Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Slovenia on July 26-27 in light of the current international situation seemed neither "ground-breaking" to Russia nor "defiant" to Europe, just as President Vladimir Putin's earlier visit to Hungary in February 2015.
It can be interpreted as a business visit, practically mundane, judging by the moderate number of quite serene coverage in Slovenian and European press. It is rather symbolic that the appearance of Russian leaders in Europe is no longer regarded as an "outrageous" phenomenon. It means that Russia is gradually snapping back into the peaceful and business-minded cooperation with Europe, allowing countries' authorities to decide whether to accept Russia's lucrative offers or to stick to the common Euro-Atlantic sanctions line.
Russia should treat the results of the negotiations in Europe with more tranquility, because, apart from the heavyweights still lingering on the European political arena, who dare disobey the clampdowns of Brussels, we cannot expect a breakthrough in lifting of sanctions yet. Indeed, it is logical that heads of many countries, as it was evident in Slovenia, speak out against the sanctions regime at bilateral meetings and interviews with media. But we need to realize that no one would be a bold naysayer at consultations in Brussels. Therefore, summarizing the results, it is always wise to come down to earth in any situation: in particular, when assessing the durability of potential deals with countries in the current European realities. The story around our southern gas streams is certainly a good lesson.
Nonetheless, let us get back to the visit to Slovenia. Its historical and political element deserves limelight. Starting with the commemoration ceremonies at the Russian Chapel at Vršič, the sides paid mutual tribute to the memory of our nations. It is a crucial fact. Slovenian press put special emphasis on Russia's gratitude for preserving the memory of its compatriots. The event was also substantial in terms of overhauling the gist of our bilateral ties, of the eventual understanding that good relations today cannot be built on economy alone.
Speaking of the economic component of the visit, it is not the decisive line for Russia, although the overall trade turnover between our countries can easily fit into the countries' list of top 10 commercial partners: both in terms of imports and exports. In recent years, Slovenia has become one of the most popular countries for Russians, boasting its skiing and water resorts. Russians grew accustomed to the good quality of pharmaceuticals from Slovenia. The countries exchanged cooperation programs for 2016-2018 in such traditional fields of cooperation as healthcare, tourism, culture, science and education. A memorandum of understanding on economic cooperation with third-party states was signed as well. Concerning large Russian energy projects, Slovenia takes a cautious position, understanding that its participation in gas stream projects without EU's decision may be impossible.
Slovenia is a small state, so the best prospects lie ahead in regional-level cooperation, which has already been established with Tatarstan, Samara, Ulyanovsk, Leningrad, Moscow, Vladimir Regions, Altai Territory and many other entities.
Slovenia is the first post-socialist state to enter the eurozone. It happened on January 1, 2007. It was also the first among the countries admitted to the EU in 2004 to hold presidency in the Council of the European Union in 2008. So, in terms of its involvement in common European projects, it is doing fine. EU leaders have recently noted the achievements of Slovenia in the economic sector, stressing on the above-average-European growth of some key indicators, though some setbacks in the fiscal and budgetary sectors were pointed out too. The main ordeal of Slovenia is not only in maintaining the inter-Balkan dialogue, but also in the arbitration with its neighbour Croatia over the maritime boundary, formed since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the unsettled process of Croatia's admission to the EU. That is another weak spot of the EU in the context of the hard times it is going through today.