Slovenian Business Association in Klagenfurt (SGZ) and Slovenian Energy Association (SZE) Sign Cooperation Agreement

Ljubljana, 28 April 2021: Aiming to foster and promote new economic links between Austria and Slovenia, the Slovenian Business Association in Klagenfurt (SGZ) and the Slovenian Energy Association (SZE) have entered into a cooperation agreement. The signing ceremony was held at the Slovenian Government Office for Slovenians Abroad, with the participation of Alojz Poredoš, the President of SZE, Franc Žlahtič, a member of SZE Committee, Benjamin Wakounig, the President of SGZ, Vesna Hodnik Nikolic of the SGZ office, and Ksenija Škrilec, Slovenia’s Ambassador to Austria.

Members of SGZ already make an important component of economic activity in Carinthia, using and developing state-of-the-art energy technology and launching their products not only in European, but also global markets. Many Slovenian companies have worked with Austrian businesses through SGZ before, and the agreement is a way to step up the process. One of its aims is to boost cooperation between young people in the wider area of the Alps-Adriatic region, where SGZ has already been a well-established player.

An analysis of the potential for cooperation has showed many options to work together in the fields of renewables, energy efficiency, energy conversion, advanced technologies, and new materials. In late June, SZE is organising its annual international energy conference (https://www.sze.si/en/about-the-conference-2020/). This will be an opportunity for members of the two organisations to meet.

According to Slovenia’s minister for Slovenian diaspora, Ms Helena Jaklitsch, and Slovenia’s Ambassador to Austria, Ms Ksenija Škrilec, the agreement is vital to energy collaboration between the two countries, especially in ensuring that the latest initiatives developed in Carinthia make their way into both signatories’ energy projects. The agreement is also important in terms of the Slovenian minority and its activities in Carinthia in relation to Slovenia.

The agreement was signed by Prof Alojz Poredoš on behalf of the Slovenian Energy Association, and Benjamin Wakounig on behalf of the Slovenian Business Association. In their addresses at the ceremony, the presidents expounded on the areas of cooperation and the ways in which their respective organisations will contribute to this process.

Benjamin Wakounig, the President of SGZ, said:

SGZ has signed more than 20 agreements with organisations in the region. Such regional agreements are key to progress, development, and new projects. The new programming period of Interreg is about to start under the EU’s current financial framework, and the cooperation agreement signed with SZE is an excellent platform to develop projects across borders.

One of the vital elements of this cooperation is the exchange of good practices in energy business model development and the energy industry. As many SGZ members work in or with the energy industry, there is great interest in cooperation and collaboration in this field.

Recognising the vital importance of active young professionals for the region’s future, SGZ has recently stepped up its engagement with young people, providing career development opportunities in the region and bringing them in contact with potential employers. Together with SZE, we have devised a few ways to engage even more closely with young people in the energy sector.

From a variety of standpoints, the agreement is a vital contribution to the substance of SGZ’s activity in the region.

Prof Alojz Poredoš, the President of SZE, said:

Together with the Klagenfurt-based Slovenian Business Association (SGZ), we have recognised the importance of cooperation and collaboration in the field of energy as a foundation of energy activities, services, and know-how. The cooperation agreement we have signed provides new opportunities to work together in this increasingly complex industry across borders and regions.

The Slovenian Energy Association (SZE) has worked on activities to bring together various energy sectors and end consumers for nearly 25 years. We are pleased to see the SGZ management recognise SZE as an important partner in the complex process of energy cooperation and collaboration in the region.

We are confident that the agreement will make a solid foundation for the exchange of experience and good practices between Austrian and Slovenian companies and experts, and for a more sustainable, efficient, and people-friendly energy future. It is also a way to remove some of the last remnants of the border between the two states, which has long stood in the way of their close coexistence.

Let me extend my sincere thanks to the minister, Ms Helena Jaklitsch, for her support of the agreement, and to Her Excellency, Ms Ksenija Škrilec, for the many ways in which she assisted in establishing this cooperation. Thank you to Mr Franc Žlahtič and Mr Benjamin Wakounig of SGZ for their initiative, and Ms Vesna Hodnik and Ms Andreja Cigale, who have drafted the agreement and organised the signing event.

Slovenia’s Ambassador to Austria, Ms Ksenija Škrilec, said:

Cooperation between the Republic of Slovenia and Austria has been more than excellent in various economic and other sectors. Our respective states and economies have come to be closely connected and mutually dependent, and the EU membership of both has increased the importance of cross-border cooperation further still.

The Slovenian Business Association in Klagenfurt has played a key role in forging and building economic links between Slovenia and Austria for more than 30 years, while being a reputable business club for players in Austria.

The agreement on cooperation between SGZ and the Slovenian Energy Association is an important step in intensifying cross-border activity in the energy sector, an industry with a key role in development strategies of the two states. By signing this agreement, both sides have officially acknowledged the importance of cooperation, which has already been there in practice. In future, this will increase the visibility of Slovenian energy players and Austrian innovators and projects, enhance regional cooperation, and help the two states unlock their potential together. This is becoming increasingly important in the face of the energy transition challenges that we all share.


About the organisations:

Based in Klagenfurt, Austria, SGZ is a cross-party business association of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia. Established in 1988 by business leaders and other individuals of the Slovenian community in Carinthia, this umbrella organisation now has more than 350 members from both Austria and Slovenia. The main purpose of SGZ is business cooperation and collaboration in the Alps-Adriatic region.

SZE brings together companies and processes related to energy production, transport, distribution and use by integrating and sharing basic and applied knowledge, facilitates the development of energy sector expertise, and acts as a bridge between the knowledge and experience of various energy companies and experts.