The discussion focussed on international policy issues. The meeting took place in the Livadia Palace.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr de Villiers, it is a pleasure to meet you and see you here.
I know that you have created one of the best-known and most-loved parks in France. Last year, as I recall, the park had nearly 1.5 million visitors and the specialists say it is one of the best theme parks in the world.
We are pleased that you see opportunities for developing similar parks here in Russia, in Moscow, as I have understand it, and here in Crimea. We will be happy to help you and I am sure that you will be able to put to use your great wealth of experience in planning and organising work of this sort.
There is plenty of history to tell here, especially in Crimea, which has seen so much of not just Russian history but human history in general, going right back to the most ancient times. This is probably the most fitting location for carrying out plans like yours.
Philippe de Villiers (retranslated): Mr President, it is a great honour to meet with you. I am very pleased too that this meeting coincides with today’s signing of a protocol that will mark the start of developing two historical theme parks, which aim to highlight Russia’s history and the significance of Russia’s soul.
My company, Puy du Fou, which I established 37 years ago, was honoured with the World's Best Theme Park award last year by our American colleagues from Hollywood. Our park won this award and was named the best in the world. Now, we have made the choice to develop our activities in Russia.
If you permit, I would like to add a few words. We are signing this agreement today at a moment when everyone is talking only about sanctions. But I firmly believe that this agreement and signing the document on establishing a joint company, which will unite the Russian and French sides, symbolises the start of something new.
Mr President, let me say to you that the French and the Europeans want to and will invest in Russia. You are a great president and your country is a truly magnificent country. Let me assure you once again that we are interested in partnership. I hope that our visit will set the example for many Europeans and many French people to take this same road, and we will continue our work together.
I can tell you that not just I but many Europeans think that sanctions is the language of war, while cooperation is the language of peace. I am very happy to say that today we are laying the cornerstone of a foundation for peaceful cooperation between our countries.
I believe that the French-Russian friendship is free from flaws, no matter what the envious might say, and I can declare here before everyone present that the peoples of Europe do not share their leaders’ views and do not share the views of those who dictate to them from Brussels.
It will be our pleasure to work together with the Russian Federation. We will bring peace. Our company, Puy du Fou, builds parks in France and all around the world. Our parks are not the product of globalisation. They respect historical roots. We respect the Russian Federation and are happy to cooperate with you. The European continent’s future is not in America, but is here on the European continent, including in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. I agree with your views. Am I to understand that you have decided to provoke your bosses?
Philippe de Villiers: Let’s see if they impose sanctions on me. The people in the Brussels commission could put handcuffs on me too.
Vladimir Putin: I think that’s unlikely.
Philippe de Villiers: There’s something else I wanted to say with the press here. I want to say that in the hearts and minds of many Europeans, President Vladimir Putin is a much more respected figure, who they would much rather emulate than the majority of European leaders.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Philippe de Villiers: French farmers know full well who began this war and who set this spiral of sanctions in motion. They know full well that it was the euro-commissioners in Brussels, who blindly follow what their American partners tell them to do. I think that Europe needs a voice now that would tell the other story and that would be heard. Though you can barely hear this voice right now, but it belongs to France.
Vladimir Putin: There are different people with different views in Europe and in Russia. But it is true that quite a few people do share our views and approaches. We will continue on our road of course, defend our principles and our views, and rely on the people who share these views with us, whether in Russia, in France, or anywhere in the world.
As for the trade measures we have taken in response to the sanctions, I think you understand, as you just said, that it was not at all our goal to cause anyone any harm. The fact is simply that the sanctions you mentioned, the European sanctions have put our farmers and agribusiness in a disadvantageous position on our own market, and we had no choice but to take measures to protect them.
I think that many people in Europe, including political figures, my colleagues (I spoke recently with the French President and got a sense of his mood), would like to end these sanctions as swiftly as possible, as they are damaging our cooperation.
Could I ask you a professional question? I know that you want to open a historical theme park in Moscow. How do you plan to present the events of 1812?
Philippe de Villiers: First of all, the whole idea of letting a Frenchman create a theme park about Russian history is already quite a bold step, and so as far as the presentation of the events of 1812 goes, I will follow the advice of our Russian friends, who will help develop the presentation concept.
It will convey particular sympathy for this people that were able to push the invaders back. This won’t be a French park in the heart of Russia, but will be a Russian park, where the French will simply make a contribution in terms of professional experience.
Vladimir Putin: I think that Napoleon himself gave the best assessment of those events, especially the Battle of Borodino. He said roughly the following: “The French deserved victory and the Russians deserved to be considered undefeated.”
Philippe de Villiers: Incidentally, since the Napoleonic wars ended, the French know very well and remember that sanctions do not lead to any good.