Vladimir Putin: It took many years for us to again be able to discuss large-scale cooperation and initiate a fundamentally new kind of dialogue. We had to overcome many economic and political difficulties. But most importantly, over the years the Poles and the Russians have determined their roads towards becoming integrated in the world economy. And we have received further proof that a large part of that road is historically tested cooperation between us.
Today it is evident that fruitful long-term Russian-Polish cooperation is inconceivable without taking into account the whole diversity of the processes taking place in Europe. Above all, economic processes. Both our countries would like to see a common space of stability and progress on the continent.
I am convinced that the already visible economic revival in the East of Europe and close cooperation among Russia, Poland, Ukraine and our other neighbours are in the interests of the whole European continent. Especially if one considers the problems the world economy faces today.
Within two years Poland may become a fully-fledged member of the European Union, as Alexander Kwasniewski has just said. Poland’s integration in the EU may open up new prospects for our cooperation if we consistently uphold our national interests in the process of world and European integration.
That is aided by the growing role Poland plays in the development of ties of integration in Central and Eastern Europe, including in the framework of the Central European free trade association. Our key joint task is to create the most favourable conditions for expanded business ties between the two countries, above all due to a friendly climate and a proper legal and treaty basis. The signing of the Russian-Polish Declaration on Trade-Economic, Financial and Scientific-Technical Cooperation was a milestone along that road.
The positive economic trends inside Russia create good prerequisites for such interaction.
I must say that increased economic buoyancy in Russia has been the result both of external and internal factors — high energy prices (we are conscious of that), but also rapidly growing consumer and investment demand inside the Russian Federation.
We have taken many resolute practical steps to stimulate the business activity of our citizens. We will adhere to that policy this year as well. We are already set to simplify the procedure of business registration and the number of activities that require a license is about to be reduced. You know that the tax burden on the country’s economy has been substantially eased. Without any doubt the adoption of the Land Code, the reform of natural monopolies, which is already underway, and efforts to upgrade corporate management will have a positive impact on the investment climate.
During the course of negotiations with President Alexander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Leszek Miller we devoted much time to specific areas of business cooperation. In fact everything that the Russian and Polish co-chairmen mentioned today has been at the focus of our negotiations.
I would like to dwell on the strategically important sphere of energy. It offers a wide field for long-term initiatives. They include the development of the gas pipeline system, new oil transit routes, and projects in the framework of the Baltic Energy Ring. All that could be the joint contribution of Poland and Russia to the strengthening and diversification of the European energy infrastructure.
Because some traditional world sources of energy are in regions that are not entirely stable from the economic point of view, the world economy will be interested to see us work jointly in that sphere.
Russian capital is interested in joining investment programmes in the Polish oil refining industry, power generation and transmission and mutually beneficial relations with the Polish gas and oil company. Our biggest and most authoritative companies have every opportunity and, let me stress, the real resources to work in all these areas.
Our companies are operating quite successfully in many East European countries, contributing to their economic prosperity. Russian ministries and agencies will render them every support.
Russia is also ready to contribute to the modernization of enterprises built with Soviet technical assistance. Transport projects – automobile and railways – have a big future. We see mutually beneficial prospects in the field of telecommunications.
There is a widespread misconception that the Russian economy owes its success mainly to external factors. I have already said that this is not quite the case and I can cite the latest data from our Statistical Committee to confirm this. For example, machine-building registered an 8% growth in production, and the processing industry reported an even higher rate of growth last year. The reason I mention this is that it creates good conditions for joint work in other areas, and not only in areas that are traditional for the Russian economy.
It is also evident to us that there is a lot of untapped potential in mutual trade. Poland accounts for about 5% of Russia’s foreign trade. That is a very insignificant volume and of course it could be much greater.
The Kaliningrad Region has been a key area of Russian-Polish interaction and it remains so. I am convinced that the adjacent Polish regions cannot prosper unless Kaliningrad is well off economically. These regions are highly interdependent economically.
Poland is already Kaliningrad Region’s number one trading partner. Plans are afoot to modernize the Kaliningrad-Elblong road and to build the second unit of the power plant to meet growing energy demands and supply energy to Poland. The opening of the Gusev-Goldap border crossing, built with the participation of Polish firms, is a good example of practical cooperation.
The forum has been discussing and will continue to discuss the prospects for Russian-Polish economic relations. The end result of that work will be to strengthen and develop bilateral relations as a whole.
In this connection I would like to thank the members of the Russian-Polish Business Council and all those who initiated this forum. Like the leaders of the two countries you are taking an important step towards each other. I am convinced that your business success will inevitably be felt on the level of human contacts and the well-being of our peoples, the well-being of the ordinary citizen of Poland and the ordinary citizen of Russia.
So I believe it is extremely important to preserve this mutual commitment and to continue to increase the pace and progressive character of Russian-Polish interaction. Both countries need it, and it is our common contribution to the progress and prosperity of the whole European continent.
In conclusion I would like to say that for Russia Poland has never been just a neighbour or an international partner. And business ties with your country are not confined to mutually beneficial relations in trade or transit. Poland has been and remains one of Russia’s most significant partners on the broadest range of issues.
We have many bonds with your country. They include the lessons of history from which we are together learning to derive mutual benefit. And as we are attaining a new level of interstate relations we see them as strategic and long-term relations. We take them seriously and we look forward to long-term cooperation. We believe that close cooperation between Russia and Poland is historically predetermined and inevitable.
As we were approaching this building a notice in the street caught my eye and I read it and told Alexander Kwasniewski: “I see that you in Poznan have a Palace Bridge, and we have one in Petersburg.” He says: “Yes, only in Polish the word does not mean “palace”, but “railway station”. “The Poles must be very rich if what we call a palace is only a train station in Poland,” I remarked. If we don’t want our palaces to look like train stations, and on the contrary, want our train stations to look like palaces, we must work together.