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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Madam President, dear Tarja,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Moscow Region. I am very happy to see you again.
This is an opportunity for us to take stock of the past year, as well as look at the long-term achievements in the Russian-Finnish relations. This is particularly relevant in view of the important date coming up on January 20: twenty years since the signing of the new Russian-Finnish Agreement on the Basic Principles of Relations.
Last year was very successful for Russian-Finnish cooperation, which developed well in all areas: both trade and investment have reached the pre-crisis level. Russia is Finland’s priority trade partner, and Finland is a highly valued partner for us. So in that sense, everything has been going well and the future outlook is also excellent. I believe we should also talk about that, especially since both our countries are approaching very important political events: presidential elections.
We will also exchange our views on regional issues, talk about the Baltic Sea and other regional matters. I look forward to a comprehensive and productive dialogue.
Let me say once again how glad I am to see you in Moscow today.
President of Finland Tarja Halonen (re-translated): Thank you. I truly enjoy visiting Moscow, even though St Petersburg has a special place in our hearts.
Since this is my last trip to Russia as President of the Republic of Finland, I gave a lot of thought before the visit to the progress in the Russian-Finnish relations over the past 12 years, or even in the past 17 years, because before becoming President, I held a post in the Foreign Ministry.
We meet as political figures; there are meetings between politicians and people of our countries. They communicate far more actively than in the past. Last year, there were 10 million border crossings, which actually exceeds the population of Finland.
Apart from the economic aspects of our cooperation, which you have already mentioned, I would like to say that it is very important that the people of our countries get to know each other better and that we learn more about our countries.
This is all very gratifying but we are also facing certain challenges. I am sure there will still be enough work to do after we leave our current posts. For example, the traffic jams on our border require attention. The reasons are clear: people want to travel quickly and at the same time safely.
Naturally, wherever people meet and communicate with each other, problems can inevitably arise. It's just the nature of human relationships. But most importantly, our cooperation must evolve steadily and successfully, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and we must always have subjects to discuss and issues that we can tackle together. This includes the Baltic Sea, the environment and ecology.
I can say here in front of the media that I always enjoy discussions with such a partner, with whom I can speak frankly and directly, without clouding the issue.