Vladimir Putin: With your permission I will start with the simplest thing: the role of the state with regard to the mass media. We are talking above all about ensuring its economic freedom and legal protection. If the state complies with these two main principles, the rest will take care of itself.
Now I would like to say a few words commenting on what I have heard from previous speakers. I would like to single out several topics as particularly important and interesting. First of all, European and international security and the role of Russia and Germany in the building of a world security system.
I would like to tell you that the dialogue between Russia and NATO is developing positively, and there we have the full support of the Federal Chancellor and Germany. As you know we are actively working to create a political “twenty”, which would solve a certain range of issues on an equal basis.
I would like to share with you, representatives of the public, some of our concerns stemming from the fact that we believe it is necessary to achieve a qualitatively new level in the relations between Russia and the West as a whole and between Russia and NATO. That new quality will only be achieved when the “twenty” becomes equal and there are no preliminary consultations of the 19 NATO countries on certain issues before Russia is told of the agreed decision.
If that procedure remains in place, there will be no new quality nor innovation in the security area. It is an issue of principle to us and to you, I am sure. If we want to achieve the common goal of changing the quality of the relations between Russia and the Western world on the key issue of our time, the issue of security needs to be addressed.
As regards our interaction with Europe and the EU in building European security, I think that the building of our relations with NATO is a prologue of the development of similar relations with the whole of Europe. It is a condition, a bridge.
Unfortunately, no adequate system of European security yet exists. We are ready to participate in it from the moment it is created if we are given a chance to equally contribute to its creation.
I would like to pay particular attention to the problem of the economic security of our states and Europe as a whole. There are many aspects of that problem for us, but I would like to draw your attention to those that are indisputable. Above all, it is energy security. And we are all aware of it by looking at what is happening in the world and in the Middle East.
I would like to stress that even during the most dramatic period in Russia’s history, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, our country never suspended its compliance with its obligations in the energy sphere to our foreign partners. It shows how stable the system created in the Soviet Union was. It has remained in place and is evolving.
Today the whole of Europe gets a huge amount of energy from Russia. Our country provides one-third of Germany’s gas needs and one-quarter of its oil needs. That’s what statistics say, but in reality I think the figures are even larger.
What do I want to stress? If Europe considers Russia as an alien element, then we will be placing obstacles in the way of broader cooperation. But if Europe treats us as an equal partner, then it will not apply the rule that no EU country can get more than 30% of its energy from a non-member country. Today such rules apply and they may set limits to our cooperation. And in Europe and Germany they will inevitably increase prices, including for households.
By contrast, if we pursue this work on a long-term basis and drop the unjustified rules with regard to Russia, proper and timely performance of its obligations will be guaranteed. That will stabilise the European economy and will contribute to price stability both for industry and for consumers. I think that is very important.
I find the remarks by a German colleague regarding the possible use of the assets Germany gets from Russia as part of the settlement for the credits of the former Soviet Union in the field of culture and education very encouraging. It amounts to a proposal to invest Russian debts in an intellectual product. Let me tell you at once that we agree.
I may be mistaken, but as far as I know there is a law in Germany whereby the debts of foreign states automatically become part of the budget revenue. So, if the proposals of our German colleague are to be implemented, the German Parliament must pass a corresponding decision and the Federal Chancellor must give it a strong backing. As for us, we will implement it instantly because we are reaching agreements on the problems that were previously thought to be intractable. We will tell the media about it a little later.
I consider work with the youth to be extremely important. I subscribe to everything that has been said about it and to the optimism expressed by Gerhard Schroeder when he spoke about the youth forums being planned in Russia and Germany. For our part, we are ready to give every kind of assistance to that project.
Thank you for your attention.