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BUSINESS FOCUS - THE NETHERLANDS

Dutch matchmaker

THE NETHERLANDS is the second largest investor in Slovakia and the interest of Dutch businessmen in starting new businesses in Slovakia also continues to grow. Machinery and the food industry remain as the main areas of focus.
"According to our experience, the machine industry seems to be the most important area of cooperation. It plays a significant role in the Netherlands, and Dutch companies often contact us to help them find partners in Slovakia with whom they can move part of their production. We do similar searches for firms from the food industry and floriculture," said Daniela Mikušková from the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia.

THE NETHERLANDS is the second largest investor in Slovakia and the interest of Dutch businessmen in starting new businesses in Slovakia also continues to grow. Machinery and the food industry remain as the main areas of focus.

"According to our experience, the machine industry seems to be the most important area of cooperation. It plays a significant role in the Netherlands, and Dutch companies often contact us to help them find partners in Slovakia with whom they can move part of their production. We do similar searches for firms from the food industry and floriculture," said Daniela Mikušková from the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia.

Data from the National Bank of Slovakia shows that the Netherlands' share of the overall volume of foreign direct investments in Slovakia reached almost 17 percent. The volume of Dutch investments in Slovakia represented Sk57 billion (€1.4 billion) at the end of last year.

In 2003, Slovakia's exported goods to the Netherlands reached Sk21 billion (€525 million), up by 9 percent compared to 2002. The overall imports from the Netherlands amounted to Sk13.6 billion (€340 million), up by 3.8 percent compared to 2002.

Machinery and food products are the main commodities imported from The Netherlands to Slovakia.

The Netherlands is known as the country of tulips, and a strong traditional export is their admired Dutch flowers, which have established a name on the Slovak market as well. Slovakia's exports to the Netherlands are mainly consumer goods and machinery.

There are more than 100 companies in Slovakia backed with Dutch capital, said the Dutch chamber of commerce. Their activities range from food and machinery industries to advisory and shipping firms.

"As for Slovak companies active in the Netherlands, we do not have any information about them. It is possible that there are individual Slovak businessmen in the construction industry, for example, but we do not have any exact data," added Mikušková.

According to Mikušková, interest in Slovakia has been growing and many Dutch companies are establishing affiliates in the country.

"The number of companies that take part in the trade missions regularly organised by our chamber with the Dutch Agency for International Business and Cooperation is increasing. About 30 Dutch companies, mainly from the machinery industry, took part in the last mission held in September 2003," the chamber confirmed.

Slovakia's EU membership should bring even more business opportunities as it creates a trustworthy image for Slovakia to potential Dutch investors.

"They know that, before entering the EU, Slovakia had to meet a set of economic and political criteria, while duty barriers and other bureaucratic procedures have also been removed," explained the chamber's representative.

On the other hand, it is still difficult for Slovak firms to penetrate the Dutch market, the biggest barrier being the start-up costs of opening a business in the Netherlands. Administration fees and fees for services are still a considerable financial burden.

The chamber also records an interest on the part of Slovak people in taking jobs in the Netherlands. However, there are still some limitations to the free movement of labour.

"We receive many requests from Slovak corporations regarding the possibility of providing services and Slovak workers to the Netherlands. However, as the country was afraid of an influx of cheap labour from acceeding countries, it opened up its labour market only to professions that are not in very high demand for the Dutch," said Eva Uvirová from the Netherlands chamber.

The Netherlands chamber of commerce for Slovakia pairs up business entities that are interested in Slovak - Dutch cooperative partnerships. Its main goal is to create a platform for the development of bilateral and multilateral relations.

The chamber organises various business events, sometimes also in partnership with the Netherlands' chambers in other European countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Poland), other chambers of commerce in Slovakia, NGOs, or institutions from the private sector.

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