The Slovenia Times

A View from the Russia House



If you could choose one accomplishment from your mandate - not two or three, just one - which one would you pick?

Just one, you say? Well, I'd say that the thing that really made me happy was the naming of the road that leads from Kranjska Gora to the Vršič pass in the Julian Alps (a well-known mountain road linking the Gorenjsko and Primorsko regions, climbing to altitude over 1600 meters) "Ruska cesta," meaning "the Russian road."

Why is this so important to you?

You are well aware that relations between our two nations have always been cordial, even unique. We don't have any open historical issues that may poison our relations. Throughout history, we have shared a similar destiny, especially in the second part of the 20th century.

The Russian chapel that lies on the road to Vršič is an important monument that underscores the quality of our relations. It not only commemorates the hardship and sacrifices of Russian soldiers who built the road to Vršič during World War I, but is also a symbol of humanity and friendship.

You said Slovenes and Russians share a common destiny. Does this also hold for their attitudes to the past? In Slovenia, we have seen attempts to strongly condemn the country's communist past falter as people are not sure whether life before independence was really all that bad.

Clearly, the Slovenian public opinion is divided on this issue. The same goes for Russia. There are people who think that the period after the World War II wasn't so bad, yet others are certain it was a great tragedy.

When you started your mandate in 2005, Slovenian exports to Russia were not even EUR 500m. Last year, they passed the EUR 800 mark. Do you see this trend continuing?

This year will certainly not be as successful as the previous one in terms of trade between our two countries. I am satisfied, however, that the volume of trade has tripled since I've become an ambassador here.

What about investment?

Slovenia invests a lot in Russia, but also vice versa. Russian companies are following the privatisation of Slovenian companies in which the state still has stakes of great interest. They would like to invest in all sectors of the economy, from banking and insurance to logistics and energy. We think that Russian companies are welcome to invest in Slovenia and don't see any problems in that respect.

As the first serious Russian investment in Slovenia, the takeover of Slovenska industrija jekla (Slovenian Steel Industry) by the Koks Group, a deal worth EUR 300 m, shows, Russian firms can be counted on to respect all the commitments they enter into.

Winter is approaching. Once again, Russian gas supplies will be critical to keep us warm. Do you expect disputes with Ukraine could cause disruptions in gas supply to Europe?

I hope that everybody has learned their lessons from the past couple of years, and that we will be able to avoid these situations this winter. The fact is that 80 percent of all Russian gas destined for Europe flows through Ukrainian territory. The only answer to this is diversification.

You mean along the lines of South Stream, a planned Gazprom pipeline running under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then further west, circumventing Ukraine?

Yes, South Stream would be very helpful in diversifying supply routes for Russian gas.

How far along are the plans to build one section of South Stream on Slovenian territory?

I think that the agreement on that will be signed until the end of this year.


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