South Stream, Libya and sports – those were the main topics of the talks between Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor. The two met in Ljubljana on March 22 in the framework of Putin’s official visit to Slovenia. As South Stream was officially the aim of the visit, the establishment of a joint company between Russia’s gas giant Gazprom and Slovenia’s Geoplin Plinovodi that will manage the Slovenian stretch of the gas pipeline, did not surprise anyone.
The journalists in Ljubljana, however, used the occasion to ask Putin about the possible hurdles before the project and more specifically the ones that come from Turkey. During Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Moscow earlier this month, the only comment that came from Turkey was “that joint work on the project is continuing.” According to some Russian media, Turkey was deliberately delaying its decision about the route of the pipeline through its Black Sea waters, in order to bargain for lower gas prices.
“Turkey’s Prime Minister has recently visited Moscow. Turkey has formulated some questions and we have agreed to give it some additional documents, concerning the feasibility study, the environmental impact, the route, the technical study. After those documents are handed over, we hope to receive the final decision on the construction of the pipeline,” Putin commented during the joint news conference with Pahor.
“Of course, we are ready for every development. We consider it possible to liquefy gas and carry it to the Bulgarian coast or, it is also possible, to liquefy it where it is produced, at the Yamal peninsula, and bring it to the South-Eastern European countries and put it into the pipeline there. There are different options, which we are assessing from the point of view that nothing prevents us from implementing the project as it was initially agreed with our Turkish counterparts,” Putin added.
As for the possible problems around South Stream, connected with the Third Energy Package, Putin reiterated that there Moscow and Brussels still had different approaches and that the implementation of the package would have a negative impact on the Russian companies, not only concerning the South Stream Project, but also the gas infrastructure in Russia at large.
Commenting on the collision of positions between Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev concerning the recent developments in Libya, Putin said that there were more important issues such as the number of civilian casualties there and called for praying for the salvation of their souls. “First of all, Russia’s president is the one who is in charge with the country’s foreign policy and there cannot be any division. Second, if you are asking if there were any contradictions between me and Dmitry Medvedev, I should tell you that we are very close and we approach each other with understanding,” Putin explained.
At the end of his statement, from rivalry in politics, Putin turned to rivalry in sports. He took the challenge of his Slovenian counterpart that each time Slovenia was signing an agreement on South Stream, Russian football was in danger, and said that Russia was ready for a return match. (In 2009 Russia had a slight advantage over Slovenia in a football game). Pahor in turn, surprised Putin with a brand new model of Slovenian made ski with Putin’s initials on them.