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Slovenia Could Have Used More EIB Funds, EIB Vice-President Says

Ljubljana, 06 July (STA) - Slovenia was successful in obtaining funds from the European Investment Bank (EIB) all right, yet the potential for cooperation is much bigger, Anton Rop, an EIB vice-president, said in an interview run by the daily Delo on Saturday. He also said the country could immediately get EUR 150m under very favourable terms.

"Slovenia was very successful particularly in obtaining EIB loans to build motorways and finance the investments of port operator Luka Koper. Also successful was its state-owned SIB export and development bank," said Rop.

However, more could have been done especially where the EIB co-funds European Commission-endorsed projects, such as projects of local communities through structural funds, according to Rop, who served as Slovenian prime minister between December 2002 and December 2004.

Rop also said that six months ago, Slovenia signed a EUR 500m agreement with EIB which is pegged to investments worth EUR 3bn, and expressed hope that relevant investments were being prepared.

He added the EIB was now awaiting the Slovenian government to ask for EUR 150m which can be obtained immediately under favourable conditions and are not tied to specific projects. "The government will get this money as soon as it asks for it," said Rop and added he did not know why the government had not already applied for it.

Last week, PM Alenka Bratušek said she wished to step up Slovenia's cooperation with the EIB. She admitted the country was to blame for the poor cooperation with the EU's bank, and announced meetings with Rop and the SID bank.

Rop, whose three-year term as EIB vice-president ends in August, also touched on Slovenia's economic situation. "Looking at Slovenia from a distance, I feel sorry that it has failed to cope with the economic and financial crisis more effectively."

While he believes that the quality and speed with which Slovenia takes action will be key to how it is perceived abroad, Rop said Slovenia would have to prove that it was able to implement the planned measures, chiefly getting its banking system and public finances back on track.

Privatisation could be a good means of making companies and banks more efficient, but could also have the opposite effect, said Rop. He admitted however that as such, privatisation did not resolve the basic economic problems nor did it guarantee stronger growth.

Rop believes that selling the banks NLB and NKBM could be useful, but warned against selling at any price just to prove that we are able to privatise. "It would make absolutely no sense to sell the banks only to show that we have managed to sell something after all. The fact is that this not not the best time to sell the biggest banks," he told Delo.

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