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, which was made up of several three-year plans of action and which will be renewed in 2018, marked a fresh start in our diplomatic relationship.
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, Mr 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. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Slovenia on 23 April 2015 as part 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, made two official visits to France on 7-8 July 2015 and 4 July 2016, where he met with the French President on both occasions. In September 2017, the French Minister for European Affairs, Ms Nathalie Loiseau, took part in the Bled Strategic Forum. In 2015 and 2016, Mr Harlem Désir attended the Forum as Minister of State for European Affairs.
France is Slovenia’s fifth-largest investor. The core of France’s economic presence was established before Slovenia’s accession to the European Union in 2004. The automotive industry accounts for almost 50% of trade between the two countries. Among the 62 French subsidiaries, Renault, Société Générale, Leclerc and mechanical engineering companies have been very successful. Other French companies have recently developed their presence in Slovenia (Véolia, Samsic, Trigano, etc.). A French-Slovenian business club, which was created in September 2017, was officially launched in January 2018.
In 2013, the Slovenian authorities launched a programme to privatize 15 state-owned enterprises, which attracted the attention of French groups. France’s Special Representative for economic diplomacy in the western Balkans, Mr Alain Richard, carried out an initial mission to Ljubljana at the end of November 2013. He also represented France at the Brdo summit on 3 June 2017.
Slovenia is focusing on culture to open up to the outside world. France was one of the most active partners in celebrating major events which marked cultural life in Slovenia: Ljubljana’s World Book Capital programme in 2010-2011, and Maribor, European Capital of Culture 2012.
France is one of Slovenia’s leading scientific partners. 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 creation of France Alumni Slovenia in December 2016 helped to strengthen these links.
The position of the French language 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 guidelines for the teaching of a second foreign language. In secondary school, French as a second language is studied by a little less than 1% of students, far behind German, but on 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, which was renewed in 2010, enables almost 300 Slovenian civil servants to receive lessons in French, the language of diplomacy. 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 placed on our language and Francophony in general since its accession to the Organization as an observer member in 1999.