President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues,
As you know, a referendum has been held in Krasnoyarsk about the integration of the three Federation subjects. Aleksandr Gennad’evich Khloponin called this morning to say that the turnout was 63%. 92% of those who took part in the referendum voted for integration.
I would like to say right away that the integration is not an end in itself. The goal of measures such as these – in this case I would like to stress that it was the initiative of the territories themselves, and it arose when Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed and I dealt with problems of inter-budgetary relations that arose between the three regions of the Federation – the goal of all measures such as these is to improve people’s lives. They are only justified when they help to solve tasks primarily of a social, financial and economic nature.
Our goal is not to create Federation superstructures, or to strengthen them excessively. And improving the work of bodies of power and administration in the process of integration is only possible if the efforts of the territories are joined together, if regions that are small economically and not sufficiently powerful to solve the problems of people who live in these territories, unite with regions that are quite self-sufficient economically, as I hope has happened in the case of the Krasnoyarsk Region.
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Mr Putin: (Talking to German Gref): German Oskarovich, you are going to Ankara and then to Brussels to discuss organising the meeting with the European Union on 10 May. Please tell us about the first and second issue.
German Gref: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am flying to Ankara tomorrow for one day with a group of colleagues. We have finally completed talks with Turkey on Russia’s joining the WTO, and tomorrow we will have a brief round of discussions on securing our obligations in the field of bilateral trade and economic relations with Turkey, and we plan to sign a document in Ankara tomorrow on Russia joining the WTO. Turkey is one of our major trade partners, and this is a very important step towards joining the WTO.
Mr Putin: So that means, essentially, that the preliminary agreements which were reached during the visit to Turkey and the visit here by the Turkish Prime Minister are being realised?
Mr Gref: Yes, in full. In this sense we are grateful to our partners. The talks were quite tough, but were very constructive. We are fully satisfied with the package that we agreed upon, and they are all within the framework of the directives that we have, and this is a very important step towards joining the WTO.
On Thursday I am also flying to Brussels with a group of colleagues for a meeting with the leadership of the EU. The main focus of discussion will be a series of trade and economic issues relating to the summit, and an entire range of issues relating to unregulated problems, including the problem of cargo transit to and from Kaliningrad, the problem of trans-Siberian flights, and several other bilateral problems. I hope that during the talks on Friday we will make progress on all these problems and will create a platform for constructive solutions of all the issues of the summit which will be held in Moscow.
Mr Putin: When will you return?
Mr Gref: On Thursday night, or rather Friday night. I am going there at night, for one day.
Mr Putin: How in your estimation is work proceeding on preparation of documents relating to the four common spaces, and of course above all the economic space?
Mr Gref: So far the progress on different issues varies, but in principle all that concerns… We, of course, primarily take control of the economic section. In our opinion, if we are able to maintain the schedule of joining the WTO and by the end of this year we complete talks with all our trade partners (this is the first step, without this step, of course, it is impossible to take a step with the EU), then next year it is probably quite realistic that we will complete talks on the economic space with the EU.
Mr Putin: That is a very optimistic prediction. I meant that on 10 May we would at least realise the plan that we discussed with the EU on determining our joint actions in realising these tasks?
Mr Gref: Vladimir Vladimirovich, that is exactly what is under discussion. No, I don’t think that we will confirm the plan definitively, because it is in stages. I mean that next year we must complete all agreements concerning the measures that we must resolve to create a common space. Of course, we cannot settle all the issues in one year.
Mr Putin: We must determine the set of measures by 10 May this year.
Mr Gref: Vladimir Vladimirovich, there are three steps. The first step is to determine what to do. The second step is to sign the document that determines the main elements of these steps and the schedule for completing them. And thirdly, to carry out the steps themselves.
By the 10th, I think that we will reach a formulation of the plan, and we will probably need another year to agree on all the actions.
Mikhail Fradkov: By the time of the summit, we and our partners expect – there is a preliminary agreement on this – that we will have examined and confirmed our plans of action.
Mr Putin: That is what I am talking about
Mr Frakov: Because this essentially concerns roadmaps, which we have for the past few months not only been talking about, but preparing as well.
Mr Putin: Four roadmaps.
Mr Frakov: Of course, implementing these plans requires time and effort (which is what German Oskarovich is talking about), but the plans themselves must be ready by 10 May and should be confirmed at the summit.
Mr Putin: Good.
(Talking to Sergei Ivanov) Sergei Borisovich, how is military training in the troops going, and preparation for the exercises planned for spring and summer this year?
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Sergei Ivanov: This week, we have 75 military representatives from the United States Defence Ministry as guests. This is because at the base of the Fourth central research institute of the Defence Ministry, we are carrying out the fourth stage of staff exercises in anti-missile defence. We have established this with our NATO partners as a key issue of military cooperation, it is the fourth stage of exercises. We are developing various situations and scenarios on computer models to reflect rocket threats in areas of missile danger.
We have already agreed that in April 2006 we will carry out the fifth stage on the territory of the United States of America.