President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, today’s round of Russian-German consultations has been the most representative in recent years. Both yesterday and today, the Federal Chancellor and I were able to discuss the most pressing issues regarding our cooperation in an atmosphere of complete trust. We discussed both bilateral and international questions in considerable detail.
The Federal Chancellor has already noted that our economic cooperation is developing positively. Indeed, Germany is our leading business partner, accounting for around 10 percent of Russia’s foreign trade and some 12 percent of total cumulated foreign investment in Russia. I would particularly like to note the Russian-German High-Level Working Group’s successful work on strategic economic and financial cooperation issues.
We discussed a number of specific issues during our meeting, including in the energy and transport sectors, innovation and innovative sectors in general. We talked about new opportunities and possible new projects. The agreement between our company, Russian Railways, and Siemens on designing and manufacturing a new generation high-speed electric train should become a shining example of these new possibilities we have. These two partners also have other areas of cooperation. It is perhaps too early to talk about all this yet, but these are realistic projects and this is illustrated by the results of the first high technology forum in Munich and the conferences on small and medium-sized business that took place in Stuttgart and Moscow.
Today I can inform you that we have accepted Mr Schroeder’s invitation for Russia to act as main partner country at the Hannover Fair in April next year. This is a great honour for us and also a great responsibility. We shall start preparing.
Humanitarian cooperation represents another step closer between our two countries. The extensive Russian-German Cultural Meetings programme should mark a success in this area. We see youth exchanges as particularly important, including those taking place as part of the St. Petersburg Dialogue. Today we signed a new intergovernmental agreement on youth cooperation. We hope that this will considerably expand student, business and other contacts between young people in Germany and the Russian Federation.
We are building up our bilateral cooperation in other areas. The signing of new inter-ministerial agreements on transport and healthcare issues in particular offer us new opportunities.
We are pursuing an intensive dialogue on international issues. In this respect our countries’ respective positions are very close and often coincide. Mr Schroeder and I have agreed to continue our work to develop relations between Russia and the European Union, above all on forming the four common spaces and drawing up the corresponding road maps for the Russia-EU summit in Moscow in May 2005.
Incidentally, we are satisfied with our last meeting in the Hague. The Dutch Prime Minister did a great deal to ensure that the meeting was held in a good and positive spirit. We are optimistic about our further cooperation with the European Union. We focused particularly during our talks on the problem of terrorism, of course. We also assessed positively the work done by the Russian-German High-Level Working Group on Security, which was set up following a decision taken a year ago in Yekaterinburg. We also looked at possible ways of settling the Iraq problem and we talked about the Middle East and the situation in the Balkans.
Of course, these are not the only subjects we discussed during these consultations. We have just as full a programme drawn up for next year. We have also agreed to broaden our meetings by involving new participants. I have invited our German colleagues to Russia for the next round of talks. I hope we will be able to choose a good region for the meeting. There was talk, for example, of meeting in a Siberian city where it would be possible to see how our big energy companies work, which supply energy to practically all of Western Europe, including the Federal Republic of Germany.
Naturally, we also discussed the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Federal Chancellor already mentioned this point. I would like to underscore the significance of this anniversary as an event that can reconcile all the peoples of Europe in remembering the past and looking together to the future.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our German colleagues for their excellent organisation of this summit. It has been a great pleasure for us to visit this wonderful place where, as the Federal Chancellor noted, hundreds of threads truly do weave a historical link to Russia.
Question: What can you say about the auction of Yuganskneftegaz, and what do you know, for example, about representatives of China in this deal. The Chinese national oil and gas company has already announced that it was not involved in the auction, but talk of this has not stopped. And in what spirit did you discuss the problems in Iraq?
Mr Putin: This is of course, primarily an internal Russian problem, and of course it was not one of the issues that we discussed, although I did inform the Federal Chancellor about this event. As far as I understand, as far as I am informed, the auction was held in strict accordance with current Russian legislation. And my position is that all actions in this sphere will remain within the limits of the law, and within the economic interests of Russian market participants and our partners.
As for cooperation with our Chinese partners, I can say that they really do not have any involvement with this auction, although an agreement was reached between our major energy company Gazprom and the State energy company of China to cooperate in the energy sphere. We do not rule out the possibility that the State energy company of China will take part in the work of the company that was sold at the auction – I mean Yuganskneftegaz. The volume of this work should be determined by our partners themselves, but it is quite possible.
Question: Did you talk about Russia’s debts in the Paris club, and if so, when will is the payment scheduled to be made?
Mr Putin: Germany helped our country at one stage, it gave us loans which were necessary to support social stability and to preserve the main economic structures. Now Russia’s economy is on the rise, over the last five years it has been developing at swift rates – 6.9% a year. And this year development will be about the same, plus high prices on energy resources. We are able to solve the issue of preschedule payment of our dents.
Germany is interested in this, along with the other members of the Paris club. And so is Russia itself, first of all because if we pay ahead of schedule, we hope that we will have a discount, and secondly, we will economise on interest. That is to say, there is progress in this direction, there is an interest in doing this, and our specialists will soon regulate these issues for once and for all. This does not just depend on us, it depends on all the members of the Paris club. Russia is prepared to solve these issues.
Question: Recently there has been a lot of negative comment about Russia in the western press. Do you believe that this assessment is just, and did these articles in the western press affect the talks? And a second question for both leaders. Did you discuss reform of the UN, and Germany’s application to be a permanent member of the Security Council?
I would like to add a few words. I think that we, Russia, should be more active. We should, at least, inform our partners better, and explain what is happening in our country. For example, here, in Schleswig, we saw a group of protestors with the sign “Stop the war in Chechnya.” I would like to say that first of all, dear protestors, we read this sign, this slogan. Secondly, there has not been any war in Chechnya for three years, the war is over. You can go home. Merry Christmas! But what does this mean? Does this mean that we in Russia, in Chechnya, no longer have any problems? No, this is not the case. Quite the contrary in fact. We have considerable problems in this region, and we are prepared to discuss this quite openly with our partners in Russia and Europe, and work with them.
Question: Dear Mr President, another question about Yukos. What do you think about the opinion that a state company is in fact behind the organisation Baikal Finance Group?
Mr Putin: As is well known, the shareholders of this company are all private individuals, but they are individuals who have been involved in business in the energy sphere for many years. They intend, as far as I am informed, to establish relations with other energy companies in Russia which have an interest in their company. And within the framework of current legislation, the participants of this process have the right to work with this company after the auction is held. For us, it is only important that all these actions, as I already said, are within strict accordance with the current legislation of Russia. I hope that this is the way it will be. As for the ability of state company to buy these assets, they of course have this right, just like other market participants.
Question: It has been widely stated that all the decisions of previous summits have been implemented very simply, and almost automatically – for example, the Ekaterinburg summit. Don’t you think that the potential for cooperation has already been exhausted, that everything that was easy to solve has been solved, and that things will be increasingly difficult in future. And a second question. Has Germany’s position on Russia’s cooperation with the EU changed? And if so, how?
Mr Putin: I met with a sportsman of Russian extraction, Kostya Tszyu, a professional boxer who won the title of world champion. I said to him: “You know, everything that you do in the ring looks like art to the spectator. It looks very easy to the spectator.” “I can assure you that it only seems to be easy, because there is an enormous amount of training behind it all,” he replied. I agree with him, because I have been a sportsman myself. The same thing goes for international relations. If what we do seems to be easily achieved, I can assure you that it involves the efforts of a large number of people, who aim for a positive result in the development of intergovernmental ties.
Our ministers and deputy ministers who wish to improve our relations understand that this fully matches our national interests, both German and Russian. We are fully resolved to move in this direction. I am absolutely convinced that our prospects are even better than the results that we have achieved today. And we will definitely make these steps.
I would just like to return to the previous question. We didn’t answer the question about how Russia feels about the Federal Republic’s plans to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Russia supports these plans. But we will only decide this together with other members of the organisation, and above all with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, bearing in mind the process for reforming this organisation which is currently underway.
Question: If Yushenko wins on Sunday, how will this affect Russia’s relations with Kiev and the West, and will this be a defeat for you personally?
Mr Putin: Leaders come and go, but the Ukrainian people remain. I am acquainted with Mr Yushenko. Like the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mr Yanukovich, he has worked in this position. He was the head of the Ukrainian government, and I worked with him. We worked well together. Like Mr Yanukovich, he is a member of current President Kuchma’s team. I do not see any problems here.