Southern Comfort: Slovenia

How well do you know your neighbors? We looked into the Alpine Republic’s special relationship with each of them

“Austrians are in a good position economically, and they have jobs for us!”, Slovene Ziga Luknar tells me enthusiastically.

He has been living in Vienna for a year now, and even though he is not yet employed, his plan is to stay as long as he can: “With all the Balkan folks around, it feels like home.” Still, running into a fellow Slovene on the streets is unlikely, since there are only around 2,700 of them in Vienna.

A turbulent history has left its mark on Slovenia. For centuries, the country was influenced or ruled by its neighbors in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. The Austrian region of Carinthia has a large Slovene population that chose to remain part of Austria following a plebiscite in 1920. These Slovenes are fully assimilated into society. It was a different story with the lower region of Styria, the Untersteiermark, which was assigned to Yugoslavia in the Treaty of Saint Germain in 1919 and today is part of Slovenia.

More recently, EU membership has opened the borders, and as with the Austro-Italian region of South Tyrol, nations and passports matter less and less. Pay a visit to Southern Styrian wine country and stroll over the border with a Grüner Veltliner to feel how the region has grown together once more. Many Slovenes work in Graz or go there to shop.

However, it’s still not an equal relationship. “We need Austria more than Austria needs us,” admits Luknar – which is why a majority of Slovenes speak German. In return, Slovenian access to the sea is vital to Austria. Even though Slovenia was the first to gain independence when Yugoslavia started to break apart, many Austrians still put the country in the same basket as the rest of the Balkans. “Slovenia may be seen as the cream of the crop, but for Austrians, we are still part of the Balkan stew.”

Border with Austria: 299 km, bordering Burgenland, Styria and Carinthia

Population: 2,064,000 people

Size: 20,270 km2

Trade Volume with Slovenia:

Imports from Slovenia: €1.8 billion

Exports to Slovenia: €2.7 billion

Balance: €900 million

Fun fact:

There are more than 10,000 caves in Slovenia.

Anja Stevic
Is a Croatian born writing for Metropole. After moving around, she decided to make Vienna her hometown, where she is currently pursuing her MSc in Communications. In her free time, she is attending exhibitions, photographing or analyzing data.

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