and that it was Aerodrom Maribor that cancelled the lease.
"The ministry had honoured all the terms set down in the contract," Bratušek added, while saying that a kind of promise that the zoning plan would be changed by March 2018, issued in writing by the then Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Jure Leben, was not binding on the state.
"The relevant institutions will be the ones to judge if this letter entails any commitments for the state," the minister said, while arguing that the Infrastructure Ministry was in fact not authorised for making such zoning changes.
Maribor airport remains virtually abandoned: without a single scheduled flight, it is confined to occasional charter flights and small sports aircraft.
It recorded only 2,700 passengers in 2018, the latest year for which figures are available.
STA, 13 February 2020 - Slovenia will send over 1.2 million face masks to China to help it contain the coronavirus outbreak. The shipment is due to be dispatched to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, this week, the government said on Thursday.
The face masks are a donation of the Slovenian branch of Kylin Prime Group (KPG), a Chinese-controlled company that has amassed a majority stake in the savings and loans bank Hranilnica Lon and is currently blocked by regulators from exercising its voting rights.
The company had donated the masks in response to a Foreign Ministry request for donations and the masks will be shipped out of Vienna as part of an EU shipment of emergency aid to China. Slovenia will cover up to EUR 20,000 in transportation costs.
Stanislav Lotrič, deputy head of the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, told the press as the aid was being dispatched that there had been no problems with collecting the aid in Slovenia.
He however suggested that globally it was becoming hard to meet the demand for masks, which could prove a problem.
The masks were sent to Vienna, from where they are expected to be flown to Wuhan in an EU Civil Protection Mechanism aircraft together with donations from Austria, Hungary and Czechia by Monday at the latest.
The government has also approved a EUR 60,000 emergency donation to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
STA, 4 February 2020 - The Slovenian national postal operator has stopped accepting mail for China until further notice after its partner air carriers suspended flights to the country in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Until further notice, Pošta Slovenije will no longer accept letters and packages destined for China. Deliveries already on their way to China are expected to arrive with a delay, the company said.
An exception to the suspension of the service applies to UPS packages, but the senders are advised to check first whether delivery to the intended addresses is possible.
Most recent information is that deliveries cannot be accepted in Wuhan, the city and the region at the centre of the novelty coronavirus outbreak.
Fraport Slovenija, the company operating Ljubljana airport, has said that some exporters have had difficulties dispatching their deliveries because of suspension of air links with China.
Speaking with the STA, the company could not say what quantities had been affected.
"There have been many more air mail bags from China this year, which is delayed mail from last year due to overbooked capacities for Europe. The real picture will not be clear until next month."
Meanwhile, Pošta Slovenije is looking for substitute transport channels so as to be able to resume service and allow users to post all types of mail.
"The customers will be notified as soon as the possibility of mail acceptance is resorted," the postal company said in a press release on Tuesday.
STA, 4 February 2020 - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole commercial port, has told the STA that the coronavirus situation is expected to affect transshipment volumes. Container cargo and vehicles are likely to be impacted the most, Luka Koper said, while explaining it had not yet received any instructions concerning potential health measures.
"The epidemic in China has gravely impacted production there and crippled services, including in logistics, which will sooner or later also be felt in Koper," the operator said.
While it is too early to say anything concrete, Luka Koper pointed out that some global logistics companies have already closed their distribution centres in China and that some shipowners are announcing the cancellation of certain scheduled lines.
"For the time being this does not involve the northern Adriatic or Koper but it is clear that the situation will affect transshipment volumes. Container cargo and vehicles are likely to be impacted the most," it announced.
As regards measures to contain the virus, Luka Koper explained that the monitoring of ships in Slovenia, including of the health situation of crews, is in the domain of the Slovenian Maritime Administration.
It is the duty of the captain of a ship to report any health conditions before entering the port and the report is forwarded by the Maritime Administration to the National Institute of Public Health.
The institute is also responsible for issuing instructions regarding any measures to the port, but Luka Koper said it had not received any so far.
STA, 31 January 2020 - Representatives of the Slovenian companies that have offices or facilities in China told the STA on Friday they had no problems because of the coronavirus yet but they do fear the negative consequences that might follow after the New Year holidays in China are over. Fifteen Slovenian companies operate in China, according to Sloexport data.
Tool maker group Unior, which employs some 460 people in China, told the STA its facility was closed for the holidays at the moment and was expected to open again on 10 February.
The company does not feel any consequences of the epidemic yet and was maintaining business contacts via e-mail and WeChat.
Similarly, pharma company Krka, which operates in Ningbu, has suspended trips to China, as business partners there prolonged their New Year holidays.
Work in all of its business units was running smoothly because they had made enough stock before the holidays.
In the future, business contacts will be made via conference calls and e-mails.
Electronics group Iskra has a store with three employees in Hong Kong, which is operating without disturbances despite the fact that a part of its suppliers comes from China.
"We expect one- to two-week delay on the Chinese side," Iskra representatives told the STA, adding that problems would start if production halt would expand or be extended.
Andrej Boštjančič, the head of Softnet, a specialist in advanced communication technologies and services, which has four employees at its office in Shanghai, thinks the economic impact of the virus would be massive. "Production, transport will definitely be affected."
Today the Hong Kong postal operator announced it was temporarily halting a part of its postal service, he said. "It will all depend on how long all this will last," he said.
Its office will also be closed until 10 February and then they will do business via e-mail and phone.
Le-Tehnika's two companies in Suzhou, some 100 kilometres from Shanghai, employing a dozen people, producing phones and selling the company's Slovenian-made products, are also still closed for the holidays.
CEO Drago Lemut expects some delays in the supply of some materials.
The Chinese-owned household appliances maker Gorenje has not been affected by the epidemics but it did introduce some preventive measures. All employees who return from China will have to stay home for 14 days before coming to work again, the company said.
This week is Chinese New Year, so what better time to read about the growth of Chinese tourism in Southeastern Europe? Dragon Trail has an interesting article titled “The Southeastern Europe Chinese Tourism Boom”, by Sienna Parulis-Cook. It looks at recent trends in travel from the Middle Kingdom to this part of the world, and the states of the former Yugoslavia in particular.
"My Green Travel" -Slovenia has a Chinese website
It notes that the region has seen some of the world’s highest growth rates for Chinese tourism in recent years, with Montenegro more than doubling its tourism numbers in the first nine months of 2019, while in the first half of the year Slovenia saw 46,032 arrivals and 71,571 overnight stays by Chinese tourists, up by 22.5% and 37.6%, respectively. To put those numbers in context, the entire Chinese outbound tourism market grew by just 12% in 2019.
Two of the most viewed Chinese language videos on Slovenia on YouTube
Why such growth? One reason is the ease of visa-free entry in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the fact that both Croatia and Montenegro allow entry to anyone holding a Schengen visa, while Slovenia is already within the free movement zone. Another is the growing business connections between the region and China, most notably via the Belt & Road Initiative to link Eurasia and Africa, with Southeastern Europe being a key route to Northern Europe.
A third is the growing sophistication of Chinese travellers. While those coming to Slovenia are likely still travelling in groups, they’ve probably already been to the AAA must-see sights and cities in Europe – with Paris now receiving some one million Chinese tourists a year. Lesser known destination are thus the new frontier, and with such travellers are said to be less interested in shopping for top brands in luxury stores than in having experiences in terms of culture and outdoors. And as Ana Špik, who works for the Slovenian Tourist Board, notes, Slovenia is increasingly popular for Chinese pre- and post-wedding photography, so it’s also attracting more couples.
The whole article contains a lot more of interest, on Slovenia and the wider region, and can be read here.
STA, 14 December - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged protecting multilateralism against unilateralism as he and his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar discussed bilateral relations, EU-China cooperation, and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together 17 Central and East European countries plus China.
Making a case for multilateralism at a time of major global changes, Wang stressed that both countries must continue to defend multilateralism and build open economy.
"We must adopt concrete measures to reject unilateralism and avert power politics in a bid to protect the international system with the UN at its centre, the international order backed by international law, and a multilateral trade system with the WTO as its basis," he said at a press conference in Ljubljana on Saturday.
Wang stressed that despite having different culture and history or being different in size, China and Slovenia respected the basic rules of international relations.
"This is the basis for our mutual trust, which benefits both countries," said Wang, who believes China-Slovenia relations are becoming increasingly mature and stable.
Cerar noted China was a superpower, a permanent UN Security Council member and an indispensable strategic partner of the EU's, but indicated the two sides did not always share the same positions. But he said China was a key partner of the EU's in fulfiling commitments from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
"We have different stances or standards in the EU and China, but we need to discuss it with respect and openly, but most of all we must seek common areas of cooperation, enhance constructive relations and respect each other," he said.
Cerar stressed political and economic cooperation had been growing, making China Slovenia's most important trading partner in Asia and the 13th most important one overall.
Since 2013, trade in goods increased by some 15% a year to reach EUR 1.3 billion in 2018, with several Slovenian firms opening their offices in China and China's investment increasing in Slovenia.
He also noted that 2020 would be a year of enhanced dialogue between the EU and China, with two EU-China summits planned alongside a 17+1 initiative summit.
Cerar also announced Slovenia and China would further strengthen cooperation next year in view of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.
Wang announced the 17+1 summit, to be held in Beijing in April, would focus on mutual connectivity, green development, innovation and openness.
It is Slovenia's wish to take the lead in the 17+1's coordinating mechanism for winter sports, an area where it has developed good cooperation with China.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is another area of cooperation, with Slovenia promoting its port of Koper as "one of the best points for good from Asia ... to reach Central and East Europe", stressed Cerar.
Wang would meanwhile also like to see more cooperation within the BRI in science, technology, advanced production, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare and winter sports, while he belives infrastructure, such as railways and ports, should be better connected.
"Let's hope for the Beijing summit to create better synergies between the 17+1 forum, the BRI, the EU's strategy to connect Europe and Asia, and the Three Seas initiative as well as development strategies of Central and East European countries," he said.
Cerar announced he would visit China with a business delegation next year, while a China-Slovenia Day of Science and Investment would be organised here.
Wang, who is en route to the Europe-Asia meeting in Spain, which will be also attended by Carer, also met President Borut Pahor.
The pair discussed topical issues in the international community and urged enhancing the good relations between the EU and China, Pahor's office said in a release.
Pahor also took the opportunity to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Slovenia.
Wang also met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker Dejan Židan before completing his visit, the first to Slovenia by a Chinese foreign minister since 2008.
All our stories on China and Slovenia are here
STA, 14 December 2019 - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Slovenia on Saturday for talks with his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar and other senior officials. Wang and Cerar will discuss the two countries' political and economic relations and aim to come up with new cooperation opportunities in various areas.
This will be first visit by a Chinese foreign policy chief since 2008, according to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.
The official visit is designed to strengthen political dialogue as well as discuss global issues and cooperation within forums such as EU-China cooperation, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together China and Central and Eastern European countries.
Cerar is expected to attend the ASEM meeting in Madrid on Sunday and Monday. Foreign ministers from 30 European and 21 Asian countries are to discuss strengthening multilateralism, global and regional issues as well as bolstering sustainable connectivity between the two continents.
While in Slovenia, the Chinese foreign minister will also meet President Borut Pahor, Speaker Dejan Židan and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.
China is Slovenia's key trading partner in Asia and ranks 13th among Slovenian major trading partners.
In the first nine months of 2019, trade in goods between China and Slovenia exceeded EUR 1 billion, with Slovenia importing EUR 887 million and exporting EUR 191 million worth of goods.
Moreover, after seven years of cooperation based on the 17+1 initiative, Slovenia is seeing positive business results. The two countries also cooperates as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
All our stories on China and Slovenia can be found here