Slovenia

Summary: Slovenia was a first ex-Yugoslav state to join the EU and NATO in 2004. Slovenia has expressed full support for preserving Ukraine’s borders, as well as for fulfilling the Minsk agreements in Ukraine. Nonetheless, Slovenia is eager to maintain energy-focused economic ties with Russia. Moreover, the country supports lifting the sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, even though the policy of supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity remains intact. Thus, Slovenes see the conflict in Ukraine as a bilateral Russo-Ukrainian issue, and not a direct threat to the EU and NATO.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: almost entirely free of the painful historical Soviet legacy. Sense of shared Slavic identity and appreciation for the contribution of the Red Army in liberating part of Slovenia. Agrees with historical narrative about the importance of SSSR in the defeat of fascism. Slovenian politicians stress “mutual respect for different opinions” in relations with Russia.

Economy and trade: Russia is Slovenian 7th largest trade partner and the 6th biggest investor in the country.[1] Despite the fall in trade after 2014, Slovenia still has a trade surplus with Russia. Within the EU, Slovenia has always asserted strengthen co-operation with Russia. Slovene-Russian Business Club actively promotes business ties under the banner ‘Fostering the Slavic Bonds’. Therefore, it favours of lifting the anti-Russian sanctions stressing their negative impact on the economies.[2] Economic cooperation is high on the agenda during regular visits of Slovenian president Borut Pahor in Moscow and vice versa. Imports consist mainly of energy, while exports are dominated by pharmaceuticals, nuclear reactors, machines and mechanical devices. Slovenia is also a popular tourist destination among Russians.[3]

Ukraine crisis, anti-Russian sanctions: Slovenia supports territorial integrity of Ukraine and advocates full respect of the Mink agreements.[4] It has provided TV and radio broadcasting equipment and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine due to the situation in Donbas.[5] Russian President Putin’s visit to Slovenia in 2016 has angered Ukrainians living in Slovenia, who protested in front of the Russian embassy in Ljubljana.[6] Mykhail Brodovych, Ukraine’s ambassador to Slovenia, commented on this that “these commemorative events are just a pretext for Putin to demonstrate that he is normally accepted in the country that is a member of the EU and NATO”.[7] Nevertheless, relations between Ukraine and Slovenia remain friendly.

Energy: Slovenia depends on Russian energy imports. Approximately 42% of gas imports supplied from Russia and 35% from Austria.[8] Current agreement on gas from Gazprom runs through 2018.[9] Slovenia has joined the Russian-sponsored South Stream arguing that it is entirely in line with the EU’s energy security goals at it promotes diversification of supply routes, not suppliers. It is keen to be a transit country to profit from the fees and other Russian investments.[10]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometr, 45% of Slovenians had a positive view of Russia.

Warm relations with Moscow have continued even as Slovenia joined EU sanctions. The close co-operation between the countries is manifested in annual meetings of their presidents or PMs. Slovenian politicians perceive their country as a bridge between the East and the West.[11] Slovenian President Borut Pahor has offered to host a venue for a meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents modelled on the summit between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in 2001 (famous for a comment of G.W. about looking Putin in the eye and getting “a sense of his soul.”).[12]

Eastern Partnership: Slovenia supports association with EaP countries and their reform programmes as well as visa liberalisation. During a visit of PM Dmitry Medvedev to Slovenia in 2015, Slovenian PM Miro Cerar spoke out in favour of lifting sanctions and agreed on cooperation in cultural, economic and energy relations. Mr. Cerar reiterated his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Slovenia promotes deepening partnership with EaP countries as a precondition for stability in Europe, while avoiding their membership since it does not want to endanger relations with Russia.[13]

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007):[14] Friendly pragmatism: tends to put its business interest above political goals and to oppose actions which might irritate Moscow.

National Perspective (2013):[15] Economic interest are important drivers of Slovenia’s foreign policy towards Russia. Officials from both countries stress their shared Slavic identity and are supporting wide cultural relations as well. Ljubljana was chosen as a headquarter of a new established Forum of Slavic Cultures jointly sponsored by presidents of Slovenia and Russia. Cooperation is manifested every year by a commemoration held at the Russian chapel in the Vrsic mountain where approximately three hundred Russian war prisoners were killed during the First World War. Slovenian MEP Alojz Peterle was until 2014 a Vice-Chair of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Co-operation Committee. Slovenia was also successful in launching the negotiations on a new agreement with Russia in 2009 during its presidency in the EU.

EU-28 Watch (2015):[16] Slovenia condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine and strongly supports its territorial integrity, while endeavours to maintain economic relations with Russia. Anti-Russian sanction have a negative effect on its economy.

European Foreign Policy Scorecards:[17] Slacker on relations with Russia on energy issues and efforts to diversify supplies in Europe reducing dependency on Russia (2014).

III. Policy Documents

Foreign Policy of the Republic of Slovenia (2015):[18] 

Russia is an important market for Slovenia, which seeks cooperation in tourism, agriculture, culture and education. Slovenia will make long-term endeavors within the European Union to encourage Russia to join the circle of shared European values with a view to establishing a long-term EU-Russia partnership. Furthermore, Slovenia will call on the players in the post-Soviet region to establish cooperation, while showing respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the countries of the region.

National Security Strategy (2010):[19]

Slovenia will continue strengthening its alliance with the US and its partnership with the Russian Federation.


 

 

[1] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[2] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2017-02-15/slovenian-presidents-visit-to-moscow

[3] https://www.sloveniatimes.com/russia-slovenia-s-traditionally-important-trade-partner

[4]https://www.vlada.si/en/prime_minister/news/a/slovenian_prime_minister_miro_cerar_and_russian_prime_minister_dmitry_medvedev_support_further_strengthening_of_economic_cooperation_between_their_countries_57/

[5] https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/prezident-ukrayini-zustrivsya-z-premyer-ministrom-respubliki-38686

[6] https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-seek-divide-slovenia-eu-on-sanctions-during-visit-july-30/27889575.html

[7] https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-seek-divide-slovenia-eu-on-sanctions-during-visit-july-30/27889575.html

[8] https://www.geoplin.si/en/natural-gas/slovenian-market

[9] https://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/partners/slovenia/

[10] Gower, J., Slovenia, chapter 15, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[11] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2017-02-15/slovenian-presidents-visit-to-moscow

[12] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-putin-slovenia-idUSKBN15P1VK

[13] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[14] https://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR-02_A_POWER_AUDIT_OF_EU-RUSSIA_RELATIONS.pdf

[15] Gower, J., Slovenia, chapter 15, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[16] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[17] https://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard

[18]https://www.mzz.gov.si/fileadmin/pageuploads/Zakonodaja_in_dokumenti/Strateski_dokument_slovenske_zunanje_politike_ang.pdf

[19] https://www.mo.gov.si/fileadmin/mo.gov.si/pageuploads/pdf/ministrstvo/RSNV2010_slo_en.pdf