Vladimir Putin: Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am genuinely delighted to welcome the French guests at the Kremlin and to respond with Russian hospitality to the warm reception that had been accorded to our delegation in Paris last autumn.
The long history of ties between Russia and France gives us an excellent opportunity to regard almost every year as a jubilee year in our relations.
950 years ago Anna, the daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, ascended the French throne by marrying French King Henry I. And 280 years have passed since the first French envoy, Jacques de Campredon, arrived in Russia. This year we mark the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Russia and France.
The list of memorable dates can be extended. All these are milestones on the road of rapprochement between the two great European peoples.
Today the intellectual life of a thinking person is unimaginable without the works of French and Russian writers, philosophers, composers and architects who have done credit to and enriched world culture. I can say with confidence that people in Russia know and love the French classics as well as their native Russian writers.
But it is not only history and culture that bring Russia and France together. Our interaction today is based on our common views on the structure of the multi-polar world, democratic ideals, and immutability of human and civil rights, which were first proclaimed by the French National Assembly on August 26, 1789.
Our contacts with President Jacques Chirac in Paris and Stockholm, and this meeting pave new ways for the time-tested relations between Russia and France. That is particularly important today, at the next spiral of history which has confronted us with serious challenges.
More than half a century ago General De Gaulle said: “To our shared regret, over the centuries the French-Russian alliance has too often met with obstacles or counteraction born of intrigues or misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the need for such an alliance becomes evident at every new turn of history.” We are now getting further proof of the validity of that political foresight.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Having cast aside for all time the prejudices of the Cold War, we must build a common economic and legal space on a solid foundation of European historical and cultural affinity. A space where harmonious development of the European civilisation can take place. A space of accord based on joint political, social and defence interests.
It will take years to achieve that strategic goal. And here we count on the vigorous support of France – a recognised leader of European integration without intensive contacts with which there can be no successful dialogue between Russia and the EU.
It is important to find answers to the threats of our time and not to create new ones. To look for ways to preserve and strengthen the legal basis of the world order while honouring the principle of equal security for all the members of the international community. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, our states bear a special responsibility.
The logic of economic interests has always helped us to build our relations on the basis of mutual benefit. In the past decade we have done some good work in the traditional spheres of trade. But investments need to be built up to put the business contacts between us on a still higher level. We already see positive trends in promoting joint projects in cutting-edge areas and we must render political support to these trends.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The national language is the force that cements a people’s sense of identity. Even the era of globalisation does not detract from the intransient value of linguistic and cultural diversity. Preserving it is our common concern.
That is why an important area of our cooperation is expanding the teaching of Russian in France and of French in Russia. Knowing your interest in the Russian language and literature, Mr President, we are sure that this sphere will enjoy your patronage. I should add that at one time Mr Chirac was engaged in translating the works of Alexander Pushkin into French.
The mutual sympathy and traditional attraction between Russian and French people is based on the unique dialogue of our cultures. The wish to cherish that common heritage was confirmed by France’s readiness to take an active part in the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg, as well as your intention, Mr President, to hold a Year of Russia in France.
I think that both parties do not just feel satisfied with the outcome of the meeting we have had. They feel that our relations have got “a second wind”.
I give you the toast:
To the well-being and prosperity of the peoples of Russia and France!
To growing friendship and cooperation between our countries!
To the health of President Jacques Chirac of France and Mme Bernadette Chirac!
To the health of all those present!