President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
First a few words about the visits to Paris and Kiev. The work was conducted in accordance with the plans that we made. In Paris, as you know, the main discussion concerned the development of our relations with the European Union. The leaders of the countries who met there decisively and consistently support the efforts of Russia and the European Union directed towards building relations, the basis of which was laid at our meeting in Petersburg, during Petersburg’s 300th anniversary celebrations. I mean the four “common spaces”. We have exchanged opinions on how the joint work is proceeding. And I would ask the Government, those colleagues who are involved in preparing appropriate documents for the Russia-European Union meeting on 10th May this year to intensify this work, to do everything that, at least, depends on us to ensure that these documents are prepared for signing.
We also discussed issues of current international policy and bilateral relations. I must say that this has gone beyond the limits of ordinary discussion, because we also talked about some of our initiatives in the Paris Club. On the whole, we are reaching an understanding of how we together should solve the problems faced by Europe, Russia and the whole world. This was positive and interesting work. We will speak about specific directions of this work separately. I will say a little later what we agreed on.
As for the visit to Kiev, as we thought, it was held at a very high level. Indeed, we met an understanding there of the necessity to develop Russian-Ukrainian relations from the level that has been reached in recent years. We noted with satisfaction that the Ukrainian leadership has a very positive attitude, and takes a constructive approach to solving the issues which lie before us in the energy sphere, in building the Common Economic Space, and in other areas. There are individual topics which require special attention from the Government, above all of its economic bloc. The Ukrainian President proposed to make another attempt – and there were many such bold attempts – to reduce to a minimum all the restrictions related to trade. Naturally, on our part we pointed out that these restrictions also exist on the Ukrainian side. But on the whole, it seems to me that this is the right approach. And I would ask the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development to return to this issue once more. On our side, this concerns such groups as cement, automobiles, and on the Ukrainian side it concerns sugar, alcohol and several other goods. This can and must be solved, but I think we should make a package decision here. This should be a common decision which is calculated and well-grounded. If we can reach a solution to these problems, I think that in the end everyone will win.
Recently, in the last few years, and last year, Russia has made many significant compromise steps. I think that we acted correctly. At any rate, our colleagues understand this, they assess this positively and are eager to work constructively with us in the future.
As for the Common Economic Space, you know our position, it was outlined to our Ukrainian colleagues. The Ukranian economic minister has been appointed as a negotiator on these problems. Viktor Borisovich Khristenko [Minister of Industry and Energy] should contact him soon. We need to prepare for a four-sided meeting at expert level to make the next steps on this path. On the path of approving the documents which we earlier decided were necessary to sign. This, I believe, is a list of 29 documents.
This is all very brief. I will also talk about the specific directions and tasks for departments a little later. On the whole, I assess the results of the visit to Paris and Ukraine very highly.
Now let us talk about our current issues. The Council of CIS Foreign Ministers was just held in Minsk. Sergei Viktorovich [talking to Sergei Lavrov] took part in it. And I would ask you to inform us briefly of the results.