Ljubljana, 11 September (STA) - Slovenia and Montenegro explored ways to boost bilateral trade and investment at business forum held in Ljubljana on Wednesday as part of a visit by Montenegrin Economy Minister Dragica Sekulić. The biggest potential was identified in energy and tourism.
The meeting, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) in cooperation with the SPIRIT investment promotion agency and the Montenegro's Chamber of Commerce, was attended by more than 120 business officials.
The head of the Montenegrin chamber, Vlastimir Golubović, lauded Slovenia as an active advocate of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, saying that his country could learn a lot from Slovenia.
GZS secretary-general Sonja Šmuc noted that bilateral goods trade between the two countries was quite uneven; last year it amounted to EUR 114 million, with Slovenia's exports representing EUR 100 million.
Šmuc expressed her confidence that trade could be balanced out as well as increased in the future.
Golubović noted that Slovenia ranked 11th in terms of foreign direct investment in Montenegro; there are more than 150 companies with Slovenian capital operating in Montenegro today.
He pointed to potential to boost cooperation, in particular in tourism, agriculture, IT, airport and road infrastructure, energy and services, as well as municipality waste and waste water management.
The Montenegrin business officials and Economy Minister Sekulić are visiting Slovenia while Montenegro is being featured as the partner country at this year's International Trade Fair in Celje.
The minister said that Montenegrin companies placed a high level of trust with their Slovenian partners.
She agreed with Golubović about Slovenia being an important partner whose experience and knowledge could benefit Montenegro in institutional and economic development, including in a bid to join the EU.
As strategic fields she identified tourism, energy and the food processing industry.
The vice-chairman of the Montenegrin chamber of commerce, Ivan Saveljić proposed some concrete potential investment opportunities such as the construction of an expressway along the Montenegrin coast, development of Tivat airport, wind farms and hydro power stations.
Exploitation of the potential of the Montenegro-Italy undersea power cable will also stimulate investment in production facilities, said Saveljić, who also noted potential for investment in tourism.
A business meeting held at the Celje fair yesterday heard that Montenegro's appeal for Slovenian investors was mainly that there is a level playing field for foreign and domestic investors.
Slovenia's chief exports to Montenegro are road vehicles, pharmaceutical products and electric machinery, whereas imports consist mainly of low value added products such as non-ferrous metals and metal products.
Last year, Slovenia recorded 12,000 visitors from Montenegro, who spent an average 2.5 days here.