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Slovak-Austrian ties benefit small firms too
23 Apr 2012 Beata Balogová and Jana Liptáková Foreigners in Slovakia
THE PRESENCE of Austrian businesses in Slovakia is evident not only through their involvement in banking, insurance or construction, but also through smaller initiatives such as the Austrian farmer who delivers fresh milk to schools in Bratislava, or an Austrian bakery that is now opening a branch in Bratislava. These are just a few facets of the links between the two nations, which have traditionally been strong. For example, the German language has always been spoken in Slovakia and is to a certain extent part of its cultural tradition, said Josef-Markus Wuketich, the Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia .
The Slovak Spectator spoke with Ambassador Wuketich and the Commercial Counsellor of the Austrian Embassy, Patrick Sagmeister, about symbolic as well as real bridges between the two countries, tourism prospects and the idea of a German university here.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Cooperation between Austria and Slovakia has intensified over the past few years. Have the possibilities of economic cooperation between neighbouring areas of Slovakia and Austria been fully explored? Which areas has this cooperation produced the best results and where do you see room for improvement?
Patrick Sagmeister (PS): Economic cooperation between Austria and Slovakia is reaching its highest level ever, with trade standing at €5.5 billion. There are about 2,000 Austrian companies in Slovakia, with 300 new companies joining the business community every year. Yet saying that the business potential is fully explored would be too strong a statement. With that said, Austrian products are very well represented in Slovakia, with only very few countries where we are as strong as here: Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary. There are areas of cooperation that have produced the best examples but where there is still the potential for improvement. Yet cooperation is very successful with large Austrian companies such as banks, construction companies and insurance companies. But then there are many smaller success stories, for example an Austrian bakery is opening in Bratislava. I also see room for improvement very much in the ICT area, where Slovak companies are very strong and partnerships are being established.
TSS: Restrictions on the employment of Slovaks in Austria ended on May 1, 2011. Has the opening of your labour market had any significant impacts?
TSS: There are about 2,000 Austrian companies that have a subsidiary in Slovakia which has invested in Slovakia. What are their expectations of the new Slovak government in terms of the business environment?
TSS: There is a new bridge over the Morava River linking the villages of Devínska Nová Ves and Schloss Hof. What is the significance of this project?
TSS: The private Goethe University has applied for registration in Slovakia. If the university gets a licence it would be the first university with German as its teaching language. How do you perceive such projects? How do you assess the importance of such a school?
TSS: Slovak tourism experts see prospects for tourism development in Austria and Slovakia as very similar, the only difference being in terms of state support. How does the Austrian state support tourism and what lessons can Slovakia learn from Austria?
TSS: There are a number of projects to construct transport infrastructure between Austria and Slovakia in the pipeline. Do you consider the current level of transport infrastructure sufficient? What effects will construction of planned transport infrastructure have on economic cooperation?
There is still some deficit towards the border to Lower Austria, but when the transportation infrastructure is further developed and the new bridge over the Morava River is built it will make both passenger and cargo transportation more effective since currently people have to make a detour through Bratislava.
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