Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Lokke Rasmussen (retranslated): Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to welcome you to our meeting with Mr Medvedev.
This is a historic event: the first time that a Russian President has made a state visit to Denmark since the year I myself was born. It was in 1964, one year prior to President Medvedev’s birth, that such a high-level Russian delegation visited us. This, in my opinion, represents a very positive development in Danish-Russian relations.
Both I and the Danish government attach great importance to this visit. The fact is that Russia is a major player on the international stage as well as an important partner for both Denmark and Europe. Therefore we are all interested in strengthening cooperation with Russia.
We share many interests, both political and economic ones. Immediately after this news conference President Medvedev and I will sign a declaration entitled Partnership for Modernisation. Symbolically it’s a very important statement which reflects our common interest in further developing relations between our countries.
In addition to that, the Danish and Russian governments will sign three agreements: on fighting transnational crime, on carrying out projects related to climate change, and on energy efficiency. These agreements will further strengthen the ties between our countries.
We share many interests indeed. Both Denmark and Russia are working on a universal climate agreement. Both countries favour the development of cooperation in the Arctic and the Baltic Sea. We have a common interest in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan and ensuring that instability does not spread to neighbouring countries.
I want to emphasise how pleased I am with the state of the dialogue between Denmark and Russia. Mr President and I already met in September 2009, and today we had very fruitful talks.
In addition, I already met three times this year with Prime Minister Putin, a fact which bears witness to the close and active dialogue between Danish and Russian leaders. This is important for the development of cooperation between our countries. It’s a necessary condition for having frank discussions, including on those issues where we have somewhat different points of view.
We have substantial common interests in the economic sphere despite the fact that, naturally, we saw a drop off in trade due to the global financial crisis. But this decline was not as significant as we feared.
The fact remains that our cooperation was very strong before the economic crisis and we are most interested in further developing our trade. I am glad indeed that contemporaneously with this state visit we witnessed the creation of an absolutely new forum, the Danish-Russian Business Conference, which has the potential to become a solid foundation for the development of relations between Denmark and the Russian Federation.
I am very pleased that we were able to arrange this state visit. I am also very glad that during this visit we signed agreements that could act as the basis for mutually advantageous development in the future.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
This visit is truly historic. Several times today, we mentioned Nikita Khrushchev and finally agreed that according to the USSR laws he was not the head of state, so he was not here on a state visit.
Therefore in the entire history of our relations this is probably the first state visit of a Russian leader, and I am pleased to make it. It is truly important for our relationship.
Mr Prime Minister and I first met in New York and few more times subsequently, and since then we have made a serious progress in developing various aspects of our relations and promoting our political dialogue.
Heads of state meet regularly and today we attended our first bilateral business conference which is an important event because, as I noted in my address to the business forum and can not miss the chance of repeating again here, businesspeople need to communicate face-to-face, not via Prime Ministers or Presidents, and speak the same language, both literally and figuratively.
Therefore this forum has good prospects, especially as Mr Prime Minister and I will sign a new Russian-Danish agreement today, the Partnership for Modernisation. I would like to thank the Danish side for this initiative and support as I find it very important for Russia and for our relations overall.
In spite of the [global] crisis, we succeeded in maintaining our recent achievements and produced one of the best examples of overcoming the year of crisis, because our trade only dropped by 13 percent which is no reason to be complacent but a manifestation of our capacities.
Hence, we agreed we should diversity our trade and economic ties, and promote investment projects. Our intergovernmental mechanism, the [Danish-Russian Intergovernmental] Council on Economic Cooperation has been facilitating this process. We have just exchanged respective information at our meeting in the restricted format and then in the expanded format involving key officials of our governments.
We are energy partners and today we will sign a memorandum on cooperating in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. This is a very important undertaking for our nations and for Russia in particular as regretfully energy efficiency is not our economy’s top achievement at the moment and thus we very much count on the help of our Danish partners.
The Nord Stream project is an important issue. Let me underline that Denmark was the first to approve construction of the pipeline. I see it as evidence of political wisdom and pragmatic approach to bilateral relations, because decisions of this kind should not be motivated by ideology or anything else but instead should be pragmatic and beneficial to our nations. I hope this decision will generate tangible financial dividends too.
We are expanding cooperation in high technologies, medicine and pharmaceuticals by launching respective joint ventures in Russia.
Both today and yesterday we discussed our agricultural cooperation as it offers many opportunities.
There are numerous projects underway in transportation infrastructure, including in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic, and they all were on our agenda today.
My visit to Denmark is taking place on the eve of the 65th anniversary of defeating Nazism. World War II was a tragedy for all of Europe. I pay special attention to that date and we will hold large-scale events in Russia on May 9. We appreciate Denmark’s attentiveness to preserving the memory of our soldiers who died liberating Bornholm Island.
While remembering the lessons of the past, we must look forward and this is another conclusion of today’s discussions. That is why we addressed a variety of matters, including issues on which our positions are the same, such as countering major global threats, and issues where our positions diverge. This is normal, and Mr Prime Minister and I will maintain open and direct discussions in the future. I see this to be our joint responsibility.
I’d like to address again regional issues. We are obligated to do everything we can to turn the Arctic and the Baltic Sea into prosperous regions with excellent environmental conditions and perfect mutual understanding among all neighbours, and we will continue our efforts in this regard. Thus, I would like to thank my Danish partners and Mr Prime Minister for our productive dialogue yesterday and today and look forward to continuing it.
I cannot fail touching upon one more subject. We indeed had several hard days here during the Climate Change Conference, but I think it was nevertheless very important, because it was our first such experience.
At the same time, it demonstrated that even despite all differences in views (although in case of Russia and Denmark the approaches to the climate change problem are quite similar) it is possible to reach agreements and attain common ground.
I am certain our efforts will continue, including at the COP16 in Mexico. I praise Mr Prime Minister’s valor and personal input to this complicated endeavour.
Question: Mr President of Russia, I know that this is a question that you’ve been asked more than once and maybe you are tired of it, but I recently saw that 66 percent of Russians believe that Mr Putin is the one who controls the country. Who actually takes decisions in Russia today?
Dmitry Medvedev: Good question, even though it has perhaps grown somewhat tired; but every question asked at a news conference is good.
You know, Russia is controlled by the Russian people – not Medvedev, not Putin, nor anyone else. This is the first thing.
Second. If we are talking about the distribution of competences, then I really have talked about this repeatedly. Let me remind you that in accordance with our Constitution, the President appoints the Prime Minister and the Government. I do not know whether there’s anything else to say on this subject?
Finally, the Government – and I have talked about this repeatedly, as has my colleague Vladimir Putin – has its own sphere of competences. We do not have a parliamentary republic or a parliamentary monarchy like Denmark, we are a presidential republic. Therefore the President is a powerful figure as is the Government. And each of these bodies is enshrined with its own distinct sphere of competences. Russia is not like the United States where there is no separate administration and all decisions are taken by the White House. So it seems to me that these things are fairly obvious, but if they interest you then of course I am ready to answer such questions again and again.
Question: Mr President, you mentioned the Partnership for Modernisation declaration that you will sign. Which interesting projects can Danish business be involved in in Russia? Perhaps you have already allotted something?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for this question.
These projects already exist and are being carried out: the aggregate Danish investment in our country amounts to about a billion dollars. I cannot say that this is a huge figure, but nevertheless these direct investments are something to build on. They relate to the medical and pharmaceutical industries as well as energy cooperation.
Mr Prime Minister and I just discussed this topic and decided that it really is important for us – this is obvious. Already now, our Danish partners are involved in creating energy-efficient cities — they even mentioned them today, those districts or sometimes entire cities — and our partners help us by virtue of their experience. This knowhow really is of great significance given the fact that, to be frank, here in Denmark people really do value energy efficiency and appreciate the real cost of heating. In Russia, unfortunately, this remains a problem.
Regions such as Tatarstan whose leaders have accompanied me on this state visit already are, to some extent, the pilot sites where such projects will be implemented.
The second sphere of cooperation is agriculture. Here too we have things to talk about and there are issues where we can cooperate. I believe that the agricultural sector in Denmark is truly cutting edge and therefore it can serve as an example for many other countries too, and not only for Russia.
As you know, we recently invested quite a lot of money in the development of agriculture. I was glad to hear that our Danish partners are actively involved in this. Incidentally, yesterday we talked about this too. There is a whole range of good projects in this field. So here too I think it would be good to consolidate our efforts.
Transportation, port capacity – virtually every area that we might name is potentially interesting for us.
As for energy sector, I have already said a lot about Nord Stream and I have nothing to renege nor to add on the subject. Energy will remain a major area of our cooperation, which I think is very beneficial. And today we will finalise an agreement on cooperation in the high-tech field and with regards to modernising the Russian economy.
Lars Lokke Rasmussen: I would just like to briefly add that Nord Stream opens up various possibilities for Denmark. In a few years we will be dependent on gas, and this offers us an opportunity to diversify supplies.
In addition, there is another very important life rule which is to save energy. Energy saving is a good practice in Denmark which witnessed economic growth in the past decade which was not accompanied by increased energy consumption. And this is the point that Mr President very kindly made. Ours is very positive, balanced cooperation, because we are able to both import Russian gas and work at saving it.
Question: Today we heard that you directed to publish the Katyn files. Mr President, can you tell us why you ordered to make these files public? Does this imply that you will increasingly acknowledge the Russian or Soviet role in those chapters of the history of the Second World War?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Katyn files are already declassified. However, there are a number of documents which have not yet been passed over to our Polish partners. I gave the instruction to carry out the relevant work and, following the appropriate procedures, to transfer any materials of interest to our Polish colleagues to them.
In general, our evaluations [of that time and those events] were made long ago; I have already talked about this. Indeed, some while ago and in order to make our people more aware of what happened, I instructed not only to continue this work [with archives], but also to present the results that we already have. Incidentally, this was done today.
This does not mean that no one is familiar with these materials, but it really is the first time that they are being published on the federal archive service’s website in such an accessible form. Let everyone see what was done, who made decisions, who gave the orders to kill the Polish officers: everything is recorded there, the signatures are all there, the faces are all known.
Again, it’s necessary to learn from history. So I think that the publication of these documents in this consolidated form is a good thing, and we will continue to work on this issue. I think it is our duty.
Question: My question is for both leaders. First of all let me ask you, Mr Prime Minister. We know that Copenhagen is considered the bicycle capital of Europe and many people are amazed by the number of its inhabitants who use bicycles to get around the city. Was it difficult in terms of investment and policy decisions to make this city cycle-friendly?
And a question for you too, Mr President. I know that in your native St Petersburg there are quite a number of bicycle users, but the number of cycle lanes can still be counted on one hand. What is your general attitude to the bicycle as a method of transportation and can we one day expect that a large number of Russians will trade their cars for a bike?
Lars Lokke Rasmussen: Copenhagen is a bicycle city as a result of a long development process. In many respects the municipal authorities deserve the credit. There was also investment in the development of the necessary infrastructure at the national level. We made the decisions to support such development at the municipal level.
In general, the demand for bicycle paths creates their availability. Danes want bicycle paths, and that puts the pressure on us to build them and to create the framework needed to give Danes a chance to ride their bikes.
I myself love to cycle. During the last three years I rode a bike to Paris. I can confirm that Danish cycling culture is far superior to what we see in the south and even in Europe.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good question. You know, once when I didn’t have my current job and could move relatively freely across Europe, I was visiting some country, not Denmark, and I really liked it when I was in a restaurant in that European country, just sitting there, and up came the Prime Minister — not to meet with me, he was just coming on his bicycle to have lunch. That inspired me in a sense.
I think that generally speaking what is very important here is setting a personal example. We haven’t done very well with this in Russia for a number of reasons. Probably the main thing is the absence of a traffic culture, and sometimes our cyclists are actually afraid to ride on our streets, because not only are there no bicycle paths but there is also the problem of motorists’ attitudes to cyclists.
They don’t think of them as fellow travelers and in general have no idea why they’re on the road. So there is something to talk about here and something to be learned from our European partners, if only because it is such a healthy lifestyle.
I would very much like to have many cyclists riding the streets of my native St Petersburg, as well as the streets of other Russian cities. I hope that someday this mode of transport will be available to those running the country too.
Question: Did you take up issues such as human rights and the problems in the North Caucasus, or would that have ruined the good atmosphere?
Lars Lokke Rasmussen: I can confirm that the atmosphere was good. But creating such an atmosphere means being able to discuss openly issues on which we have different views. So naturally we discussed those too.
I must say that I was struck by the President’s very strong endorsement of the importance of pluralism and of respecting human rights, and I was struck by the progress that we have seen in this area. But I talked about some of the concerns that Danes have, for example, regarding the murders of journalists in Russia. I expressed my wish that these cases be investigated and that the perpetrators be prosecuted. Denmark’s position on this issue is well known.
The same can be said when talking about the huge potential that we see for cooperation in the business sphere. This potential is based on the importance that the President attaches to transparency in Russian society and the development of this transparency. So yes of course these questions were discussed.
Dmitry Medvedev: Let me say a couple of words here too because, first, this topic is important and, second, it is traditional for Danish society and several other countries where such questions are of concern for many people. This is a good thing.
What can I say? First of all, as a matter of fact such topics can never poison the atmosphere because this is a normal issue to bring up. That’s the first thing.
Second: we really do always discuss this sort of questions. I told Mr Prime Minister that we are open to the idea of these topics being discussed with representatives of the Government, representatives of civil society, and representatives of nongovernmental organisations. That said, these are our problems and we will solve them on our own and independently. We don’t need any help from others on this issue – we have to deal with them ourselves.
Finally, there’s one more thing. Of course every crime committed should be investigated, but I do not think that the President or law enforcement agencies should be exclusively preoccupied with the murder of journalists or any other group that share a given professional capacity.
We should seek to eliminate all crimes of this nature because violence against the person constitutes the gravest crime in the Criminal Code of any nation, including ours.
So these issues need to be addressed without picking and choosing, and that’s what Mr Prime Minister and I talked about. I think this is useful, but again I would stress that these issues fall within the jurisdiction of the Russian state and of me as President of Russia.