Ljubljana related

12 Sep 2019, 10:08 AM

STA, 11 September 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar does not believe PM Marjan Šarec's official visit to Russia could worsen Slovenia's relations with allies, either the US or the EU. The visit is very important, especially from the economic aspect, Cerar told the STA on the margins of the prime minister's first visit to Moscow.

The visit, during which Šarec has already met his counterpart Dimity Medvedev, is a follow-up to the story which began at July's session of the Slovenia-Russia commission, which plans joint business projects, said Cerar.

"We can see these projects already bringing concrete results," Cerar said, noting Slovenian energy company Petrol signed two contracts with Russian partners on Tuesday.

"In this way we preserve geopolitical relations and create room for our businesspeople. Slovenia is a responsible and trustworthy EU member and joined the sanctions [against Russia], but our business, cultural and political ties must live on."

In this context Cerar highlighted the role of a memorial to all Slovenians who died in the territory of Russia in WWI and WWII which Šarec and Medvedev inaugurated yesterday. "This is a very important element which brings us closer together in a historical, cultural and human manner."

The minister rejected second thoughts voiced by some that the high-profile Russia visit, featuring three ministers in Šarec's entourage, could in any way deteriorate relations with Slovenia's allies.

He stressed that as foreign minister in the Šarec government, he set himself a goal of balancing relations with the US, after Slovenia's foreign policy had been criticised for favouring Russia under his predecessor Karl Erjavec. "I've made an effort to intensify relations with the US."

Cerar also stressed the US was still the third largest investor in Slovenia, the two countries cooperated in many fields, and were allies in NATO.

He believes the visit does not worsen Slovenia's relations with either the US or other allies in any way. "On the contrary, I think that with a successful foreign policy in business diplomacy and through many contacts, we have opened Slovenia to all parts of the world."

As for Russia's annexation of the Crimea, Cerar said that "despite the amicable relations with Russia, we are critical towards it whenever it comes to the respect for international law".

Cerar notes other EU states also had very intense political and economic relations with Russia. "We are no exception here. And we do it with a feel for our EU allies. Slovenia is doing absolutely nothing wrong."

He said he was pursuing the policy he had started as prime minister in 2014-2018 to be in close contact not only with Germany, France and Italy, but also with the Benelux countries as some of the core EU members, so he sees the Russia visit could not jeopardise Slovenia's position in the EU in any way.

All our stories on Slovenia and Russia are here

11 Sep 2019, 13:19 PM

STA, 11 September 2019 - The energy company Petrol signed cooperation contracts with Russia's T Plus Grupa and Schneider Electric at a Slovenian-Russian business meeting held in Moscow on Tuesday as part of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's visit to the country.

Petrol will cooperate with the two Russian companies in energy efficiency. According to Petrol CEO Tomaž Berločnik, the projects will focus on optimisation of district heating.

The project with T Plus Grupa will be carried out in Izhevsk, and the other in Yekaterinburg, where Petrol will set up specialised software and provide IT support.

"Thus we will reduce energy use and optimise operative costs," Berločnik explained. According to him, the two projects are worth "a few million euro" and potentially tens of million in the future.

The business meeting, hosted by Šarec, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Labour Minister Ksenija Klampfer and Russian Digital Development Minister Konstantin Noskov, featured nine other Slovenian companies that already operate on the Russian market.

In his address, Šarec highlighted the two biggest Slovenian investors in Russia, the pharma company Krka and ICT company Iskratel.

According to Krka CEO Jože Colarič, Krka's sales in Russia will reach almost EUR 300 million this year, which is about 40% of Slovenia's total exports to the country.

Also represented at the meeting were the telecoms equipment maker Comita, air dome maker Duol, sports equipment manufacturer Elan Inventa, gas wholesaler Geoplin, industrial group Kolektor, engineering company Riko and steel group SIJ.

Šarec said that despite the EU's sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis Slovenia as en export-oriented economy was very much interested in the strengthening of economic cooperation with Russia.

He said there were many opportunities to enhance ties in high-tech and called for a joint foray into third markets.

Počivalšek echoed this call and pointed to potential for cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, automation and tourism, especially spas.

The economy minister noted that in 2018, bilateral trade in goods reached EUR 1.16 billion, of which EUR 790 million was Slovenia's exports and EUR 370 million imports.

In the first six months of this year, Slovenia's exports to Russia almost reached EUR 750 million. The exports are slowly approaching the 2013 level and the one billion euro milestone, Počivalšek assessed.

Currently, 38 Slovenian companies are present in Russia with total direct investments of EUR 357 million, which is 5% of Slovenia's total external investment, the minister said.

In turn, Russian companies mostly invest in the financial, metal and spa industries in Slovenia. Russian indirect investments in Slovenia top EUR 538 million.

Počivalšek called on Russian companies to increase their investment in Slovenia and take part in the final phase of privatisation of some 110 companies.

"We are striving to create a competitive environment for domestic and foreign investors and want to be green, creative and smart," the minister said.

Talking to the STA on the sidelines of the event, he rejected criticism that the strengthening of relations with Russia could have a negative impact on Slovenia's relations with its other alleys.

"Slovenia is an export-oriented economy. Out of last year's GDP, which reached EUR 46 billion, exports totalled 39 billion, which is 85%. And 80% of the exports was generated in EU markets. We're not neglecting any markets. And the Russian market is important to us," he stressed.

Slovenia's top market is the EU, the Western Balkans comes second, and China has already overtaken Russia, which is thus our fourth most important market, he added.

Cerar and Noskov, who head the intergovernmental economy commission, also addressed the participants of the business forum. Cerar stressed the importance of the "friendly atmosphere" between Slovenian and Russia, and Noskov assessed that the future of the bilateral economic relations was bright.

11 Sep 2019, 12:10 PM

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.

26 Jul 2019, 13:59 PM

STA, 23 July 2019 - This year's traditional memorial ceremony at the Russian Chapel (Ruska kapela) under the Vršič Pass, which honours Russian POWs killed during WWI, will be focused on the post-war period. It is expected to be attended by several thousand people, including high-profile guests from Russia, the organisers have announced.

Taking place on Saturday, the ceremony marking the 103rd anniversary of the construction of the Russian Orthodox chapel will see the keynote address by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan as the honorary sponsor of the event.

Addressing the ceremony in front of the chapel built by Russian POWs engaged in forced labour in the area during WWI will also be Ljubljana University Chancellor Igor Papič, as this year's event is connected with the 100th anniversary of the university.

It was Russian immigrants who helped establish the university one hundred years ago, the organisers noted at a press conference in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

The ceremony will be attended by official delegations of the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, the former headed by Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov.

The memorial mass will meanwhile be celebrated by Bishop Siluan, the rector of the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.

The organisers announced that the road between Kranjska Gora and the chapel under the highest pass in Slovenia will be closed, with free bus rides organised for visitors.

After the ceremony, which will start at 10am, a traditional meeting of members of the Slovenia-Russia Association will be held in Kranjska Gora, and several other events will be held, including in Ljubljana.

On Friday, a concert of the Russian jazz band Vadim Eilenkrig Quartet will be held in Ljubljana's Congress Square, while the mixed choir of the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy will perform in the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation on Sunday.

Urban Ocvirk of the Slovenia-Russia Association said that they wanted to give this year's ceremony a positive note and focus on the post-war period.

"The emphasis is on putting all the accumulated hatred, suffering and conflicts aside and transforming it into remembrance, reverence, into a possibility of creating something new in the dialogue between cultures, nations, people."

According to Ocvirk, the post-war period was ground-breaking time for people who needed to again find humaneness in themselves, which is why the ceremony should not only mark the tragedy of Russian soldiers.

"In more than 100 years, the chapel has developed into a legend, being transformed from a symbol of war and victims of injustices into a symbol of peace and the friendly relations between the Russian and Slovenian nations," added the association's president Ivan Geržina.

Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev said at the conference that the Slovenian-Russian relations had been progressing in various fields.

Zavgayev noted that Russia had recently donated to Slovenia a monument honouring Slovenian translator Davorin Hostnik, who compiled the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary. It was unveiled in his native Šmarje pri Jelšah at the end of May.

15 Jun 2019, 10:05 AM

STA, 14 June 2019 - The Slovenia-Russia commission for trade and scientific cooperation detected opportunities to expand cooperation at a session in Bled on Friday, in particular in IT, transport, research and agriculture.

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of the session, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Russian Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov said that the commission was producing concrete results and projects.

"The commission is very important in identifying new business opportunities. Through it, we're doing what is necessary to enhance cooperation between businesses in the two countries," Cerar said.

He said that Russia remained a major trading partner for Slovenia, ranking 4th in terms of Slovenian foreign direct investment abroad and 9th in terms of exports.

The volume of bilateral merchandise trade has been increasing since 2017, amounting to EUR 1.16 billion last year, which Cerar said was encouraging.

He expects trade will increase further, but he said "it will be a special challenge to achieve a right balance", after Slovenia posted a trade deficit in the first quarter of this year for the first time.

The reason for the drop in Slovenia's exports recently was that Slovenian companies were locating their production in Russia.

Talks with the Slovenian companies doing or planning to do business in Russia "showed realistic opportunities to increase the volume of business", said Cerar.

The potential was identified in the fields of information technologies, transport, scientific research, agriculture and enhanced cooperation with Russian regions.

Reviewing the implementation of major projects, the commission established successful realisation of six IT projects, and added five new projects in the fields of health research, energy efficiency, ICT, agriculture and education to the programme.

Cerar underscored the need to continue constructive dialogue between the EU and Russia to reduce negative effects of restrictive measures on economic cooperation.

"Russia is a European neighbour and an important trading partner. It's key to foster a relationship of trust through regular dialogue and cooperation", said Cerar, adding that Slovenia and Russia had that trust.

"We see current cooperation between the two countries quite positively", Noskov said, describing Slovenia as a reliable and constructive partner, and noting good prospects to boost cooperation.

Noskov had expected the session to mainly seek to solve companies' problems, but it turned out the cooperation was good and that there were new concrete proposals to enhance it.

Russian companies are aspiring to do business with Slovenian businesses as well, he said, noting the Russian railways and the bank Sberbank were especially active in this respect.

All our stories on Slovenia and Russia can be found here

29 May 2019, 16:23 PM

STA, 29 May 2019 - Foreign ministers of Slovenia and Russia, Miro Cerar and Sergey Lavrov, confirmed that political ties between the two countries were good, as they addressed the media following a meeting in Ljubljana Wednesday morning. The pair discussed topical issues, above all the Western Balkans.

Cerar told the press that Slovenia deemed it important to nurture regular dialogue at the top level with permanent members of the UN Security Council and key players in international relations.

"Being a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia is striving for stability in the international community, especially in our neighbourhood, the Western Balkans. Therefore, we support open dialogue with Russia on all topical issues of international significance," said Cerar.

Cerar underlined the importance of the role played by the EU in Western Balkans, while Lavrov said that all open issues in the region must be resolved in a peaceful manner and through political dialogue.

They also commented on tensions in Kosovo triggered earlier this week. Lavrov said that the the tensions were provoked by those who want to make the Balkans a "sanitary cordon" targetting Russia, adding that this is being allowed by the EU and NATO.

Cerar expressed belief that the events will undoubtedly have broader consequences for the relations between Prishtina and Belgrade.

The foreign ministers also talked about other international challenges such as terrorism, the crises in Syria and Libya, the growing tensions between the US and Iran, and relations with China.

Cerar also underlined the need to do everything possible to resolve the Yemen conflict and bring one of the worst humanitarian disasters to an end.

Commenting on the Ibiza scandal that recently broke in Austria, Lavrov said that this was a case of Russo-phobia, adding that the noise had died down since it became clear that the alleged Russian oligarch daughter was not who she pretended to be.

The ministers announced that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would visit Russia, accompanied with a business delegation, in mid-September.

Lavrov and Cerar confirmed good bilateral cooperation in business, culture and science, with Cerar saying that Russia was a key economic partner to Slovenia.

Merchandise trade between the countries amounted to EUR 1.16 billion last year, according to Slovenia's statistics, while those provided by Russia are even higher.

Russia is the fourth most important partner in terms of Slovenia's foreign direct investments, while Slovenia is becoming an increasingly popular destination among Russian tourists.

Cerar added that a bilateral commission for economic cooperation plays an important role in this and that the body would meet in Slovenia on 13 and 14 June.

Moreover, a Slovenian business delegation led by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek is expected at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June.

This was the foreign ministers' second meeting following Lavrov's arrival on Tuesday. Last night, they met behind closed doors at Strmol Castle, some 20 kilometres north of Ljubljana.

Today, Lavrov also held separate meetings with President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. Pahor said in a tweet that they discussed preparations for the Three Seas Initiative meeting, which Pahor will be hosting next week.

The pair also discussed topical multilateral issues, focusing especially on the Ukraine crisis and the situation in the Western Balkans.

The Ukraine crisis was also discussed in the meeting between Lavrov and Šarec, with the prime minister's office saying that Slovenia supported a peaceful solution in eastern Ukraine and underlined the importance Minks Agreement implementation.

They also discussed bilateral relations, labelling them friendly and adding that the countries are in ongoing dialogue in a number of fields, including economy, culture, science and education.

The foreign ministers were today also scheduled to unveil a monument honouring Davorin Hostnik (1853-1929), the author of the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary, who made a significant contribution to bilateral relations in culture and science at the turn of the century.

28 May 2019, 12:11 PM

STA, 28 May 2019 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will arrive in Slovenia on Tuesday evening, starting a two-day visit by meeting his counterpart Miro Cerar at Strmol Castle near Cerklje na Gorenjskem. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

Today's meeting will take place behind closed doors and the pair will hold another one tomorrow morning at the Foreign Ministry in Ljubljana. The latter is to be followed by a press conference.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has said beforehand that the visit represents the continuation of bilateral dialogue between the two countries. Lavrov's last trip to Slovenia was in February 2018.

After meeting Pahor and Šarec on Wednesday, Lavrov will attend a ceremony in Šmartno pri Litiji to unveil a statue honouring Davorin Hostnik (1853-1929), the author of the first Russian-Slovenian dictionary.

Russia is a key trade partner for Slovenia, with trade amounting to EUR 1.16 billion last year. The figure was highest in 2014, when it reached nearly EUR 1.5 billion.

Trade has decreased in recent years due to a poorer macroeconomic situation on the Russian market and sanctions the EU imposed on Russia after the latter annexed Crimea. Both Slovenia and Russia hold the view that the 2015 Minsk Agreement is key in ending the tensions in Ukraine.

Tensions between western countries and Russia ran high again in March 2018 following the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergey Skripal. While the UK blamed Russia for his death, Moscow denied the allegations.

Following the Skripal attack, Slovenia was one of the few EU member states which did not expel Russian diplomats.

The countries also have close cultural ties. Only last week, a collection of more than 80 icons from leading Russian museums went on display at the Ljubljana City Museum.

But the key event each year is the commemoration of more than 100 Russian POWs who died in an avalanche building the Vršič mountain pass during World War I.

25 Apr 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) hosted a meeting of businessmen from Slovenia and the Russian Samara region on Wednesday as part of a visit by a delegation led by Samara Governor Dmitry Azarov. On the occasion the GZS signed a cooperation agreement with its Samara counterpart.

A press release from the GZS quoted the chamber's executive director Sonja Šmuc in saying that the agreement would boost trade and business links between Slovenia and the Samara region.

Šmuc believes that Slovenia and Russia could match the record volume of trade seen in 2013, at EUR 1.5bn, in a year and a half.

Last year, bilateral trade amounted to EUR 1.15bn, around 45% of which was generated by the pharmaceutical industry, followed by telecommunications, engineering, household appliances and paints.

"We also want to set up cooperation in other areas, such as the agricultural and food industry, IT, cooling technology," Šmuc told the meeting, featuring more than 50 businessmen.

Governor Azarov noted huge potential for cooperation in particular in science and education, industry and tourism. He believes the agreement signed today would give a new impetus to business links.

According to him, the Samara region has a well diversified industry, excellent higher education and science, a suitable geographical position, and has taken fiscal and legislative solutions designed to attract capital and know-how.

The meeting was also attended by Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev, who said he believed in expanding ties between Slovenia and several Russian regions, with great potential in modern technology.

Victor Kudryashov, the first deputy of the chairman of the government of the Samara region, said that the region was open to new development partnerships and investment.

He said that the Samara Oblast as Russia's centre of the automotive and space industries welcomed Slovenian know-how, which could be implemented in the industry there.

All our stories about Slovenia and Russia are here

18 Apr 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 17 April 2019 - A visiting exhibition on shamanism in Siberia, put on by the Russian Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in Saint Petersburg, is opening at the Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana on Wednesday. The exhibition presents the culture and shamanism of 18 indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East.

The exhibition casts light on the basic element of shamanism, which is characterised by a special concept of the world whose structure is made up of three parts - the Upper World (the sky, where the gods live), the Middle World (Earth, where people live) and the Under World (the world of the dead).

The three worlds are interlinked by a central axis (axis mundi), whose symbol is the tree of the world, which shamans use to make their drums, the author of the exhibition Valentina V. Gorbacheva of the Russian museum said.

According to the director of the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, Tanja Roženbergar, the exhibition presents "the extraordinary yet little known phenomenon of shamanism that speaks of unity between man and nature and the entire universe".

Gorbacheva said that 18 out of the 45 indigenous peoples living in Siberia and the Russian Far East were presented. They all share a very close connection with nature and respect for natural spirits.

The shaman is considered an intermediary between humans, nature and the spirit world. He or she was the guardian of rare knowledge and traditions, chosen by spirits. In a ritual known as kamlanie, the shamen achieved a state of ecstasy and connected with the world of the spirits.

The exhibition features 80 rare ethnographic objects such as a ritual cloak made out of fish skin, ritual masks and small sculptures, and 45 archive photographs from the Russian Ethnographic Museum, which portray the spiritual culture of the Siberian peoples from the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

The final part of the exhibition reveals the connections between shamanism and Christianity and Buddhism.

The exhibition, which will be open until 20 October, will be accompanied by various discussions, film screenings, musical events, workshops and a programme for children and families.

All our stories on the Ethnographic Museum are here, while our regular guides to What’s on in Ljubljana are here

01 Apr 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 30 March 2019 - Damir Črnčec, the state secretary in the prime minister's office for national security, has told the Siol web portal that all types of radicalisms or extremisms are present in Slovenia, but noted that Slovenia is a safe country.

Črnčec, whose appointment as Marjan Šarec's aide has raised some controversy, said that "all three types of radicalisms and extremisms are present in Slovenia - the right and left, as well as Islamic fundamentalism."

While noting that Slovenia was a safe country, he said that the biggest potential threats were those of the information and cyber type and the issue of illegal migrations, terrorism and a rise of extremism and violent extremism.

Črnčec finds that terrorism is very well defined in the Slovenian legislation, "while there are legal voids when it comes to extremism and violent extremism."

He said that Slovenia lagged behind other countries in terms of information and cyber security, but added that the government had earmarked additional funds for this field in 2019.

"We count on an administration for information security to be established within the Public Administration Ministry, which would deal with the preventive aspect of the forming of a serious information security backbone in Slovenia."

According to Črnčec, the EU is under the "threat represented by so-called fake news and disinformation". "We are talking primarily about the influence of external players, countries, on the political process in the EU."

"The same is true for the influence of these players on individual countries," he said. Asked whether Russia represented the biggest threat in this respect, he said he could hardly say something like that when it came to Slovenia.

Črnčec insists that illegal migrations were primarily a security issue and that it was a criminal act, with the structure of illegal migrants representing the biggest risk.

He assured the public that the migration issue is being managed. "Maintaining a balance between security and solidarity is and will remain the key imperative of our actions in the future."

Commenting on the attempts of the local authorities in Ilirska Bistrica (SW) to prevent a migrant centre from being established there, Črnčec said that the government's position was that a local referendum on the issue was inappropriate.

There is no legal basis for it either, he said, adding that "the government will simply not allow that."

Regarding hate speech, of which he personally had been accused of in the past, Črnčec said that hate speech was present in Slovenia and that a challenge for the future remained to find a balance between its regulation and freedom of speech.

All our stories on Slovenian politics are here

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