Ljubljana related

22 Feb 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 18 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS) called on Tuesday for an emergency session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission to examine a cooperation memorandum signed last September by the state-controlled energy company Petrol with a Russian company subject to US sanctions.

The memorandum with T Plus was signed as part of a visit to Moscow by outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and envisages cooperation with the T Plus Group and Schneider Electric Russia in the field of energy efficiency.

Petrol's chairman at the time Tomaž Berločnik said the two projects planned involved work on the optimisation of district heating. He valued them at "a few million euro" and potentially at a few dozen million in the future.

However, citing documents published by the US Department of the Treasury, the SDS is pointing out that T Plus is part of the Russian Renova Group, which is subject to US sanctions along with its billionaire owner Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg.

The sanctions were introduced in April 2018 over interference in the 2016 US presidential election, with the US also freezing Vekselberg's assets.

The SDS is puzzled by how the government, Foreign Ministry and the SOVA intelligence agency could allow the memorandum to be signed, and what is even worse, to be signed during Šarec's official visit to Moscow.

The party claims all of the listed institutions as well as the PM and the management and supervisory bodies of Petrol and state asset manager SSH had obviously failed to fulfil their duties.

The SDS says that Petrol now runs the danger of becoming subject to retaliation measures on the part of the US, which could undermine government revenue and the value of state assets, while the SSH and government could also be compromised.

"The signing of the memorandum under to auspices of the Slovenian government could also bring negative consequences for other areas of transatlantic cooperation," the party wrote.

The SDS is thus proposing that the Public Finance Oversight Commission ask the government to have the SSH draw up a report on the matter, to have Petrol withdraw from the memorandum and to have authorities examine whether official duties were neglected, money laundered or terrorism financed as part of the memorandum signing.

20 Jan 2020, 20:21 PM

Ex-Yu Aviation, always on top of the region’s air travel news, has added more details to an earlier report that Russian investors are interested in reviving the name Adria Airways, with the collapsed carrier’s remaining assets – its name, some training manuals and the all-important air operator's certificate (AOC) – due to be auctioned this Thursday, with a starting price of €45,000, although this is expected to be exceeded since the average price of an AOC in Europe is €300,000.

According to the report, the  group of investors from Russian and the United Arab Emirates are, linked to Sukhoi, the Russian aircraft manufacturer, and would be using a fleet of Superjet 100. As Oleg Evdokimov, a representative of the Russian investors, told RTV SLO: "Adria Airways’ certificates allow us to operate not only out of Ljubljana but from any airport in Europe. The Slovenian market is very interesting. There is no real competition. Currently, it is only possible to fly to just ten destinations and the fares are very expensive.”

Mr Evdokimov  went on to say “We plan to start in the summer with the primary task of providing flights for Slovenians and Austrians (from Villach and Klagenfurt) to primary vacation destinations. We plan to serve these routes with SSJ aircraft. The second goal is to compete with "weak" competitors such as Lufthansa and Swiss on three important destinations from Ljubljana: Zurich, Munich and Frankfurt.”

More details can be found at Ex-Yu Aviation.

15 Jan 2020, 13:35 PM

With Adria Airways assets due to be auctioned next week, at 11:00 on Thursday 23 January, Ex-Yu Aviation reports that a group of unnamed Russian investors are interested in purchasing the collapsed airline’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and reviving the name to run services within Europe, using Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. As reported earlier on TSN, the starting price for Adria’s assets, which include various training manuals in addition to the AOC, has been set at €45,000. However, a new owner would need to take on a number of obligations that remain after the carrier’s bankruptcy.

The airline’s previous owner, the Luxembourg-based German fund 4k Invest, purchased Adria from the Slovenian government in 2016 for €100,000. Since Adria’s collapse in 2019 an investigation into the role of 4K Invest and possible mismanagement has been launched, although the fund’s decision to liquidate its assets is complicating this.

While the closure of the national carrier lead to a 60% fall in Slovenia’s international seat capacity, a number of airlines have stepped in to fill the more profitable gaps in the schedule, while the Slovenian government is said to be in talks with regard to subsidising some other routes.

21 Nov 2019, 08:55 AM

STA, 19 November 2019 - Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov was appointed Russia's new ambassador to Slovenia by President Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Russian press agency Tass reports.

Eyvazov will take over from the long-serving Ambassador Doku Zavgayev, who came to Ljubljana in 2009.

There is no information as to when Eyvazov will take over.

Eyvazov has so far served as a counsellor at the Russian Embassy in France, according to the portal Russia Beyond.

The appointment of Zavgayev, the first pro-Russian leader of Chechnya, raised a lot of dust ten years ago over alleged human rights violations.

Zavgayev became the first pro-Russian leader of Chechnya in 1994 after Russian troops were sent to the restless republic. He had to leave his office in 1996 when the capital Grozny was taken by Chechen rebels, his stint marked by serious human rights violations in Chechnya.

He entered the Russian diplomatic service after leaving Grozny, and served as Russian ambassador to Tanzania from 1997 to 2004. He came to Slovenia from the post of Russian deputy foreign minister.

All our stories about Russia and Slovenia are here

24 Sep 2019, 09:24 AM

The Slovenian national volleyball team beat Russia 3:1 last night, qualifying for the semi-finals of the Men’s European Volleyball Championship, with the teams next match set to take place in Ljubljana on 26 September when they will face Poland.

volleball slovenia russia 01.jpg

Odbojkarska zveza Slovenije (OZS) Facebook

Russia, two times world champion, beat Slovenia 3:0 in qualifiers but the two met again in the quarterfinals last night, when Slovenia managed to eliminate the champion in front of a hall full of a euphoric domestic audience.

The European Volleyball Championship takes place every two years and this is the first time it is being hosted by four countries, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Slovenia, and also the first time the event has come to Slovenia.

Both finals, for the third and first places, will be hosted in Paris, France, meaning this Thursday is the last time the Slovenian national team will be playing at home.

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

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