Governor of St Petersburg Valentina Matviyenko: Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], Dear Mrs Halonen, Dear Mr Persson, Dear guests and friends!
Today is a very important day in the history of St Petersburg. We are inaugurating the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant and this is a truly significant event not just in the life of our city but for the entire Baltic Sea region. This international project has created an important precedent in that, for the first time in St Petersburg, different states, European financial institutions and 856 private companies have all united their efforts to build this environmental facility of such significance for us all – a facility that is the biggest of its kind in recent years and the best in Europe.
It is also significant that this project was implemented through the effective financial mechanism of public-private partnership, that it was built with investment from the Nordic countries and the European financial institutions and that the most advanced technology and equipment were used in its construction. St Petersburg takes an active part in the Northern Dimension programme’s international environmental partnership and the completion of the wastewater treatment plant was made possible by the support of our close neighbours, Finland and Sweden, and by the entire European community.
This new facility will make a considerable contribution to improving the environmental situation in St Petersburg and throughout the Baltic region. Gone are the days when St Petersburg was the main polluter of the Baltic Sea. Our city is now approaching European standards. More than 85 percent of wastewater will now be treated and the launch of this new treatment facility will enable our city to fulfil international commitments and comply with the standards set by the Helsinki Commission on Protection of the Baltic Sea Marine Environment.
The next step, in order to ensure full treatment of all of the city’s wastewater, is the completion of a collector facility for the northern districts. This project has the support of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and we very much hope to continue our work together with our northern neighbours here in the Baltic Sea region, especially given the successful experience of our cooperation on the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant. I know also that President of Finland Tarja Halonen supports this project and I am absolutely sure that the day is not far off when we will be able to not only swim in the Baltic Sea without fear, but also drink pure and healthy water.
The Baltic Sea is our common home and we all want it to be clean. What is important is that this new treatment facility not only enables us to resolve environmental problems but also acts as a boost for the city’s development, opening up possibilities for building new residential districts and improving the social climate in general.
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, Dear Mrs Halonen, Dear Mr Persson,
Allow me to thank you for your active support for the construction of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant and for taking part in this inauguration ceremony today. I would like to thank everyone who took part in this large-scale project and congratulate you on the opening of the plant. This has been something the city has been dreaming of for decades and today the dream has come true. And it is we who have made this dream come true together. Thank you.
President of Finland Tarja Halonen: The Baltic Sea has always more connected than divided the people living on its shores. It is natural that also our concern for the Baltic is common. The coastal states have cooperated for decades in order to improve the condition of the Baltic, and great advances have been made. One of the most important of these is the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Petersburg.
Finland actively promotes sustainable development and environmental protection. One special focus in this respect is the protection of the Baltic Sea. Finland's environmental authorities and the St. Petersburg Water Department, Vodokanal, have engaged in pioneering cooperation for nearly 15 years. The Vodokanal has been a reliable and skilled partner throughout this period. This Fenno-Russian cooperation has also created a basis for the St, Petersburg Water Department's cooperation with other countries and international financial institutions. The best example of this multilateral cooperation is the completion of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The plant project has required extensive contract and financing arrangements between the Russian customer, international financial institutions, financing countries, contractors and numerous subcontractors. The project had been very demanding. It has been necessary to develop entirely new operating models to allow smooth cooperation among all parties. It is especially gratifying that a project involving so many parties has been completed on schedule and entirely according to the financial plan.
The Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant is the first project that has been completed with assistance from the Support Fund of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership. In addition to participating in this fund, Finland and Sweden have supported the project bilaterally as well. I am convinced that the good experiences and relations achieved in this project can also be utilized in other Northern Dimension cooperation.
The success we feel today should also serve as a strong incentive for continuation of environmental work. The Baltic Sea is still very polluted. Everybody in the Baltic Sea and the catchment area should work both at home and in good cooperation with others for the better state of the sea.
There are so many people here worth thanking. First I would like to thank you, President Putin, for your valuable personal support for this project and its completion. My warm thanks goes also to you, Governor Matvienko, for your great contribution to the success of the work. Warm thanks also to the banks that provided financing for the project — the Nordic Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank — as well as the contractors. I also warmly thank the personnel of the Plant. The time schedule does not allow me to mention everybody who deserves to be mentioned but accept my general and most sincere thanks.
Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson: President Putin, President Halonen, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s inauguration ceremony for the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant is a very significant event indeed, an event that brings together peoples and countries, bound by history, in a spirit of close and good-neighbourly cooperation.
Over these last decades we have witnessed rapid growth of trade and investment between our countries and contacts between our peoples. The Baltic Sea has once again become the natural bridge between us that it should be. I hope that the coming years will bring even closer integration in our region. We share both immense economic opportunities and considerable challenges. Our region has shown impressive economic growth over the last decades, but this potential is far from exhausted and there is still a lot we can do to remove trade and investment barriers. Russia with its vast and growing economy, the countries of northern Europe with their economies and knowledge of each other – these are the conditions that ensure that the economies of the Baltic region continue moving ahead. Together we can make our region a champion for growth and exports. We can make our region an example for all of Europe. But we also need to work intensively together to resolve the common problems we face, problems such as trans-national crime, public health issues and environmental degradation.
We know now that the environmental damage done to the Baltic Sea is far greater than we thought. This has serious consequences for the entire region. Too great a volume of untreated wastewater enters the Baltic, raising phosphorus and nitrogen content to dangerous levels. The cod population has fallen drastically. Mass-scale algal bloom in the waters meant that many beaches on the Baltic coast were unfit for public use this summer. We need to and we can take action to reverse this situation.
The construction of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant is a great example of how we can cooperate to achieve this goal. This plant is the flagship of the Northern Dimension’s environmental partnership. This partnership is based on Russia’s important participation in identifying and launching projects. The experience we have gained through our cooperation in St Petersburg creates the conditions for further joint effort to ensure a clean and healthy Baltic Sea for the future.
I would like to join President Halonen in expressing my profound gratitude to everyone who took part in this project, in particular, the authorities and administration of the city of St Petersburg and, of course, President Putin.
Sweden contributed 100 million Swedish crowns to this project and I am certain that this was a good investment. Now we need to continue this work together for the sake of our common environment and for our future.
I was very pleased to hear that work has already begun on the northern collector facility project here in St Petersburg. The completion of this project will provide the city with treatment facilities for practically its entire wastewater.
I also noted that preparations are underway for similar projects in Kaliningrad. Improving wastewater treatment in Kaliningrad will also help improve the environmental situation in the Baltic Sea region and the Swedish government is ready to support such projects. We need to move ahead then, to keep working, in St Petersburg, in Kaliningrad and in many other places in the Baltic region. We need to put regional environmental protection issues at the forefront of our agendas, and this is why Sweden is inviting all the region’s environment ministers to an informal meeting in Stockholm later this autumn. Our generation has to find solutions to the main environmental challenges we face. Together we can create a Baltic Sea region free of environmental threats that could hinder our continued development and our work to improve the living conditions of our peoples. Sweden remains a committed partner of Russia and Finland and the other countries of the region in achieving this objective. Let us work together towards the goal of improving the environmental situation in the Baltic Sea region, the region that we all share. Thank you.
President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mrs Halonen, Dear Prime Minister Persson, Dear Governor of St Petersburg Valentina Matviyenko, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have at least two reasons to be happy today and feel pride in what has been accomplished over the last years here at this site.
The first reason is that we have completed a big project, indeed, what amounts to a grand environmental project for the entire region. In doing so, we have made a great contribution to improving people’s quality of life, to improving the quality of life both for the people of St Petersburg and for our neighbours in the countries of the Baltic region. And we should remember that the coasts of the Baltic Sea are home to 50 million people. For the people of St Petersburg, the opening of this plant will provide them with a considerably improved water quality. This goes for drinking water and it also concerns the hundreds and thousands of people from St Petersburg and the region who spend their leisure time on the Gulf of Finland coast during the summer. This is also an important step towards creating a better and healthier environment.
Furthermore, specialists know that the water exchange cycle between the Baltic Sea and the world ocean takes from 25 to 40 years, while pollution is rising at a constantly increasing rate. Everyone living in the Baltic Sea region feels the effects of this pollution. The Finnish and Swedish taxpayers, therefore, and indeed, all the countries of Europe, for the European Union also made its contribution to this project, should know that their money has been spent in the best way possible here in St Petersburg.
The second reason to be happy over today’s event is that it is an outstanding example of cooperation in the north of Europe.
I would like to thank President Halonen and the Swedish Prime Minister Persson for their personal contribution to implementing this project. I know how they stood up for this project in their parliaments and governments and how they fought for European Union funding for it. I will not address particular thanks to the Governor or to myself, for we are simply doing what it is our job to do.
There is yet another reason for us to feel optimism today: the results of our work show that we can resolve common problems very effectively together. Russia realises its responsibility for maintaining the ecological balance and improving the region’s environment, and we hope to be able to continue working together with our partners to carry out major projects that are in the interests of all our peoples. I would like to address special thanks to everyone who worked here: the workmen, the engineers and the builders – I bow low before you.