President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Today, Mr Juncker and I had a substantive conversation about key issues in our cooperation, as well as the international agenda.
Cooperation between Russia and Luxembourg is developing successfully and may be certainly classified as partnership. We are maintaining regular, trust-based political dialogue and cooperating on a mutually beneficial basis in the trade, economy, science, technology, and in the humanitarian sector.
Luxembourg is a major investor. Together with China and the Netherlands, it is one of the top three investors of capital into the Russian economy. The figure is quite high – 36.7 billion dollars. We are well aware that this is largely due to the repatriation of Russian capital. Nevertheless, if it passes through Luxembourg’s financial and banking system and returns to Russia’s economy then that, too, is positive.
Among other areas, investments are being directed toward the implementation of new technologies and such important sectors of the Russian economy as infrastructure, communications, including satellite and space-based communications, the metallurgical industry and medicine. Innovative projects include producing energy efficient glass, developing joint pharmaceuticals and a host of others. Many of these are being implemented on a multilateral basis.
Luxembourg’s banking circles are assisting in the development of Russia’s securities market and its full-fledged integration into global financial markets. This is a very important area of our cooperation. We will continue to broaden economic ties between Russia and Luxembourg. Our joint commission plays a special role in this process. Mr Juncker and I agreed that the new co-chairs from Russia and Luxembourg will hold another session of this commission soon.
We intend to foster tight cooperation between Luxembourg and Russia’s regions. Already, a significant number of Russian regions are working directly with partners from Luxembourg. We know that during this current visit, Mr Prime Minister will go to the Republic of Tatarstan and Tambov Region. We are glad to see the development of cooperation on a regional scale. I am certain that it will benefit our bilateral relations.
During our talks, we discussed the situation in the Eurozone. I am very grateful to Mr Juncker. Mr Prime Minister is not just the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, but also a major European politician (I am certain of this, and he knows that this is my point of view). He has presided over the Euro Group for many years – a group of which the finance and economic ministers are members. And naturally, it was very important for us to hear an assessment of the situation in the Eurozone from a direct source.
We also touched on the problems in the relations between Russia and the EU. For our part, we emphasised our interest in transferring to a visa-free travel regime as quickly as possible. I am very pleased that Mr Prime Minister shares this approach. I hope that our other colleagues, including colleagues from the European Commission, will also work on implementing these joint goals more actively.
I sincerely thank our colleagues from Luxembourg, all our colleagues and Mr Prime Minister personally, for today’s constructive dialogue and productive joint work.
Thank you for your attention.
Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker (retranslated): Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, the relations between Russia and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg are excellent, just like the relations between the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of Luxembourg.
We have been maintaining a rich dialogue for many years now. We have some disagreements as well as convergences in views. Ultimately, there are more similarities than differences. Thus, we discussed bilateral issues existing in our relations.
I am very grateful to the President of Russia for his agreement to improve aerial service between our nations and, of course, our agencies will continue advancing in this regard. I thank the President of Russia for understanding Luxembourg’s concerns on eliminating visas. And we fully understand Russia’s position, since this issue must be resolved adequately, taking into account the ambitious objectives that stand before Russia and the European Union in their cooperation.
And I am very happy that the State Duma will be ratifying the agreement on avoiding double taxation between Russia and Luxembourg this October, as the President told me.
We spent a long time discussing problems pertaining to issues that are still unresolved with regard to the Eurozone’s debt burden. As the president of the Euro Group, I thank Russia for its policies demonstrating loyalty and consistency toward the Eurozone, which is of decisive importance for us.
We also talked about the situation in the region. Russia is an important regional player in this, shall we say, complicated region of the world. Moreover, we discussed the issue of human rights in Russia and other countries. In addition, we spoke about issues regarding the situations in Syria and Afghanistan.
I thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for finding the time for today’s meeting, which serves as another testament to our friendship.
Question: Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, I have several questions: on Syria, the tensions between China and Japan, and on the Eurozone, but I will stick to one question and ask you about human rights. You said that you and Mr Putin discussed at the start of your meeting the things the Russian federal government intends to and should do to improve the human rights situation in Russia, taking into account the criticism from organisations such as Human Rights Watch and European parliamentarians’ groups.
Jean-Claude Juncker (retranslated): Yes, I have discussed the human rights issue with the Russian President during our personal meetings and our telephone conversations. To be honest, I do not like to lecture others on human rights, but I do discuss the issue. I want to make myself clearly understood on this point: in order to play an effective part in helping to resolve these problems I am happy to discuss such issues, but not at news conferences. We did discuss these matters, raised the question, but, frankly, I do not want to repeat everything we said here before you now. I think it is sufficient for you to know that we did discuss this issue.
”Cooperation between Russia and Luxembourg is developing successfully. We are maintaining regular, trust-based political dialogue and cooperating on a mutually beneficial basis in the trade, economy, science, technology, and in the humanitarian sector.“
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we did talk about this matter. Mr Juncker and I have known each other for a long time now, and I think he would agree that we have good and friendly relations. He is frank in sharing with me his point of view on all the various issues, including human rights issues, and we discuss things openly and freely, without any limitations.
As for international human rights organisations’ assessments, they make various assessments about the situation in many different countries. I have already given some examples. It is enough to look at their assessments of the prison system, say, in some of the European Union countries. We all see the things that are going on there. We have problems here in Russia too. My only objection is that attention should not focus on Russia’s problems alone.
There are common problems that we share. In many Muslim countries now, for example, people are protesting against the release of an anti-Islamic film that they see as a violation of their rights. I have not heard about anyone being punished for this. There are always going to be differences in understanding about where to draw the lines between the natural limits that specific cultural, historical and traditional frameworks place on human rights, and the rights that should be universally recognised and upheld without any limitation and universal common moral and spiritual values that we must all defend and protect. My basic position is that Russia does have problems in this area, as do all countries, and we always discuss them openly with our partners, including with Mr Juncker.
Question: My question is for both leaders and concerns one of the issues you discussed, namely, the Eurozone’s problems. Mr Junkcer, as a specialist and one of the people most closely involved in this matter, how do you see the outlook as far as the crisis goes? How likely is it that it will worsen, and what possible solutions do you see?
Mr Putin, in this respect, my question for you is: should Russia be worried about its assets? How big is the risk to Russian assets?
And I’d like to tack on a question about relations with Europe, only of a more indirect kind. As things stand at the moment, Russia abolished daylight saving and stayed on winter time, but this creates communication problems as it puts us on different time. There has been a lot of talk in Russia lately about going back to summer time. Could you tell us your point of view? Are you for or against this idea?
Jean-Claude Juncker (retranslated): Friends, I think this issue does not really concern Luxembourg. Time zones and the problems of time zone differences do not affect us because of our country’s small size, so, if you don’t mind, I will not answer this question.
Regarding the Eurozone, as I explained to the President and the Prime Minister, those who think that the Eurozone is about to collapse soon are severely mistaken. The Eurozone partners are strongly committed to keeping the common currency and maintaining the zone’s financial stability. We are a lot stronger than we look, and are ready to battle any difficulties we may encounter on the way.
We are better prepared than we were a few years ago. We have put in place a financial stability mechanism, which I will announce on October 8 as an officially launched programme. This instrument will enable us to respond to immediate short-term risks and fluctuations that could negatively impact our financial stability. I am absolutely certain that we can and must guarantee the Eurozone’s financial stability, and I know we are up to the task. I am not saying that this will be easy, but I can say honestly that this is our objective and we are putting all our hopes and efforts into this work.
Vladimir Putin: On the question of our assets, our gold and currency reserves, it is true that we keep a substantial share of these reserves in euros (slightly less than half, but this is the biggest share). We are fully aware of the risks, but we take the view that the European economy’s fundamentals – and this is the most important thing in the end – are solid enough to maintain the common currency in place. At any rate, we see the European Commission and the Eurozone’s key actors’ determination to improve the situation, and we have confidence in their policies.
On the daylight savings debate, I have not been following these discussions just of late, but I am aware of the attention Russian public opinion has been giving this issue.
As we know, Mr Medvedev made this decision when he was President. I discussed the matter with him recently, and he is willing to change that decision, but the question is simply a matter of how best to go about the change.
This matter came up during the election campaign too, and I said then and say again now that we will analyse the whole situation once more, look at how the decision that was taken has worked in practice, and then, without haste and fuss, we will make a final decision. The decision will be made at the Government Cabinet level. I think this would be the best and most proper way to go about resolving this problem.