President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
This was, in fact, the first such detailed discussion between the President of Finland and myself on our bilateral relations. We analysed everything that was done in the recent period and came to the conclusion that a great deal has been achieved. Trade is growing, the infrastructure and transport are improving, and ties between the regions of the Russian Federation and Finland are developing successfully. There has been a substantial increase in investment on both sides. The volume of accumulated Finnish investments in Russia has already reached from 3.5 to 5 billion euros, according to various estimates. We agreed to continue our contacts and will provide steady support for the efforts of our businesses and civil societies. A significant part of the conversation was devoted to cooperation in the humanitarian sphere.
I would like to thank Mr President for accepting my invitation to come to St Petersburg. I am confident that our very constructive, excellent business relations will continue in the future.
We agreed to continue our dialogue in an informal setting, including a dinner to which I invited the St Petersburg Governor, Leningrad Region Governor, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Northwest Federal District, Transport Minister and Finance Minister. So we will have an opportunity to discuss many matters in greater detail.
Question: Mr Putin, the Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces recently visited Finland and while he was there he said that Finland's possible NATO membership may be a threat to Russia. Could you comment on that, please?
Vladimir Putin: I think that the participation of any country in military blocs deprives it of its sovereignty to a certain extent, and part of that sovereignty is given to the international organisation. For example, we have just had a question about visas, and Mr President said that Finland cannot make such decisions because it has given this authority to Brussels. The same thing will happen if Finland joins NATO: the authority to make certain decisions will be transferred to that organisation. If, say, the question will arise about the deployment of some ballistic missile defence systems, or something else that might threaten Russia’s security, that will, of course, cause a reaction from Russia, and Finland will say, just as in the visa case, that it cannot do anything. But Russia will provide a response. Why do we need that?
Question: Mr President, despite optimistic statements about the ruble, currency, the crisis and other things, the ruble is clearly creeping downward, it’s clearly moving, the euro is trembling, and there is increasing talk in the West about a powerful second wave of the crisis. Will this second wave affect the ruble?
Vladimir Putin: Well, if the ruble is moving, we can be sure that it is alive. There are certainly some disturbing signs but there are also certain positive aspects, because the policy of floating the exchange rate, which Russia's Central Bank is trying to lead in part, curbs the inflation and to a certain extent prevents any sudden shocks. We will be able to adopt the floating exchange rate policy in full when we succeed in substantially diversifying our economy.
With regard to possible negative trends in the global and European economy, we discussed it at length at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. We must hope for the best but be prepared for every eventuality, and we are getting ready. We are improving our anti-crisis measures, increasing our resources and at the same time we are implementing long-term development programmes. We are also expanding cooperation with our traditional neighbours, such as Finland. I am confident that our joint efforts will lead to an increased reliability of the global, European and our bilateral economic systems.
I was particularly pleased to hear just now, when Mr President and I analysed our bilateral economic relations, that there are more and more examples of mutual asset exchange between Russian and Finnish companies. This immediately creates new jobs, revives production, for example, in shipbuilding and engine building, and both sides gain straight away not only a new competence, but also a new market.
So we will continue our efforts, and there is no reason to expect an apocalypse in the global economy. There are many problems, but we need to work on them, and let us hope that the situation will not change for the worse, but for the better.
Question: The Karelian Isthmus is at its best in the summer. It is a place that interests both the Russians and Finns. And the Finns are particularly interested in ensuring there is reciprocity in land issues.
Vladimir Putin: Mr President and I have talked on this matter. I am very grateful to you for this question because I wanted to explain to our Finnish partners that we have no ban in place on the purchase of real estate, land or houses by Finnish citizens in the Russian Federation. Such a ban does not exist.
There is a law that limits the acquisition by foreign nationals of real estate in the border zone. This rule is not restricted to Finnish citizens; it applies to all foreign nationals along the entire perimeter of Russia’s border. But we have agreed that we will once again review the enforcement practice of this law and if necessary, we will adjust it, but first we need to conduct such a review. The problem is that the same legal principles should be enforced in the south, the Far East, the north and the north-west. All of our neighbouring states and their citizens must have the same rights.
Mr President raised this issue and we discussed it. I repeat, we will analyse the law and adjust it if necessary. We'll see. I know that Finnish citizens not only purchase real estate in this part of the country, but also live here almost on a permanent basis. There are small farms in the area, Finnish citizens have built houses for themselves, bought large farms. You can go see for yourselves but I don’t know if they will want to talk to the press. We have to because that’s the job, but they can refuse.
Thank you very much.