Vladimir Putin: This is an informal meeting, so, I think, it will give us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves. What you said about special French-Russian relations was quite true. I could now make a beautiful historical digression. I even have some notes here with me, where everything is very consistent, correct and logical. But life is richer and more diverse than anything one can put down on paper.
I have to confess we had a very tight schedule today. I visited both Houses of Parliament, and met with the French Prime Minister and business leaders. Many of them are here. I had lunch with spokesmen of business circles, followed by an event of extreme importance. That was laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’s at the Eternal Flame under the Triumphal Arch. It took on a symbolic meaning I had not expected, because Paris has an admirable tradition to invite French war veterans to similar events. When I was greeting the veterans, one of them said to me in passable Russian: “Welcome to France, Mr Putin. I fought in Russia. I’m a Red Army man.” It was amazing to see among French war veterans a man with a French flag in his hands, who considered himself a Russian soldier.
A great deal underlies this episode. There is really much more to link Russia with France than economic partnership or shared foreign political and geopolitical interests of world security. We share many things we cherish in our heart. France is in the hearts of an overwhelming majority of Russians. This is no exaggeration. France had a tremendous influence on Russian culture. We are also aware of the contribution to French culture made by the best Russian writers, artists and musicians. Indicatively, there are people in this audience whom France and Russia both recognise for their outstanding contribution to culture. As far as I know, they will perform for us here later on.
That is why we attach such great importance to this visit to Paris. It is no exaggeration to say that certain fields of Russian-French cooperation are unique because France and Russia have very close positions on a number of international issues, and everyone has to respect that. It is a very positive element in current international relations—extremely positive if we bear in mind that both France and Russia believe that the present and future architecture of international relations must be multi-polar. In this sense, we have a great deal in common in our approaches to the essential global issues of security, and regulation of and influence on complicated problems in many parts of the world, such as the Balkans, the Middle East, Iran and Iraq.
We share many economic interests. They do not boil down to energy, despite its vital importance to the European Union and to Russia. Clearly, Europe wants to diversify its supplies and not depend on a single energy source. Russia, in turn, needs investments. Together, we are interested in exporting energy to third countries. European markets, for example, need oil, gas, electricity and nuclear energy. We have a great deal in common here.
Our far-reaching partnership in high technologies, aerospace in particular, has an excellent outlook.
We have much to think and talk over, and do together in education. Europe, especially France, has a huge benefit—high education standards and excellent general education schools and universities. I think the same is true of Russia. At any rate, our fundamental research is at a very high level.
Long-established cooperation spheres are also promising, and we must not overlook them. Russian gas accounts for 28% of the entire French gas consumption. Russia imports foods and the light industry products from France on a large scale.
There is another valuable and long-established sphere of partnership. That is culture, which makes an excellent basis for interstate relations.
I firmly believe that our French partners care about what is going on in Russia, what trends currently dominate in the development of the Russian state, what we are doing to stabilise our economy, what state it is in today, and what can be expected tomorrow.