The ancestors of present-day Slovenians settled in the area of what today is the state of Slovenia as well as in the area of southern Austria and northwestern Italy in the late 6th century AD. They were of Slavic origin, and the earliest wave probably came from the north, with Slavs from the west joining the migration later on. The first-known state was the Duchy of Carantania, which lasted until the middle of the 8th century. The center was located in Celovec/Klagenfurt, which today is part of Austria, and for many years an ancient ritual of installing their rulers was carried out on the "Duke's Chair." (The last ceremony carried out in the Slovenian language was in 1414 when Ernst the "Iron" was enthroned.)

But back in 745 AD, the Carantanians sought military assistance due to the pressing danger coming from the Avar tribes from the east and accepted a union with the Bavarians. They gradually converted to Christianity and later lost their independence by becoming part of the Frankish Empire under the rule of Charlemagne. After the battle of Lechfeld in 955 AD, when the Magyars were defeated, Carantania became part of the Holy Roman Empire.

From 1335 to 1918, the Slovenian regions were governed by the Habsburgs, later the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, except for a brief five-year period during the Napoleonic Wars when France ruled over them.

While the Slavic tribes that were to become Slovenians originated in the north and west of today's Slovenia, the Croats came from an area that today lies in eastern Poland and the western Ukraine. Linguistic evidence even suggests that they earlier originated from northwestern Iran and spoke a language related to Iranian. However, by the time the Croats settled in present-day Croatia in the early 7th century they had become a Slavic people.

Slovenia. Click image for larger view.
The first Croatian king, Tomislav, united the Pannonian, i.e., the landlocked part, and the Dalmatian, i.e., the coastal part of Croatia, in 925 AD. In the 12th century, Croatia entered into a union with Hungary, and a long period of mutual history began.

The expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century gravely impacted Hungary and Croatia and, for many years, the Turks occupied a large portion of Croatia. In addition, a large part of Dalmatia was ruled by Venice.

After the battle of Mohacs in 1526, where the Hungarians were beaten badly by the Turks, the Croatian assembly decided to look for protection under the Habsburg Crown. This relationship with the Habsburg Empire lasted until 1918 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed as a result of the First World War.

After World War I, Croatia and Slovenia were absorbed in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which, in 1929, was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

During World War II, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was occupied by German and Italian troops, and an independent puppet-state of Croatia was established, ruled by the Ustasha regime. Organized partisan resistance against the occupiers started under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito.

The civilian population suffered badly during World War II. Not only did the German army commit numerous massacres against the civilian population, massacres were also committed by Ustasha supporters against pro-Serbian Chetnik guerillas and vice-versa.

In 1945, after the end of World War II, the Federative Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed, which, although communist, distanced itself from Moscow under the strong hands of Marshal Tito. The F.S.R. of Yugoslavia was to last until 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence. The Slovenes were successful in establishing their own state after a brief 10-day war. The new state was recognized by the UN in 1991, and in 2004 Slovenia joined the European Union and NATO.

Croatia, however, was different. Serbs living in some areas of Croatia revolted and were assisted by the Yugoslav army, which triggered a four-year war with much bloodshed and human suffering. Although recognized by the UN since 1992, Croatia only ended the war in 1995 under the Dayton Agreement, and a peaceful integration of Serbian-held territories was completed in 1998. Croatia has started negotiations with the European Union and will most likely become a member in 2009.

As far as the coatings industry is concerned, there are big differences between the Slovenian and the Croatian markets. First of all, although both countries have a paint demand of about 55,000 metric tons, the difference in population means that Slovenia has one of Europe's highest per capita consumption of paint, namely 26.5 kg, whereas Croatia only has 11.8 kg.

Slovenia produces close to 80,000 mt and imports another 10,000 mt, mostly from Austria, Italy and Germany. Production is about 50% waterborne, whereas imports are about 60% solventborne.

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But Slovenia is also an important exporter of paints to Central and Eastern Europe since it has long-standing relationships with countries of the ex-Soviet Union and ex-Yugoslavia. In addition, smaller amounts are also being exported to Germany, Austria, Italy and other Western European countries and, all in all, exports amount to about 35,000 mt. The majority of exports (70%) are solventborne.

There are four major paint producers in Slovenia, namely Helios, Belinka, JUB and Cinkarna. Helios also has a joint venture with PPG in the automotive field, it has another automotive joint venture in Russia with Odihel, and it has been very active in establishing sales offices in the Ukraine, Italy, Czech, Poland and Russia. Furthermore, Helios has bought Chromos BIL in Croatia, Zvezda in Serbia, and Color in Slovenia.

Belinka is an important producer of wood-care products; it has recently bought Duga in Serbia and it is also very active in the Russian market.

JUB is the most important producer of masonry paints and it also has a large share of exports to Central and Eastern Europe. Is has established representative offices in many countries, including China.

Cinkarna is the biggest powder coatings producer in Slovenia. It also manufactures metal protection coatings as well as concrete and construction paints.

Overall, Slovenia has a bright future ahead. It has a stable and strong economy, excellent commercial links to both the East and the West, and foreign direct investment is expected to strengthen further as more acquisitions take place.

Croatia, on the other hand, has a beautiful Adriatic coastline, which is again becoming an important tourist area, needing a lot of reconstruction and repair. The demand for decorative paints is growing rapidly, but Croatia produces only about 30,000 metric tons of coatings. Therefore, 30,000 mt of paint (60% waterborne) are imported from Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Italy. Exports, going mainly to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, amount to about 5,000 mt, of which 60% are solventborne.

The biggest producer is Chromos BIL, which, as mentioned above, belongs to Helios of Slovenia. It is producing a wide range of architectural coatings, wood and metal finishes, marine paints as well as plasters and adhesives.

Another company, Chromos TS, a manufacturer of resins, was acquired by Scott-Bader in 2002 and has experienced a large increase in sales activities, especially regarding exports.

Other companies include A-Proma, manufacturing paints and glues; Hempel, a manufacturer of marine paints; and several others like Astra, Bifix, Cheming, Megatti and Sitocolor.

In general terms, Croatia's economy is slowly picking, up but more economic reforms are still necessary. Tourism is presently the major contributor to the economy, but industrial growth is expected to increase, especially in view of the fact that Croatia will have to meet certain guidelines laid down by the European Union in order to become a member in 2009.