As it emerged as an independent country from Yugoslavia, Slovenia experienced one of the smoother transitions in the region, remaining largely exempt from the chaos that engulfed the Western Balkans more broadly. In the period that followed, Slovenia maintained one of the largest economies among its former Yugoslav counterparts. In more recent years, however, as the global financial crisis interrupted a steady economic climb, Slovenia has experienced some political and economic challenges, including corruption laws that, in some cases, have gone largely unenforced.
Russian economic and financial penetration of the country has been minimal, however, with the exception of the energy sector, where Slovenia is dependent on Russian natural gas for just under half of its gas imports. Even so, its Russian energy dependence is less than many of its regional counterparts. Moreover, Russian interest in expanding its economic ties with Slovenia has been on a steady incline. During a July 2015 working visit of Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev to Slovenia, the idea of expanding economic ties between Moscow and Ljubljana was discussed in detail. Medvedev noted particular Russian interest in industry, energy (including power generation), hospitality and tourism.
Given that Slovenia is in the process of selling off many of its state-owned assets, there is indeed need for attention in this domain. In May 2013, the Slovenian government issued a list of 15 stateowned companies set for privatization. Russia has not been among Slovenias major export partners and, despite some level of Russian FDI in the country, Russian investment in Slovenia has been quite low when compared with Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. The caution exhibited by Slovenia has helped protect the country from undue exposure to Russia. Given the countrys privatization schemes, however, and stated Russian ambitions to escalate its business ties to the country, this caution is likely to be warranted for the foreseeable future.
Excerpted Deals andTransactions:
- Russian state-owned enterprises are present in the countrys petroleum sector, but primarily in the retail market, where they appear interested in expanding their presence further. Petrol is Slovenias largest company, responsible for 3 billion in sales in 2013 and is the main supplier of oil and other energy products on the Slovenian market. The company also has a history of cooperation with Gazprom Neft. In June 2009, Gazprom reportedly expressed an interest in purchasing Petrol. While this purchase was never carried out, Gazproms intent is noteworthy.
- Slovenia is 99% dependent on imported natural gas, with Russia supplying just under half of that amount. In 2013, however, natural gas made up only 11% of Slovenias final energy consumption. Around 70% of the natural gas consumed in Slovenia is consumed by industrial customers who are linked into the natural gas transmission network. Despite this relatively favorable position, the country was the second Western Balkan country (behind only Serbia) to support Russias South Stream project, signing an agreement with Moscow in 2009.
- In May 2014, Slovenias Comita began discussions with Gazprom regarding opportunities for the creation of a joint venture company for the development of the gas engine fuel segment in the countries participating in the South Stream project.Just two years prior, in November 2012, Gazprom Telecom (a wholly owned Gazprom subsidiary) had established the South Stream Telecom AG joint venture company, with Gazprom Telecom holding 50% plus one share, and Comita the remaining shares. The company was created specifically for the operation and provision of integrated telecommunications services at primary communication lines along the South Stream pipeline in Slovenia.
- In 1991, Slovenias Tagdem gas trading joint venture company became operational. Its shareholders included Gazprom Export, Gazkomplektimpks, EuralTransGas (a highly controversial company registered in Hungary, once suspected of serving as a Gazprom front), Severgazprom (a Gazprom subsidiary) (each holding 21.25%) and Slovenias Kovinotehna (which held 15%). As of 2008, the company was reportedly involved in the design and construction of facilities for the natural gas industry.
- A Russian Scientific and Cultural Center, a means through which Moscow projects soft power, was established in Ljubljana in April 2011. It is just one of the Russian Scientific and Cultural Centers that exist in 73 countries worldwide. The ostensible purpose of the Russian Scientific and Cultural Center is to support international cooperation between Moscow and Ljubljana as well as to encourage cooperation with the Russians living abroad. The Centers are managed by Rossotrudnichestvo, which is funded with the Kremlins foreign policy budget.