Pedro Santana Lopes: This is the first time that the President of Russia has come to Portugal. This visit was noted and signed by the Portuguese and Russian side. I would like to stress that in the conversation that we had during lunch, we discussed political and economic issues, and also the international situation. We discussed issues of peace and order in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As Portugal is a permanent member of the EU, we also discussed issues of cooperation between Russia and the EU, and Russia and NATO.
We also discussed the results of elections in Ukraine. And I would like to stress, Mr Putin, that relations between Portugal and Russia are a factor in stability in Europe and the entire world.
30 years have passed since diplomatic relations were established between Russia and Portugal, and it is in Portugal’s interests to improve and strengthen relations in the economy, and also political relations between our two countries. We have decided to strengthen and increase the number of diplomatic visits and visits by ministers from our two countries. I have accepted the offer from the Russian Government, and will visit Moscow personally next year in honour of the 60th anniversary of victory.
I also believe an understanding of the depth of economic relations between Russia and Portugal is very important. I would also like to stress the geographical factor. Even though we are in different parts of Europe, this still helps us to strengthen and stabilise our relations in Europe and the entire world.
I would like to conclude with what I said to begin with, that Russia and Portugal are important partners, which play an important role in the world. This will also strengthen relations between Russia and the EU, and at the summit in the Hague on 25 November.
Thank you very much, Mr Putin, for your visit. Your visit to Portugal is a great honour for us.
President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet and hold interesting discussions with Prime Minister Santana Lopes. We have once more seen that Portugal wishes for comprehensive development of relations with Russia. We highly value this approach, and in fact it can be said that this completely corresponds to our own wishes.
During our discussion, as the Prime Minister just noted, we discussed world affairs in great detail, and discussed the prospects of cooperation between Russia and the EU, and Russia and NATO. I must say that on the main issues of the international agenda, the positions of Portugal and Russia are very close. We will continue our cooperation in future, both in international organisations and on a bilateral basis.
In recent years, relations between Russia and Portugal have been developing very intensively, and they solve social and economic problems that they face. Accordingly, our capabilities are increasing in business cooperation, in developing the investment process, and in widening business ties. To achieve this, we have to know each other better, exchange information, help to develop business ties, and look for new forms of business contacts. The Prime Minister and I agreed that we would support people from the business world in developing relations with each other. We will develop a system of measures for state support both in the framework of an intergovernmental commission, and as the Prime Minister proposed, in direct dialogue between various ministries and departments of Russia and Portugal. We will also give the necessary attention to the humanitarian component of our cooperation – I mean developing cultural ties, youth exchanges, interaction between scientists and scientific institutes.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for accepting our invitation to come to Moscow in May next year to take part in the 60th anniversary of the victory in the war on fascism. In conclusion, I would like to stress that on our part we firmly intend to go on the path of developing our cooperation, and to enrich our bilateral dialogue.
I would like to thank the Prime Minster and all our Portuguese colleagues for their interesting and very useful dialogue today.
Question: The Prime Minister said in his speech that you discussed the results of the elections in Ukraine. Mr President, I would like to ask you if you think that the situation in Ukraine is normal, as Russia is now the only country that recognised the results of the second round of voting. The outgoing President of Ukraine virtually blamed the European Union for inciting a civil war in Ukraine. How do you look at this situation?
Mr Putin: We cannot recognise or refute the results of elections in Ukraine, because they have not been announced officially yet. We recommend everyone to follow our example. Everything must stay within the field of law. Ukraine is a major European nation with a developed legal system. It does not need to be taught, it can teach others itself. I did indeed congratulate one of the candidates of the presidential election according to the results of exit polls. But the final decision can only be taken by the Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine.
I am aware of the statement made by EU foreign ministers yesterday, and I particularly noticed the last point in this statement, which calls for all sides in the presidential elections in Ukraine not to allow any violence. I fully endorse this position and would add that everyone needs to stay within the bounds of the law.
As for the part of the statement that casts doubt on the results of the elections, citing an OSCE observer, I would like to say the following: I think that this comment is inappropriate, as there are no results, the results have not been announced. And as the statement was made citing an OSCE observer, I think that the observers from this organisation should also take a more careful and thorough approach to their work. We know the difficulties that the elections in Afghanistan faced. We know how elections took place in Kosovo, where hundreds of thousands of Serbs who were driven out of their homes could not come to take part in voting. I can tell you in advance what the conclusion of the OSCE observers will be on the upcoming elections in Iraq, and you also know this. But if anyone tries to use the OSCE as a political tool for achieving tactical goals, which are not always justified, then this organisation will lose its authority on the international stage and will lose any reason to exist. That is all.
Question: Please tell you, does this mean that only now the moment has come for such comprehensive development in our relations in politics and economics? In what spirit did discussion of these problems take place?
Mr Putin: Firstly, this is not the beginning of dialogue with Portugal. In recent years, we have been working quite actively with our Portuguese colleagues on the international stage and in international organisations. And this is simply a continuation of our dialogue – it is a reciprocal visit to the visit by the Portuguese President to Russia in 2001. But contacts were not broken in previous years, after the President’s visit. In the modern system of international relations, the size or economic situation and abilities of various countries are absolutely unimportant. For us, all European partners are partners of the first level of interest in politics. As I said, we have many common interests and our positions coincide on many issues. We feel the interest of the Portuguese side in the development of bilateral relations. And despite the seriousness of the international agenda, we are able to talk with our Portuguese colleagues like friends. But even if our views do not coincide in some areas, we feel that the methods of our Portuguese colleagues are objective, we feel a desire to find a solution. And of course, we will respond in kind.
Mr Lopes: In answering your question, I would also like to say that indeed the moment has now come for active development of our bilateral relations. Our mutual trade turnover, as far as we know, mainly has a positive balance. And from my point of view, this speaks favourably of the activity of the Russian side. And this should spur us on to increase mutual trade turnover. Talking of the possibilities for cooperation in the economic sphere, I would also like to say a few words about the potential that exists in tourist exchanges – this is a very important sphere for both our countries. Thousands of Portuguese go to Russia every year. Every year, thousands of Russian tourists come to Portugal, and many Portuguese visit your country. And we see a very great potential here. And to make use of this potential, we hope that government bodies and other interested parties in both countries will soon be able to solve the problem of restoring direct air transport between the capitals of our countries, which we think would assist further development of tourist exchanges between our countries. There is also another issue which I would like to raise. At discussions, we talked about the relations of our two nations with other countries in various regions of the world, such as our relations with Brazil, as for both Portugal and Russia, this is an important and interesting topic. Relations with Brazil are developing very well, including in the political and economic areas of both of our nations. As for the issue of the atmosphere of our talks, I must fully agree with President Putin – we held our discussion in a very friendly tone, because relations between Portugal and Russia are friendly. President Putin was quite right to say that when we talked about topics on which our positions did not fully coincide, although to be honest there were very few such topics, we still talked as friends and with a desire to find points of contact. This is the most important thing.
Question: I would like to ask what you think about the recent expansion of the European Union, and the fact that the European Union has come closer to Russia, and is now essentially right next to it. Do you see this as a threat to Russia or as the chance to widen economic and other ties with the European Union? And I would also like to ask the Portuguese Prime Minister, the issue of immigrants was also probably discussed about immigrants living in Portugal, including from Russia. In the final joint statement, one paragraph mentioned the necessity of increasing ties in the sphere of education, and this is the only aspect that mentions Russians living in Portugal. Were other topics raised relating to this issue?
Mr Putin: You know, back in Tsarist times one Russian state figure said that Russia has two allies – the army and the navy. I would like for these times to be in the past. We want relations of equal rights with all our partners. So we are not worried about the expansion of the European Union. On the contrary, we see this as a sign of natural and objective processes of globalisation. But we know how many people in the world feel about these processes – and for good reason, because there are many contradictions in these processes. Of course, there are problems connected with the expansion of the European Economic Union, for the organisation itself and for the relations of this organisation with other countries. We are fully resolved to solve these problems together with our partners. We have agreed to develop relations in four main areas: the economy, the humanitarian sphere, internal and foreign security, and science. It is important not to create new dividing lines in Europe, and I hope that with the new leadership of the EU commission, we will develop the same relations that we have with Portugal – especially as the person who heads the commission of European communities now is well-known in Portugal.
Mr Lopes: In answering your question, I would like to say the following. We signed a basic agreement in our relations between Portugal in Russia in 1994 – the Agreement on friendship and cooperation. At that time, I was the Cultural Minister, and our cultural ties, which I was responsible for at the time, were developing very well, and they continue to develop very well. And this, of course, is a special object of attention, and Mr Putin and I also talked about this.
But I would also like to say the following. Unfortunately, not all issues have an equal priority at all times, as at any one time a particular issue gets more significance and more publicity. Other issues are less relevant, they get less attention, although they are also important. At our talks today we concentrated particularly on consolidating political and economic cooperation, and we also talked about issues of developing cultural ties, the humanitarian sphere and issues of education. All this was discussed, of course, but probably the centre of attention was issues of political and economic cooperation.
As for the situation of Russian-speaking and Russian emigrants in Portugal, this is a very important issue, and we know this very well. The Portuguese Government has often made announcements and taken specific steps to help these emigrants, to help them to adapt normally in Portugal, and to integrate them into Portuguese life and society. We are working, the Portuguese Government is working closely with associations of emigrants from Russia, which currently exist and function. And of course, this issue is very important for us. But it is not necessary to sign some documents at every summit and every high-level meeting. When there is a need to do so, we will draw up necessary documents, but naturally these issues do not pass out of our attention.
Mr Putin: Incidentally, people talk about dividing lines. Attempts to use bugbears of the past in the Ukrainian situation – to paint one candidate in Russian colours, and the other in western colours – these are attempts to put these bugbears into modern international relations. This is absolutely counterproductive from the standpoint of establishing modern international relations that are designed to be long-term.