22 march, 2011 21:39  

Vladimir Putin and Borut Pahor hold a news conference after Russian-Slovenian talks


"We want to increase the volume of investment. There are currently 200 companies operating with Slovenian participation in 50 Russian regions.. And, without a doubt, we welcome our Slovenian partners’ interest in expanding their cooperation on the Russian market even further.”


Borut Pahor (as translated): Ladies and gentlemen and my friend, Mr Chairman. My greetings to all those present. Both Mr Putin and I will make brief opening remarks and then we will answer your questions as agreed. Our negotiations have dragged on somewhat, and so have our face-to-face talks. We apologise for that. The visit by the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Putin, is the first official visit by a Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation to Slovenia (need I say more?) and his visit deepens the economic and political cooperation between Slovenia and the Russian Federation.

During our talks and at plenary negotiations, we stressed that very friendly and smooth relations between our countries provide a good foundation for bilateral cooperation between our peoples. Most of our time, including the meeting between the two delegations, was concerned with economic cooperation, of course. We signed several agreements and memorandums, which are certain to contribute to our economic cooperation. Our current trade totals 1.2 billion euros, and this despite the recession, and thanks to the talks and treaties concluded by our presidents … As you know, I visited Moscow in 2009. Last year, President Turk (Danilo Turk is President of the Republic of Slovenia) visited and signed a memorandum concerning the Slovenian section in the Russian Federation’s so-called modernisation plan. All this, of course, has helped to increase trade by 40%. The Prime Minister and I have agreed to do everything in our power to increase trade.

The energy security of our countries received a lot of attention. Among other agreements we signed a supplement to the November 2009 agreement, which today paves the way for a joint venture to build the South Stream pipeline through Slovenia. I proposed that (due to current problems and other issues) we should call a conference in October of this year to discuss energy distribution security. We agreed that Ljubljana and Moscow would work out all the details of that plan at the conference. It will be a very important subject.

I also wish to reiterate that the Prime Minister and I discussed scientific, technological and cultural relations in addition to bilateral political and economic ones. I never want to leave cultural issues untill the end. The Russian Federation and Slovenia are two countries, two Slavic peoples, which have suggested a Forum of Slavic Cultures. We want to be proud of our origins, our Slavic background. Both Chairman Putin and I personally see many opportunities in this work. I repeated again during this current visit: we need friends. Even when we disagree on some bilateral or multilateral issues, Slovenia tries to have as many friends as possible. In Russia, it sees a very important strategic friend. We also discussed Slovenia’s contribution to European politics. Slovenia, like most European Union countries, sees Russia as a strategic partner.

We discussed other subjects, too, but time presses, and we are often told to be brief. For my part, this is all. Mr Putin, you have the floor.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen.

Relations of traditional friendship and mutually beneficial partnership link Russia and Slovenia. We held detailed negotiations with Mr Pahor today, expressing our satisfaction with the steady and positive course of our trade and economic relations. We are now practically back to the pre-crisis level of trade. Last year, it rose by 36%. Not only must we re-establish this level, but we also want to push vigorously forward, making active use of good opportunities for boosting trade volume.

Russia and Slovenia take part in large energy projects, which also include an all-European dimension. Mr Prime Minister has already mentioned the South Stream project. Today, shareholders of the joint venture signed an agreement to design, construct and operate the Slovenian section. I am confident that the project will bring economic benefits to all its participants and provide energy distribution security for Slovenia and other European countries. I do not think anybody needs to hear again how pressing the issue is, what with problems in nuclear power and the undoubted demand for hydrocarbon resources.

Documents on agriculture, standards and inter-regional cooperation, which were signed today, will also help to diversify Russian-Slovenian cooperation. I would like to emphasise we are interested in cross investment growth. In 50 Russian regions there are over 200 operating enterprises with Slovenian ownership. We certainly welcome our Slovenian partners’ interest in large-scale cooperation in the Russian market, above all in high-tech.

For our part, we expect our businesspeople to be active in Slovenia. Here, of course, we look to the Slovenian government’s positive treatment of the legitimate rights of Russian investors and its support for promising initiatives, including cross capitalisation and asset sharing.

Humanitarian links which help bring people together and promote mutual understanding are also important and shouldn’t be forgotten. In this context, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say this: we know of the care which our Slovenian friends show for the memory of Russian soldiers buried in your soil. We are sincerely grateful to you for this. This year, one such memorial dating from the First World War – a Russian chapel under Pass Vrsic – is going to mark its 95th anniversary. I am confident that commemorative events surrounding this truly symbolic shrine of Russian and Slovenian brotherhood will be enjoyable and remembered.

The initiative to set up scientific and cultural centres in Russia and Slovenia holds big potential for humanitarian cooperation. A Russian centre is opening in Ljubljana very soon, and I hope will become a centre of attraction for all those interested in the history of Russia, its art and scientific achievements.

All in all, I consider my talks with my counterpart Pahor to have been successful and productive. I want to thank our Slovenian partners for their sincere willingness to boost their ties with Russia.

Thanks very much for your attention.

Question (as translated): Mr Putin, my question is about South Stream. I wonder if there is any threat to this project? We are hearing about complications with Turkey. Last week, your deputy said there might be some rethinking. Is that a serious threat or a way to influence Turkey? And where is Slovenia’s place in all this?

Thank you. 

Vladimir Putin: We don’t believe the project will be endangered by our Turkish partners. We have very good and comprehensive relations with Turkey. We are not only interested in furthering our neighbourly relations but also in enhancing their quality. In this respect, I can tell you that we have many large investment projects with Turkey, including energy related projects that we are both interested in.

We have agreed – the Turkish Prime Minister who recently visited Russia presented their proposals to us – that we need additional documents with surveys related to environmental impact, routing and a feasibility study for the project. We have agreed to make the final decision on the construction of the pipeline after these documents are provided. We hope that our professionals, using the assistance of foreign experts (as we did for the Nord Stream project) will provide these documents to Turkey within the next few months.

On the other hand, we know that developments can take an unexpected turn, and so we regard the issue professionally and are ready for anything. For example, we think the gas can be liquefied on the Black Sea coast and transported by tanker to Bulgaria, where it would be regasified and pumped into pipelines. Or gas can be liquefied at the production site, which is also possible and depends only on increasing the capacity of gas carriers, for example on the Yamal Peninsula, and from there delivered to southern Europe for pumping into a pipeline.

In a word, there are many options. We are considering all of them but believe that nothing so far will prevent us from implementing the initial plan we have worked out with our Turkish partners.

Question: What other spheres of cooperation apart from energy do you consider promising in our bilateral relations?

Vladimir Putin: There are many areas, including pharmaceuticals, transport and mechanical engineering. Today you attended the signing of documents on cooperation with the Ulyanovsk Region. The region’s governor told me that they signed contracts of cooperation in mechanical engineering, in particular component parts for AvtoVAZ.

Cooperation also seems promising in the manufacturing of vehicles. For example, Russian Railways is analysing the possibility of cooperation with Slovenia to modernise its rail network. We proceed from the assumption that our companies will be allowed to take part in the privatisation of Slovenian companies in a number of industries. We have discussed the issue in detail with Mr Pahor today. As I said in my opening remarks, we hope the Slovenian government will show goodwill on this issue.

Borut Pahor (as translated): My friend and colleague has covered many areas, but I would like to add the following: we spent some time on construction questions. We know that Russia is building facilities in Sochi at a rapid rate, and this offers a number of opportunities. We have agreed with Mr Putin that the best approach would be to sign commercial contracts between organisers and Slovenian companies, and that there are possibilities for this and mutual interest in it.

This is very important for us because construction is the only industrial sector that is holding our economic growth back. I mentioned during our talks that we hope our economy will grow by approximately 2.5% next year. But growth could be much higher if we overcome the sluggishness in construction.

We spoke at length about trade. Slovenian investment in Russia has exceeded $500 million, whereas Russian investment in Slovenia is only $20 million. Of course, we would like all interested Russian companies to submit bids for international tenders and to present their competitive proposals alongside other companies. Thank you.

Question (as translated): I have a question for both prime ministers: Have you exchanged opinions on the military intervention currently under way [in North Africa]? Prime Minister Putin has compared the intervention to “a medieval crusade.” What will Russia’s response be? The UN Security Council has decided to meet on Thursday. Mr Pahor, we expect you to provide your assessment of the situation, too.

Vladimir Putin: Well, regarding the unity or disunity of views on Libya among Russian leadership… In Russia, the president is in charge of foreign policy, so there can be no split.

Also, if you want to know if my attitude about this differs from that of Mr Medvedev, I can assure you that we are very close and understand each other very well. It is the president’s task to provide the suitable phrasing for the country’s stand.

As for the essence of the problem, I think this is not what we should worry about now. We should think about the number of victims that is growing in the civil war that is actually under way in Libya, and also as a result of missile and bombing strikes delivered in the country. This is what we should think about first and foremost. On the other hand, this is above all the concern of those who are involved in the tragedy; they should think about it and pray for their souls.

Borut Pahor (as translated): As you know, Slovenia supported Security Council Resolution 1973, which permits international interference for purposes of humanitarian assistance. The Slovenian government will hold a meeting to plan further actions on Thursday. I have talked today with the ministers concerned, the chief of the General Staff and the chief of the intelligence service. We exchanged opinions on the current situation and our views of potential developments. I can talk about my personal opinion now, ahead of the Thursday government meeting where I will present it.

I think it would be advisable for the Security Council to clearly determine the political goals of international interference next week or sooner, which would outline the boundaries of international interference so as to preserve international accord and prevent any erosion regarding the need for a no-fly zone. The Security Council should work on the matter to provide a clear mandate regarding the military goals which should be achieved to ensure the political objectives, as well as mutual accord which is really necessary.

We don’t want the Arab and Muslim countries to think that the West is again trying to push them around. In the Security Council we are searching for ways to promote agreement with the Arab League and the African Union. This will take a lot of political effort, but we are confident of success. This is my personal opinion, and I can express it at this news conference.

Question: Has the adoption of the Third Energy Package created any obstacles to the implementation of the South Stream project?

Vladimir Putin: We spoke about this relative to Nord Stream. The Third Package stipulates that the product and its distribution must be divided, which means that two different companies must own the product and the pipeline. We think this is difficult to achieve. Moreover, this cannot be done in the gas business without major losses, and I mean higher costs for the end user. When unnecessary intermediaries stand between the seller and the buyer, prices double. I spoke about this in Brussels just recently. Furthermore, pipelines as a separate business are an unprofitable enterprise; they are viable only because producers invest in development and logistics to ensure that their product reaches the consumer. If we separate transport from production, the transport companies will be forced to radically raise prices to survive independently, which will increase the cost of the end product.

This is what we discussed in Brussels. I hope our colleagues will take note of our concern. Certain changes should be made [in the Third Package] regarding the gas business. I hope this will happen, and this concerns not only South Stream but the entire infrastructure of natural gas transport from Russia – in this case, first of all Russia – to the final consumers in Europe.

Again, as I told my colleagues in Brussels, I think all industries, with the possible exception of energy, should have long supported our view in Europe, because their competitive advantages will fade if these principles are enforced. However, our views so far differ from those of the European Commission. I hope we will eventually see each other’s point.

By the way, one of our arguments is the basic documents signed by Russia and the EU, which are still in effect and which say that the position of our investors and economic operators must not be allowed to deteriorate. We believe that the Third Energy Package is in violation of previously adopted documents, that is retroactively, it would worsen the position of our companies. Our colleagues know our opinion, and we are now in the process of a constructive dialogue. I hope that we will eventually reach a consensus that will suit both sides.

Borut Pahor (as translated): In conclusion, before we resume our commitments, I would like to say something that we discussed more as a joke. It is that every agreement Slovenia signs regarding South Stream is fraught with danger for Russian football. So I want to tell my friend that after that match in Moscow we will do our best in the match against Italy… Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

Vladimir Putin: Well, of course, he couldn’t help mentioning that football match in Moscow we watched together. But we will eventually have our revenge, I am sure of that.