The main theme at this year’s forum was Russia and Germany: The Information Society Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century.
Petersburg Dialogue is an open forum for discussing current issues in Russian-German relations. Meetings take place every year, alternating between the two countries, with politicians, academics, cultural figures, and journalists from both countries taking part.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Federal Chancellor, Mr de Maiziere, Mr Zubkov, ladies and gentlemen,
I also want to wish a warm welcome to everyone taking part in this XII meeting of the Petersburg Dialogue public forum. I am very pleased to see that from its beginnings a few years ago, the dialogue has developed so fast and is gaining in scope and quality all the time. The fact that youth organisations are joining in your work too is a very good sign that this kind of forum does have a future.
It is symbolic that the forum’s events are taking part within the framework of the reciprocal Years of Russia and Germany. Their motto – Building the Future Together – is also symbolic. I think it is a fitting motto and a very fitting desire.
Over the 12 years since it began, as I said, Petersburg Dialogue has become an important platform for developing new ideas and public initiatives, including within the large-scale Partnership for Modernisation programme. This programme has already been tried and tested at the bilateral Russian-German level, and will now serve as the basis for building relations between Russia and the European Union.
I note by the way that Germany is one of our biggest trade and economic partners. It was our biggest partner until just recently. The People’s Republic of China is now in the number one spot, but Germany holds a strong second place. Germany is our biggest partner in Europe in any case. In this respect, our ties in all different areas, including humanitarian ties, cultural exchanges and so on, are all extremely important as they strengthen the general base for cooperation.
The theme of today’s forum is Russia and Germany: The Information Society Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century. The Federal Chancellor said just now that she hopes that young people will push officials to work more actively in this direction. I can tell you that we in Russia are also taking steps in this area at the official level.
We have the Information Society state programme, for example, which was launched a few years ago and covers the 2011–2020 period. Our goal is to be among the top ten countries in the world in the international ranking for information technology development by 2020, and among the top twenty for development of electronic government and networks in society. I remind you that Russia was one of the first countries in the world where people could follow the presidential election through direct online broadcasting from all polling stations. Overall, this had a positive impact on the election process. Of course, there are limits to this kind of election monitoring, but the positive aspects are nonetheless clear.
We will actively develop various forms of electronic democracy. In particular, the Russian parliament will have a duty to examine any popular initiative that collects at least 100,000 identifiable signatures online. We see big opportunities for using internet technology at the municipal and regional levels too.
Colleagues, I will not comment right now on the problems that have been raised so far today.
We have representatives from German and Russian youth organisations present here today. The Federal Chancellor mentioned the visa issue just before. This problem is real and is definitely a factor limiting development of our multilateral relations. We think that we will be able to settle this issue through a process of dialogue with the European Union, and we hope for our German friends’ support in this area.
Whether in Russia, Germany, or other countries, there is still much to do in order to ensure unrestricted freedom of speech and at the same time protect people from those who try to use modern technology to spread their message of nationalism, intolerance, violence and aggression, and who seek to profit from vice. In this area we not only welcome proposals from our partners and the chance to work together to find solutions, but we also believe that civil society organisations, with their inherent persistence, can help to resolve many of these sensitive issues, and the politicians, of course, must give them all necessary assistance.
As I just said, we are big trade and economic partners. There are now more than 600 companies with Russian capital registered in Germany, including many small and medium-sized businesses. They cooperate closely and work directly with the public, at the grassroots level. These small businesses create new jobs and new opportunities for our goods and latest technological advances. German investment in the Russian economy now comes to the impressive sum of $25 billion. Russian companies’ investment in the German economy is also growing from one year to the next.
I do not want to make a long speech. It is with pleasure that we will listen to what you all have to say. I am sure that you have prepared some questions and proposals for discussion. I think that a real live dialogue and this kind of direct contact will be a lot more interesting than listening to the Federal Chancellor and myself deliver long monologues.
Thank you very much for your attention all the same.