President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, St. Petersburg has played host to the jubilee tenth round of Russian-German intergovernmental consultations at top level with the participation of the heads of the main ministries and agencies from both countries. I want to say right away that life itself and recent events have confirmed just how much this kind of full format dialogue is needed. I can tell you that over these years these consultations have truly become and effective cooperation mechanism.
I note that today’s consultations have taken place at a time of serious change in international relations and in the international economy. We think that it is precisely in these conditions that we can demonstrate the maturity of the partnership between our two countries. That it is a factor in Europe’s stability and security is absolutely clear for us.
Unfortunately, the recent events in the Caucasus have shown that the current global security system is unable to prevent military adventures today. We therefore must do everything we can to build a reliable security architecture for the future.
We discussed the situation in the Caucasus and we also talked of course about our work together with the European Union to implement the agreements reached with the President of France. We welcome Germany’s involvement in setting up an EU observer mission in Georgia. This mission’s work in this region will contribute to ensuring overall stability.
We think that a new approach, namely the idea of a new and legally binding treaty on European security, will help us to resolve all of these issues. We presented this idea during my first visit to Berlin, and we have discussed it during subsequent contacts with the Federal Chancellor. I hope that this idea will continue to attract interest and be the subject of discussion, and we hope that the number of supporters of this proposal will increase.
One of the complicated issues we discussed was the financial crisis. We have realised once again that the current global financial security system, like the international security system in general, unfortunately no longer meets today’s demands. The flaws in the economic policy and development model pursued by the United States of America over these last years lie behind the problems that have arisen, and we are paying for this today.
In the area of bilateral relations we discussed above all our trade and economic ties. This year we look very likely to reach a record new bilateral trade figure of around $60 billion, and we will work on taking it even higher in the future.
We discussed several matters during the consultations. First, we will step up work in priority areas: increasing energy efficiency and modernising healthcare. We have outlined several pilot projects in these areas. A special group will be set up to coordinate projects in the healthcare sector.
Second, we will organise regular dialogue between our economy ministers and between the aides of the Federal Chancellor and the President of Russia in order to better coordinate our cooperation. We hope to involve business leaders from both countries in this dialogue on an ongoing basis. This will enable us to develop a good mechanism for carrying out the Partnership for Modernisation proposed by the Federal Chancellor.
We discussed energy security issues and the construction of the Northern European Gas Pipeline. We also looked at new high-technology projects such as the development in Hamburg of an x-ray free electron laser and the establishment of the European centre for ion and anti-proton research. These are two important areas of research and Russia is interested in taking part in this work.
We signed a number of important agreements. One of them is on cooperation in developing the Yuzhnorussky oil and gas field, in which German companies and Russia’s Gazprom will take part. The agreement will see E.ON Ruhrgas AG take part in this cooperation.
We have also agreed to establish a German-Russian science and technology institute based at Russia’s Bauman University and the Munich Technical University.
We signed a declaration on cooperation between Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Scientific Research in building and operating the European Facility for Anti-Proton and Ion Research.
Finally, we signed an inter-ministerial action programme for intensifying bilateral cooperation in the healthcare sector.
Today, we also took part in the Petersburg Dialogue Forum. This is a good forum that has met on many occasions already and offers a real chance for friendly and trusting discussion and contact between our public organisations, politicians and business leaders. We think that this is a good platform and we should develop it further.
I would like to congratulate the Federal Chancellor, all of our German colleagues present today, and all the people of Germany on your country’s holiday tomorrow – the Day of German Unity. The reunification of East and West Germany is without doubt one of the biggest events of the twentieth century and it clearly demonstrated that even the most complex international problems can be resolved through peaceful means if there is political will, courage, and readiness to take the interests of all sides into account.
I want to thank Ms Merkel for the substantive and interesting discussion of all the different issues, and I thank our other German partners too. I am sure that today’s meeting in St. Petersburg will play an important part in developing the productive Russian-German dialogue.
Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (Retranslated from Russian): Thank you very much, Mr President, for your congratulations on tomorrow’s holiday.
Personally, I can say that were it not for this process of German unity I would not have become Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. It therefore gives me great pleasure to receive these congratulations. I also thank you very much for your hospitality in St. Petersburg and for the events of the Petersburg Dialogue Forum as a complement to our bilateral intergovernmental consultations.
This forum once again demonstrated the broad spectrum of our relations and showed what a wide range of subjects it discusses. I was particularly impressed by the young people from the youth parliament who spoke about their vision of German-Russian relations. I think that we can place our confidence in the future generation.
We also had an opportunity to listen to members of the business community, and this was also very important.
Of course, foreign policy issues received a lot of attention. Our foreign ministers spoke with each other at length, and these discussions will continue at the dinner today.
The summer was marked by the conflict in the Caucasus, and our differences on this issue have not all been settled yet. We think that Georgia’s territorial integrity is not open to discussion. We are pleased that the six-point plan has enabled progress, first of all in withdrawing troops from the central region of Georgia, and second in organising an observer mission from the OSCE, and also as regards the promises that observers will replace Russian troops in the buffer zones by October 10.
It is important to make the talks in Geneva in mid-October a success. They will not be easy of course. It is important that they launch the political process, and I think that this will be very important for this process. We also discussed a large number of other foreign policy challenges that we must keep within our sight. Among them were the issues of Moldova and Trans-Dniester.
We see these conflicts as being in a frozen state and we must find solutions to ensure that they do not heat up again. We need to find a way to settle them. But the negotiations on the European Union six-point plan under the French presidency have shown that there is a road that can take us forward, even if we are still far from having found solutions to all of these conflicts.
We added a new focus to our economic cooperation. German economic representatives were present at our breakfast this morning. We named two main priorities: first, cooperation in the healthcare sector, and second, cooperation in the energy sector. We said already that we need a strategic working group to work on economic contacts. We want to expand this group and add to it the people responsible for ensuring that our energy cooperation advances. For this we need some ‘lighthouse’ projects to blaze the way forward. One such project could be the ‘model city’ project, which will demonstrate all the different energy mechanisms.
We discussed the signature of the agreement today between E.ON and Gazprom on energy sector cooperation. Germany is also committed to the Northern Stream project. We need this project, especially when we see that our colleagues in Southern Europe are moving just as fast on the southern dimension as we are on the northern dimension. This project is therefore important not just for Germany but for many other European countries too.
Many measures are aimed at achieving energy efficiency, and protecting the environment. There are many joint implementation measures. This opens up new opportunities for action. We will hold talks on a new environmental protection agreement. Next year important decisions will be made in Copenhagen on the period after the Kyoto Protocol.
We discussed in detail the issues of infrastructure, railways infrastructure. This is also an important area for cooperation between our countries.
It is impossible to meet at the moment and not discuss the crisis on the financial markets of course. We agree that the financial markets need rules that will be applied, and that after this crisis we have to go beyond purely theoretical discussions. I think that cooperation with Russia in this area will produce good results.
We are aware of course that the crisis on the financial markets cannot fail to affect the real economy, both in Russia and in Germany. This is why it is especially important now to find and make use of opportunities for cooperation in areas in which we can have a real impact on the situation, and to build up and develop these forms of cooperation.
Overall, we see broad common outlines for our cooperation. Above all, our talks took place in a positive atmosphere. We have our differences, and there were differences that came up at the Petersburg Dialogue Forum too. Sometimes we speak quietly and sometimes we raise our tone. But most important of all is that we keep talking to each other. This is the main thing, because even differing opinions can eventually lead to a common position if dialogue continues.
Question: Since the crisis in South Ossetia we have heard more and more talk about NATO’s eastward expansion, and you in particular have said that Georgia and Ukraine should be welcomed into the NATO membership action plan as soon as possible. In this context, did you discuss the creation of a new collective security system in Europe? President Medvedev presented this initiative during his visit to Berlin. Could this initiative receive Germany’s support?
Angela Merkel: As far as this initiative is concerned, we have received the documents. We will discuss this matter again during the dinner tonight. Given the very busy agenda we simply did not have time to talk about this yet, but tonight we will have the opportunity to discuss it at dinner. I am interested to know of course how this initiative would work in practice and how it would fit into the structures that already exist today.
As far as NATO membership for countries in Central and Eastern Europe is concerned, you named Georgia and Ukraine, and Germany’s position in this regard has not changed since the NATO summit in Bucharest. We said then that countries can become NATO members if they wish. As far as the membership action plan itself is concerned, we took the view that the time was not yet ripe for this plan to go into effect. The NATO foreign ministers will make their first evaluation of the situation at their conference in December. I say consciously that this is a first evaluation, and I consider that the view you formulated just now, namely that the membership action plan should go ahead as soon as possible, is not the position Germany took.
At the same time, I want to say that these countries should have the chance to decide for themselves if they want to join NATO or not, and NATO should have the chance to decide freely for itself if it wants to take in a specific country or not. The two countries you named are both part of the Partnership for Peace, and this is one step towards partnership, one step towards the membership action plan. This will all be discussed further in December. That is as much as I can say.
Question: I have two questions on the financial crisis. Mr President, Russia is not present in international circles, in the G7 I mean, unlike in the G8. Would Russia like to take part in this format, and what expectations would it have?
I have a second question for the Federal Chancellor. How helpful would it be to involve China in this group too?
And one further question: the European members of the G8 will meet in Paris on Saturday. What are your expectations of this meeting and what will you discuss there?
Dmitry Medvedev: As far as the current financial situation and the current financial architecture is concerned (this is something the Federal Chancellor and I discussed today), it is absolutely clear that the existing system is no longer able to maintain the international financial system in a balanced state and gives us no protection against this or that country making decisions that will subsequently set off a chain reaction throughout the links in the international financial system. The fact that Russia was for a long time excluded from discussions on financial relations within the G8 – though there were various formats for discussion and the situation is not all so black and white – clearly had no benefit for addressing these complex issues and finding solutions to the problems that we see today.
Furthermore, during the consultations today, the point was made on both sides that if we are to discuss these most complex issues today, we need to do so not just within the G7 or even the G8, but we absolutely need to include other major countries too that have an important word to say in the financial world. Perhaps this could be discussed through the G8 plus outreach format, or in some other format, but it is absolutely clear that if we do not include all of these players in international financial relations we will not be able to build a new financial architecture. I think everyone realises this today. There is no sense in hiding behind old ways of doing things and saying that we can sort out everything ourselves. We will not solve anything this way, and even the timid steps taken by the G8 at the summit in Japan have not achieved their goals. Today we can say with certainty that we should have moved a lot faster and if we had done this we might have been able to avoid some of the consequences of the crisis that are now spreading from the United States onwards through other countries. We should see this as a lesson for the future.
Angela Merkel: Yes, this is a lesson for the future. I agree with what was said about the structure of the G7 and G8. The G8 exists at the level of heads of state and government. If we hold economic discussions within the G8 Russia is naturally a part of them, and this was the case in Toyako too, even if some of our efforts were not as successful as I would have liked.
As for the issue of whether the finance ministers’ group, which meets in the G7 format, should be expanded to the G8 format, I think this situation arose for historical reasons because our financial systems were very different in structure. As Russia makes progress in organising trading exchanges and so on, this issue will certainly be on the agenda, and so will the issue of the Chinese financial system and the Asian exchanges. This issue will also come up. This is why we introduced this outreach system in order to involve the threshold countries in decisions in these areas.
The same goes for imbalances in the financial system. It is obvious that other countries aside from the G8 also need to be involved in this area. I do not want to make any specific promises regarding these groups, but I can say that at the level of heads of state and government we are discussing this together. The Russian and German finance ministers are engaged in very intensive discussions with each other.
Regarding the meeting on Saturday, the meeting organised by the European Union members of the G8 – Britain, Italy, France and Germany – we had a similar meeting if you recall in London in the spring, I think it was. The purpose of this meeting is to reflect on the rules we would like to see and look at how to integrate them into the G8. The French President proposed that we could also meet with some of the outreach countries at G7 and G8 level to discuss the lessons of this crisis, and I support this proposal.
We are in a crisis management phase at the moment. We will exchange views of course on all of this, but there will be an important moment in mid-October at the European Union ministers’ summit, where they will analyse and discuss the proposals we want to make within the G8 in order to say: “this is what improved regulation of the financial markets should look like”.
Question: My question is for the Russian President and the Federal Chancellor. You have just held intergovernmental consultations and met with the participants in the Petersburg Dialogue Forum. From your statements we see that you are happy and intend to continue these kinds of contacts between civil society and government structures. What is the practical impact of the existing system of Russian-German dialogue?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think we share exactly the same position here. The practical impact of these kinds of events is that we meet, discuss and resolve a wide range of economic and humanitarian issues. The intergovernmental consultations are a unique mechanism that enables us to discuss our different areas of cooperation with all the key ministers concerned. No matter how you look at it, $60 billion in bilateral trade is an impressive figure and it represents many concrete projects.
Even today, during our discussions at bilateral level and with business leaders during lunch, we examined a number of new projects that can be carried out very soon in Russia and in Germany. These include transport projects, infrastructure projects, railways transport, and a number of interesting ideas were proposed in the area of energy conservation too, in which Russia has particular interest today. These kinds of discussions lead to new contracts and give impetus to agreements already concluded.
I therefore think that the mechanism of intergovernmental consultations is unique and very useful. The fact that we meet and hold discussions in this format is beneficial.
As for the Petersburg Dialogue, it is a good mechanism, a good instrument and platform for discussing the wide range of issues uppermost in people’s minds here in Russia, in Germany, and around the world. The subjects discussed at the Petersburg Dialogue were therefore the same as at other forums. That is, we discussed the global financial crisis and the problems that arose in August in the Caucasus. This is good because it enables our public organisations and members of our political establishments to see each other face to face and freely discuss all the most complicated issues.
The Federal Chancellor said she was impressed by the dialogue among the young people. It was indeed very positive. The fact that our young people meet and discuss these same issues, from a different angle perhaps, is a guarantee that Russian-German relations will continue to develop just as intensively as in the future.
Angela Merkel: Personally I think that no matter what the level at which they take place, talks help us get to know and understand each other better and can help us to reach common positions. We mentioned October 3, 1990, and we need to realise that over the time that has passed since then, if we look at the prevailing opinions in Russian society and in German society, I think there are some contradictions in the respective views we have on the events of October 3, 1990, the European Union and NATO’s expansion, and what the end of the Soviet Union and its collapse meant.
I said at the Petersburg Dialogue too that this is something we need to work through, because if we look at these sorts of things in different ways it leads to us interpreting various political events in absolutely different ways too, and we now have completely differing interpretations of the Georgian conflict, for example. Therefore, in the course of dialogue between our civil societies and our governments, we also need to find time to discuss these general issues too, because when differing views are left to grow stronger they can end up leading to interpretations of events that differ too widely, and this is not something we want to see. We politicians do not have a lot of time to spare, but the Petersburg Dialogue’s meetings provide the chance for people representing all the different groups to get together for two or three days and discuss everything, including civil and legal issues, issues affecting non-governmental organisations.
The young people were debating just this subject, and I was not entirely clear in the end, but it seemed they found a common scapegoat in the press. I am not referring to you, but the young people, when I asked them what they had agreed on, they said, “the way events are presented is so unsatisfactory that we have to meet face-to-face and talk”. I doubt that this is the only difference on this subject, it could be worth digging a bit deeper perhaps.
What I say is that it is worth finding the common base that we have not yet found in every area. We have different interpretations, differing realities, and a completely different historical development. In this situation it is only by talking to each other that we can move forward if this is what we want, instead of cultivating prejudices about each other.
Question: Mrs Federal Chancellor, would you say that relations with Russia have normalised somewhat after these consultations, because at the political level we were heading more towards a chill in relations. Will you press for the start of talks on a new cooperation and partnership agreement between Russia and the EU, or do you think it is still too early?
Angela Merkel: After my visit to Sochi I no longer thought a cold war was beginning. We had differences of opinion and we still have differences today. We have tried to work towards a common denominator. The six-point plan was the right step and its implementation is going ahead today. I can say therefore that there are areas where we differ, but there are also areas where cooperation is possible and can be improved. In the areas where we have differences we need to keep holding talks and discuss these differences. But there are a large number of areas where we have full understanding. If we discuss and debate our differences we can then discuss the issues where our views coincide too. But I did not leave Sochi with the impression that I would not speak to the Russian President for months to come. I therefore think it possible that we might have difficult moments with differences in opinion, but also moments where we will have a common assessment of the situation.
As for the partnership and cooperation agreement, the European Council had discussions whether or not the buffer zone and troop withdrawal issues have been resolved. Perhaps someone in the EU will say that the political process in Geneva should make progress first, and then we can continue talks. Another Russia-EU summit will take place next year and we will be able to discuss this specific issue again then. I think that in any case we are coming closer to the point where the conditions we stipulated will be fulfilled in the European Council. I think that we, the EU countries, also have to keep our initial conditions and not add something new, even on Georgia’s territorial integrity, until what we consider an optimum situation has been reached.
Dmitry Medvedev: I would just like to add a few words if I may. I think that all summits, especially ones that go as far as today’s summit in St. Petersburg, certainly bring us only closer together.
Our contacts never stopped, not before or after Sochi. I think it is simply our duty to remain in constant contact and discuss even the most difficult issues, including those the Russian Federation has encountered since the Georgian aggression in August.
As for the future of Russian-European relations, I think that their future is in our hands. Europe has an interest in these relations, and so does Russia, which is a part of Europe. If we move in the right direction and do not hide behind all the difficulties that arise, we will be able to make progress towards the goals we have set. In this sense I think that nothing dramatic has happened and, on the contrary, the movement now underway shows that we are able to reach agreement on different issues even in conditions when the international situation has been complicated by the crisis in the Caucasus. It is the politicians’ job, however, not to go and sulk in their corners but talk to each other and reach agreements. This is the duty that voters confer on the politicians they elect. I think that this is the line European politicians should follow as well as Russian politicians, and this is the line that I will follow too.