President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
I’ll say a few words at the start of the news conference.
My colleague Prime Minister Rutte and I have held talks both in the restricted and expanded formats. The relations between our two countries are very advanced, very highly developed and, in my opinion, absolutely beneficial for both parties. They could be considered an example of how relations between states should develop in the modern global world, and in this case we are talking about partners who have traditionally interacted with each other, have been close friends, but at the same time they also have some differences, including when it comes to their membership in military and political alliances.
In the economy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is our major partner, one of the top three in terms of cooperation volume. We are confident that this level of cooperation and partnership will continue both in trade and investment.
We intend to continue cooperation in the energy sector, where we have enormous potential, and in the field of infrastructure, for example on port facilities, and we have just witnessed the signing of an agreement, and in high technology, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and banking – practically in all areas of cooperation.
I am very grateful to Prime Minister Rutte for bringing with him a delegation of industry captains, as they are called. We had a very good discussion, pragmatic and very specific, which I always value as a person who had once been involved in business. At the same time, our ties are not limited to business and the economy.
The Prime Minister and I have just signed a statement on the Year of the Netherlands in Russia and the Year of Russia in the Netherlands, a project that is certain to bring our countries closer together and boost the already very high level of humanitarian ties that we have today.
Mr Rutte and I also discussed some international issues that have global repercussions. In particular, our country is very seriously concerned about the situation with European missile defence. I presented our arguments to Mr Prime Minister and he responded with his own comments.
We must certainly continue the exchange of views on this issue, but with the understanding that the discussions must be followed up with decisions.
Overall, we had a very good, frank conversation on all issues. I am confident that we will continue it.
I would like to thank Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Mark Rutte for this visit and for everything that has been achieved.
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Mark Rutte (re-translated): Mr President,
Thank you very much for this warm welcome. Russia is not only a big country but also a country that has a great deal to be proud of.
Russia also plays a major and constructive role in the international arena, as a participant in the Middle East peace process, as well as a permanent member of UN Security Council. Russia has been and remains a very important partner for us, and we are pleased to note that we can come to an understanding on many issues, that we are excellent trade partners and continue to focus on developing our relations.
Today we have discussed the operation of businesses in Russia. We did not pass by the international agenda either. It is traditional for close friends to discuss sensitive matters and we raised the issue of human rights. And I am sincerely pleased that the exchange of views took place in a friendly and open atmosphere, and I hope that the atmosphere between us will always remain friendly.
Question: The first question is for the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
The EU countries are facing a serious crisis, which threatens the existence of the euro as a currency. How could this affect our economic relations, considering that the Netherlands is the largest investor in the Russian economy, and does Europe hope to receive Russia’s help in overcoming the crisis?
Mark Rutte (re-translated): I believe that Russia is helping us, as it did before, by continuing to invest in the euro. I would like to point out that the crisis in Europe doesn’t have as much to do with the currency as with the debts of a number of countries, an issue that has still not been resolved. A very important meeting of the European Union countries will take place next Sunday, and we hope that a number of key decisions will be adopted during that meeting.
Dmitry Medvedev: We also hope very much that they will be adopted.
Question: My second question is for both leaders. We have just heard the news that Gaddafi has been caught, that he has been captured and wounded. It would be interesting to hear both leaders’ position. In your opinion, what does the future hold for Libya?
Mark Rutte (re-translated): If it is true, it’s great news.
Dmitry Medvedev: In any case, I want to say that we hope that there will be peace in Libya and that all those who are governing the state at present – different representatives of Libyan tribes – will be able to reach a final agreement on the configuration of power and Libya will become a modern and democratic state. Otherwise, all the efforts made recently will have been in vain.
As for Gaddafi’s personal fate, it must be decided by Libyan people.
Question (re-translated): My question is for both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Rutte. Mr Rutte, you have come to Russia to confirm the interest in strengthening our trade and economic relations, but on the other hand, we know that the Netherlands is a country that creates the greatest difficulties for visa applicants. You are a liberal, so what are you afraid of? Why don’t you let a simple statistical Ivan to visit the Netherlands and admire the canals? What are you afraid of?
And my question to President Medvedev. In your opinion, does the Prime Minister of the Netherlands have anything to fear?
Mark Rutte (re-translated): Let me say straight away that we are not afraid of our Russian friends. In confirmation, I can say that last year we issued more than 60,000 visas to Russian nationals, and the Ambassador can attest to that. Almost all visa applications from Russian nationals were successful. In addition, there is a special system of issuing visas to businesspeople, the so-called orange carpet. As for the process of easing the visa regime between the European Union and the Russian Federation, the Netherlands supports this initiative. And I believe that we must take all the necessary steps both on the Russian side and on the side of the European Union to reach a mutually acceptable decision.
Dmitry Medvedev: I can only say that our two countries have not feared each other since the times of Peter the Great. On the contrary, we are friends and are making very good progress, so we certainly have nothing to fear. The decision to give up visas should be taken at the European level and not just in the Netherlands. We hope that our friends from the Netherlands will contribute to this process.
Question: A question for both leaders. A large delegation has arrived together with the Prime Minister, and judging by the fact that it included representatives of energy companies, Russia will continue to strengthen cooperation in this area. Are there any new projects that can be named already today and will Dutch companies participate in the development of the Arctic shelf?
Mark Rutte (retranslated): With regard to the development of the Arctic shelf, the Netherlands has always expressed an interest in this area. But I would also like to emphasise that the main spheres of cooperation for us have always been agriculture, infrastructure development and transport solutions. In addition, we can offer our experience and services in the construction of stadiums. You may need them when you prepare for the top-level competitions to be held in 2014 and the 2018.
Naturally, the energy sector has always been extremely important for us and that is what we started with.
Dmitry Medvedev: I can only add that there are no problems with energy in our relations with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In fact, everything will continue without problems if certain directives within the EU do not hinder the development of fully-fledged cooperation in this field. Therefore, we hope that when such decisions are adopted they are based first of all on business considerations and not on some other motives.
Question (retranslated): Mr President, I would like to ask you the following question. As everyone knows, both the Netherlands and the Russian Federation attribute great importance to human rights, which is essential for democratic development. In your opinion, what could make the human rights process in Russia more effective? The Netherlands and the European Union often express their concerns on various issues. Or do you believe that Russia will make these decisions independently and does not need any interference from other countries?
The second question is for Prime Minister Rutte. Could you comment on your statement that it is great news that Mr Gaddafi has been captured?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think the Prime Minister said everything there was to say. He said, ‘It’s great news’.
With regard to democratic development and human rights, I think that every country should establish its own institutions. They evolve in accordance with a certain internal logic of the political process, although on the whole human rights are universal categories. We are working on improving the protection of human rights in our country. This is a relatively new priority for our state, it has been at the centre of attention for only 20 years, which is not a great deal of time for democracy.
At the same time, we are interested in conducting an open and direct dialogue on this subject with all our partners. We are never afraid to discuss anything but with the understanding that Russia is a sovereign state and will make all decisions in the legal sphere proceeding from our own ideas about the development of democracy based on our Constitution.
Mark Rutte (retranslated): My press secretary has confirmed that Gaddafi has indeed been captured. This happened at the time of our talks.
Dmitry Medvedev: But we had nothing to do with it.
Mark Rutte (retranslated): I do believe this is good news. At the beginning of this year, after a long period of dictatorship, the Libyan people realised that they can no longer tolerate this situation.
In the end, there was a large personal factor as well: every person living in Libya was under threat when he or she expressed this opinion, and Colonel Gaddafi played a significant role in that.
Indeed, I want to reiterate: I am glad he has been caught. You probably know what the position of the Netherlands is on this issue. I hope that he will soon find himself in the Hague, where he will appear before the International Tribunal.