21st & 22nd of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Saturday, April 22, 2017

Minister Gorazd Žmavc: Young Slovenian startuppers in neighbouring countries are important for national consciousness and confidence

“National consciousness is also strengthened through economic independence, which is why successful economic activity of Slovenian communities in neighbouring countries is just as important as strengthening the national, linguistic and cultural identity of Slovenians living outside the borders of their home country. Young Slovenian startuppers in neighbouring countries are incredibly important in this, so this year, we are collaborating with organizers of the PODIM Conference to enable these startuppers to attend the biggest startup conference in the Alps-Adriatic region for free. We wish to connect them with successful young entrepreneurs, experienced mentors and investors for young startup companies from Slovenia, the regional and global spaces, and thus contribute to the progress of the entire Slovenian society in the long-term,” said Minister Gorazd Žmavc in an interview. He heads the Office for Slovenians abroad and this year for the first time, he is directly addressing the target group of young, Slovenian-speaking founders, cofounders or members of startup teams living or working in Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary.
 
 
Why does the Office for Slovenians abroad give special attention to economic collaboration and work with young people within the scope of its activities?

In accordance with the set strategy of collaboration between Slovenia and the autochthonous Slovenian national community in neighbouring countries in the field of economy until the year 2020, the Office for Slovenians abroad is carrying out activities for a coordinated, synergetic and strategic approach by all important economic stakeholders from Slovenia and its neighbouring countries, including government authorities, companies, chambers of commerce, minority associations, diplomatic missions, other economic stakeholders as well as individuals on both sides of the border. We do all this with the goal of encouraging the integration and coordination of capital, knowledge, experiences, human resources and various activities that strengthen the existing and create new economic flows in the settlement area of the Slovenian national community and the Republic of Slovenia.
 
Another important goal of yours is encouraging competitiveness, also by eliminating certain obstacles in such collaboration?

That’s correct. With all our activities and in collaboration with already mentioned stakeholders, we wish to achieve higher competitiveness on markets of neighbouring and other countries where the Slovenian national minority lives. In this way, we wish to contribute our share to the vision of a more homogenous economic collaboration between them and their home country, whereby a significant emphasis is given to economic collaboration between Slovenia and its neighbouring countries – Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. Our role is mostly in connecting and warning the relevant government and other institutions about potential obstacles in such collaboration, and in creating better conditions for economic collaboration with neighbouring countries and other countries where the Slovenian autochthonous minority community lives and works. The final goal is strengthening the existing and creating new economic flows in the settlement area of the Slovenian national community and their home country.
 
Why do you see such strong potential in young people, which goals are you following, and could you highlight any concrete best practices in the field of working with young people?

One of the more important tasks and simultaneously priorities of the Office’s work in the current mandate is working with younger generations. I realize that just association activity is an obsolete form of work and that it is necessary to think in the direction of how to rouse interest in the young generation to collaborate and participate in activities while collaborating with their homeland. In this, the interest in keeping the identity, culture and language is definitely important, and presents the foundations that older generations pass on the young.
 
How can you upgrade these foundations?

It is necessary to add broader interests that mean economic safety and stability for young people in countries where they live and work. Therein, we are trying to create a joint development space with neighbouring countries and tightly connect young members of autochthonous minority communities with development activities of their home country. We are thus trying to help them with their own personal development as well as with the development of activities that can give them economic safety and stability. This is why it’s my task that in the future, all until the end of our mandate, we create conditions and possibilities that will help young generations create a better future.
 
Why did you this year decide to collaborate with the PODIM Conference with the goal of getting many young Slovenian startuppers in neighbouring countries to come to the biggest startup conference in the Alps-Adriatic region?

We are judging and trusting that the entrepreneurial streak is present in young Slovenians in neighbouring countries to the same extent, so we wish to help them from Slovenia with their first entrepreneurship steps and in this, try to connect them with successful young entrepreneurs, experienced mentors and investors for young startup companies from their home country, region and the global space. We are of the opinion that with increasingly open borders and a unified European economic space, wherein Slovenia lies and is a lot bigger with members of autochthonous minority communities than the data of two million inhabitants of the home country shows, any help to innovative entrepreneurship of young people is very welcome and will contribute to the progress of the entire Slovenian society in the long term. The PODIM platform is, in this sense, most suitable for effective and quality support as well as for encouraging the inclusion of Slovenian startups from neighbouring countries into the national and regional or international business environment, so we are happy and proud to be starting such a collaboration.
 
What are your experiences with strengthening national consciousness and confidence through entrepreneurship, innovativeness and creativity of young people?

Every national consciousness is strengthened through economic independence, which is why successful economic activity of Slovenian communities in the neighbouring countries is as important for me as strengthening the national, linguistic and cultural identities of our communities that live outside the borders of their homeland. Young startups are a very important step in continuing this economic activity, so I am eagerly expecting the reaction from neighbouring countries and I believe that this is one of the first steps towards further successful work in this field. 
 
Where else do you see the importance of collaboration between Slovenians in neighbouring countries – businessmen, startups, researchers and other experts – and their peers from Slovenia?

For a long time, the Office has been trying to create a joint cultural and economic space in regions between neighbouring countries and Slovenia. That is why we are supporting different activities for strengthening and creating connections between subjects on both sides of the border. By implementing activities, which are also written down in the strategy of collaboration between Slovenia and the autochthonous Slovenian national community in neighbouring countries in the field of economy until the year 2020, and in accordance to the action plan of collaboration and support to young Slovenians abroad, the Office gives special attention to various activities of young people. That is because we realize that today, the world has a lot of economists, entrepreneurs, scientists and experts whose knowledge and experience could help achieve more connections as well as better personal and business results, while at the same time also contribute to a more successful development of Slovenia.
 
In all these efforts, collaboration with other institutions is presumably also very important?

That’s true. Successful economists, entrepreneurs, scientists and experts are at the same time the most important ambassadors of Slovenia outside its borders. Despite this, the use of experiences and knowledge of our compatriots is not only the Office’s task, but also the task of other ministries and institutions. That is why I will, as member of the government, also try for active collaboration of all ministries in strengthening the relationships with compatriots that live outside the borders of their homeland.


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Photo: Gorazd Žmavc, Minister of the Office for Slovenians abroad (source: slomedia.it) 

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More information about this year’s special action that wishes to attract more young, Slovenian-speaking founders, cofounders or startup team members living and working in Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary, can be found at this link.