President Vladimir Putin: Dear Nursultan Abishevich [President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev], dear colleagues and friends,
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you, Mr President, and with the heads of the Russian and Kazakh border regions and representatives of both countries’ central authorities.
I think that this meeting will allow us not just to discuss the current situation but also to give impetus to a new search for effective new mechanisms for interregional cooperation.
Some of you took part in the Forum of Border Regions in Omsk in 2003 and you no doubt remember what a boost that meeting gave to our cooperation. I am sure that such meetings can have a hugely positive impact on cooperation between our two countries in general. Business people in both our countries are establishing business ties more easily and rapidly, and state officials are working more effectively to implement the agreements concluded between the different regions. I would remind you that more than 250 such agreements have already been signed.
I would also note that trade between Russia and Kazakhstan has shown sustained growth and is progressing well. In 2004 it rose by 41.2 percent and reached a record mark over the last decade of more than $8 billion. Trade figures for the first two months of this year are a third higher than for the corresponding period in 2004.
I think that the bilateral trade figures for this year could well see us reach the $10-billion mark.
Our border regions are unquestionably a driving force for economic integration and account for more than half of our bilateral trade in goods and services.
This morning, Nursultan Abishevich quoted a figure that I think is very significant. Our total bilateral trade comes to $8 billion and the oblast we are meeting in today accounts for $1 billion of that figure. One billion dollars is a very decent result and clearly illustrates the importance of cooperation between the border regions.
We can and should use the enormous potential of our border regions even more effectively. This should be the focus for the cross-border cooperation infrastructure we have established, including the Russian-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission and the current border region cooperation programme.
There are now exceptionally promising opportunities for working together on rebuilding and servicing our common transport infrastructure. Incidentally, Nursultan Abishevich, at our meeting yesterday we paid a lot of attention to infrastructure development, above all transport infrastructure development, including as part of our cooperation with Kazakhstan.
We have a lot of common objectives in the areas of joint agriculture projects, environmental protection and setting up environmental monitoring networks.
Seventy-six of the Russian regions already have strong trade and economic ties with Kazakhstan. Developing this cooperation between our countries’ regions can make a significant contribution to real integration between Russia and Kazakhstan and to creating the Common Economic Space.
I would like to say a few words about the state border between our two countries. The agreement signed by the President of Kazakhstan and myself in January aims directly at bringing order and transparency to our cross-border contacts.
We now intend to go even further. Today, Nursultan Abishevich and I have reached an agreement, as have the experts on both sides, and we will sign a joint statement that affirms the decision to make it possible for our citizens to travel between our two countries on their internal passports and to present identity documents or birth certificates for children who do not yet have internal passports. We will instruct our governments to issue the necessary normative acts for ensuring this decision is implemented.
We see this latest step towards simplifying procedures in the interests of both our countries’ citizens as further confirmation of the real advantages that ordinary people stand to gain from our participation in the Common Economic Space.
Nursultan Abishevich proposed this morning that the current procedures remain in place until the relevant decisions are adopted at government level. I agree with this and the corresponding instructions will be issued, but we would very much like for the decision taken today to be prepared at government level as rapidly as possible.
Overall, I would like to say that our similar objectives and common understanding of the ways we can reach them create a solid foundation for ensuring collective security in the border regions of Russia and Kazakhstan.
I am certain that we must ensure a high level of cooperation between our law enforcement agencies in order to fight drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal immigration and organised crime.
Finally, cross-border cooperation is also of great humanitarian importance. Our work to modernise and equip our borders must takesinto account the interests of the people living in the border regions in order to make their lives as convenient and advantageous as possible for business and general human contacts.
I would remind you that the CIS heads of state signed the Declaration on Humanitarian Cooperation in Moscow on May 8. Today we must work together not just to maintain but also to expand as much as we can scientific, cultural and educational contacts between our peoples – develop them on a new and stronger economic foundation.
Free, open and friendly contact between people is the cornerstone of successful interaction between states and the best foundation for developing broad and varied ties between countries.
All of you present here today are directly involved in developing cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan and you have all had opportunities to realise the effectiveness and mutual benefits to be gained from cross-border contacts. On many occasions you have demonstrated well-organised cooperation and have shown how economically attractive it can be.
In resolving the issues facing your regions, you are not just helping to strengthen the economies of Russia and Kazakhstan but are also creating an especially warm and friendly atmosphere between our peoples, which is no less important and, indeed, is perhaps even more important.
I sincerely wish you all success and good results.