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Slovenia sees stronger economic ties with China

(CNTV)    13:32, November 27, 2017

The small alpine country of Slovenia in Eastern Europe is witnessing an increasingly greater role in doing business with China and Chinese investors.

Joint projects between the two countries include "Pipstrel", a 300 million US dollars electric aircraft factory, and the recent acquisition of Slovenian software company "Outfit7" for a staggering one billion US dollars. One of the most interesting Chinese investments in Slovenia is the one by the SHS group into Maribor airport.

We've visited Slovenia's second largest city during the local wine festivities called "Martinovo". It almost seemed like the entire population of Maribor has flocked to the town’s city center for music, dance, a lot of local food specialties and of course – wine.

CGTN photo

But there's something unique about this wine. It's one of the export products that Slovenia is actively promoting to the Chinese market, as per what Slovenian Deputy PM Dejan Zidan said: “Few years ago our annual wine exports to China was around 100-thousand US dollars, last year it was over 900-thousand US dollars, and in the first half of this year it is almost 1.2 million US dollars. We systematically invest in that market and the first results are already here.”

CGTN photo

These investments are a two way street. Just a few kilometers from Maribor’s center is an international airport, which has long been neglected. Not even the tourists that came to enjoy themselves at the "Martinovo" actually came to Maribor through this airport.

But luckily upgrades are soon to come, as Chinese owners from SHS Group have come up with some big plans.

There is not much activity right now, but the new Chinese owners hope to change this dramatically in the coming years. The runway will be extended for an additional 800 meters, after which, this airport will be able to receive long haul aircraft like the Airbus A330 or Boeing 777. The idea is to become a regional hub for passengers and cargo to and from China.

According to investment plans devised by the SHS Group, work on the runway extension should start in 2018, and its adviser Ladimir Brolih said that it won't be the end of the investment cycle: "Expanding the current terminal for passengers or building a new one, and expanding all the corresponding airport services, we’ll invest in this too. Our current annual capacity of 600 thousand passengers plans to increase to 3 millions.”

At the Maribor airpot, there are no regular flights yet, just a lot of charter flights, small planes and some NATO military helicopters taking part in training missions, but the Airport's director Boris Bobek says that they are open for business.

“Maribor Airport is operational and at this moment is open and works with all required licenses and renewed infrastructure and we are ready for the next step in our development.” 

The SHS Group invested further in Maribor in one of their latest acquisitions, a TV station RTS24, the Slovenian broadcaster with national coverage.

That investment added its part to an annual trade figure between China and Slovenia of nearly two billion US dollars. And Slovenian authorities are actively supporting moves like that one for all the right reasons, as Assistant Professor Matevz Raskovic from Ljubljana University says: "With regards to the Slovenian government, the 16+1 forum that will be taking place at the end of the month in Budapest I think will offer good opportunity for Slovenia to show its commitment to the project of the Belt and Road Initiative and hopefully also to the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.” 

And it's exactly the citizens of Maribor that are hoping for these moves and investments to boost the value of their local business and attract more tourists to the events like the one we've witnessed.  

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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