Šarec in Moscow: Trade & Investment the Priorities in Discussions

By , 11 Sep 2019, 12:10 PM Politics
Slovenian Prime Minister Šarec and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Slovenian Prime Minister Šarec and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Facebook

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STA, 10 September 2019 - Economic relations topped the agenda as Prime Minister Marjan Šarec paid an official visit to Moscow on Tuesday. Ways to increase trade were discussed and investments were also broached, including the politically sensitive expansion of the Krško nuclear power station, a project of interest to Russian investors.

 Šarec and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came out of talks calling for a strengthening of cooperation, noting that bilateral trade could increase despite ongoing EU sanctions against Russia.

Merchandise trade rose by nine percent last year and similar results are expected this year, Medvedev said. Both prime ministers said that it should be diversified

Both said investments should be strengthened as well, with Šarec noting that Russia is Slovenia's fifth largest destination for outward foreign investments, the goal being that it climb even higher.

Šarec was told Russian investors are interested in rail projects in Slovenia and the planned construction of a second unit at the Krško nuclear power station.

"The Russians are interested in participating. Russia is already building a nuclear power station in Hungary. I told them that we have a long procedure ahead with regard to the second unit at the nuclear power station, a process that may take as much as ten years," the prime minister told Slovenian reporters.

Šarec refused to say at whose initiative nuclear energy was broached, and when quizzed how it might affect Slovenia's relations with the US if Russia was to build unit two at Krško, he said: "Slovenia is neither pro-American nor pro-Russian, Slovenia is pro-European and pro-Slovenian."

Another major issue on the agenda was Slovenian retailer Mercator and its parent company Agrokor. The healthy assets of Agrokor are in the process of being transferred onto a new entity, Fortenova, and the Russian bank Sberbanka is among the largest creditors.

Medvedev suggested Slovenia should help in the restructuring of Agrokor, saying that "it would be good if we agree how to proceed."

Šarec said Slovenia would not oppose Mercator being transferred to Fortenova "under the condition that Slovenian suppliers remain within the system".

The government "can play its role within the bounds of the legislation and its jurisdiction... All the conditions must be fulfilled, bearing in mind that we are part of the European legal order. The Slovenian government will not oppose what is in line with the law."

While both Šarec and Medvedev acknowledged that economic cooperation was hampered by the sanctions introduced by the EU after Russia annexed the Crimea, both voiced the conviction that they would not significantly impact bilateral economic ties.

Šarec also said Slovenia and Russia did not see eye-to-eye on such issues, but stressed that dialogue needed to be preserved.

In a press release circulated after the meeting with Medvedev, Šarec's office emphasised that the two countries had diverse relations across a range of fields.

It said the prime ministers had discussed topical foreign policy issues and events in the international community, with Šarec stressing that Slovenia supported Ukraine's territorial integrity and the Minsk agreements.

He called for dialogue between all those involved and welcomed the recent prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, stressing that it was necessary to build on the creation of trust.

"The prime ministers also touched on the situation in Western Balkans and the Middle Eastern region, focusing in particular on Syria. They exchanged views on the state of the Middle East peace process and the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal," Šarec's office said.

As part of the visit, a monument to Slovenian soldiers who perished on Russian soil in both world wars was unveiled at Moscow's Victory Park, in a gesture seen as having great symbolic importance.

Both Šarec and Medvedev stressed the importance of history and the preservation of memory of Russian and Slovenian soldiers in their respective countries.

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