The Slovenia Times

South Stream Project Summit in Slovenia?


Summing up his talks with Lavrov in Moscow at the conclusion of a two-day visit, Erjavec told the STA that the South Stream was in the focus of discussion about economic cooperation, especially the need to realise the project.

The European Commission has certain reservations, but Slovenia believes the project needs to be separated from the third energy package, a position it advocates in Brussels, Erjavec said.

The third energy package includes the idea that the supplier should not be the same as the producer and that it should not own the grid.

Erjavec briefed Lavrov on preparations for the project in Slovenia, including on his view that the Slovenia-Russia agreement on the project was not in conflict with EU directives.

"As far as Slovenia is concerned, we don't see any serious impediment that could stop the project and the investment that in Slovenia is estimated at almost one billion euros," Erjavec said.

He proposed to Lavrov organising a conference of South Stream countries at the level of heads of state or government in Slovenia.

The conference would confirm the importance of the project, which could be a "powerful message to Brussels and the European Commission that the South Stream is of strategic importance energy-wise for the countries involved," Erjavec said.

According to him, the Russian side showed an interest in such a conference in Slovenia, providing that all the countries on the route have the necessary permits for the project.

Russia's plan remains that the construction of the pipeline in Russia start in December this year and finish in 2015, while Slovenia would like to begin work on the project in 2013.

Erjavec also discussed the South Stream with Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov. Another theme of both meetings was both countries' plans to sell state shareholdings in companies.

Nikiforov invited Slovenian investors to invest in the stakes on offer in Russia, while Erjavec also established considerable interest among Russian investors to invest in Slovenia in energy, infrastructure and telecommunications.

Meanwhile, talks with Lavrov also touched on political cooperation and views on topical issues, including Syria, Iran, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia's name dispute with Greece, NATO-Russia relations, the elections in Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia.

The Slovenian and Russian foreign ministers agreed a solution for Syria was not a military intervention but could only be found through political dialogue, and that all decisions should be adopted within the UN Security Council.

The pair praised bilateral relations highly all-round, calling for boosting the Forum of Slavic Cultures, while they also discussed ideas for celebrating the centenary of the Russian Chapel in Slovenia.

As a co-chair of the intergovernmental commission for trade and scientific cooperation Erjavec and his opposite number Nikiforov agreed holding the next session at Brdo pri Kranju in Slovenia on 27-28 November.

The meeting will review the reasons for a lack of progress in twelve out of the 32 projects agreed, and potential for a further 28 projects. Several accompanying events will include a meeting with Russian investors.

Slovenia still sees a lot of potential for Russian investment, which is currently at around EUR 160m. Erjavec said, confident that bilateral trade would this year surpass last year's EUR 1.6bn after a 35% growth on 2010.

On Sunday, Erjavec met Slovenian business officials in Russia, who suggested agreements that would facilitate economic cooperation such as those concerning taxation, investment protection and social status of Slovenian businessmen in Russia.


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