President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
As a guest here today, I first of all want to thank the President of France for the warm reception, the excellent organization of today’s meeting in this beautiful venue, and the informal and friendly atmosphere in which the meeting took place. Our talks were frank and open as always. We discussed all the problems of concern to us, and I think this is precisely the guarantee that we are able to come to agreements even on the most difficult questions.
The President of France has already said what we spoke about and outlined the agenda. But I would nevertheless like to add a few comments of my own, and I will start with an issue that is of concern to all of us. The biggest problem we face right now is how to neutralise the negative impact of the global economic crisis. As soon as this press conference ends, though of course we will be treated to dinner first, we will leave for America and will examine precisely this very difficult matter. On this issue, I share practically exactly the same position as my colleague Nicholas and other colleagues. What we need is a full-scale appropriate response to the problems that have arisen, not declarations, handshakes and photographs, but an action plan.
In this respect, I think that we really must insist on a full agenda and serious decisions, all the more so as practically all of the big economies share the same views on the main issues. Especially the European Union, France, and the Russian Federation all share very close views on what we need to do to overcome the global crisis. The question of reforming the international financial system is therefore probably the main issue that we should focus on. We discussed it in quite some detail, and we also discussed what will come next after the Washington summit.
Clearly, we will not be able to sign new agreements, decide on which institutions will remain and which institutions need to be reformed straight away. We will not establish a new Bretton Woods in Washington, but we do need to take a real step in this direction.
I therefore fully support the idea of holding another summit within a relatively short time to follow up on the Washington summit.
We are ready to stay in close contact with Europe on these matters. I held preliminary consultations and spoke on the telephone with Nicholas and other European colleagues. In this sense our position is very close or practically identical. We have a common agenda that is usual for the kind of summit we held today, that is to say, an agenda that covers trade and economic relations, humanitarian ties and foreign policy contacts.
I met yesterday with business community leaders. Even over this year we have achieved some good results. Trade between the European Union and the Russian Federation is growing. The figures are very large now and the European Union accounts for more than 50 percent of our country’s trade – this represents hundreds of billions of euros. I think that we need to keep this in mind when making decisions on the main areas of our cooperation. The four common spaces we have been working on remain in place, namely, freedom, security and justice, the economic space, external security, and scientific research and education. True, progress has not been even in all of these areas, and in some areas things have come to a standstill, but we do have the opportunity to get things fully moving again now. I think this is important for the Russian Federation and for the European Union.
As my colleague Mr Sarkozy just said, there are some problems that we still need to resolve. We are discussing them and looking for solutions. One of these issues, not a dominant matter but one of the subjects we did discuss was the consequences of Georgia’s aggression in South Ossetia. I would like once again to thank our European colleagues and the President of France personally for taking part in helping to get through the difficulties during the tensest period and helping to reach peace agreements. The coordination that took place at that time showed, first of all, that there is no alternative to open and direct talks of the kind that we held then.
The second thing that these talks showed was that the security mechanisms in Europe today are imperfect. This is why we came back to the idea of a global treaty in our discussions today. I am pleased to see that this idea is gaining supporters among the European Union leaders. A new treaty on European security or a treaty on all countries joining a pan-European security space could lay down the principles and rules for work in the future. In this context, we looked at the possibility of holding an OSCE summit. I did at one point put forward this idea and I would like to thank the President of France for giving it his support. We discussed today the possibility of holding this summit not necessarily at the end of next year, we can do it even earlier, perhaps, in the middle of next year. The main thing is that we be prepared to meet and discuss these issues under the aegis of the OSCE and with the participation of all European institutions, including NATO, the European Union, the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) and the CIS.
In this context, I fully agree that until we sign a special global agreement on ensuring European security, we should all refrain from taking any unilateral steps that would affect security. Russia has never taken any such steps on a unilateral basis. All of the decisions that we were preparing, including the measures I announced just recently, were but responses to the actions of particular European countries that, without even consulting with anyone, decided on the deployment of new defence means on their territories. But if we all share a common home, we need to meet and come to agreements, and this is the objective of the new treaty. We are ready to work and I am sure that the European Union can play a coordinating and very constructive part in this.
We also discussed other issues that are typically on our agenda. Fortunately, there are not so many of them, but there are questions we need to work on in all of the four common spaces. I am sure that this discussion could get a working continuation in Moscow very soon, and I think that our colleague Jose Manuel Barroso will probably say a few words about this now.
Question (Russian television station NTV): Was there something specific at today’s summit about the new agreement between Russia and the European Union? Was this agreement given the green light, and if so when should we expect it to be signed?
Dmitry Medvedev: It's true that there was a delay in the preparation of this document. We did not want a delay but it happened. Happily we’re back on track. I hope that very soon negotiations will begin on all the vital points in this document. In our view, it should be comprehensive, on the one hand, but have a structure substantial enough to last for years to come, on the other. Just when this work will be completed I do not know. We would like it to happen in the foreseeable future. In any case, we have a valid document that we can use as a basis, but the sooner we get a new document the better. Russia is ready to get to work –- we are ready to beaver away non-stop on this.
Question: A question for President Medvedev, on behalf of the journalists from the European Union. The break in the negotiations on the Treaty on Partnership and Cooperation was in anticipation of the normalisation of relations in the Caucasus. Are you ready to recognise Georgia's territorial integrity or is that a meaningless question for you?
Dmitry Medvedev: Let me say three things.
Russia fully recognises the territorial integrity of Georgia, taking into account the earlier recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent entities under international law. That is the first thing.
Second: I believe that the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan has been competently executed, as lawyers say. For this I would like to individually thank our European colleagues.
And, finally, we are ready to continue in an absolutely constructive way to discuss all issues related to the settlement in the Caucasus. And we will continue: we are ready to discuss matters directly during any sort of meeting that can be arranged, face to face, even if one of the consequences is a bunch of talk about non-existent details. Russia will work with its partners.
Question (TV channel Rossiya): The more time goes by since the events in August the more details become available. There appeared a version that Russian troops were preparing to enter Tbilisi, a version that is replete with naturalistic details. OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitors have claimed in the past week that they had warned about the forthcoming Georgian aggression, but that the OSCE didn’t take them seriously. Now not even the Russian but the American and British press are reporting that in private briefings the OSCE is telling Western diplomats that Georgia struck the first blow.
So in what frame of reference are you discussing the events in August and how do you understand them today?
Dmitry Medvedev: We are sticking with the old frame of reference. We absolutely believe the same accounts that we had in August of this year, and prior to that. We have always wanted the problems that exist in the Caucasus, including the relations between Georgia on the one hand and South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other, to be resolved peacefully. Unfortunately, on 8 August that frame of reference was destroyed unilaterally by the Tbilisi regime. Russia’s reaction followed: we had to intervene to protect people, to defend their right to exist simply as ethnic groups, and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Our intervention was limited and absolutely necessary given the situation. We acted in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter and the right of self-defence. After these events took place, we were forced to recognise two new nations under international law and our position on this remains unchanged to this day. As I had occasion to say quite recently, our recognising them is final and irreversible. This is not an occasion for games, it is a carefully considered state decision. We will develop full-fledged relations with these states created according to international law.
As for our relations with the EU on this matter and my personal relationship with the French President, I believe that the EU has played a very constructive role during the conflict. It intervened at the right time, performed peacekeeping functions, and helped restore law and order. Although in fact if you go back to the events of August, you know that even before my first meeting with the President of France, with my colleague Nicolas Sarkozy, I had already decided to suspend the operation designed to force Georgia to accept peace. But with that as a background, our negotiations were certainly far more successful and culminated in the settlement that still obtains. Once again, I would like to repeat –- and repeat it here in this room –- that we are satisfied with the course of these negotiations. And I believe that all the points of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan have been fully implemented.