Slovenia, Russia Likely to Sign South Stream Deal in June

Economy Minister Matej Lahovnik announced after Friday's meeting with Russian Minister for Information and Mass Communication Igor Schegolev in Ljubljana that the South Stream pipeline deal between Slovenia and Russia would probably be signed in June.

The two sides already ironed out open issues regarding the construction of the Slovenian section of the gas pipeline during Lahovnik's visit to Moscow in April and the coordination of the deal is already in its final final phase.

"The signing will happen; Slovenia has decided it wants to be a part of this. The agreement was in coordination for a long time, now the finance ministries of both countries are addressing tax related aspects," Lahovnik told the press.

It is not clear how Slovenia and Russia solved the open issues, which involved the tax status of the joint company that will construct the Slovenian section of the pipeline, the stakes that the sides will hold in the joint company and access to the pipeline.

The two minsters addressed the press after today's session of a bilateral commission for economic and technological cooperation.

The meeting focused on anti-crisis measures adopted by the Slovenian and Russian governments, and on cooperation in telecommunication, in energy, pharmaceutical and chemical industry and in construction.

Also on the agenda were visa liberalization, air transport regulations, and the extension of the agreement on the supply of Russian gas to Slovenia between Russia's Gazprom Export and Slovenia Geoplin for the coming 15 years.

Quizzed about the possibility of another interruption in the supply of Russian gas to Europe, as indicated by Russia at today's summit with the EU, Minister Schegolev said that securing an interrupted supply was among the reasons for the construction of the South Stream pipeline.

Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Mikhail Vanin meanwhile said that the crisis was negatively affecting mutual investments: Slovenian investments in Russia stand at EUR 235m, while Russia has pumped 200m into Slovenia. On the other hand, the number of Russian tourists in Slovenia increased by 31% to 29,000 last year.

BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC.