German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. This is a historic day not only because of the agreements we have just signed, but also because exactly 50 years ago, on September 13, 1955, the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations following World War II.
Many generations of politicians have worked since then on overcoming the consequences of World War II, making efforts in the areas of culture, people’s emotions and experiences, politics and the economy. We should be and we are grateful to all of them.
For me this is important. It is important work in the historical perspective, important for the present and for the future. In this respect I am very grateful to the Russian President, Mr Putin, for his recent gesture in inviting me to attend the events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. This, and not only this, shows that there is nothing more important for our countries, for the peoples of Russia and Germany, than to build a good quality of relations between us. This is of great importance for our peoples and we are pleased that it is so.
Few peoples on this Earth have such a clear mission, namely, the mission that belongs to our peoples to help settle global conflicts on our planet through peaceful means. This concerns Europe, but not only Europe. This is the conclusion that our peoples have drawn from history. It comes through in an agreement that is, perhaps, not such a sensation from the journalists’ point of view – an agreement on cooperation between Russian and German doctors on treating children with leukaemia. Our cooperation has reached a qualitatively new level through the signing of this agreement and President Putin has decided to establish a children’s leukaemia and cancer treatment centre that will also work in the Russian regions. This work will go ahead in close cooperation with Germany. This shows that behind the sensational agreements and contracts that get most talked about, we are moving forward in the same direction.
As for the agreement signed by Gazprom, E.ON and BASF, it also takes our economic relations to a new level in the area of energy cooperation. Anyone who knows all the difficulties we face in the energy sector would agree with the historical nature of this event. Through this agreement, Germany will guarantee provision of 10 percent of its overall energy supply. The President and I came to an agreement on this after much discussion and we have ensured that it will now go ahead. I want to stress that this cooperation is not directed against anyone else, but serves German and Russian interests. I do not see anything wrong with this. This is a big economic success. I think that the development the Russian economy is experiencing under President Putin’s fine leadership creates many opportunities, including for Germany. In this respect we can thank our strategic partnership, and I am thankful for my excellent personal relations with the President. If you will allow, I would like to thank you for this friendship.
President Vladimir Putin: First of all, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the Federal Chancellor for his invitation.
Today’s meeting was devoted above all to economic matters. Essentially, our meeting and its agenda were initiated and set out by our respective business communities.
I share the Federal Chancellor’s high evaluation of prospects for bilateral economic cooperation between Germany and Russia. This year, it looks like we will set a new record for trade growth. Our bilateral trade rose by almost 50 percent over the first half of this year and passed the $15-billion mark.
Of course, what these figures represent is new jobs, new investment, new and promising investment projects. It is perfectly clear that combining our respective natural competitive advantages, technology and resources is something that really works for the benefit of development in both our countries.
Like the Federal Chancellor, I see the energy agreements signed today between Russian and German partners as being of immense importance. This project is genuinely impressive in its scope. The gas pipeline we intend to build will have a length of 1,200 kilometres and will follow a route along the Baltic Sea bed from Vyborg to Greifswald on the German coast with branches running to Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kaliningrad Region. Future plans include building another branch running across the Netherlands to Backton in Britain. This would take the pipeline’s total length to 3,000 kilometres. The pipeline has total design capacity of almost 20 billion cubic metres a year and could be increased in 2011 to 55 billion cubic metres a year. The first part of the project will cost around $2 billion and the project’s total cost is $5.7 billion. We hope that the launch of such an ambitious project as this will give new impetus to the overall energy dialogue between Russia and the European Union.
Of course, this project will contribute to developing the energy dialogue between Russia and Germany. The main principles of our cooperation in this area are set out in the Joint Declaration on Energy Cooperation between Russia and Germany. The Federal Chancellor and I finalised the text of this declaration today.
Important steps have also been taken in going ahead with plans to set up assembly plants in Russia for carmakers Daimler-Chrysler and Volkswagen. I hope that these plans will be carried out soon. I had the pleasure of speaking with German colleagues today and I saw that they are quite optimistic. I hope that these plans will be carried out.
I hope that Russia’s settlement of debt commitments to the Paris Club ahead of schedule is also having a positive impact on the German economy. Just to remind you, the German budget has already received $6 billion as part of this debt settlement agreement.
The Chancellor just mentioned humanitarian cooperation. I would like to say a few words in particular on this subject. Of course, compared to such large-scale projects as the energy agreement that was signed here today, cooperation between our doctors does not seem at first glance to be of such significance. But I think that cooperation in such areas lays, in fact, an excellent foundation for our work together in all the other sectors. Just recently I spoke with Russian doctors working in the difficult and responsible area of treating children with cancer. They are here today and they told me that over the last 15 years, over this very difficult period during which Russia had to deal with so many domestic political and economic problems, their German colleagues gave their time and resources and provided all the help they could and all practically for free. I would like to thank them for this and I bow low before them. Now we in Russia have the opportunity to focus more on this area and give it the attention and the resources it needs. We plan to build a new centre and our specialists say that the help and support of our German colleagues will be very valuable in this undertaking. The main thing is that now we are not asking Germany to finance the project – it will be financed entirely by Russian organisations and the Russian budget.
We place great value on youth exchanges and national youth exchange coordination offices will begin working in Moscow and Hamburg by the end of this year. I am sure that this will benefit cooperation between our countries.
Of course, we also discussed international issues during our meeting today. We discussed preparations for the 2005 Summit in New York and the beginning of comprehensive reform of the United Nations. In this respect I would like to stress once again that if a decision on expansion is reached and approved, Russia will support Germany’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
I will not list every subject the Federal Chancellor and I discussed today. I would just like to note that our meeting took place five days before an important anniversary – that of fifty years since diplomatic relations were established between the Federal Republic of Germany and Russia. The reconciliation between our peoples is a phenomenon of world history today. The good relations that our two peoples enjoy today are a solid foundation for developing an authentically equal and constructive partnership between two great European peoples. This partnership is, of course, an important and positive factor in ensuring stability and security in Europe and throughout the entire world. Thank you.
Question: My question is for both leaders. I worked for many years as a correspondent in Bonn and then in Berlin and I remember well the criticism levelled at Chancellor Helmut Kohl for his activeness in establishing a personal dialogue with the Russian leadership. I know that you have received similar criticism, Mr Chancellor, and that some in Russia also criticise what they see as too close a relation between Russia and Germany. But despite this criticism, you, like your predecessors, continue doing all you can to develop these good personal ties. In this respect, I would like to know if this approach will continue in the future. Also, I cannot but raise a question regarding current events: how concerned are you by the political situation in Ukraine at the moment?
Gerhard Schroeder: First of all, Germany and Russia have always shared good relations and it is a positive thing if these relations are further reinforced by close personal ties between state leaders. But whatever the relations between leaders, relations between our countries should always be good. I personally am lucky in that President Putin knows German, knows our country and our culture. This is, of course, a particular historical circumstance that brings us closer together. But German-Russian relations should exist and develop regardless of personal friendship. Fortunately, this is something we do not need to think about today.
Regarding your second question, we think that Ukraine’s people have the right to decide their own destiny and I am completely certain that Russia shares this view.
Vladimir Putin: Regarding the opposition, its job is to criticise us. If they did not criticise us there would be no need for them. The fact that the relations between our countries, between our people, continue to develop all the time, however, regardless of all the domestic political changes that take place, shows that both our countries have an objective mutual interest in building up relations. Ask the people who signed economic agreements today whether or not they need this kind of cooperation. Their answer will be yes otherwise they would not have signed any agreements at all. They are not doing this out of political considerations, after all. That the relations between the Chancellor and myself can help bring such agreements about is, of course, an added plus. The Chancellor and I hope to maintain these warm and friendly relations no matter how the situation develops in the Federal Republic of Germany. Whether he stays in his post or not, I regard him as a very decent man and a very responsible politician. I hope, in any case, that he and I will preserve these good and friendly relations. I think that the majority of those listening to us and watching us would agree that regardless of whatever high posts we may occupy, we must always remain decent people.
I just had the opportunity of talking with the Ukrainian president, Mr Yushchenko. I would not over-dramatise the situation in Ukraine at the moment. The country is going through a complicated period in its development and I think there is nothing unusual in the fact that the President has dismissed the government, all the more so as this has been done at a time when political battles are more acute in the run-up to parliamentary elections. I am sure that the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leadership will find the right solution. Russia, for its part, will do all it can to help stabilise the situation in a country to which we are bound by so many ties that it is impossible to list them all. The Ukrainian President has the situation in the country under control.
Question: My question is for the Federal Chancellor. In going ahead with this economically, politically and strategically important project [the gas pipeline project], have you given enough thought to future political steps with regard to Poland and the Baltic states to make them happier about the signing of this energy agreement than they are at the moment? And a second question for President Putin: do you think that your visit could help your friend in the election campaign that he is currently engaged in?
Gerhard Schroeder: As Federal Chancellor of Germany my job is to ensure reliable energy supplies for our country. I am proud therefore, that today’s agreement has been signed and that I was present for this event. As for Poland and the Baltic countries, I think that what took place today is not a step directed against anyone else. You must understand that as Federal Chancellor of Germany it is my responsibility to look after Germany’s interests in the energy sector, and I would advise the opposition not to hinder me in looking after Germany’s interests in this area out of selfish considerations of party politics, and not to criticise this work.
Regarding the second question, do you really think that the heads of German companies present today for the signing of this agreement are actively helping me in my election campaign? What is happening here today is simply part of my duties.
Vladimir Putin: The first question was addressed to the Chancellor but I would nevertheless like to add a few words if you have no objection. Gazprom has signed an agreement to supply an additional 60 billion cubic metres of gas in the near future to Germany and other western-European countries. The existing networks do not have the capacity to handle this additional volume. We are not pushing anyone out of the business. What we want is to avoid any additional political, climate or other risks in the construction of new gas transport networks, and to bring down the cost of the gas that you buy from us.
The more transit countries between us, the more money has to be spent in transit costs, and all of this has an impact on the final price. You just asked about Ukraine, for example. As you know, a few years ago we agreed to create a gas consortium with the participation of Ukraine, Germany, France and Italy. But where are these agreements now? Our Ukrainian partners recently informed us that they consider it inexpedient to continue this project. In Russia there is a children’s riddle (in Russian it is rhymed) that goes like this: A and B sat on the pipe. A fell off and B vanished, so what is left on the pipe? The children who don’t listen very carefully say that nothing is left on the pipe, but the children who guess the riddle correctly realise that ‘and’ remains. What I want to say by this is that we are not pushing anyone out of our energy affairs in Europe. We have great respect for the economic interests of the transit countries that are our partners. We respect their geopolitical situation and we consider that they have played, should and will continue to play an important part in the energy dialogue in Europe. But at the same time, we reserve the right to look after our own interests.
As you know, Russia also has plans, which it will soon begin carrying out, to build new pipeline systems to the east, running to the Pacific Ocean. The Asia-Pacific region has a great need for energy resources. We have already completed our first delivery of liquefied gas to the U.S. market. We will set the pace for carrying out these projects depending on how implementation of our agreements with our European partners goes ahead. Today’s signature gives us confidence that we are dealing with serious and reliable partners, the kinds of partners our German colleagues have always shown themselves to be over the last decade.
As for whether my visit constitutes support for the Federal Chancellor in the elections, I also have a meeting planned with Angela Merkel. Why do you not think that I have come to give her support in her election campaign?