President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, Mr Nazarbayev, friends,
I am happy to greet you at the VIII Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum. Over the past eight years, it has proved not only its relevance, but perhaps most importantly, its effectiveness, becoming a key venue for discussing a wide range of issues.
Currently 76 regions of the Russian Federation have regular trade and economic ties with the Republic of Kazakhstan; that is practically our entire country. We have 83 regions, so seven still need to be encouraged to join in and the issue can be considered closed. Moreover, I would like to remind you of another figure: 70% of the trade between us in interregional. It is obvious that the horizontal growth in our ties is a highly promising trend and we have agreed to consolidate it.
When Mr Nazarbayev and I were driving on the way here today, he said that international cooperation is naturally very important, we also highly value other friendly states but we must always pay attention to bilateral relations. I would like to say that I absolutely agree with Mr Nazarbayev; we must never lose sight of bilateral relations or interregional ties.
”Currently 76 regions of the Russian Federation have regular trade and economic ties with the Republic of Kazakhstan. 70% of the trade between us in interregional.“
We meet alternately in Russia and Kazakhstan, and our meeting today is taking place in Astrakhan. This region also attaches great importance to developing relations with Kazakhstan. Today over a hundred companies have economic ties with Kazakhstan, and that is in the Astrakhan Region alone. I believe deepening economic integration within the Customs Union has begun to play a positive role. We have also talked about this with the President of Kazakhstan.
Last year in Kazakhstan we focused on the sustainable development of high technology. Today we will talk about working together on combatting cross-border emergencies. Last year was very difficult in this regard; this year has been somewhat easier but, nevertheless, we still have enough problems, and this topic remains highly relevant. For example, last summer was extremely hot everywhere, wildfires were a shared problem that knew no bounds, and fighting such emergencies required cross-border coordination between fire services. We have good examples of such cooperation, in particular, in putting out wildfires in the Altai Region. Russia has supported the initiative of our Kazakhstani friends to conclude an intergovernmental agreement on the prevention and suppression of forest and steppe fires, and we are ready to work on it.
Another major area of shared responsibility is the environment of the Caspian Sea. The Caspian is one of the oldest oil producing regions in the world, which greatly increases the load on its unique local ecosystem. We don’t need to look far to find examples – just think back to the events in the Gulf of Mexico. The best way to tackle such emergencies is through mutual coordination between rescue and environmental agencies.
I would like to single out another environmental project among many that also must be addressed: the preservation of the Ural River ecosystem.
Energy has traditionally played a major role in our partnership. Cooperation in this field covers all of the industry’s sectors: nuclear energy, oil and gas, coal and electricity. We plan to develop infrastructure projects. Mr Nazarbayev and I considered some of these issues at a restricted format meeting earlier today.
”Major area of shared responsibility is the environment of the Caspian Sea. The Caspian is one of the oldest oil producing regions in the world, which greatly increases the load on its unique local ecosystem.“
Our interstate cooperation promotes the development of humanitarian projects. The relevant legal and regulatory framework must be transparent and clear, and should simply be beneficial for ordinary people in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
There are also modernisation projects and ties between our educational institutions and research centres. We are very glad that the number of young people from Kazakhstan coming to study at Russian universities is increasing.
Successful cooperation has been established in the field of basic and applied research. We were just talking about the need to give it a further impetus, including through the interaction of Kazakhstani research centres with our Skolkovo Innovation Centre, in order to implement large-scale, interesting and highly relevant projects, creating innovative products. This is the future of our countries, and no one should have any doubt about that.
I would like to wish our Forum success and fruitful discourse, and to give the floor to Mr Nazarbayev.
President of Kazakhstan NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV: Thank you, Mr Medvedev, for our meeting today and for having this important session at our forum. Although it comes a day late, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Birthday.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: I think all our colleagues will join me in my wishes for good health and success in your political endeavours, as well as all the very best for Russia.
The Interregional Cooperation Forum has become an important element in the special allied relations between Kazakhstan and Russia. Today, the threads of our cooperation have come together in Astrakhan – a truly Eurasian city with well-developed trade and a rich culture.
I would like to make a lyrical digression. This city, which is called Southern Russian Venice for a good reason, has a particular vibrancy. Here, Europe and Asia are neighbours. Members of different ethnic groups feel comfortable here, and it is home to a large group of ethnic Kazakh citizens of Russia. Everything here is tightly interwoven. In Kazakhstan, we highly appreciate the contribution of Astrakhan residents to the eternising of the memory of the great Kazakh folk composer Kurmangazy and the tribal ruler of the Inner Horde [Bukei Khanate] Bukei Khan, two prominent figures in the history of the Kazakh people.
Our forum is a unique example of a practical approach to developing bilateral cooperation in the post-Soviet space. It has become a useful mechanism for forming the Customs Union, bringing the regions closer together; I feel it was specifically this forum that allowed us to gradually arrive at the Customs Union, the highest level of integration. We are moving further toward a Common Economic Space, which we spoke about. After creating the Common Economic Space, we will continue moving toward what I once mentioned – the Eurasian Economic Union. That is what our integration is about.
”Successful cooperation has been established in the field of basic and applied research. It is necessery to give it a further impetus, including through the interaction of Kazakhstani research centres with our Skolkovo Innovation Centre.“
Mr Medvedev named the neighbouring regions. Last year, thanks to the Customs Union, trade between Kazakhstan and Russia grew by 40 percent; but this year, in just the first six months, our bilateral trade arrived at $11.5 billion – a 30 percent increase; in other words, we are approaching the $25 billion dollar threshold. Russia is Kazakhstan’s main trade partner, and we are one of Russia’s major partners as well.
The main topic of today’s forum is joint response to emergency cross-border situations, as Mr Medvedev spoke about in great detail. The frequency of destructive natural and man-made disasters throughout the world is not declining; these events cause significant economic, social and demographic damage.
Our nations have good experience in this area, and good cooperation. Russian and Kazakhstani rescue workers are members of the CIS force, as well as corresponding units of the CSTO’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force. Our rescue services have joint plans for cooperation in the event of cross-border emergency situations. Last year was typical, when large-scale fires flared up in the forests of Russia. After our telephone conversation with Mr Medvedev, I gave instructions to Vladimir Bozhko, our [emergency situations] minister, and he was engaged as much as possible, traveling to the Ural region.
Dmitry Medvedev: I want to thank you again for that.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: Let us recall Pavlodar and Altai Territory. Incidentally, today we are signing a document on the common historic Altai range. We worked together there, and this good tradition should be continued.
We are holding joint trainings, seminars and competitions. Another good tradition involves our scientific conferences and innovative approaches, reducing the risk of major disasters. All this is great. We need to continue developing this cooperation between our nations in the area of disaster warnings and emergency response. This is an important prerequisite for security and stability in our region.
One of the important areas of our cooperation is creating a system of joint monitoring and forecasting for such situations, including through space remote sensing, a field where Russia has a great advantage, which we could make use of as well. Large-scale forest and steppe fires like the ones we had should not come as a surprise for our rescue teams; nor should the danger of flooding at our cross-border rivers, or emergency situations in the Caspian Sea areas. I just came from Western Kazakhstan: the Ural River has risen 8 meters, flooding a great number of houses both on your side of the border and on ours. We had to reconstruct it over the summer, putting 1,500 families into new houses and apartments.
An important element in our partnership is our science and new technology cooperation in civil defence. Kazakhstan is particularly interested in innovations for short-term forecasting of natural and man-made disasters. All of South Kazakhstan – the Tarbagatay District and Tian Shan region, home to more than six million people – consists of areas where we must monitor seismic hazard.
Training staff for these services is also important. We must ensure that emergency situations departments engage in targeted orientation training and guidance. Today, personnel in Kazakhstan study at Russian academies for civil defence and the state fire-fighting service. We are grateful for this and interested in continuing this work.
One of the important challenges Mr Medvedev addressed is the rational use and protection of cross-border water resources. We are aware of the Russian side’s position on the inexpedience of signing an interstate agreement on supplying water resources from Russia’s territory to Kazakhstan’s territory. Overall, we can agree that this issue seems to be getting resolved within the customs [union] territory, but there is a general understanding that water cannot be seen as a commodity. That is precisely why we would like to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. And I would like to ask you, Mr Medvedev, to return to this topic and instruct the Russian side to discuss it.
You spoke very accurately about the Ural River’s ecosystem. We are observing unprecedented shoaling in this cross-border artery. The yearly water deficit has grown three-fold, currently making up 4.7 cubic kilometres. Reputable Russian specialists have stated their opinion that if measures are not taken, the river may dry out halfway to the Caspian Sea.
At our last meeting, we spoke about creating a joint rescue and clean-up fund for the Ural River. It has still not been created. Let’s come back to this issue.
The absence of a unified comprehensive programme on the balanced use and protection of the Ural River’s water resources, the attempt to resolve these challenges locally by our two nations – whatever is suitable to each one – will not bring us results. I would like to suggest creating a separate working group to study this issue.
You and I have worked closely on the Irtysh River problem together with our Chinese friends – it’s the same kind of problem. The Ural River is also a highly important economic entity.
This year, Kazakhstan will be marking the 20th anniversary of its independence. In all these historic years, the ties and friendship between our peoples have not weakened, but instead, have grown stronger than ever. Next year will be 20th anniversary since the signing of the basic treaty under which we live, a treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation (of May 25, 1992) and the establishment of diplomatic relations between our nations.
Mr Medvedev, I suggest we give our governments instructions to make and coordinate proposals on holding events dedicated to this date, as well as commemorating our 20-year-long cooperation, to map out new horizons in further deepening the cooperation, friendship and mutual understanding between our nations.
You spoke very well of the bilateral relations which we must not forget: in the humanitarian sector. We talked about creating an association between our nations for cultural and art workers, holding exchanges between youth delegations, and working jointly in innovation – we support all of this full-heartedly and will work on it.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you all success.