STATE aid, a quality labour force and a good quality of life keep drawing Dutch investors to Slovakia. The Slovak market offers them good possibilities in areas such as information and telecommunications technologies, software development, and outsourcing while Slovakia is drawing upon the experiences of the Netherlands in innovative technologies, water management and agriculture.
The Slovak Spectator spoke with Emile M. Roest, president of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in the Slovak Republic, about the functions of the chamber in Slovakia and current as well as potential areas of cooperation.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What is the main mission of the chamber and what are its main activities? How many members does it have and who are the most important members?
Emile M. Roest (EMR): The main purpose of the chamber is to support business relations between Dutch and Slovak companies and to support our members in networking and lobbying. We are a platform for exchanging information and contacts among our members, some 60 Dutch and Slovak companies. The most important members are our patron members that include ABN AMRO Bank, N.V. and ING Bank N.V., life insurer Aegon Životná Poisťovňa, Heineken Slovensko, PricewaterhouseCoopers Tax, and Shell Slovakia, to mention just a few.
TSS: The Netherlands is the biggest investor in Slovakia. Do Dutch companies remain interested in Slovakia? What makes Slovakia popular for Dutch investors?
EMR: Slovakia remains interesting for Dutch investors if they are not looking just for low-cost production but also value other factors such as the quality of the workforce, location, road and railway connections, and generally a good quality of life. Very important also is state aid for larger investments.
TSS: What areas do you see as most likely for future cooperation?
EMR: There are good possibilities in various services sectors, for example ICT, software development, outsourcing of different services, tourism, finance and insurance and logistics. There is still interest in different types of manufacturing and food processing. Finally, I should mention that the Dutch are also very active in real estate investments.
TSS: The Netherlands is an innovative country with a very positive attitude towards protection of the environment. Does Slovakia utilise some of its experiences?
EMR: Yes, Slovak companies are using Dutch technology and engineering for major investments in environmental protection. A major example is Slovnaft, which selected a multinational supplier for technology, with engineering and project management on-site by Dutch engineers. Another example is that know-how was transferred to Slovakia on water management, which was used for preparation of the new flood protection system now being built along the Danube River in Bratislava. That exchange was financed by the Dutch state.
TSS: The Netherlands is a country with a rich history in agriculture. Does Slovakia cooperate with the Netherlands in this sector?
EMR: Know-how for growing vegetables, for example potatoes and asparagus, and cattle farming was transferred to Slovak farmers in previous years, again with support from the Dutch state. In the private sector we are very strong in food and beverage production and in Slovakia this means Royal Brinkers company in Beluša producing margarine and frozen pastry, Leaf company making sweets in Levice and Zlatý Bažant beer. There is concrete interest by Dutch companies in investing in fruit processing but that will depend on whether state aid is offered by the Slovak government.