France and Slovenia
Bilateral relations between France and Slovenia have increased substantially in recent years. These relations have been based on trust from the time of the Illyrian Provinces (Ilirske province, 1809-1813) where the Napoleonic Empire brought the Civil Code, developed public education and Slovene as the medium of instruction, thus contributing to the development of national self-consciousness. The two countries share a common commitment to cultural diversity and Francophony. The Strategic Partnership signed in 2011 marked a new beginning for Slovenia. The President of the French Republic was the guest of honour at the first Brdo Summit, which was held in Slovenia on 25 July 2013. The Slovenian President, Borut Pahor, visited Paris on 17-18 April 2014, and the French Minister Delegate for European Affairs had a number of meetings in Slovenia on 14 May 2014. On 4 December 2013, the then Slovenian Prime Minister, Ms Alenka Bratušek, visited Paris to meet with the French President and chair a conference on investment in Slovenia at MEDEF International. She was also received by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development on 14 July 2014, prior to the International Donors’ Conference following the floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, co-organized by France, Slovenia and the European Commission in Brussels on 16 July 2014. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Slovenia on 23 April 2015 in the context of a regional meeting of the Brdo-Brijuni Process. On that occasion, he signed the Slovenian-French Strategic Partnership Action Plan for the period 2015-2018. The Slovenian Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, visited France on 7-8 July 2015 and met with the French President.
France is the fifth-largest foreign investor in Slovenia. The core of France’s economic presence was established before the accession of Slovenia to the European Union in 2004. The automotive industry accounts for 50% of trade between the two countries. Among the 41 French subsidiaries, Renault, Société Générale de Mécanique, E. Leclerc and other mechanical engineering companies have been very successful. France has recently won a few contracts (Alstom for the Šoštanj power plant, SYSTRA for the implementation of the Digital Radio System (GSM-R) in the Slovenian railway network, etc.). In the nuclear sector, there is a nuclear power plant at Krško in Slovenia. The building of a second unit is under consideration.
In 2013, the Slovenian authorities launched a programme to privatize 15 state-owned enterprises, which has attracted the attention of French groups. France’s Special Representative for economic diplomacy in the western Balkans, Mr Alain Richard, carried out a first mission to Ljubljana at the end of November 2013.
Slovenia relies a great deal on culture to open up to the outside world. Slovenia organized 141 festivals in 2011. In this context, France was one of the most active partners in the celebration of recent great events in the cultural life of Slovenia: Ljubljana’s World Book Capital programme for the period 2010-2011, and Maribor, European Capital of Culture 2012.
In 2011, Slovenia allocated 2.47% of its GDP to research. Slovenia’s research budget decreased by 10% in 2012. Slovenian research stakeholders therefore strive to find external financing by focusing on European and international cooperation. In 2012, France was Slovenia’s main scientific partner within the EU with 54 bilateral projects, and its third-largest global partner, after Croatia (93 projects) which joined the EU on 1 July 2013, and the United States (81 projects). France is the sixth most popular destination for young Slovenians studying abroad. There are 79 bilateral agreements between Slovenian universities and higher education institutions in France.
The place of French in the education system was strengthened by Slovenia’s entry into the European Union in 2004 (due to the working language status of French within European institutions) and by the Barcelona European Council (2002) guidelines for the teaching of a second foreign language. There are around 140 education institutions with almost 5,000 students. In secondary school, French as a second language is studied by a little less than 1% of students, far behind German, but on a par with Spanish, and ahead of Italian and Croatian. However, French remains the language of the elite.
The Memorandum signed with the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) in 2005, and renewed in 2010, provides for training almost 300 Slovenian officials in French, the language of diplomacy. The French lnstitute in Slovenia (IFS) is in charge of French language training there. More than 120 civil servants attended IFS courses in 2011. The programme, which is financed equally by Slovenia and the OIF, testifies to the political commitment of the Slovenian authorities and the importance Slovenia has given to our language and Francophony in general since its accession to the Organization as an observer member in 1999.