Europay International said the leading banks in Slovenia have decided to enter the Maestro debit card program.

Nova Ljubljanska Banka, the country's largest bank, said it would covert all 340,000 of its debit cards to the MasterCard-affiliated on-line debit system.

Banka Koper and Activa Group have already begun the conversion of their 350,000 cards. Europay, which has a close marketing alliance with MasterCard International, said that with other expected signings, Slovenia's debit card market will be "virtually 100% Maestro."

The country, with a population of 1.8 million, already has the highest per-capita concentration of Eurocard-MasterCard credit cards in central and eastern Europe, Europay said.

"With neighboring countries such as Austria, Hungary, and Croatia issuing and/or accepting Maestro, we anticipate a sharp increase in cross- border traffic," said Ivan Rudolf, secretary general of Nova Ljubljanska Banka and a Europay board member.

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