President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen!
Our meeting with Mr Berlusconi is taking place in the framework of the fifth Russian-Italian interstate consultations. The first occasion for this was in 2002, when Mr Berlusconi had just become Prime Minister. I think everyone of us is convinced that this format is very effective.
This is evidenced by the unprecedented number of documents that have just been signed and by the agreement concerning cooperation between governmental agencies and business entities. All of this inspires a great deal of optimism.
My colleague Mr Berlusconi and I have dealt with a variety of issues today and there were a number of extensive interstate consultations. We talked about the development of trade and economic ties, and the development of relations in the area of culture. Of course we also discussed the global financial crisis. On this point we are in complete agreement: we all need a new financial architecture. The current one is not fulfilling its mandate. The result is the major planetary financial and economic collapse which has occurred and is still ongoing.
Russia has already submitted its ideas to its closest partners and the G8 countries and of course we are keen to discuss all these issues at the summit in Washington to be held on 15 November this year. The most important thing is to put large-scale collective mechanisms in place and to establish joint responsibility for financial flows, for the world of finance. We also talked about new approaches to European security. We would like to improve it. There are concerted efforts to create more cooperation in this field.
We discussed a number of proposals that were put forward, including proposals to establish a European treaty aimed at ensuring security. We agreed that discussions on all these issues will certainly continue. We exchanged views on how to develop relations between Russia and the EU and between Russia and NATO.
We hope that we can give a new dynamism and constructive dimension to this cooperation as soon as possible during the consultations to be held with the European Union in Nice. And we are ready to develop our relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but of course this must be done on a reciprocal basis.
We attach a great deal of importance to cooperation within the G8. This is especially true today, especially because Italy’s presidency of the G8 begins on 1 January next year. We wish our Italian friends success and look forward to full, productive cooperation in every area, including the financial one.
Let me say a word or two about our bilateral relations, because we have all witnessed the signing of a large number of documents. Today these relations have a genuine partnership quality. During the first eight months of this year, trade has grown very significantly, by two-thirds. I think that the rest of the year will be very successful in this regard. We have to develop our joint work in the field of energy, high technology, the automotive sector, transportation, aviation, and generally in all those fields related to the documents we have just signed.
The fight against crime is among our priorities. We recently signed a memorandum on cooperation in combating drug trafficking and in a number of other areas where we perhaps have not cooperated as much in the past.
Our cultural and educational links go way back. In the near future there will be a landmark event for all of us, the return of the Russian Orthodox Church complex in the city of Bari to the Russian Federation. We are grateful to the Italian side for all the efforts that they made in this regard.
We agreed today that 2011 will be the Year of Italian Culture and Language in Russia and vice versa. This will involve us in two very important cultural projects. I am sure that they will bind our nations even more closely together.
The last thing that I would like to do is express my gratitude to Mr Berlusconi for the balanced position taken by Italy in connection with the Caucasian crisis last August, with the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict. We believe that this balanced and friendly attitude has helped solve one of the most difficult crises of recent years.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: I would like to thank the President for his assessment of the position which we adopted on the occasion of the crisis, a position based on a direct knowledge of the facts. As it happened we were able to learn what had transpired. And I think that this knowledge of the facts should help the international community understand and get beyond the international disinformation, which has been responsible for the gap between public opinion and reality. For this reason I think that our current meeting was proof that we knew what happened in the conflict between Georgia and Ossetia. It would be good if the citizens of Europe and the world also learned about the real facts that led to this conflict.
Our relations with the Russian Federation have long roots, going back to 1994. That was when we assumed the chairmanship of the G7 and first invited the Russian Federation in the person of Mr Yeltsin to take part in the summit that was held in Naples. We were the first to invite the Russian Federation to participate in the G8 in Genoa, and next year we will also work together with President Dmitry Medvedev to allow the G8 to manage the real sector of the global economy as efficiently as possible.
In relation to the cooperation between our two countries, I'd like to say that it is the result of the friendship and mutual affection that continues to grow between our administrations and leaders, based on the common roots and principles to which we have given our support today.
This cooperation is not just a bunch of words, but rather profound and concrete and manifests itself in action. We have signed a number of agreements and documents in various areas, for example, in the automotive and aerospace industries, in oil refining and energy resources, as well as on social and cultural issues.
The President of Russia just mentioned the initiative scheduled for 2011, the Year of Russian Culture and Language in Italy and vice versa. That year will allow us to conduct a variety of important initiatives in various sectors: in film, theatre, literature, music, and also a range of sporting competitions that will bring our peoples together by helping us learn more about each other and become better acquainted.
As far as prospects for the future are concerned, today Italy is the Russian Federation’s second most important partner with regard to both imports and exports to the Russian Federation. We want this cooperation to become more than just strategic, to become even more important.
We hope in the very near future to become the Russian Federation’s most important trading partner. And I think that with this challenge, this goal in mind, we can do even better at developing every sphere of our cooperation. The various initiatives we have planned include the visit to Russia of a significant number of our entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises, which will be our way of exporting our “oil” to Russia.
Mr President, we weren’t lucky enough to end up with oil in the bowels of the earth, but we have our own special oil, and it is called the entrepreneurial spirit of Italy, one that is based on creativity and the willingness of our five million entrepreneurs to work hard. This is the most accomplished group of businesspeople working in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe. We have the know-how, and we think that this know-how will be very beneficial for your economy and your country. We would be very happy to be able to strengthen our cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises.
I want to thank you, Mr President, for the hospitality and the warm welcome. I would like to thank the ministers who have worked with our ministers on a number of specific initiatives. I would like to thank the Italian entrepreneurs who came here and contributed their expertise and know-how in various industries to our deliberations. And I would like to wish the greatest success to all the businesses that signed an agreement here.
Thanks again to everyone. Good luck with your endeavours
To you, Mr President, I wish continued success on leading your country toward full democracy.
Question: A question for President Medvedev as well as for Prime Minister Berlusconi.
You just mentioned the successful economic cooperation between the two countries. Energy obviously plays a special role in this. In your opinion, in the context of the current global financial crisis, with the extraordinarily volatile energy prices, is it possible to extend and strengthen this cooperation? And if so, what is the secret of success? To use the language of gastronomy, perhaps you could share with us your recipe for this Russian-Italian dish? What is it, pizza, porridge? Apparently it appeals to appetites in Moscow and Rome.
Dmitry Medvedev: As of course you know, Russian-Italian cooperation is not limited to energy. But energy is indeed an important area of our economic interests. We have developed and will continue to develop this kind of contact with our Italian partners.
Regarding the basis for the development of this cooperation, it is certainly not porridge and it’s not pizza either. I would say that it is the trust that has traditionally existed between the entrepreneurs of our countries. We are major partners in the field of natural gas. We are extending our dealings in oil (there are lots of current examples of this) and electric power has also came to the fore.
This means that our companies (both private and public) can work comfortably together with each other. They have a feel for each other, they trust each other. And so, despite the fact that the economic situation is problematic, our attitudes to each other have not changed.
On the contrary, I believe that precisely these long-term relationships are the guarantees of economic resilience in difficult times, including relationships in the energy sphere, that to date have characterised relations between Russia and Italy and between Russian and Italian business. I am confident that these relations have a very good future.
Silvio Berlusconi: I believe that in order resolve the crisis, any kind of crisis, you need to look ahead with confidence, with confidence and optimism. Pessimism never gets you anywhere. And in this context I think that pizza and spaghetti can help us with this situation too.
Question: Good evening! Did you raise the issue of the very serious global crisis? If so, before the meeting of the G20 in Washington, can you find some common approaches or solutions, some opinions on these matters that could jointly be represented in Washington in order to resolve the dangerous financial crisis?
I also want to ask President Medvedev: will you use this opportunity to meet with the President-elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama, about whom we wanted to hear warmer words yesterday after what you said the at the beginning of the year about having a future U.S. president from the new generation rather than a person who comes from previous generations.
I would like to ask Prime Minister Berlusconi what he plans to do about these new relations between Russia and the United States with a new president, whether he will engage in the sort of mediation he carried out between Bush and Putin.
Silvio Berlusconi: We certainly talked about it. Society has welcomed the victory of Barack Obama as a sign of hope. And we hope that these expectations will be fulfilled. Let’s just say that we expressed our desire to welcome this victory, and said that a great deal of work needs to be done.
As someone older who has played a role in international politics, I will try to do everything necessary so that I can use the experience I have acquired and the role I have played in international politics to bring people together, so that relations between the U.S. and the Russian Federation develop in the best possible way.
Of course, the fact that we now have a new generation of politicians such as Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama is undoubtedly a good starting point for me. And I am confident that it will improve relations between the U.S. and Russia. I told the President that Barack Obama has everything: he is young, handsome and even has a good tan. Therefore, I think that we can make important concerted efforts to improve things with him.
Dmitry Medvedev: Just a few more words about the global crisis. Today this problem concerns everybody. Unfortunately it is not possible to hide from it. And so we will meet in Washington to discuss ways out of this rather complex financial situation, which has affected most of the planet. We are going there with our proposals.
I would like to inform everyone that our proposals are not just in the planning stages – they have already been sent off to others. I handed the texts to my colleague, Silvio Berlusconi, to ensure that our Italian partners were able to see them. Moreover, we agreed to study each other’s suggestions, and then speak on the telephone before traveling to Washington, to ”synchronise watches“ so to speak.
I am confident that European nations have very similar positions on a range of issues concerning the current state of finances, and a set of similar proposals. We are talking about making the international financial system more stable and more transparent, introducing new corporate standards, reducing risks, rebuilding the system of credit (at the highest levels), setting up a new group of organisations that are able to regulate relations in this area, creating a new legislative foundation, and lending legitimacy to these structures. In general, we want to make them workable, not like the ones that exist today.
And, in fact, this is precisely reflected in current economic developments. The system should become effective and efficient. I think that that we all agree on this point, and I hope that this is a good basis for achieving at least a general agreement in Washington, because I am certain that Washington will not be the end of this but just a beginning.
Concerning our colleague who was yesterday elected President of the United States of America: Russia has sent him its heartfelt congratulations. We hope that the new President of the United States of America Mr Barack Obama will be a successful president who can build the domestic and foreign policies of their country in the right way, build a foundation for strong relations between the Russian Federation and the United States. Russia is ready for this. So we wish the new President of the United States success in this regard.
Question: My question is for both leaders. In the near future an EU summit will take place, then there is also one between Russia and the European Union. How do you assess the present stage of our relationship? And more particularly, how do you assess the prospects for concluding a new agreement on partnership and cooperation? Do you think that the events in the Caucasus and the Georgian aggression have affected or delayed negotiations on signing a new agreement on partnership and cooperation?
Dmitry Medvedev: We hope that in the very near future, at the summit between Russia and the EU to be held in Nice on 14 November, we'll talk about all the problems that exist today between Russia and the European Union. But in general I believe that currently there are no specific obstacles to extending these relations in all directions. It's enough to look at the relations that bind the Russian Federation and Italy. Are they not an example of partnership, friendship and mutually beneficial relations, which have benefited our nations and their economies, and ordinary people as well?
We hope to develop such relations with other parties to the European Union, and thereby put them on a stronger basis. I have discussed these issues with my counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, and with other colleagues in the EU during telephone calls and during our consultations. I hope that the meeting in Nice will be constructive and agreeable. Anyway, on our side, there are no obstacles to the development of relations with the European Union. We want strong, durable and very extensive, very close relations with the European Union.
As for the agreement, that is up to the European Union. On our side, there are no obstacles to the signing of an agreement. We do not exaggerate the importance of the agreement, but at the same time, of course, we would like to move towards the creation of a new contractual framework.
And now a few words about the effects of the Georgian aggression. I would hope that the aggression by Georgia against South Ossetia will not affect Russia's relations with the European Union. That said, of course various consequences have ensued, we had to clarify our position, serious peacekeeping mediation services were required and provided by our partners. Here I have in mind our Italian partners and Mr Berlusconi personally, French President Mr Sarkozy and some of our other colleagues. We are grateful to the EU.
At the same time I believe that it is necessary to turn the page. Yes, we must remember these lessons, we must tell the truth about what happened, and Mr Berlusconi has just talked about this in his opening remarks, but these questions should not have any effect whatever on relations between Russia and the EU. That is the position of the Russian Federation.
Silvio Berlusconi: I agree with what the President just said. I think that we should quietly plot our course in a way that will enable all the countries of the European Union to understand what really happened in Ossetia. And as a recommendation of a personal nature, I told President Medvedev to continue to inform people, to report on what actually happened, on real events.
At present I do not see any obstacles to signing the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation, which I think is a tremendously positive step for the European Union and the Russian Federation. I do not think that there will be any barriers if we take this course.