President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Federal Chancellor, colleagues,
We have a very busy programme today. Ms Angela Merkel and I have just discussed a whole range of bilateral matters, taken a detailed look at our bilateral trade, investment, and humanitarian ties, and examined current international issues. Before that, we had a lively and interesting discussion with the participants in the XII Petersburg Dialogue public forum. We will also be meeting with Russian and German business leaders.
We have made quite a lot of progress in expanding our bilateral ties since the last round of interstate consultations in Hannover in July 2011. The high-level bilateral working group is working effectively and we are coordinating our work on strategic cooperation issues in the economic and financial spheres.
Germany has strengthened its position as one of our main foreign trade partners. Our bilateral trade came to $54.6 billion over the first three quarters of this year – up 5.6 percent on same period in 2011. I think this is quite positive given the current economic difficulties in Europe. There has been an increase in German capital in the Russian economy, with total German investment now coming to $25 billion. Russian business for its part is starting to expand its presence on the German market, and total Russian investment is now close to $6 billion.
Contacts between our citizens are increasing. The heads of most of the key ministries and agencies are all present here today. This is essentially a joint meeting of the Russian and German governments. I think that these consultations, which began some years ago now, are an effective mechanism that lets us meet directly to discuss the most important issues before our two countries.
The ministers will report today on the progress made in developing our bilateral cooperation. I know that there has been thorough preparation on both sides. I hope the reports will reflect not just the current state of affairs, but will also propose possible solutions to the existing problems and propose future initiatives. It is important that we get an assessment of all the different areas of cooperation. I note that each speaker will only have two or three minutes, and so I ask you to be brief and keep to the time limit, but at the same time, we are not sticklers to the point where we will not let you go a second over. If you need to say a couple of words more, you need not fear.
Before giving the floor to the first of the ministers, I want to stress that expanding our bilateral trade, economic, and investment cooperation is a definite priority for Russia. We want to develop closer production cooperation with German companies and work more actively to attract German technology and capital. The innovation and research fields offer a vast range of new opportunities. This includes not just projects in areas such as supercomputers, nano- and bio-technology, but also in more traditional sectors such as the automotive and machine-building industries, making car parts, the energy sector and many other areas. Small and medium-sized businesses also need to have a place in this cooperation.
Interregional ties are definitely a resource for developing bilateral cooperation. It is in our common interest to put more energy into developing contacts between our citizens and expanding tourism, cultural, and educational exchanges. The big reciprocal programme of the Year of Russia in Germany and Year of Germany in Russia, Russia’s participation in the Hannover Industrial Fair in April 2013 and Germany’s participation in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 20–22, as well as many other bilateral and multilateral events will give us more than enough cooperation opportunities over the coming future. I am sure that the strategic partnership between our countries will develop for our peoples’ benefit. Of course, before giving the floor to the ministers for the start of the discussion, I would ask the Federal Chancellor to say a few words.
Please go ahead.
Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (retranslated): Thank you very much.
We are happy to be here at the 14th round of interstate consultations in Moscow.
The high level of the delegations – we have almost the entire cabinet of ministers here – shows that these consultations give us the chance to discuss things much more intensively than is usually the case at the international level, work together and approve new projects. I think the fact that we have so many ministries taking part shows the breadth and diversity of our relations.
We have a very high level of economic cooperation. More than 6,000 German companies have operations in Russia. This shows what diversified cooperation we have in this area. We also have many opportunities for working together in the social sector, the environment, and other areas.
Our countries’ partnership for modernisation also shows that we are developing and building up our contacts in education, science, and civil society too. Germany is more than happy to develop relations with Russia in this broad range of areas, so as to have the chance to openly discuss all issues in the spirit of strategic partnership and common interests. Of course, we can also have different interests too.
Germany supports intensive cooperation between the European Union and Russia because without the European Union we cannot resolve many of the existing problems.
Looking at the economic side of things in Europe, we are to remember that 90 percent of economic growth today is taking place outside the European Union. Russia in this respect is our dynamic partner and we will intensify our cooperation.