President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Federal President, ladies and gentlemen.
We have just finished talks with Federal President of Austria Heinz Fischer.
As in the course of all our previous meetings (and over the past 15 years, we have spoken on a regular basis), our conversation was honest, constructive and quite detailed.
We noted with satisfaction that despite certain current difficulties, our countries remain important and reliable partners. We extensively discussed a wide range of bilateral issues.
Unfortunately, as I stated at the beginning of our meeting, in 2015 trade between Russia and Austria decreased by 24.5 percent, to $3.2 billion. This is largely a result of crisis developments in the global economy and the drop in global energy prices. The sanctions imposed by the European Union against Russia and the response measures we had to take also affected the situation.
In order to resolve arising issues more efficiently, we agreed to step up the work of the Joint Russian-Austrian Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The commission’s latest meeting took place in Moscow just recently, in February. We count on the entrepreneurial communities of the Russian-Austrian Business Council and the trilateral Russia-Austria-Belarus business forum to take an active role.
We will continue implementing the Declaration on Partnership and Modernisation, and continue our efforts to facilitate a favourable business climate and deepen our industrial and technological cooperation. We have agreed to step up our efforts to develop and launch joint science-intensive projects in transport infrastructure, aircraft manufacturing, machine-building, and agriculture.
Russian investment in the Austrian economy already comes to more than $22 billion, putting Russia in fourth place on the Austrian market in this regard. Russia, for its part, welcomes interest on the part of Austrian investors in working more actively on our market. Austrian business has already invested $8 billion in our country. This investment covers a wide range of sectors, including timber processing, pulp and paper, chemicals, and construction.
We want to increase our cooperation in the energy sector. I would like to remind you that 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of Soviet gas deliveries to Austria. Austria was our first Western European partner in this area. Over this time, we have supplied more than 190 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Russia has been a reliable energy supplier throughout these years. I would like to note the agreement reached last year between Gazprom and OMV Group about participation in the Nord Stream 2 project, and the conclusion of an agreement on joint development of the Urengoi oil and gas field.
The companies signed a number of new agreements on April 1 this year, in St Petersburg. They include agreements on oil supplies and scientific-technical cooperation. Another symbolic project was the construction, with help from Gazpromexport, of an underground gas storage facility in Austria. This is Europe’s second-biggest gas storage facility in terms of active gas volumes in storage.
We support in every way the development of partnerships between Russian and Austrian regions. Presentations of Perm Territory, Karelia, and the North Caucasus Federal District took place in Austria in the past six months alone. Moscow and Tatarstan will soon present their economic opportunities in Vienna.
The second section of a plant to manufacture car parts and spare parts was completed in Kaluga Region a week ago, working jointly with Magna. Work will start soon with participation from Austrian company Kronospan on the construction of a facility to produce fibreboard.
We have big joint plans in the very important humanitarian and cultural spheres too. This year, Vienna will host a big festival, Experience Russia, and in 2017, following on the success of the Russian culture seasons in Austria, we will hold reciprocal tourism years. The opening of a tourism office in Vienna this autumn will also give a boost to the number of Austrian tourists visiting Russia.
Another important component of Russian-Austrian ties is historical and memorial collaboration. We are grateful to our Austrian friends, the Austrian government, regional and municipal authorities, NGOs and Austrian volunteers – to all Austrian people for the care they take of the monuments and burial sites of Soviet soldiers who fell fighting for the liberation of Austria from Nazism. Last year, thanks to the efforts of Austrian search teams, the second edition of the Remembrance Book dedicated to 80,000 Soviet citizens who died on Austrian soil was published. Again, thank you very much.
During the talks, we also had an in-depth discussion of current issues on the international agenda. The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris and then in Lahore became the latest excruciating reminders of the need to pool the efforts of the entire world community in the fight against terrorism.
Dealing with the issue of extremism is a major condition for a stable political settlement in Syria and for stopping the flow of refugees to Europe from the Middle East. People should have an opportunity to return to their homes.
The situation in Ukraine was also addressed. To reiterate, the full and consistent implementation of the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015 is key to resolving the crisis in the country.
Regarding the issues of ensuring security on the European continent, we count on close collaboration with the Austrian side during Austria’s OSCE chairmanship in 2017.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our partners, personally Federal President of Austria Heinz Fischer, for a substantive and productive dialogue. I am sure that the agreements reached today will help further deepen bilateral cooperation in all the areas that we discussed today.
President of Austria Heinz Fischer: President Putin, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for the hospitality accorded to us during this visit. I will return to Austria with the feeling that this was a very important and valuable visit. It was our seventh bilateral meeting since 2014 and eighth or even ninth if we include the period from the year 2000.
During this visit, we were able to discuss in detail a broad range of issues with the President of Russia. An additional number of issues were discussed during our lunch. It was attended by government members, and we spoke of current projects and future plans.
We also had talks with Mr Naryshkin, Speaker of the State Duma. The discussion focused on the upcoming elections in Russia and civil society and human rights issues.
We also met with the Prime Minister to discuss a number of practical issues related to the further development of bilateral relations.
During our meeting with President Putin, I primarily focused on basic political and international issues. Of course, these dealt primarily with bilateral cooperation between Austria and Russia, on which we have been working for decades and which has been developing consistently and positively since 1955, for over 60 years if we take this date as the point of departure.
We also spoke about the issue of migrants and refugees. On the one hand, it is a political matter, but on the other hand, it is a humanitarian one. It concerns strengthening human rights on an international level, being an issue that needs to be addressed with a great deal of caution and responsibility.
However, it is a fact that the solution to this issue is closely connected to the solution of other political issues, in particular, the Syrian conflict, which we discussed in detail. I find it interesting and morally satisfactory that I could conclude from President Putin’s statements that Russia and the United States maintain contact on this issue, that they exchange opinions and that their shared goal is to end this war and human suffering and to find a new form of stability for the Syrians, although there is still much to be done in this respect.
As for EU-Russia relations in general and sanctions in particular, I would like to once again present Austria’s stance, as I have done during our meetings. When we talk about normal relations between Russia and the EU, the issue also concerns Austria. No one can be happy with a situation in which sanctions are announced or are unavoidable. The sanctions will be lifted only when we see progress in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, considering that their provisions must be complied with strictly and unconditionally, and when a consensus is reached in the EU on this issue, because Austria is a loyal EU member.
I also spoke about our view on the situation in Iran. It is no secret that I believe that Iran cannot be considered separately from other issues. There are different groups there, and it seems to me that President Rouhani represents forces that supported the agreement reached between the P5+1 group and Iran to stop the production of nuclear weapons and that have insisted on the implementation of this agreement and opted for a moderate policy towards international cooperation.
I had the opportunity to remind those in attendance that next year Austria will take over the rotating OSCE presidency. Austria, Vienna maintain close ties with the OSCE. The OSCE can and must act to resolve problems related to the Ukrainian conflict.
We asked President Putin about Russian-Turkish relations after the unexpected and extraordinary incident involving the downing of a Russian combat aircraft. We are now aware of Russia’s stance on the matter and have been offered a great deal of related information.
The President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber spoke during our meeting with President Putin about a free trade area from the Atlantic to Russia’s eastern regions, its eastern border. Of course, this will not be a short-term project, and we have reached an agreement in principle on implementing it.
We discussed the possibility of increasing air traffic between Austria and Russia, organising more flights between our countries and facilitating flights over Siberia. We also spoke about the possible upgrade of financial regulations in this respect.
As for fighting terrorism, both countries are aware of the importance of this. At the same time, human rights, the rights of individuals and the rule of law must be protected. An agreement between the Austrian and Russian police forces should be added to the agenda of future meetings.
To sum up, I would like to say that in our opinion, and we also hope in the opinion of our Russian partners, this visit has been productive and it has been highly assessed by the Foreign Minister of Austria, the Minister of Justice of Austria, the Minister of Agriculture of Austria, the President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Ms State Secretary, the Federal Chancellor of Austria and the ambassadors of our countries.