Vladimir Putin: Distinguished heads of state,
Let me say from the outset that we were preparing for this Summit not so much as a gala event, but as a frank and critical review of the path we have covered. Our discussion among the heads of state now has confirmed that this is indeed the prevailing mood. We have left behind a certain stage of history, the experience of dealing with a number of complicated tasks and an equally significant experience of mistakes.
But before moving on to their analysis I should note the main thing that has characterised the activities of the Commonwealth during the past ten years. First, the CIS has succeeded as a form of integration in the post-Soviet space that is necessary and inevitable for everyone. And second, the CIS has succeeded as a major international regional organisation, an organisation whose functions are already evident, and they include the key functions of unification, coordination and stabilisation.
Russia, together with the other CIS countries, has been and remains a key outpost in the fight against international terrorism, illegal migration, and contraband of arms and narcotics.
The main results of the past decade are summed up in the analytical report. It contains a lot of information for serious thought, and for obvious lessons that we must derive. I will permit myself to dwell on some of these problems.
First. Although we sometimes differ in our approach to cooperation between states, we have become convinced that the national interests of each of our countries are best served by integration processes, but the determining factor is the degree of readiness for such integration.
Second. We have achieved victories and successes only when we acted pragmatically, when we were doing something real to bring closer together and combine multilateral – primarily economic – interests. And practically all the setbacks were caused by failure to act in accordance with our declarations or by attempts to impose our will on one another.
Third and very important. Problems in our interaction have arisen each time the states wittingly or unwittingly infringed upon the interests of their own citizens. We have faced this in solving the problems of the common education space, the possibility of preserving the native language and other humanitarian issues, and of course in dealing with the problems of compatriots living abroad.
In this connection I would like to stress that Russia, where many citizens of the CIS, your compatriots, live, has always regarded creating worthy living conditions for them as a matter of principle.
And finally, another lesson is an economic one. We have already lived through the stage of integration that we described as “renewal of economic ties”. Now we have reason to talk about another stage, a qualitatively new nature and a new international division of labour in the economies of the Commonwealth countries. The CIS today is a huge common market with a serious potential for development — development on a truly market and modern basis.
Our economic partnership is inherently rooted not only in our common history, but in the single infrastructure, compatibility of technical regulations and standards, energy and transportation systems. It is very important in our times to be able to see these advantages, and to use them to solve the tasks facing our countries.
The present day of the Commonwealth is marked by almost simultaneous upsurge of business life and an increasingly apparent mutual interest based on mutual benefit. Market relations have already become the predominant principle in the building of national economies and then of economic integration. The main driving force of economic ties is increasingly not so much the governments as enterprises, businessmen, the citizens of our countries. They are opting for cooperation with their closest neighbours and partners tested over many years of history. And political leaders cannot afford to lag behind their peoples and businessmen, especially since the producers themselves have long learned to overcome the outdated economic barriers.
It is impossible not to see that our citizens are not only convinced that there is a common labour market in the CIS but – and I can confirm this 100% on the basis of Russia’s experience – they are actively working in this market.
I am convinced that countries – and still more a community of countries – must learn to work as effectively as business, by providing political support for it and also determining the strategy because the interests of states and interstate associations are much broader and more responsible than the interests of individual corporations, no matter how large.
And finally, I would like to stress another aspect. The CIS countries are some of the basic suppliers of energy to the world market. So, we should not forget that our interaction in the present-day conditions is emerging as an ever more serious factor for financial and economic stability not only of the Commonwealth, but of the world as a whole. I have spoken about a noticeable upsurge of our economies, and we undoubtedly must coordinate our actions in all areas, and not least in the energy sphere.
We have lived through the hardest ten years together. In terms of the depth and consequences the changes we have lived through cannot be compared with other historical processes, even those that took centuries. A practical reordering of the vast space of the former USSR and the creation of the CIS are events whose significance is yet to be assessed by historians and politicians. But it is already clear that we all have a stake in multilateral integration. The question is, how we see the CIS today and tomorrow: as a debating club or an effective association.
I think the geopolitical situation of the Commonwealth countries and their role in maintaining world stability – and of late nobody has had any doubt that this role is significant, if not huge – all this does not tolerate the dynamics of our relations up until now which has hardly pleased us, and the very tone of our communication, and especially the weak and loose mechanisms of interaction.
Of course, a qualitative transformation of the CIS is a matter for the future. But the question about the future of the Commonwealth is of immediate concern to millions of ordinary people in our countries. It is not by chance that, as we said in the meeting with the heads of state today, our citizens see the Commonwealth as a key guarantee of stability and economic prosperity, in short, as a guarantee of a better life for the ordinary citizen. We should not only remember it, we should act accordingly.