President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues,
The talks with President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, have just ended. First, we worked in a small group, and then met with the participation of ministers, representatives of agencies and companies to discuss in detail the entire range of bilateral issues and outlined plans for the future. We also exchanged views on current European and international matters.
Slovenia is Russia’s important and reliable partner in Europe. We welcome the commitment of the republic's government to maintain a regular political dialogue, and share an interest in making steady progress in bilateral relations. By the way, this May will mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries.
The experience gained during this time inspires confidence that we can overcome current economic difficulties. As you may be aware, our trade has declined over the past years, but as of the end of 2016 we can say that the situation has stabilised, and our trade and economic relations are constantly monitored by the intergovernmental commission on trade, economic and scientific and technical cooperation.
The discussion touched on highly successful projects and effective cooperation between our countries in the energy sector. In this regard, I would like to note that Russia covers 70 percent of Slovenia's needs in natural gas. Gazprom is working with its Slovenian partners on a new contract for gas supplies to 2022.
Russian companies are willing to get involved in refurbishing Slovenian power plants. The commissioning of these plants will not only increase the production of electricity for the Slovenian capital, but also switch electricity supplies from coal to environmentally friendly natural gas, which, of course, would be beneficial for the environment.
Cooperation in the sphere of transport infrastructure is strengthening; we are looking at options for Russian Railways to participate in the modernisation of Slovenia’s railway network. This could be a major investment of about one billion euros.
Slovenian companies are traditionally well represented in the Russian pharmaceutical industry and agriculture. Russian regions actively cooperate with partners in Slovenia with interregional relations developing steadily. Approximately 70 regions of Russia maintain contacts with their partners and continue working on improving the legal framework for such cooperation. I hope the agreements signed today in your presence will create new opportunities for cooperation in various areas.
We have discussed expanding humanitarian cooperation. In the next two years, we have a packed programme of Russian-Slovenian cross-culture seasons planned, as well as Ljubljana Days in Moscow in the second half of 2017.
We appreciate the careful and respectful attitude to our shared history, the care taken of Russian military graves that we see in Slovenia. I would like to remind you that in July 2016, Mr Pahor and I jointly unveiled a monument in Ljubljana to all Russian and Soviet soldiers killed in Slovenia during the two world wars.
I have informed the President of the latest developments and the aggravation of the situation in southeastern Ukraine, highlighting the Minsk agreements that have absolutely no alternative as a basis for resolving the conflict. We have also discussed the state of relations between Russia and the European Union. I hope they will be gradually restored.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to the Slovenian leadership, and personally to Mr Pahor for this comprehensive, constructive dialogue. I am certain that today's meeting will contribute to the further development of bilateral relations.
President of Slovenia Borut Pahor (re-translated): Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
President Putin and I have met five times over the past eight years, first as prime ministers, and the last time as presidents of our respective countries. We have always had candid and open conversations, and nothing has changed in that regard. Even when relations between the EU and NATO, on the one hand, and the Russian Federation, on the other, declined a little, everything between us remained as before.
While those relations may have declined, although Slovenia is part of NATO and the EU, we have always tried to do our best to continue an open dialogue in order to continue to respect each other and seek common and mutually acceptable solutions. We always try to strengthen our relations with Russia, and of course, make the appropriate contributions so that all of our decisions are lasting, and we genuinely respect all of our agreements and strive to improve relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation.
The desire to maintain good relations is also evident from the invitation that I sent to Mr Putin in late July, and I told him about it when we marked the 100th anniversary of the Russian chapel at Vršič Pass in Slovenia.
Today’s talks with President Putin lasted twice as long as the time allocated for them. We exchanged views and clarified our respective points of view. They may be a little different, but we remained committed to the idea of respecting and implementing all the decisions to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine.
I told Mr Putin that the first step is, of course, to withdraw the military equipment. After that, it will be possible to renew peace talks in accordance with the Minsk agreements. As a friend, I urge all parties to cease all hostilities. Only then will we be able to hope for improved relations between Russia and the Western world. I am confident that relations with the European Union will then be restored at an appropriately high level.
Mr President and I noted that a large number of contracts and agreements would be signed on the sidelines of our meeting. This includes about 11 business contracts. If talks on the remaining contracts designed for the future were not completed yesterday, we will do so in the future. I hope that this will also help improve trade between our countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, our official visit to the Russian Federation is coming to an end. Tomorrow we will visit St Petersburg, a wonderful Russian city. There, we will sign an agreement between our National Gallery and the Hermitage museum on important cooperation between our countries and our peoples.
President Putin and I have every reason to be optimistic about our bilateral relations in the future. We look forward with a positive attitude, and together we will truly make every effort to restore the general situation, as well as relations between Russia and the Western world.
Thank you very much.
Question: Mr Putin, maybe today you also received an official invitation to meet with your US counterpart, Mr Trump, in Slovenia. Do you think Slovenia is a good venue for such a meeting? When will you have a meeting with Mr Trump? And what is your vision of what happens next?
Vladimir Putin: Over the past five years, Russian-American relations have degraded significantly and of course, they need to be restored in the interests of both the Russian and the American people. We heard what President Trump, who has assumed office, thinks about this. We have always welcomed this and we hope that our relations will be restored in full and in all areas.
However, this does not depend only on us. It also depends on the US. We act on the assumption that the United States first needs to form its team and decide who will conduct a dialogue with us and in what areas. This concerns trade and economic ties, security issues and the various parts of the world that are affected by numerous conflicts; and of course, by pooling our efforts, we can make a substantial contribution to resolving these issues, including the fight against international terrorism.
As for Ljubljana, and Slovenia as a whole, of course, it is a wonderful place for such talks. However, it depends not only on us but on a wide range of circumstances and day-to-day business. If these meetings take place, we have nothing against Ljubljana. We have already held such meetings in Ljubljana and I would like to thank [you] in advance, if there is such an opportunity (Mr President spoke about that). I would like to thank Slovenia for its willingness to organise such a meeting. To reiterate, this does not depend only on us, but naturally, we are ready for it.
Question: I have a question for the President of Slovenia and the President of Russia. Mr Putin, you mentioned a decline in trade between the two countries and then said that this decline had been halted. Do you believe it will be possible to continue to keep it from falling further? How is it possible to accomplish this amid political sanctions and what are the priority areas?
Vladimir Putin: We have just named them, both my colleague and I. They include energy, transport infrastructure, agriculture, the environment and tourism, to name a few.
Today, we discussed energy supplies, among other things. I am confident that the partners will reach an agreement in the near future. I also mentioned other areas, such as the pharmaceutical industry. That is, we have a variety of opportunities. Are the political constraints in our way? Of course, they are. But I think we can get over them. They are not likely to always remain a factor in international politics.
However, even in these circumstances, as you rightly pointed out, and I spoke about this today, we managed to overcome the recession owing to the stabilisation of the Russian national currency and the steady energy market situation. There are many variables and uncertainties that seem to be beyond our control, but we can still influence them. And we will influence them as much as we can. My forecast is very optimistic in this regard. I think that this year our trade will go up.
Borut Pahor: Our prospects are good. Slovenia overcame the recession, and our economic growth is up as is our economic cooperation with Russia. However, this growth was hampered by the sanctions. Even though the sanctions persist, and despite deteriorating relations between the European Union and Russia, Slovenia maintains business cooperation with Russia as best it can.
If the currently planned agreements are signed during this visit and in the coming months – we discussed this with the President – despite the not-so-good relations between the West and Russia, our cooperation will grow and certainly exceed $1 billion. Our talks and this news conference are a good sign that this will happen.
A proper environment for cooperation between the European Union and Russia will be restored following a Ukraine settlement, which is important for the Slovenian and Russian economies. The settlement will lift all the restrictions on the way to further expansion of economic cooperation. That is why we say that it is important to create such an environment. Clearly, it causes problems for each side, but friendly countries should try to find solutions that serve the interests of us all.