SLOVENIA AND RUSSIA CONFIRM GOOD RELATIONS THROUGH INTENSIVE CONTACTS
Slovenia and Russia established diplomatic relations in 1992 and have since then been developing good bilateral relations. Trade between the two countries and business cooperation in general has been increasing as well, while the issue of Russia's clearing debt to Slovenia is expected to be resolved soon. Also aiding in strengthening bilateral relations is the Slovenia-Russia Association, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
The number of meetings between the representatives of the two countries has increased in 2006, with several Slovenian delegations visiting Moscow and numerous Russian representatives coming to Slovenia. The largest of those was a Slovenian delegation of government and business representatives that visited Moscow in late May. A Slovenian National Assembly delegation visited the country in early June at the invitation of the Russian parliament, while President Janez Drnovšek took part in the June International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. Additionally, several Russian businessmen visited Slovenia earlier in the year, including Vagit Alekperov, the chairman of oil company Lukoil, and Alexei Miller, the chief executive of gas giant Gazprom.
A numerous Russian delegation came to Slovenia in the end of July during celebrations marking 90th anniversary of the construction of a Russian Orthodox chapel, lying near the road to the Vršič mountain pass. The delegation included Chairman of the Council of the Federation Sergey Mironov and a high representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret of Belarus.
A SHORT HISTORY OF SLOVENIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS RUSSIA
Prime Minister Janez Janša visited Russia between 29 and 31 May with a high level government delegation that included Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel and some other ministers, as well as representatives of 98 Slovenian companies. During the visit, Janša met senior Russian state and religious representatives.
The talks in Moscow focused on improving the already good bilateral relations in all areas with a special stress on economic cooperation. The Slovenian side also presented Russia with preparations for its EU Presidency in the first half of 2008.
Several economic agreements and a deal on cooperation between the defence ministries, as well as a programme of cooperation in culture, science, education and sports, were signed during the visit. Minister Rupel also participated at a science conference entitled „The Historic Basis and the Perspectives of Slovenian-Russian Relations“, which took place at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
MINISTERS RUPEL AND LAVROV DISCUSS COOPERATION BETWEEN SLOVENIA AND RUSSIA
During the official visit of the Slovene government to Russia, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on 30 May. They discussed bilateral cooperation, Slovenian preparations for the presidency of the EU and the situation in the Western Balkans.
The ministers agreed that cooperation between the two countries is good and expressed their satisfaction over the signing of numerous bilateral agreements. They also touched upon cooperation within the Forum of Slavic Cultures, which they agreed would play an important role during Slovenia's EU presidency in the first half of 2008. Cooperation within the forum will also facilitate the discussion on inter-cultural dialogue, one of Slovenia's priority tasks during its six months as EU chair.
Minister Rupel also called for a speedy resolution of Russia's clearing debt to Slovenia, which amounts to US$ 129m, and asked Minister Lavrov to help in solving the issue. He mentioned the possibility of paying a part of the debt with Russia's gas supplies, adding that Slovenia is interested in long-term gas contracts.
Minister Rupel also presented the activities of the Slovenian Centre for European Perspective, which was inaugurated in late May. He also presented the “Bled Strategic Forum“, which will host an energy conference in late August entitled “Caspian Outlook 2008“.
Slovenian and Russian foreign affairs ministers Dimitrij Rupel and Sergey Lavrov during the visit to Russia by a Slovenian government delegation between 29 and 31 May. (Photo: Foreign Affairs Ministry/Bobo)
CEREMONY MARKING ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN CHAPEL CONFIRMS GOOD SLOVENIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
On 30 July a memorial ceremony was held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the "Russian Chapel", a historical monument along the road across the Vršič mountain pass. The chapel was erected in 1917 in memory of some 300 Russian prisoners of war who died in a 1916 avalanche while building the road. The celebration, which took place under the auspices of Prime Minister Janez Janša, was also attended by numerous senior political and religious officials and business representatives, with the European Parliament President Josep Borrell as the guest of honour. Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel was the president of the organising committee for the ceremony.
Over 1,000 people gathered at the event this year, a number that proves
that the memory of the tragic death of the Russian POWs is still alive
and that the Russian Chapel has truly become a symbol of friendship
between the Russian and Slovenian people, according to Prime Minister
Janez Janša. Foreign Affairs Minister Dimitrij Rupel also pointed out
that the memorial is thus a contribution to the intercultural and
inter-religious dialogue; a topic that will feature prominently during
Slovenia's 2008 EU Presidency. He discussed this with Metropolitan
Filaret of Belarus, who attended the ceremony.
The chapel was renovated last year through joint efforts of the Slovenian and Russian governments. A memorial garden now surrounds the chapel, and the road from the town of Kranjska gora to the Vršič mountain pass was renamed to the Russian Road during the 30 July ceremony. A cross, erected alongside the road in the vicinity of the chapel, will also point to the POWs fate.
The renovated Russian Chapel, a historical monument along the road across the Vršič mountain pass (Photo: STA)
THE SLOVENIA-RUSSIA ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY
The Slovenia-Russia Association is celebrating 10 years since its inception. The first initiative to establish such an association came in 1995 from a group of people who believed that cooperation between the two countries could still be improved. The association was founded on 10 April 1996.
The association nurtures and promotes close cultural and economic cooperation between the two countries. It informs its members and the wider public on important issues in Russia's past and present in the fields of culture, art and science. It also organises exchanges of Slovenian and Russian artists, and promotes personal contacts between those working in the field of culture, science, economy and sports.
As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, the association published a bulletin which outlined the cooperation between the two countries and the role the association plays. They also held a special assembly. The association was a co-organiser of the ceremony commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Vršič Russian Orthodox chapel and is in this year also preparing several social events.
The association's president is Saša Geržina, Slovenia's first ambassador to Russia. The headquarters of the roughly 1000-strong association are in Ljubljana.
A ceremony marking 10 years of the Slovenia-Russia Association that took place on 10 April at the Ljubljana Castle. Russian Ambassador Mikhail Vanin (left) and chair of the Slovenia-Russia Association Sasa Gerzina (right). (Photo: STA)
ENERGY ISSUES TOPPED SLOVENIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC TALKS
Energy-related issues were in the forefront in the talks between the Slovenian and Russian representatives this year. A stable energy policy and energy security will be one of priority tasks of Slovenia's EU presidency in the first half of 2008. Some Russian companies have expressed their interest in purchasing stakes in Slovenian energy companies, among them the Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov and the CEO of Gazprom Alexei Miller.
Slovenia is in favour of constructing a gas pipeline across its territory, which would supply gas to Italy. The construction of the pipeline also formed a part of the discussion between Slovenian and Russian foreign ministers, Dimitrij Rupel and Sergey Lavrov, in late May in Moscow.
Supplying the gas would be a possible way for Russia to repay part of its clearing debt to Slovenia, which stands at US$ 129m. Prime Minister Janez Janša said at the end of the government's visit to Moscow that a deal on repaying the debt is within reach, with the debt to be repaid in the next five years.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CASPIAN OUTLOOK 2008 TO STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE REGION FOR THE EU
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, in cooperation with the Institute for Strategic Studies Ljubljana, is in the process of establishing Bled Strategic Forum. The first event under its auspices will be the international conference entitled „Caspian Outlook 2008". The conference will provide a forum for many renowned international experts, political leaders, representatives of international organisations in the region as well as private sector representatives from the region, Europe, USA and Russia to discuss the economic, political and strategic importance of the region for the EU. The forum will be an opportunity for an in-depth discussion on the current EU strategy towards the region and how to best adjust this strategy to the changed circumstances in the area with the aim of ensuring a long-term partnership between the EU and the Caspian region.
The conference will be divided into four panels, with the participants discussing the geostrategic importance of the Caspian region and Southern Caucasus for Europe. Among the main topics will be Europe's energy security, the political dynamics of the region, the European Neighbourhood policy and economic trends in the area.
The event will also contribute towards Slovenia's preparations for the chairmanship of the EU in the first half of 2008, as the EU's energy security and enlargement are two of its key priorities.
Logo of the Bled Strategic Forum