The top Slovenian envoy to Japan called Friday for the opening of a Japanese Embassy in the European country to help promote Japanese investment and bilateral exchanges.

Bernard Srajner, charge d’affaires of the Republic of Slovenia, said during a visit toSrajnerThe Japan Times that although an increasing number of European nations are interested in doing business with Slovenia, there is almost no investment in his country from Japanese companies.

Srajner hopes that Japanese firms will reciprocate the recent $4.5 million investment that Elan, a Slovenian ski equipment manufacturer, has made in Japan, by investing in his country.

“Slovenia has many advantages for Japanese companies to invest, either by itself or on a joint venture basis,” Srajner said.

“Small countries can often be more flexible and make quicker decisions, which can be attractive for investors.”

Srajner emphasized the stability of the country’s political arena after Slovenia achieved its independence from the former Yugoslavia a decade ago.

He said that Slovenia is earnestly preparing to join the European Union as early as 2004 and is also aiming to join NATO.

Srajner voiced hope that the country will “rediscover” its ties with Japan, with Slovenia marking the 10th anniversary of its independence from the former Yugoslavia this year and set to celebrate 10 years of ties with Japan in 2002, which were originally formed when the country was part of the former Yugoslavia.

Srajner observed that bilateral exchanges have started at the municipal level.

The city of Arai in Niigata Prefecture and Srajner’s hometown, Slovenjgradec are expected to form a sister-city relationship, he said.

He added that Slovenia has sent many ski-jumping coaches to Arai.

Srajner said that cultural exchanges have also begun to flourish, citing the fact that Slovenian poet Ales Debeljak recently won a prize in Japan.

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