EVEN though Norway and Slovakia are both small countries and the geographical distance between them is not negligible, their economic cooperation is increasing with an outlook for further growth. Norwegian businessmen consider Slovakia to be an advantageous investment opportunity with energy and the environment as the two main prospective fields of business, although they do have certain reservations about the country’s corruption rating.
“If you take into consideration the facts that Norway and Slovakia are small countries, the geographical distance between the two countries, and the structure of Norwegian business, we consider the increasing trade between the two countries to be a sign of growing interest,” Torgal Stahl, the first secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bratislava, told The Slovak Spectator. “Since 1989, several Norwegian firms have been established in Slovakia. There are now twelve Norwegian firms in Slovakia with a total of about 3,000 employees.”
These include firms such as Slovalco, Q-Free, and Vitana, which are involved in aluminium production and products, electronics, telecommunications, and food production, as well as others that are involved in the automotive industry, transport and the production of ropes.
In most areas, Norwegian businesses perceive the business environment in Slovakia positively and consider the country to have a highly-educated working force, comparatively inexpensive skilled labour and an advantageous location in the centre of Europe. But they have also noted the drop in Slovakia’s corruption ranking.
“According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Slovakia is not performing as well in corruption,” said Stahl. “The country is ranked as number 56, which is a decline compared with earlier periods.”
While the global economic crisis may have some impact on Norwegian firms’ interest in Slovakia, optimism is slowly returning in Norway, said Stahl, and most of the Norwegian firms established in Slovakia have not been severely affected by the economic crisis.
Stahl sees the oil and gas industry as prospective for future cooperation. Since this sector involves much more than just pumping oil and gas out of the North Sea and a lot of competence is developed by this industry and its sub-suppliers, this could also be interesting for other countries. An example of one of these possibilities is carbon capture and storage (CCS).
“We should all take our share in reversing climate change,” said Stahl. “CCS has the second largest potential for global emission reductions, after energy efficiency measures, and Norway considers CCS to be a key technology in reaching the necessary emission reductions.”
Norway also has a lot of technology for renewable energy and about 55 percent of consumed energy in Norway comes from renewable resources. According to Stahl, this is a high percentage, but both Norway and Slovakia have the potential to increase the share of renewable energy in the future.
In addition to these areas there is also potential for cooperation in the areas of Green Innovation and Innovation Policy.
“The European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway grants give us an historic opportunity to strengthen cooperation with Slovakia,” he said. “Norway will contribute a total of about €80 million to Slovakia through Norway Grants and EEA Grants over the 2009-2014 period. This agreement follows on from the previous agreement where Norway contributed €70 million.”
The priority sectors for this cooperation are, among others, carbon capture and storage, green industry innovation, environmental protection and management, climate change and renewable energy, and the protection of cultural heritage. Stahl believes the grants represent a great opportunity for increased cooperation between Norwegian and Slovak firms, institutions and organisations.
The engagement in business is not just one-way, because, according to the Slovak embassy in Oslo, Slovak firms Constructor and Svitstroj are also established in Norway.
SARIO in Norway
As well as in other Scandinavian countries, the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO) also intensively supports commercial ties between Slovakia and Norway. Here SARIO cooperates with the local Slovak embassy and trade attaché.
“During our presentation in this territory we are focusing on introducing investment opportunities, cooperation in bilateral trade, as well as in research and development,” Jozef Marušík, project manager of direct foreign investments at SARIO told The Slovak Spectator, adding that SARIO has noted two projects in Norway that have been successfully completed with the assistance of SARIO’s FDI project managers.
In Norway this year, SARIO plans to organise an investment road show in three towns with the goal of presenting the economic environment in Slovakia to business people and potential investors, as well as to industrial associations, chambers of commerce and others, said Marušík.
Trade between the two countries is steadily increasing. According to the Norwegian Embassy, exports from Norway to Slovakia more than doubled from €28.4 million in 2004 to €62.3 million in 2008. Imports from Slovakia to Norway more than tripled from €64 million in 2004 to €218.4 million in 2008. Slovak exports to Norway are more than three times as high as Norwegian exports to Slovakia.
15. Feb 2010 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková