The meeting took place at the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg. The Russian and Finnish Presidents discussed a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues and prospects of interaction on the European continent.
In Mr Putin’s opinion, the relations between Russia and Finland are making good headway, trade is steadily growing and an active political dialogue is maintained. The Russian leader stressed its importance for Russia. He hopes that good relations with Finland, which is a member of the European Union, will help to build a solid bridge in the relations between Russia and the EU, and that the process will serve the interests of both countries.
After the meeting Mr Putin and Mr Halonen answered journalists’ questions.
One question was about the treaty with Finland on protecting investments which failed to be signed during the meeting. President Putin explained that Russia is not protected by the WTO rules since it is not a member. So, as he said, the signing of the treaty at this point in time may be counterproductive.
Mr Putin described the level of trade and economic relations with Finland as fairly high, but he said that the structure of trade was not entirely satisfactory for either sides. More than 80% of Russian exports to Finland are raw materials and about 75% of Finnish imports into Russia are finished products.
President Putin stressed that national interests were the priority of the Russian foreign policy. Speaking on the development of relations with Europe in the security and economic spheres, the Russian leader said it was important to remember that Russia also had extensive interests in the East where it had thousands of kilometers of common borders with China, one of its most important neighbours. The President also noted the good progress in the relations with Japan. He described Finland as a privileged and, in a certain sense, a model partner.