Vladimir Putin: Allow me first of all to thank sincerely the leadership of France and its President, Jacques Chirac, for the hospitality extended to the Russian delegation in Paris.
We have had a very constructive discussion with President Chirac, Chairman Prodi and Secretary-General Solana. Such meetings as this one in Paris are the political peak of dialogue between Russia and the European Union, a dialogue that is going on all the time. This is the point I wish to stress particularly.
At this meeting we discussed, or at any rate tried to discuss, new incentives for the development of relations between Russia and the European Union. It seems to me we have succeeded in that. We have succeeded because this was the first time we openly talked about the security policy now taking shape in Europe. We have agreed that contacts between Russia and the European Union in this field should be absolutely open and transparent, free of any hint of suspicion. We stressed that our relations in that sphere were not directed at destroying any existing alliances, but aimed to stabilise the process of security, to preserve international peace, including European security. I think highly of the fact that President Chirac demonstrated his firm political will to develop the European Union’s relations with Russia all along the line, including and perhaps above all in the economy and environmental security.
We also took note of new avenues opening up in high technologies and in aerospace cooperation. I want to tell you that tomorrow there is going to be a scheduled launch of a spacecraft carrying three cosmonauts who are to make up the crew of the new international space station. The station is becoming habitable. Of the three men, two are Russian and one is an American. A visit to the station by a French astronaut is also on the agenda, and we expect it to be made by means of a Russian Soyuz rocket.
We then spoke of the need for energy cooperation and opportunities it opened up, and not only in oil and gas, but also in electricity supplies. That will, of course, require certain efforts on Russia’s part to streamline its legislation concerning guarantees for all European investments in its economy. But Russia is ready to make a contribution to Europe’s long-term energy security.
We are ready to discuss with our colleagues the issues of European security and the situation taking shape in Europe’s problem areas, such as the Balkans. We informed our colleagues of the processes underway in the North Caucasus, took note of Europe’s concerns, and believe that both President Chirac and the European Union have adopted a position that is the only correct one in the sense that a final solution of complex inter-ethnic and inter-regional problems, including those in the North Caucasus, cannot be found other than through political means.