In his speech, Mr Putin touched upon European integration, Russian-EU cooperation, and the role of international organisations, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and NATO, in ensuring strategic stability.
The Russian President reaffirmed Russia’s proposal to establish a European missile defence system and underscored the importance of consolidating “the European security space.”
Mr Putin also said that Russia was ready for a pragmatic dialogue with NATO on the basis of the Russia-NATO Founding Act, and he once again emphasised the importance of working together to ensure international security and warned of the danger of unilateral efforts.
He also said that Moscow’s stance on the expansion of NATO remained unchanged: this process does not strengthen European security.
The meeting focused on Russian-German relations.
Mr Putin stressed that Germany was Russia’s main trade partner, creditor and investor. He added that although bilateral cooperation encompassed many spheres, some opportunities had not yet been taken advantage of.
With this aim in view, a German-Russian working group will be established in June 2000 to deal with strategic aspects of economic and credit-financial cooperation. According to Mr Putin, the group’s main task will be to restore ties with the former East Germany.
Mr Putin also noted Russia’s readiness to continue discussing the restitution of items of cultural value on the basis of international law and national legislations. He stressed that both sides must reciprocate, saying Russia’s cultural assets had suffered tremendous damage in the war.
The meeting examined the current Russian political situation.
Mr Putin stressed that the redistribution of powers between the federal government and regional authorities did not aim to roll back democratic gains in the sphere of human rights and freedoms. Rather, these measures aimed to establish a common legal space in Russia because about 25% of regional legislative acts violated the national Constitution.
Speaking about the situation in the Chechen Republic, Vladimir Putin stressed that it could only be settled through peaceful political methods.
The meeting also discussed the recent arrest of Media-Most CEO Vladimir Gusinsky. Expressing his personal opinion, the president said Mr Gusinsky’s arrest was an excessive measure. He said, however, that as President of Russia, he had no right to intervene in the work of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, which was part of the independent judiciary branch.
He added that he was convinced this arrest was not connected with Gusinsky’s work in the media industry. “I personally believe a free press is vital for the development of the state and society at a time when the country lacks a full-fledged civil society and stable political parties, which are its main components. Any economic and democratic development is impossible without this,” Mr Putin said.