An exclusive look into Europe’s energy agency – Dennis Hesseling

An exclusive look into Europe’s energy agency

Acer, the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, aims to create a Europe-wide wholesale market for electricity and gas. The agency does so from its headquarters in Ljubljana. Dennis Hesseling, the head of the gas division of Acer, visited the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) on Tuesday 24 November to tell about the work of the agency.

Hesseling, a Dutchman, has been at the helm of Acer’s gas division since the end of 2012. The agency is seated in Ljubljana since 2011 after the Slovenian capital had been chosen over Slovakia and Hungary.

Although not very know, and even that is an understatement, Acer’s work does have benefits for EU citizens Hesseling showed. For example in the east of Europe prices for gas are higher than in the west. When Acer succeeds in creating an EU wholesale market for gas, prices will get lower throughout the EU and be on the same, lower, level.

Acer plays an important role in initiating and implementing cross border projects. Hesseling showed the example of a new pipeline from Poland to Lithuania which was beneficial to Lithuania. Normally Poland wouldn’t have built the pipeline but now it was an Acer project. In total 530 kilometres of pipe was laid down with a cost of 530 euro. The benefit of the pipeline amounts to 830 million euro, besides Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia benefit from it.
After Hesseling’s presentation there were lively conversations about working at Acer, the Slovenian energy market and many more subjects.

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Company visit: Vinag in Maribor

Setting: Maribor on October 8 2015

SDBP goes underground in Maribor

The Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) changed location for its October meeting and visited the huge wine cellar of Vinag in Maribor on Thursday 8 October. A small group of SDBP members, among whom was Dutch ambassador Bart Twaalfhoven, descended the 23 steps (symbolic for the 23 stages of winemaking) into the cellar.

Vinag was once the biggest Slovenian winebrand. At its peak Vinag produced 15 million litres of wine per year but in 2013 the company went bankrupt. Dutch and Asian investors are currently leasing the brand and its hardware (the cellar, vineyards etc). Since the beginning of this year Vinag wine is again being produced and sold. The investors are in the process of buying Vinag.

SDBP-member Alexander Vink, who is exportmanager at Vinag, guided the group and let the members taste of 9 Vinag wines. Vinag has a long history, dating back to 1847. The winecellar is the biggest in the east of Europe and measures two kilometres. Almost the whole city centre of Maribor lies above the cellar.
In the cellar the SDBP members could see the biggest wooden winebarrel of Europe. The barrel from 1862 can hold over 1600 litres of wine. The barrels are now empty, as is most of the cellar which awaits restoration. The restoration should start after the investors have bought the cellar.

After making a round through the impressive underground wineworld it was time to taste some of the wines Vinag is currently producing like the mariborcan, yellow muscat, sauvignon, chardonnay, welschriesling and pinot noir.

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Do the right things at the right time – Meta Kozjek

Setting SDBP cafe on May 29, 2015

Do the right things at the right time

,,Life has changed from being a marathon to a series of sprints.’’ This observation comes from Meta Kozjek who presented her time management framework for higher productivity Thursday 28 May at the May meeting of the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) in Ljubljana.

Kozjek, who is member of the SDBP executive committee, gave the SDBP ‘the première’ of her Four Dimensions of Productivity’ which is a modernized version of old fashion time management. It’s an extensive framework for which one SDBP-meeting wouldn’t be enough to present all the ins and outs of it. So Kozjek presented the SDBP the highlights.

In this time of rapid changes new methods are needed to keep our work-life balance healthy. Kozjek quoted futurist and speaker Thomas Frey who has predicted that in the next 20 years humanity will change more than in all of the 200.000 years of human history. Work will also change drastically Kozjek: ,,Our grandparents used to have one job in their whole life, our parents maybe two and we on average have five jobs in our life. But our children will change maybe five times of profession alone.’’

There are four steps in the framework; define, arrange, record and experience. Furthermore distinguishes Kozjek six principles of peak performance: planning, priorities, primetime, people, places and positivity. Basically it’s all about doing the things that matter on the right time. That seems quite obvious but in reality it is not that easy to achieve. Kozjek’s ‘Four dimensions of productivity’, which is the result of her own experiences and study, will help with it.

Text and photos Mark Koghee

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Beyond Leadership – Patrick D. Cowden

 Setting: SDBP event on April 2, 2015 (Text and photos by Mark Koghee)

Inspirational evening about humane leadership

Patrick Cowden, the initiator of Beyond Leadership, held an inspirational lecture at the international businessclub Slovenian Dutch Business Platform(SDBP) this evening in Ljubljana. Beyond Leadership is another way of leading organizations where the parameter for success is not results but interhuman relations. ,,It is always the people that make the success’’, said Cowden. ,,They are the source of the success.’’

The attendees themselves got a chance to try the theory. In groups of four they got three minutes to tell who they are and why they were here and then the three others got one minute to give positive feedback. To get to know other people in this way, sometimes complete strangers and sometimes acquaintances, was for many eye opening. Some were surprised how open the conversations were, others how quickly mutual things were discovered and connections were made.

According to Cowden it is through making these connections with other people that groups become strong. His Beyond Leadership is all about connecting. ,,This gives an organization strength. Be human in an organization. Then you will get more than if you focus on results.’’

Not only the attendees were happy with the evening, also Cowden was. He immediately decided to become member of the SDBP.

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Corporate social responsibility is in Slovenia and the Netherlands

Setting: Thursday 27 November 2014, (Text and photos by Mark Koghee)

SDBP met for a session about  corporate social responsibility.

 

Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is in Slovenia and the Netherlands almost commonplace already but there are still changes to make. That could be learned at a debate about corporate social responsibility of the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform in Ljubljana on Thursday 27 November.

At the meeting in restaurant Glazuta Paul van Oostveen, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Dutch embassy, and Eva Tomič, head of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovenia, discussed corporate social responsibility in the Netherlands and Slovenia.
Before the meeting Tomič already sent and opening statement that ‘corporate social responsibility is becoming a way of life’. During the evening she told that the 16 biggest Slovenian companies all have corporate social responsibility policies.

Social responsible companies try to do their business in a sustainable way and protect human rights. Tomič: ,,People are more and more aware that human rights can be a boost for development. For Europe it’s hard to compete with prices but our advantage is that were doing social responsible business and we see that consumers want products which are produced social responsible’’.

Van Oostveen had to fill in at the last moment for ambassador Pieter Langenberg whose flight was delayed. He told the attendees that in the Netherlands there is an integral vision on a sustainable way of doing business. We look at the effects on society and environment. Keywords are profit, planet and people.’’ The Dutch government includes corporate social responsibility even in tenders.

Corporate social responsibility is being implemented on many places and on many levels but, as Tomič says, ‘we’re not there yet’. ,,We need to change our attitude. Now we always choose the cheapest offer. Of course price is important but also quality is. We are not there yet.’’

Attendees gave examples of how they privately and in their business try to be social responsible. That is not always easy as one SDPB member told. In the supermarket he tries to find garlic that’s grown close by but he can only find garlic from China and when he recently looked for a water boiler all twelve machines, he could choose from, where from China.

Another visitor had a different view on things. He looked at things from an interhuman perspective. ,,Social is about bringing people together but we are only moving further from each other. The word friend is getting lost. Companies should promote friendship among their employees.’’

 

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‘Choice in Motion’ – InCo Movement

A short look back on Thursday’s meeting. The first meeting of SDBP with our new partner InCo Movement.  (Text and photos Mark Koghee)

‘Choice in Motion’ – InCo Movement

The Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) took a little step outside of the ordinary on its first meeting after summer. Almost twenty SDBP’ers took part in a ‘Choice in Motion’ workshop which consisted of some physical exercises. It was the first meeting organised in cooperation with InCo movement.

Before the meeting SDBP president Ronald Korthouwer (on the photo left) and InCo boardmember Blaž Branc signed a cooperation letter, making SDBP and InCo official partners.

The workshop was something quite different than the usual SDBP meetings where attendees usually sit and listen. ,,Today it’s about moving and there won’t be so much talking’’, said Jasper Dzuki Jelen who led the workshop on Thursday 18 September in Ljubljana.
Dutch/Slovenian dancer, performer and dance-theatre maker Jelen developed Choice in Motion which is a program with moves that should make people understand how they qualify success and how motion can support more effective thinking and problem solving.

Success was the central theme of the meeting. Jelen let the attendees translate several aspects of success in to moves. They had to agree or disagree with statements about success simply by stepping in and out of a circle. They had to translate an unsuccessful situation in a pose and then physically move out of it to a pose of success. And the attendees then had to hinder each other in the movement towards success. ,,Just like in real life when there are obstacles on the path to success’’, said Jelen.

The moves were sometimes eye-opening, sometimes hilarious and always an ‘out-of-the-box’ way of dealing with the subject success. It was for all participants to draw their own conclusions from the meeting because it became clear that every person has its own interpretations of success and the way to achieve it.

 

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Western sciences vs. Eastern medicine – Dr. Marko Strbad

SDBP Cafe International, August 20, 2014 ·

Western sciences vs. Eastern medicine

In the month of “juniores”, meaning the younger ones, at SDBP Café we combined the young with the old, attempting to get more insight into new science and the knowledge of thousand years, or, more particularly, what eastern and western science and knowledge has for us to get healthier physically, mentally and emotional.

Mr. Marko Strbad, PhD, the director of BioBanka had shared with us his vast array of knowledge of what is happening in the world of stem cell science today highlighting the clinical application of numerous versions of stem cells and how they are applied throughout medicinal use that is reachable and works – from complete finger restoration, to bone regrowth, heart tissue restororation and whole organs such as bladders and heart-valves grown in laboratories.

Although some of us naively thought stem cells only come from new-born baby umbilical cords, they are just ordinary cells found in different parts of every one of us. However, with age, they are less easy to rejuvenate new healthy cells. There are two ways to harvest stem cells for clinical treatments – by donor cells or by our own cells.
“Our philosophy is to give every newborn child as well as adults the opportunity to have their stem cells cryogenically stored in a safe manner. We believe that the future of medicine lies in regenerative treatment and cell therapies based on stem cells.”

So what are stem cells really all about? Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability of self-renewal, the potential of asymmetric division which leads to differentiation, and plasticity – development of the specialized cells in different tissues, not only those from which they originated. Their primary function is to replenish cells lost from normal turnover or disease in the specific organs and tissues in which they are found or regenerate damaged tissues.

Although certain types of stem cells have been used in clinical applications for decades, the use of human derived stem cells has recently emerged as an attractive tool not only for research but also for cell-based therapy. The present clinical application of stem cells is limited to the fields of haematology and oncology, a rising number of studies show potential for further application in the treatment of non-hematopoietic diseases. Nowadays, if the samples are collected and frozen at the time of birth (umbilical cord blood stem cells) or later in life (adipose tissue, dental pulp, bone marrow), they represent a valuable and reliable source of cells for treatment of different malignant blood diseases, haematological disorders, complex neurological diseases and conditions, immune deficiencies, or could be used for regenerative or aesthetic purposes.

The way we think about medicinal treatments today will change with the coming of every new generation. It is quite possible the world will stop aging so fast and that one day we will be one of those civilisations we see in sci-fi movies, where one person is 200 years old and… looks 25.

Perhaps, a 25-year-old look is not the most inspiring but the belief that some of the most experienced yoga masters following Ayurveda principles indeed can live significantly longer compared with the average age in the Western cultures. For a reason it is said that stress is one of the main causes of many 21st century diseases and shortens our lives.

Dr Ajith Chakrapani Somarajan, a practicing Ayurveda specialist at Thermana Ayurveda Wellness Center Laško, presented how Ayurveda can greatly assist in pursuing stress-free lifestyle in today’s fast-moving world. Ayurveda, the science of life which explains the knowledge of various guidelines to be followed in order to make a healthy living, has emerged out as the branch of Atharvana veda dates back over 5000 years means the branch of science which deals with the knowledge of life. As we were presented, the main objectives of Ayurveda are to establish prime health in every living being, physically, mentally and spiritually as well as to maintain equilibrium in the action of doshas, dhathus, malas, and agni accompanied by a sensation of well being of body and sense organs, mind and soul.

On the other hand, stress is a normal physical response to events which make you feel threatened or upset. When you sense danger – whether it is real or imagined – the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as ”fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response. The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. In emergency situations stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and your quality of life.

Although stress can have both internal and external causes, stress overload can have significant signs. Cognitive symptoms include various memory problems, poor concentration and judgement, seeing only negative or constant worrying; moodiness, irritability or short temper, inability to relax, sense of loneliness and depression or general unhappiness are among emotional signs; physical symptoms usually are expressed by various aches and pains, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea or dizziness, chest pain or rapid heartbeat, loss of sex drive or frequent colds while eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself from others, using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax or some nervous habits like nail biting etc. indicates behavioural symptoms. Finally, if one starts facing any kind of pain, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems, depression, obesity, auto immune disease or skin problems such as Eczema or Psoriasis, these are important signals of overstress and should not be overlooked.

Therefore, Ayurveda focuses on lifestyle management and address not only physical aspects and consequences of stressful lifestyle but also psychologic and emotional ones helping to lead balanced life. For everyone who wishes to remain healthy, physically as well as mentally Dr Ajith adviced to adopt three key steps, namely, lifestyle according to Ayurveda, do Ayurvedic procedures like Shirodhara (pouring medicated herbal oil gently and steadily on forehead in a continuous stream using a special rhythmic swaying movement for deep relaxation), Nasyam (excess bodily humors or toxins accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated through nose) at least once a week and finally practice some yoga and meditation. Some of simple yoga excersices SDBP Cafe guests could try at the spot being lead by Yoga instructor Mr Pratheem from Thermana Laško that brought some additional relaxation and positive senses before closing the last SDBP Cafe before the summer break.

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SDBP Café – Metka Feher Pal

Setting: SDBP Café 22 May 2014

Text and photos Mark Koghee

Sales tip: watch Star Wars

,,Give the salesman back the respect the job deserves.’’ Metka Feher Pal’s closing statement at the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) May meeting came from the heart. Feher Pal, a sales closing specialist, gave the SDBP members a quick course on sales.
Feher Pal was invited by the SDBP to give her insights on sales closing at the meeting which was held at a new location; restaurant Glažuta in Ljubljana. Twenty SDBP members heard Feher Pal explain what the most important pitfalls are when trying to close a sale.
Salespersons can be too slow, not prepared enough, too hesitant or not communicative enough. When trying to close a sale it’s important to eliminate the 5 to 7 fears the client has and to prevent that the conversation starts with a discussion about the price. And that were just a few of the tips Feher Pal had for the business club.
Selling is a profession and according to Feher Pal one of the main problems with failed sales is that often the salesperson doesn’t have enough skills. ,,A buyer wants something but it takes a strong salesperson to make the client buy.’’
Feher Pal had surprising advise for people who want to improve their sale skills. ,,I would suggest to watch Star Wars movies. There you will hear the best sales dialogues.’’ The Slovenian sales closing specialist quoted the character of Jedi knight Obi Wan Kenobi who told Luke Skywalker: ,,Strong minded people have power over people with a weak will.’’
The quick course in sales boiled down to one message; sales is a profession and that profession is not taken lightly.

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Slovenia suffering from ‘brain drain’ – Dr. Alenka Stanič

 

Setting: Cafe International Held on April 17th 2014

(Article and photos by Mark Koghee)

Slovenia suffering from ‘brain drain’

Is Slovenia losing its brain? Headhunter Dr. Alenka Stanič seems to think so. In a lecture at the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform (SDBP) in Ljubljana she said that there is an exodus of smart educated people from Slovenia and that this is becoming ‘really problematic’.

Stanič was invited by the SDBP to talk about her specialty; the migration of intelligent educated people, or as she calls it ‘brain circulation’. Stanič is one of the leading specialists in the recruitment of senior management for companies in Slovenia, Austria and Italy.

The fact that smart people move to find a good place to work, preferably among their peers, is nothing new. ,,It always has been happening and it always will be happening. Migration is in our genes’’, said Stanič who started her academic career in biology. But in Slovenia the headhunter has been noticing an increasing number of young people moving out of the country.

,,I already started to feel something was happening in 2003. The best candidates were asking me if I knew a way for them to go somewhere else. Now I see this group increasing exponentially. People of the age of 35, 40, with families, they are moving.’’ Stanič wasn’t afraid to admit that even she herself would leave. ,,If something interesting comes for me in for instance Turkey or Austria. I’m going.’’

This phenomenon, generally known as brain drain, is for Slovenia very bad. ,,It is becoming really problematic. The people that leave are the ones who are the most educated and committed, the smartest. We are losing the most potent part of the population.’’ And towards the many expats in the room: ,,Even though there are many of you coming, there are more smart people leaving.’’

The exodus of intellectuals could get worse. ,,Average people are now moving up to positions that demand more than being average. People have to make decisions they aren’t fit to make. And wrong decisions make the situation even worse because it makes more people want to leave.’’ Which made one the attendees say: ,,I would like to have a boss, but not an average one!’’

The same woman has been having trouble finding a job in Slovenia. She had been living and working in Austria and the US before. ,,I came back with a lot of knowledge but I don’t feel welcome here anymore. Now I want to go away again.’’ The woman said she had the feeling that she is being seen as a threat in Slovenia.

Stanič confirmed that this could be right. ,,The system here, everything, is made so that things can’t change. It’s not just in science but all over. Young people are a threat to this.’’

There was a lot of input from the audience which led to interesting discussions. One of the last questions came from SDBP-president Roland Korthouwer. He wanted to know what could be done to change things for the better. According to Stanič that is up to the government. ,,The government should acknowledge that knowledge is the key. Startups are currently the biggest new employers. The government should help them now and not keep on pumping money in NLB Bank and the bad bank.’’

Stanič gave China and Austria as good examples. ,,China we all know as the country where cheap low quality products came from. But in 10 years it will be a centre of science. The Chinese are planning to draw 80,000 PHD’ers from the US. They are systematically getting smart people to China.’’ Austria is another country that, according to Stanič has been ‘systematically putting money in knowledge’.

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“How to change the Slovene attitude from FIGHTING AGAINST to FIGHTING FOR?”

Cafe International Held on March 28th, 2014   (Article and photos by Mark Koghee)

How to change the Slovene attitude from FIGHTING AGAINST to FIGHTING FOR?”

‘This is not Disneyland’ Venezuelan top diplomat Néstor Lopez steals the show at first 2013 SDBP-café, “Slovenia is late for the party and can only do the dishes now.” It was with punchy remarks like this that Chargé d’Affaires Néstor Lopez of the Venezuelan embassy in Slovenia stole the show at the first café of the Slovenian Dutch Business Platform on Thursday 28 March.

At the SDBP-café in Kava Čaj Slamič in Ljubljana it was all about the economic crisis and how Slovenian businesses should get out of it. But what crisis? When discussion leader Tičo Zupančič started the evening with the question who believes there is a crisis in Slovenia, the hands of little more than half of the thirty participants went up. Crisis? Not everybody believes in it, apparently.

Owner Devid Palčič of company Robotina, one of the panel members at the café, is one of those non-believers. “Where do you see the crisis? I don’t see crisis”, he said. “This is the actual state we’re in. Seeing that this is not a crisis and to accept that, is the first step to get out.”

Jeremy Hibbins, the headmaster of the British School says he never saw so many people that are doing well. “It looks like it has never been better.” He said there is a confidentiality crisis. “It’s a breach of trust.”

Violeta Bulc, the founder of the company Vibacom, said from the audience that ‘life was never horrible here’. “There is no crisis. I believe we’re on the verge of a new civilization. There are incredible challenges. The old world is challenged by the new world. And we don’t know what the new one is.”

But according to Néstor Lopez there is no denying that there is a crisis. “Who says there is not a crisis, is blind. But what is wrong, and that is even a bigger problem than the crisis, is that people seem paralyzed. People say they’re in a transit zone. Transit to where? You are late for the party! You can only do the dishes.”

And Lopez, who emphasized that his statements were his personal opinion and not those of his country, continued with bold remarks. “You know how East-Germany became capitalistic? West-Germany bought the East. But here is no West-Slovenia that can buy the rest.” Lopez, who is known for his ‘out of the box’ thinking went on saying that Slovenians ‘have to understand that this is not Disneyland’. “Santa Claus is not your father.”  Other top quotes of the Venezuelan Chargé d’Affaires: “Slovenia can be the Silicon Valley of the world. Think big.” “Maribor is for some people the Benghazi of Slovenia.” “State and market should be under the command of the people. I believe in the socialism of the 21st century.”When I saw that the Central Bank here shares the building with commercial companies then I knew this country has a problem.”

Various attendees came with advice to beat the crisis: “Be happy. This is a beautiful country”, said Danfoss supply manager Bart Stegeman. “Get out of the comfort zone”, advised director Sergio Foti Hotelinspiration. “Aim high”, said Jeremy Hibbins. Devid Palčič believes people should work ‘smarter’. SDBP-president and owner of the Heroes Group Cees Nieboer advised ‘not to envy’ and Giedre Sadeikaite of the International Center for Promotion of Enterprises said ‘to stop being afraid of foreigners’.

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