President Vladimir Putin: First, I would like to thank you for your business-like approach to the current meeting. I sensed it in every speech. I felt that you are very familiar with the situation and are interested in the development of our relations. With your permission, I would like to make a few comments on what I heard.
I completely agree with the previous speakers and with the Prime Minister. We must instruct our respective foreign ministries to solve the issue of simplifying visa restrictions for our business community. We have already established such a system with some of our partners in the Schenghen zone. We have signed the relevant agreements with Italy, France and Germany, and the need to do the same with Turkey is obvious. We should issue the necessary instructions. If the Prime Minister does not object, I will draft such instructions upon my return to Moscow.
I agree with those who mentioned the unused potential of the third countries’ markets. And this does not only mean Iraq. We together with you have always done a great deal to ensure stability in that country. Russia is a traditional partner of Iraq. Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi arrives in Moscow. I will meet him tomorrow. We will discuss the entire range of our co-operation, including energy industry issues. Of course, the experience of Turkish companies in this sphere might be very helpful.
However, I would like to emphasise that Iraq is not the only issue. If we implement all the major projects we talked about today during the meetings with the President and the cabinet, and are going to discuss with the Prime Minister, we can expect drastic changes in the quality of Turkish representation on global energy markets. I mean the storage of gas, transportation, oil and gas infrastructure. We have people present here who deal with all these areas directly. I am convinced that we can easily enter the third countries’ markets at the highest level and with great chances of success with our hi-tech products, especially in the military industry. I have no doubts about this.
I believe it is very important that you mentioned the work of Russian customs service and legislation. I am sure you all know that Russia adopted a new Customs Code last year. It still has to be implemented in full. I hope that you will see positive changes.
And now, let us talk about tourism and charter flights. Certainly, it is a subject of business negotiations, but I do agree in principle that everything must be balanced. As to the problem of non-tariff barriers and the customs, it derives from the fact that Russia is still not a member of the World Trade Organisation. I call upon the entire business community, including our partners in Turkey, to support Russia in its aspiration to join the WTO.
As to the ‘shuttle trade’, I think it must be civilised, even if we all understand that it is for the benefit of many people — and we should respect their interests. It is one thing when people bring in a certain number of items into a country for personal use, but another thing when they turn it into business. Any country must keep this kind of trade within a civilised framework. We just have to try to do it in a way that does not harm peoples’ interests, but creates favourable conditions for their business activities.
One of the colleagues here mentioned that there were no oil refineries in the Black Sea region. This is not entirely accurate. There is the Tuapse oil refinery. It is not enough, of course, and we are willing to discuss this issue with you not only in view of the privatisation of some oil refining facilities in Turkey. This may also mean building new facilities. Everything is possible.
Now, let us touch upon a rather sensitive subject, which I think will be anyway raised when I speak to the Prime Minister. It is a certain disbalance in trade and the possibility of paying for Russian gas with goods and services. We heard here the representative of Enka construction firm speaking. Its annual revenues on the Russian market reach $2.7 billion. In comparison, all Russian construction companies together make about $400 million per year on the Turkish market. Let us ask the Enka representative whether the company would be willing to receive part of the revenues in the form of Russian-made goods and services. Or let us ask Mr. Miller if he would agree to receive partial payments for gas supplies to Turkey in goods and services.
I will be frank with you and hope you will understand me. As soon as we start using a kind of double-entry accounting, trying to determine prices, goods, services, suppliers, sellers, we will immediately have more swindlers and corrupt business than goods and services. The problem of disbalance does exist and I believe we should solve it by civilised methods.
One of the colleagues made a short but very effective comment. He spoke about what we have not done yet. I agree with everything he said. He hit the mark on all issues.
Finally, I would like to turn to a very important issue that the last speaker focused on. It is the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU. We certainly wish you success. This is the choice of the Turkish people and Turkish leadership, but I seriously relate to the arguments presented by your colleague.
I am convinced that regardless of the future development of relations between Turkey and the European Union, one should not forget what results will be the outcome of these negotiations and of achieving the goal. It is a very serious matter. Turkey has a current demand for about 20 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year. Russia regularly supplies Turkey with 14 billion at present. Considering the rate of economic growth in Turkey, demand will gradually increase. However, we know that the European Union imposes certain restrictions on the supply of commodities from a single country, and I do not think that Turkey will find an alternative source of reasonably cheap energy supplied on a regular basis anywhere besides Russia. This might raise serious issues.
And there are other, just seemingly small problems. Still, why do you think Turkey attracts so many Russian tourists? Not just because you have good hotels and nice climate, but also because Turkey created favourable visa conditions for Russian tourists. I am familiar with these procedures from my own past experience. You arrive at the airport, pay $10, get your passport stamped and go anywhere you want. Such simple visa procedures are very important.
As soon as Turkey becomes part of the Schenghen zone, though, and if Russia fails to reach a special agreement with the European Union, the flow of Russian tourists will certainly diminish. As will other flows. This one is the most obvious case, but other problems will certainly emerge.
It does not mean, of course, that the negotiation process should be stopped. You know better what to do, although in the course of this process one should consider the entire range of problems and issues related to national interests.
Finally, the disbalance issue. The participants in today’s discussion mentioned that there are many mixed marriages in Turkey, that many local brides are from Russia. I believe it is an obvious disbalance. Although I did not have the chance to notice many things during my visit because I mainly had to look through the car window, I managed to notice that there is plenty of choice here. And if our entrepreneurs get all the necessary conditions to start business in Turkey, more Russian colleagues will work here. They will notice how beautiful Turkish women are. And I confirm that they certainly are.