President Jacques Chirac (back translation from Russian): Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank President Putin, Chancellor Schroeder and Prime Minister Zapatero for accepting the invitation to take part in this four-country meeting.
We discussed relations between Russia and the European countries. We see this dialogue as a guarantee for promoting peace, democracy and the rule of law across our entire continent. We hope that the Russia-EU summit that will take place in May will be a successful step towards making reality the four common spaces that we discussed in St. Petersburg and that we have been working on together.
We hope that the EU-Russia summit on May 10, 2005 will be a success and will see the adoption of decisions on implementing the four spaces: free movement of people, observing human rights, scientific and cultural exchanges, increased trade cooperation, harmonizing our economic and trade rules and joint action in favour of peace throughout Europe and the entire world.
We have set ourselves ambitious goals and we intend to achieve them through working together within the framework of the four spaces. We want to work together to create this unity between the European Union and Russia. We will need time, of course, in order to reach this goal, but we intend to work together in this direction because it is the road to peace and the road to democracy for the entire European continent.
We discussed international issues during our dinner. I would like to make just two comments.
I would like to note that we value highly the will the United States has shown in deciding, with the start of the American President’s second term in office, to renew the dialogue with Russia and at the same time to renew an active dialogue with the European Union countries. We also see this trans-Atlantic will between Russia and the United States to make a contribution to building a safer and fairer world that respects all the diversity it contains.
We also discussed European issues, Ukraine and Kosovo. We discussed the problems and the negotiations we are holding with Iran on nuclear energy use and we discussed how to ensure the peace process goes ahead in the Middle East. We spoke about the future of Iraq and the problems Lebanon is having in ensuring international decisions are fulfilled and resolution 1559 is implemented. We adopted a joint communique on Lebanon in which the European Union resolutely affirms the need to abide by resolution 1559.
I would also like to remind you that Mr Putin and I had a bilateral discussion over breakfast this morning. We spoke about issues directly concerning relations between Russia and France. Our discussion took place in an excellent atmosphere.
Now I would like to give the floor to President Putin, then to Chancellor Schroeder and then to Mr Zapatero. Then you will have the chance to ask questions and all the participants will be able to answer the questions of the journalists, to whom I extend a welcome here today.
President Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Today we have held the first meeting in the four-country format of Russia, France, Germany and Spain. As you know, Russian-French-German meetings have become a tradition now and including Spain is a sign of the importance of this informal dialogue between Russia and its authoritative European partners.
Our countries all share a common commitment to multilateral principles and mechanisms for resolving the biggest problems in world politics. And we hope that these four-country meetings will make a real contribution to strengthening stability and promoting cooperation and the development of a multilateral integration process in Europe.
Our common aim is to create a fair and democratic world order founded on the principle of supremacy of international law, mutual respect for each others’ interests and equal protection for the security of all countries.
One of the central issues discussed at the meeting was developing the dialogue between Russia and the European Union. We reaffirmed our commitment to long-term and multilateral partnership. In this respect we paid particular attention to preparations for the Russia-EU summit in May in Moscow.
I would like to mention that we are currently working actively with the European Commission to prepare the relevant documents at expert level. Today’s meeting was extremely important. We hope for the support of our respected partners – France, Germany and Spain – in making progress with these documents in order to be able to sign a roadmap for establishing the four common spaces.
I stress once again that it is in Russia’s interests that the processes underway in Europe today be predictable and transparent. It is our sincere desire to see this continent that we all share prosperous, united and secure. We want Europe to be free from the burden of stereotypes and dividing lines and we are fully aware that we can achieve this only by working together, by uniting and complementing our efforts.
We support working with international and regional organisations and all interested countries in order to achieve the goals we have stated.
In conclusion, I would like to thank my colleagues for this constructive discussion we had. I am sure that these kinds of informal meetings will enable our four countries to continue to work effectively for the good of our countries and our peoples and in the interests of a united greater Europe.
I particularly want to thank our French friends for organising this summit and Mr Jacques Chirac for giving me the opportunity today to visit the Air Surveillance Centre. It was a very interesting visit and a good chance to learn more about France’s defence capability. We would like to develop this kind of security cooperation not just on a bilateral basis but also as part of cooperation between Russia and NATO and Russia and the European Union. We are committed to this kind of positive joint work in the future.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Jacques Chirac: Thank you, Mr President. Mr Chancellor, you have the floor.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (back translation from Russian): We discussed two sets of issues at our meeting – global and European. The strategic cooperation that has developed and is now a tradition between our countries, between Russia and Germany, is of great importance. We also discussed economic cooperation issues, in particular energy sector issues and the Russian Federation’s contribution to supplying Europe with electricity. The European Union would like to carry out projects in the energy sector and in other economic sectors. You know that Russia is an exceptionally reliable supplier that ensures energy supplies to Europe, and we are all interested in developing and strengthening this cooperation and expanding it to cover exploration, development and other important areas.
We have already begun working on draft decisions to resolve the international problems that concern Europe. Europeans and Russians are both involved in Middle East issues. We cooperate closely on issues such as Iran. We think that Iran should not produce or possess nuclear weapons and we are working very closely together on this issue. The Russia-EU summit is also of immense importance as it allows us to work on cultural and economic issues and take steps together in internal and international security. Thank you.
Jacques Chirac: Thank you, Mr Chancellor. I give the floor to the Prime Minister of Spain.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (back translation from Russian): Thank you, President Chirac.
First of all, I would like to say how very happy I am to have the chance to take part in this meeting with the leaders of France, Germany and Russia. I think this meeting represents a very important stage in Europe’s work and the work that the Spanish government carries out together with the European Union. There is no doubt that the European Union has a very broad vision of the problems we face and this is reflected in its desire to establish friendly relations with all its neighbours, and being good neighbours is all the more important when it comes to relations with a neighbour such as Russia. This was the purpose of our meeting. In particular, our meeting aimed at ensuring that the Russia-EU summit in May would be a success, a success for economic issues, security issues, collective security for Europe and the whole world.
We must build up the ties between the European Union and Russia and meetings such as today’s are a great help in achieving this.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mr Chirac for the kind invitation to take part in this meeting. We have reached an agreement during this meeting, an agreement of great economic importance. I am referring to the decision to have our four countries’ energy ministers meet jointly with experts. This meeting will analyse the energy situation in the European Union. This is of great importance for our four countries, as Russia possesses vast energy resources. This meeting will take place in Moscow, on President Putin’s invitation, in two months’ time.
In conclusion, I would like to thank and congratulate President Chirac for this initiative. Spain is ready to take a most active part in work at the overall European level. We are firmly convinced that an open Europe that develops good and close ties with Russia is a Europe that will be best able to defend the interests of Europeans and the citizens of all countries. Thank you.
Jacques Chirac: Thank you. I now give Mr Zapatero the chance to give someone the floor. Then Chancellor Schroeder, Mr Putin and myself will do the same. Mr Zapatero, please, choose a question.
Question: My question is for the Spanish Prime Minister. This is the first such meeting you are taking part in. You have met with Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac, but this is the first time you are meeting as a foursome with Mr Putin. Do you have the impression that solutions can be found to important issues such as Chechnya? Did you recommend that solutions should be based on dialogue? Also, in respect to the polemic in Spain following the dismantling of the statue of Franco, did this issue come up at all? Thank you.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: I will start with the second part of the question.
Spain recently ratified the [European] constitution. We share European values, the values of democracy and freedom. I want to stress that it is unthinkable that a European country should preserve the memory of a dictator and leave public monuments standing. There are countries that have banned the use of symbolism or things connected to the memory of dictators. Spain is no exception in this respect. We are talking about democratic values, democracy and freedom. We are not speaking from the point of view of right or left, we are talking about common values. That is my position on this issue.
I respect the views that might be expressed by anyone present here. I also want to add that this is my second meeting with President Putin. I met with President Putin in Moscow and I set out my point of view, while at the same time showing respect for the domestic policies of every country. I think this is the principle we should base ourselves on in all our words and actions. It is clear that the fight against terrorism calls for international cooperation. We were all affected by the events that took place in the Russian school. Also, I think that we need to use legal methods to fight terrorism.
Gerhard Schroeder: I don’t see any German journalists here. Perhaps it’s the lights that are blinding me?
Question: I have two questions. One is for Mr Putin. Mr Putin, you are to visit Ukraine tomorrow. The [German] foreign minister will arrive in Ukraine with his Polish colleague and there will be a discussion on policy coordination. I would like to know, will you discuss the issues that come up there and is there a way to help Ukraine avoid division and civil unrest? Will you coordinate actions in this area in any way?
My second question is unrelated to the first. I look at you here, three countries representing the European Union and Russia beside you. You are talking about the importance of developing economic ties with Russia, but what do you think about including Russia in the European Union?
Gerhard Schroeder: Russia and the European Union cooperate in areas such as the aerospace sector. We would like to intensify this cooperation. I spoke about this in Toulouse and I think this is clear. I am certain that our cooperation in this sector will develop successfully. As for Ukraine, as you know the Ukrainian President visited Germany just recently and it was with pleasure that I heard him say how he wants to establish close relations with the European Union on the one hand and close and friendly relations with Russia on the other hand.
He said that Ukraine has an everlasting partnership with Russia, and I see no reason to doubt his words. I think we are all interested in having a stable Ukraine that would be able to cooperate closely with the European Union and I am sure that this would open new opportunities for us.
Of course, Ukraine also seeks close economic and political cooperation with Russia. I think, therefore, that there are no grounds for the problems you mentioned. When our foreign minister travels somewhere, I usually know about it. I know in advance where he will go and what he will say. And he also knows where I will go and what I will discuss. I give the floor to President Putin.
Vladimir Putin: Regarding our cooperation in the aerospace sector, the Chancellor made a good suggestion today when he proposed that we unite the efforts of the specialists developing our GLONASS system and the European navigation system. This is a potentially very interesting joint high-technology project. We also have done some interesting work on building heavy helicopters based on our Mi-26 – helicopters of a kind that Europe does not have. We are working together with some European countries in the military aviation sector and I think there are good prospects here. I am not referring to repairing the Soviet military equipment that some Central European countries still possess. I am talking about promising future developments. The project to develop a medium-haul aircraft is also promising and we have other advanced-technology projects underway that could also be a good foundation for work together.
Now, regarding Ukraine. The question was phrased in quite a serious manner. What should we do to avoid a split there? First of all, I think we should talk about it less. We should not help to create such expectations and push anyone towards such events and actions. No one on the European continent has any interest in large-scale and serious destabilisation of the situation in Eastern Europe. Russia has special relations with Ukraine, special in the sense that a large number of ethnic Russians live there and practically every second Ukrainian family has friends or relatives in Russia. We have very large-scale economic cooperation with Ukraine. Some sectors of the Russian and Ukrainian economies simply cannot survive without each other. We have no political preferences in Ukraine and are ready to develop an equal partnership and cooperation with the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian people. But what I spoke about earlier and can repeat now is that we are against not going through the law to resolve political issues. Let’s leave Ukraine aside and look at Georgia, where the West actively supported President Shevardnadze over a period of many years. Why was it necessary to topple him through revolution? And if it was necessary to topple him through revolution, then we can’t help but ask ourselves who the West was supporting and why. All these issues should be resolved based on the law and according to the current constitution, and then this question of a split in the country would not arise so seriously. We will do everything within our power to support the current Ukrainian leadership and will use our influence to ensure the country does not face any political crises.
Question: Radio France. My question is for the French President, the Spanish Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. Mr President, how do you plan to encourage French people to vote “yes” in the referendum on the European constitution, and do the Spanish Prime Minister and the German Chancellor intend taking any part in these discussions in France on the constitution?
Jacques Chirac: In accordance with our country’s constitution, I would like the French people to have their say on the new European constitution directly through a referendum. I think this is an extremely important choice for our country, for all of Europe, and for defending the values and interests of Europe at the global level. To tell the truth, I have absolute faith in our fellow citizens, faith in their ability to see and understand their own interests, the interests of our country and the interests of their children and grandchildren as part of a peaceful and democratic Europe that respects human rights that will also be a reality in the future. I realise that some forces are conducting a campaign to reject the European constitution. I don’t know what justifies and could justify such a choice. Sometimes we hear fair enough complaints that the constitution might not be effective enough and that the European Union authorities in Brussels sometimes take too much power for themselves. As you know, the first draft of a constitution was drawn up by the original six members who first formed the union. The European Union now has 25 members. The old constitution is already having problems and does not work as we would like. This is why we need to reinvigorate it and create a new law acceptable to all the European Union’s members, including France. We need to defend our interests, especially if someone or something can harm them. This is very important. People need to understand that we need this for France, we need it for Europe, for ensuring respect for human rights, for democracy and for peace.
Gerhard Schroeder: I think that everyone realises that we will not be able to get by without a new constitution. This is absolutely clear. Of course, this is a complex issue and it requires a serious discussion. Regarding my participation, I will come and I will take part.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: For my part, I have already received an invitation to come and see how the referendum is going in France and it will be my great pleasure to accept this invitation. I think that the future European constitution can make Europe more united, stronger and more secure. This, I have understood. As you know, Spanish troops were withdrawn from Iraq after my government came to power, and we are against the presence of troops in other countries, including in Iraq. Now I am certain that if we will live and work under a common constitution and follow its laws, we will be able to live more peacefully and will be able to more actively combat the poverty, disease and the evil that exist in this world.
Question: My question is for Mr Putin and perhaps also for Mr Schroeder or Mr Chirac. It concerns the Iranian nuclear issue. Now that the European troika has had some success in negotiations with Iran and has managed to reduce the pressure on Iran from the United States, and now that Russia has signed an agreement with Iran on returning spent nuclear fuel, what other issues are still to be settled regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and to what extent is there a correlation in these two policies towards Iran, from the European Union troika on the one hand, and Russia on the other?
Vladimir Putin: We have a high level of understanding with our European partners on the Iranian issue. There is no contradiction in our positions. We all share the same fundamental principle, and that is the principle of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. All the actions we take regarding the Iranian nuclear issue are based on this principle and we are working together to find solutions that will not infringe on Iran’s interests in its plans to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Are there any other problems? Problems could arise in only one area and that is Iran’s continued commitment to making all its nuclear programmes open and transparent to the IAEA and showing that it is committed to not acquiring nuclear weapons. There are no other limitations.
We have indeed signed what for us is a very important agreement with Iran on the return of nuclear fuel. In accordance with the agreements reached, we will fulfil our obligations on a bilateral basis and will also monitor closely Iran’s cooperation with the international nuclear technology control authorities.
Gerhard Schroeder: I have no objections to make. We know that Iran is carrying out nuclear research and we naturally share Mr Putin’s approach to this issue. We cannot allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this respect we highly value the Russian Federation’s position and the policy it pursues.
Jacques Chirac: I agree completely with this view and with what the Chancellor has just said. We fully support the Russian position and view it positively. We have no objections.
Question: The war in Iraq ended two years ago. You are all leaders of countries that opposed this war. How do you view the current situation in Iraq?
Gerhard Schroeder: We think that Iraqi society has begun moving forward along the path to democracy. As you know, our country is currently helping the Iraqi government and the Iraqi police. We are providing training and acting as advisers on many questions. We are trying to make our contribution to normalising the situation there and returning stability to the country.
Jacques Chirac: I would like to add that we share completely the views on Iraq just expressed by Gerhard Schroeder.
Question: In your view, during the negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, did Washington put pressure on the Europeans and force them to accept the U.S. point of view?
Jacques Chirac: There was no pressure, of course, on us at all. These are general questions that were discussed at negotiations, in this case, with Iran. What is needed is transparency because without transparency it is impossible to guarantee that events will develop predictably. It is essential that we have international cooperation, international control, otherwise we will not be able to speak of trust and be able to establish that everything is going according to the rules and that Iran really is carrying out its research only for peaceful purposes and not so as to build a nuclear weapon. We know that many important energy facilities in Iran that could be converted to military use are, on the contrary, being transformed for civilian purposes.
Question: My question is for all the participants in this press conference. You are all four leaders of countries that have good relations with China. My question is on the prospects for lifting the embargo on supplying arms to China.
Vladimir Putin: Our position is based on economic considerations. We sell a lot of arms to China. The less competitors on the Chinese market, the better. (laugh in the room). There’s no point acting the fool, I’m just saying it like it is. Overall, we are sure we will be able to reach agreements with our European partners, and, what’s more, work together on the Chinese market. We even have ideas that could lead to cooperation between Russia and European countries on high-tech projects. These are interesting possibilities for cooperation.
As for the political aspect, it is not up to me to decide whether or not to lift the embargo. This is a decision for the European Union to make.
Regarding the law, the Soviet Union, and Russia today, always supported China’s territorial integrity. We have not changed our view and we think that China has the right to restore its territorial integrity. But at the same time, we act on the basis that this can and should be done through peaceful means.
Jacques Chirac: I think that regarding the embargo there is a temporary ban until the general situation becomes clearer. Russia’s position differs somewhat from that of the European Union.