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Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon’s Unusual Moves To Hide The Extreme Surge In Exports To Russia

A few days ago, the Slovenian public was shocked to learn that the Slovenian authorities had arrested two Russian spies in Ljubljana. Shocked because this kind of news usually does not get out unless someone explicitly wants it to. The media revelations were followed by a public appearance by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which she said that she did not intend to call the Russian ambassador to account in the wake of the arrest – until the Slovenian courts had ruled on the spies’ guilt. Many immediately pointed out the “latent” left-wing’s sympathy for the Russian Federation, which includes Slovenian media outlets, and with good reason. One of these is the incredible growth in exports to Russia since the attack on Ukraine. It has increased by more than 300 percent since the 24th of February last year. The increase is by far the largest among all the countries of the European Union.

We all remember the votes of the Slovenian left-wing MEPs in the European Parliament (including those of Minister Fajon herself, when she was still a Member of the European Parliament), who failed to vote in favour of the resolutions declaring Russia as a terrorist state, and the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian people, now known as the Holodomor, as genocide carried out against them. Let us also add to this the statements made by Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon about how she cannot imagine the future security architecture of Europe without Russia. But beyond the political assessments and the attempts to sit “on two chairs at once,” where the Minister wants to appear to be a Westerner and at the same time curry favour with Russia, there is the cold reality of numbers. It is impossible to just shrug and say, “There is not one truth, there are several truths!” when it comes to the huge increase in exports to Russia. Because in this case, there really are not several truths, but only one.

And the truth is that in the first nine months of Putin’s war with Ukraine, the EU Member States sent more money to Moscow than before the war. The sanctions were implemented relatively quickly, but it took time for them to take effect, the media outlet Politico reports. It was only in November last year that the value of imports from Russia was lower than in the same month a year earlier, i.e., in November 2021. The reasons for this can be found in Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and in the extraordinary rise in energy prices. However, as Politico reports, this is not the whole story. Some countries have been reducing trade with Russia at a much faster pace since the war began, and some have been increasing it. Among the countries that have increased trade with Russia is Slovenia. Not only that, but after the start of the war, there was an extreme increase in imports from Russia to Slovenia.

The value of imports from Russia to Slovenia was still just above 41 million euros in January 2022 but has started to grow since then. In February 2022, it was close to 96 million euros, and in March 2022, it was around 99.5 million euros. And what happened during this time was the change of government. Golob’s Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda) won the elections. The Freedom Movement formed a coalition with the extreme Left party (Levica) and the Social Democrats (Socialni Demokrati – SD). Slovenia got a new government on the 1st of June last year. This was also the month when the growth of imports from Russia to Slovenia surged the most. The total value of imports from Russia in 2022 was approaching or even surpassing one billion euros. According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, imports from Russia amounted to 887 million euros – and compared to the value of imports in 2021, which was 241 million euros, the difference is obvious.

According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the primary reason for the increase in exports from Russia was the rise in energy prices. The Chamber’s chief economist, Bojan Ivanec, told the national media outlet RTV Slovenia: “This is mainly due to bigger purchases of petroleum products and their rising prices, as well as the rising price of natural gas.” The value of exports to Russia has also increased. In 2021, this amounted to 557 million euros, compared to 677 million euros last year. According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the growth in exports is mainly due to the operation of the Slovenian investment in Russia, which is owned by a pharmaceutical company.

Why does Fajon refuse to call the Russian ambassador to account?

After the news of the arrest of Russian spies broke, the critical public wondered why the Foreign Minister did not call the Russian ambassador to a discussion. Similar calls were made when the Islamic Republic of Iran put MEP Milan Zver on a list of “supporters of terrorism”. This is an absurd list, but one that could have serious negative consequences for Slovenia and, in particular, for its senior political representative, Mr Zver. As we have previously written, Fajon has done nothing about the MEP’s security, nor has she called the Iranian ambassador to account.

The New Slovenia party (Nova Slovenija – NSi) President Matej Tonin speculates that the reasons for the behaviour of Tania Fajon may be due to economic factors, and he recently tweeted the following: “Maybe here lies the answer to why the Russian ambassador has still not been summoned for questioning.” To this, he attached a table showing that Slovenia has grown its exports to Russia the most out of all European Union countries since the war began.

The graphic also shows that some countries, such as Malta, have managed to drastically reduce the amount of goods imported from Russia. Sweden, Denmark and Portugal, for example, are among the countries that have been most successful in doing so. Even Germany, which was widely criticised before the war for being overly dependent on Russia for energy, and after the war for being too slow to reduce imports, managed to record a 49 percent reduction in imports compared to the same month in 2021. Slovenia, however, is at the very top of the same comparison. In certain cases, the increase in imports was even 1000 percent higher than in the same month last year.

Gal Kovač

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