Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
I just spoke with Prime Minister Berlusconi and he asked me to pass on his greetings. It seems we are having an “Italian” day today.
I am very pleased to see you here. The Prime Minister and I recalled how our work has gone over the past year. We have had regular meetings at the very highest level – with the Prime Minister and with the Italian President, Mr Ciampi. During our last intergovernmental consultations we drafted a joint programme of work for 2004. I am pleased to see that our trade turnover increased to $10.6 billion last year.
I am sure, Mr Minister, that your visit will give us a good opportunity to look at the reserves that we have not yet made use of. Furthermore, Russia’s relations with the European Union received a significant boost to their development during Italy’s tenure in the EU presidency. Our Government is now continuing these contacts with the European Union at ministerial level and we think this dialogue is making a lot of progress.
We will most definitely continue building bilateral relations between Russia and Italy, our economic and social ties, our work together in the fight against terrorism and cooperation between our law enforcement and defence agencies. These are also all areas in which Russia has much interest in developing its relations with the European Union in general. We are following the processes taking place in Europe, above all EU expansion, with respect and attention. We are ready for a positive and constructive dialogue and we are also ready to make compromises. I think that during negotiations we have demonstrated and will yet have the chance to demonstrate the goodwill that you can expect from us. These signs of goodwill will be clear and evident.
But we also expect our partners to take a similar approach. We hope that our lawful interests will be taken into consideration. We are not seeking some kind of exclusive relationship with the European Union, but we do want to see our relations built on a good-neighbourly basis that takes into account our mutual interests.
We very much hope that the Italian leadership’s ideas will be realised. If this happens then Russia and Europe will come to form a common European space, a common economic and cultural space. This would benefit all who live in Europe. But we do understand the difficulties involved and we do not seek to achieve the impossible, but will move forward in stages alongside the European Union.