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Interview for CNBC (Africa Business News)

Johannesburg, 18.6.2010  |  interview

Source: ABN Digital

Godfrey Mutizwa (Host): We are talking to the President of Slovenia today, Danilo Türk. Did I get that right, Mr President?

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk: Very well.

Godfrey Mutizwa: He is the President of Slovenia and Slovenia of course is at the World Cup for a second time. They were there in 2002 and they did extremely well. Now they are back. They are the smallest nation that is participating at the FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa. Mr President, thank you again for coming and spending the time with us. Let’s begin about Slovenia’s prospects. Honestly, how far do you expect to go?

Dr Danilo Türk: I hope we are going to win against the United States today. And then we’ll see – as far as we can. And we are very self-confident. We are a great power in sports, we have a very high per capita ratio of Olympic gold medals and other achievements. So we are very optimistic.

Godfrey Mutizwa: I would say you are overachievers because I’m looking the populations of the two countries – 330, 340 million against 2 million people. Sounds like David and Goliath happening here.

Dr Danilo Türk: There are only 11 players on each side. So that equalises the situation somewhat.

Godfrey Mutizwa: It does. It does. What sort of score are you expecting this afternoon though?

Dr Danilo Türk: I would hope that we win by 1:0.

Godfrey Mutizwa: 1:0 against the United States of America?

Dr Danilo Türk: Look, United States has much to learn because in Slovenia soccer is a sport that has been very popular for more than 100 years. We have had very good football players and I think that right now we have also a very good team, a team, which has excellent spirit, it works as team very well. It has excellent defence and they can score. So, you know, we are quite self-confident.

Godfrey Mutizwa: In terms of what you are going to try to do for players – what are you expecting to do for them that will lift them to give them that extra, perhaps, that will enable them to take on the US and defeat them?

Dr Danilo Türk: I met them this morning after my arrival to Johannesburg and I told them that the whole public opinion is on their side. I mean they have really unified the nation. People have forgotten about their political quarrels, about their daily trouble and everybody is thinking about soccer these days. So that’s a great achievement.

Godfrey Mutizwa: Let’s talk about your experience since you came to South Africa. What have you found? What have been your impressions so far?

Dr Danilo Türk: My impressions have been very short. I’ve been to Johannesburg and South Africa before in my earlier capacity, not as President of Slovenia. But I can say that one can see a lot of openness here and I believe that South Africa is probably the best place in the world for the world championship in football. Football brings people together and South Africa is a symbol of bringing people together. So I’m sure that history is being made here and we will fully understand this in a year or several years from now.

Godfrey Mutizwa: Many of our listeners aren't imaginative. They were asked to point to Slovenia on the map. They would struggle to find out where it is. Slovenia of course is an ex-member of the Yugoslav Federation and one of the smaller nations in that grouping. In terms of profiling the country and its relationship with the rest of the continent – what have you been able to do? We do know the old Yugoslavia, the very strong relationship with Africa.

Dr Danilo Türk: First of all, Slovenia is a full member of European Union, a member of the Eurozone and has been the only successor state of former Yugoslavia, which has achieved this. It’s also in the middle, in the average of European Union as far as GDP per capita is concerned. So it has been very successful economically. We are currently obviously facing some of the difficulties, which are typical for European Union at this time and we hope that European Union will expand further with countries of former Yugoslavia and also Turkey. We would like to see them in the European Union.

Godfrey Mutizwa: I’d imagine there are many challenges there. We do know of course the difficulties that some of the European nations are facing now. Would you go so far as to say Slovenia has not been affected by this crisis and is not in anyway sharing some of the difficulties that we've seen for instance engulfing Greek and also now, potentially, people talking about Spain being perhaps in the group of the debt crisis that we have seen.

Dr Danilo Türk: We have felt the consequences of recession because we are very much export dependant. 70 % of our GDP is exported, so when the orders fell last year we have felt that and our GDP has shrunk. But now we are recovering and our financial system is fairly safe, I would say, and healthy. Obviously, European Union as a whole and Eurozone as a whole have to provide high level of financial stability. This is the priority number one at present and that of course is a priority for Slovenia as well.

Godfrey Mutizwa: In your view, has enough been done to try and stabilise the situation in Europe, particularly around Greece, around Spain? I ask you to speak of course as a member of the EU.

Dr Danilo Türk: I think much time was wasted initially. I think we should have taken IMF more quickly into the picture. IMF has a very beneficial effect because of its experience and funds. And when it comes to Greece, there have been a couple of months of discussion whether this should be done or not and I think that that time was wasted. But now I think we are on the right track and I think we can recover some of the loss that has been made.

Godfrey Mutizwa: Many people are extrapolating that the difficulties that we’ve seen around Greece and the impact that it has had on the Europe puts a question mark on the survival number one of the euro itself and secondly, on the political commitment to keep the EU as a united block. Do you share those sentiments?

Dr Danilo Türk: No, I think that right now the will to struggle and the will to strengthen euro is there. The mechanisms have been put in place in the past few weeks. Yesterday the European Summit has reconfirmed that, so I think the instruments for future financial stability are largely in place already. The political will to go ahead with better coordination of economic policies is also there. Of course we will have to see how that works, because budget proposals or budget drafts will have to be compared Europe-wide and this is new. We haven’t been doing this before. Coordination of policies still requires better work and more sophistication. That’s where the challenges are, but I’m confident, we are going to win.

Godfrey Mutizwa: We certainly hope you do, because that has implications for Africa. Mr President, I have to thank you very much indeed for passing by us, but I must ask you a very difficult question.

Dr Danilo Türk: Yes, please.

Godfrey Mutizwa: Who will be champion?

Dr Danilo Türk: Well, apart from Slovenia as a candidate, I would not venture to say ... Obviously Brazil is always there as a very strong candidate, but Brazilians are so artistic, that one sometimes doesn’t know whether they are here for artistic purposes or to win, so I would say Brazil is a very likely candidate, but Slovenia is also there, don’t forget.

Godfrey Mutizwa: So they need to learn the efficiencies of the Eastern Europeans.

Dr Danilo Türk: Absolutely.

Godfrey Mutizwa: Thank you very much, Mr President.

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