President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr Prime Minister, Dear Mr Chairman, Dear Mr Solana, ladies and gentlemen!
Our traditional meeting with our colleagues from the European Union was held immediately after institutional reform in the EU and a new membership of the European Commission.
Mr Romani Prodi has completed his mission as Chairman of the European Commission, and I would like once more, even in his absence, to thank him for fruitful cooperation. And of course, I would like to wish the new leadership of the commission success in solving tasks.
Tasks that are faced by Europe, and in the development of relations with Russia.
I see the results of today’s talks as being very productive. They were conducted in a business-like, constructive atmosphere, and were interesting and very open. I would also like to stress that after the summit in Moscow, Russia has made a number of steps towards strengthening strategic partnership with the European Union. The protocol has been finally passed on applying the Agreement on partnership and cooperation between Russia and the EU to the new members of the European Union, as has the Kyoto Protocol.
The ratification of these documents has once more confirmed our strategic choice in favour of a united Europe – a Europe without dividing lines, which is stable and prosperous. The central topic of the summit was the continuation of our joint work on forming four common spaces for Russia and the EU – an economic space; freedom, security and justice; foreign security; and also scientific research, education and culture. It is obvious for everyone that advancing this initiative will open the widest possibilities to significantly increase our interaction on virtually all issues.
It will allow us to remove barriers in mutual trade, to launch new projects in the economy, in science, culture and education, and will facilitate direct contacts between people. The creation of common European spaces is also important for solving such priority tasks as fighting global and regional threats.
In recent months, in each of these areas, Russian departments and the European Commission have made significant progress on coordinating work plans. These plans are almost ready in two spaces. Our position is that by the next summit in Moscow in May 2005, this work will be fully completed. Today we talked in this context and expressed our hopes for positive work.
It is important today to remove obstacles that hinder our cooperation. In connection with this, the Joint statement on expansion of the EU and relations between Russia and the EU passed on 27 April this year in Luxembourg remains relevant.
We also made another important decision – to found a Russian European college at the Moscow State institute of international relations. Graduates from this college, specialists on economics and European law, will be directly involved in the work of state institutes, and in business structures – in developing our relations with the European Union.
We also exchanged opinions on the main world problems, and as the Prime Minister stressed, we talked about the problems in Moldova and Ukraine.
I would like to stress that I believe – and this is how I understand our colleagues – that all the issues related to the election situation in Ukraine must be resolved exclusively within the existing constitution and laws. The legal path is well-known: all complaints must go to court.
In conclusion, I would like once more to thank our Dutch colleagues for their warm reception and good organisation of the summit. The meeting at The Hague showed: we are prepared to develop dialogue and are able to find mutually acceptable decision for any issues, even very complex ones. I would like to inform you that I told our European colleagues in detail and on my own initiative about the political changes in Russia which have been proposed recently, and which I hope will be passed by the parliament of the Russian Federation. I am certain that strategic partnership between Russia and the EU will continue to serve the interests of common European development, and work for the good of our peoples. Thank you for your attention.
Question: Does the European Union agree that the possible resolution of the “Ukrainian” question is a court appeal? I would like to know what this means, and whether on the basis of talks that were held with Ukrainian representatives, it can be said that this resolution is at all possible.
Mr Putin: Sorry, is that the colleague who wants to hear my position?
You know, we must be concerned about the development of democracy in all countries – in Russia, in the post-Soviet sphere, and in western countries. We must strengthen institutions of civil society and the multi-party system. But we must not forget about another component of democracy. We must have democratic laws, and the state must be able to implement them. And if we look at the problem from this side, I would like to stress that the electoral law in Ukraine was passed with the direct involvement of the Ukrainian opposition. In fact, the Ukrainian opposition is perhaps the main author of Ukrainian electoral legislation. This is the first point.
Secondly, in the final vote count, representatives of the opposition headquarters, representatives of Mr Yushenko’s headquarters, as far as I know, signed all the documents allowing the Central Election Commission of the Ukraine to make a conclusion on the victory of Mr Yanukovich.
I am convinced that we have no moral right to incite mass disturbances in a major European state. We must not make solving disputes of this nature through street disturbances part of international practice. We must ourselves learn and teach everyone else that such disputes are solved constitutionally – with the use of laws. And so I am convinced that these problems in Ukraine can of course be solved. Other issues of cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties, cooperation on the future development of the country and distributing powers, of course, can and must be solved only by peaceful means and through political dialogue.
Question: I would still like to return to the issue of the situation in Ukraine. The Foreign Minster of the Netherlands, Mr Bot, recently said in Brussels that Kiev must, I quote “re-examine the results of Presidential elections”. And the American senator Lugar, who literally does not leave, as far as I know, Mr Yushenko’s headquarters, also demands that the election results are re-examined. And the Foreign Minister of Estonia also proposes, I quote again, “to encourage Ukrainian democratic forces to disobey the authorities”. My question to representatives of the European Union is: what in your opinion constitutes interference in internal affairs? And if similar so to say advices were given to your countries, would you see this as interference in internal affairs?
I have another question for the Russian President. We have already tried to ask you this question from the pages of our newspaper for three days, but for some reason you have stubbornly not answered it. My question is: why does Russia take such a passive position, and against the background of unprecedented activity of other countries? Thank you.
Mr Putin: I do not think that we, Russia, are behaving passively. I also do not think that any nations should acknowledge or not acknowledge the results of elections in Ukraine. This is the Ukrainian people’s affair. Although, of course, everyone understands that Ukraine is in the centre of Europe and must – I am convinced – and will establish normal friendly relations with all its neighbours.
I have already said at the very beginning of the election campaign in Ukraine that we are prepared to work with any President elected by the Ukrainian people. After the Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine announced the preliminary results – after over 90% of the votes had been counted – it became clear that Mr Yanukovich had won.
We do not believe that we have the right to interfere in the electoral process in any way, or force our opinions on the Ukrainian people.
Question: I have two questions: one for Mr Solana and one for Mr Putin. As to the crisis that is taking place at the moment, the alarming situation in Ukraine, unfortunately: doesn’t the European Union fear that Ukraine will split into two halves, that the country will be divided? And a question to Mr Putin: what do you think about the situation in Iraq on the eve of elections, and also want can you say about the Iranian “nuclear dossier”?
Mr Putin: The situation remains very difficult and we deplore the victims that constantly increase in Iraq. At the same time, our position is that we must create conditions as soon as possible so that the Iraqi people, in the full sense of the word, become the masters of their own country, and its natural riches. Of their own country in the direct sense of the word – in the political sense of the word. So we support the idea to hold elections there, but at the same time we expect that the necessary conditions will be created for this, conditions so that the citizens of Iraq can make their wish heard.
We have traditional friendly relations with this country and its people. We intend to support these relations in the future. Within the framework of the Paris club, we made unprecedented write-offs of Iraqi debts. Even though Russia agreed with the general approach of the members of the Paris club, but beforehand, when we joined the Paris club, we took on the obligation to write off debts for Iraq – 65%, plus new agreements. In total, Russia will write off over 90% of Iraqi debts.
Yesterday I talked with the Prime Minister of Iraq. We agreed that he will soon visit Moscow, and we will discuss the entire complex of our cooperation.
Now to the “Iranian dossier”. We welcome Iran’s statement of refusal to manufacture nuclear technology. Today the statement by Iranian representatives on the issue requires additional study. I hope that all these problems will be examined at an expert level. In any case, we believe that major progress has been attained on closing the Iranian nuclear dossier. We hold talks with Iran on a bilateral basis, and help to use atomic energy for peaceful means, and if we reach a final agreement we intend to continue this cooperation.
Question: I would like to return to the topic of the four spaces between Russia and the European Union. Please tell us: judging from the statements that European Union representatives made before this summit, progress is not going as easily as hoped. Some difficulties remain. What is the nature of the disagreements between Russia and the EU? On what aspects, on what road maps do they exist?
Mr Putin: You know, the work done today fills me with optimism. Quite honestly, I did not expect that we would reach such a constructive level in discussing all these issues with people who have just begun working in these positions.
The very idea of a common economic space was actually proposed by the European Commission, by the former chairman Mr Prodi. After this, the proposal was born to expand these spaces to four – including internal and foreign security, and freedom, science and education… We did not set ourselves the task of reaching an agreement on all these issues. But we have made significant progress. I really do have reason to believe that at the next meeting, we may reach an agreement on coordinating the so-called roadmaps. But forming this space is of course a lengthy process, and we do not expect that it will be completed in a week or even in a month.