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Ambassador Mourier Feels Slovenia Will Manage Without Bailout (interview)

Ljubljana, 02 December (STA) - French Ambassador to Slovenia Pierre-Francois Mourier has told the STA it would be good if Slovenia could avert a bailout and he personally feels that it will manage to do that. Mourier moreover highlighted ahead of PM Alenka Bratušek's visit to France his country's interest in investing in Slovenia, including in the banking sector.

The ambassador said that the results of the stress tests for Slovenian banks, expected on 13 December, are not being anxiously awaited only in Ljubljana, but also in Berlin and Paris. Mourier stressed that nobody in the eurozone wished Slovenia would need aid.

Even if Slovenia needed to only ask for a bailout limited to banks, this would be bad for the country as well as for the entire eurozone, as it would revive doubts about the zone's ability to exit the crisis, he said.

Mourier added that it would also be better psychologically for Slovenia to avoid a bailout, as an aid programme only 20 years into independence would be a kind of a step backwards.

He personally feels the country will make it on its own. While the stress test results will be probably be no reason for joy, Mourier has a feeling that things will be manageable nonetheless.

The ambassador rejected criticism of the incumbent government, saying it was doing a good job, continuing the process started by the previous government, adopting painful reforms and showing that it is very much aware of the gravity of the situation.

Mourier, who feels the present ruling coalition is not too weak, believes that if Slovenia was handing out awards for political discoveries like France is, PM Bratušek, successfully coping with top politics although she has little experience, would deserve one.

Commenting on Bratušek's upcoming visit to France, which will come on top of a visit by President Borut Pahor earlier this year and July's visit to Slovenia by President Francois Hollande, Mourier listed a number of reasons for the intensive ties.

After France focused too much in the past on relations with major European countries, its present government is aware it needs not only friendly but truly active working relations with all EU countries, he said.

The second reason is the "social-democratic friendship" between the two governments and the third the fact that Slovenia, whose crisis he thinks is more psychological than economic, is seeking support abroad.

The ambassador moreover mentioned Slovenia as a valuable ally in efforts to follow up austerity measures in the EU with growth measures and finding the right balance between the two.

Meanwhile, Bratušek's participation in the upcoming investment conference in Paris is a good sign, Mourier said, stressing that France was already the fourth biggest investor in Slovenia and had helped create a number of success stories, such as those of Renault-owned car maker Revoz, and the Societe Generale-owned SKB bank.

After Hollande confirmed during his visit to Slovenia interest in French investments in the country, Mourier highlighted the banking sector, saying that French banks may show interest to participate in the privatisation of Slovenian banks after they are recapitalised.

He also mentioned the food sector, singling out bread and past maker Žito, the car industry and infrastructure, including the railways, tourism and hospitality as well energy projects such as the Sava river hydro power plants and a possible second reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant.

Mourier added that the French market also offered opportunities to Slovenian companies, while he sees major chances above all in joint ventures in third countries, especially in the Balkans.

He said that this was not about selling the family silver and that he understood Slovenian reactions here but about agreeing on mutually beneficial strategic partnership.

Meanwhile, Mourier said he was surprised to find that events dating back more than 60 years are still stirring Slovenia. He said that in France politicians as well as historians had worked hard on analysing the developments in the country in WWII, which enabled France to make them a thing of the past that is however not forgotten.

Because of historical reasons things took a different course in Slovenia and in a certain period there was a tendency to exploit old conflicts, although the ambassador feels that this has no longer been the case recently.

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