President Vladimir Putin: Mrs President, first of all, I would like to say how glad and grateful I am that you are here today in St Petersburg. I know how seriously you take the programmes that are part of the European Northern Dimension. I think this is understandable because the results of these programmes have an impact on the lives of practically all our citizens. Today we have completed an important and concrete project. People often criticise politicians for talking a lot but producing little concrete result. But the project that has just been completed is proof that we can achieve tangible results.
I would like to thank you for your invitation to visit Finland. We were able to do some good work and I had a very pleasant time in your country. Given the extent of our cooperation, I hope that your visit today will not be the last.
President of Finland Tarja Halonen: Thank you very much. For my part, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity of being here today.
I am, if not an old politician, certainly an experienced one, and I remember that the issue of building this wastewater treatment plant had been on our agenda for a long time. When we had the idea of organising a multilateral project to complete construction of the St Petersburg wastewater treatment plant, many people said this would be impossible. Now they have seen that it was not impossible and that many organisations and different sides have been involved in this work. In order to continue working on projects of this kind we need the European Union’s Northern Dimension so as not to have start all over again from scratch each time.
Of course, our common region has great potential and there are many common tasks that we can make progress on through our combined efforts – the combined efforts of Russia, Finland, Sweden and all the European countries. Given that Finland will hold the presidency of the European Union next year, we can already say now that the Northern Dimension will be one of the priorities for our presidency and it is pleasing therefore to see also what importance you attach to this question.
During our last meeting we received confirmation that Russia is even more interested in developing the Northern Dimension programmes. Our invitation to President Putin is an open invitation: you are always a welcome guest in our country. I know that you are already familiar with our country, but there is still a lot you have not seen.
I am pleased to be here once again in St Petersburg and I have already received new invitations to visit today. I must say, however, that business activity between our countries has reached such a level that I am unlikely to be able to come to the opening of all the new plants and production facilities. Of course, I will be able to come to some events, and the Prime Minister and other ministers will also be able to come. Overall, it is very pleasing to see how actively and how well our relations are developing, above all in the area of economic cooperation in this region.
Vladimir Putin: The development of economic ties between Russia and Finland is of paramount importance for intensifying cooperation between our countries. And it is understandable that the Finnish leadership and that of the other northern European countries and of Russia pay such particular attention to problems such as environmental issues.
As you know, the project that was completed today, the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, was begun in the Soviet Union in 1986. Due to economic difficulties in Russia it was practically frozen at the beginning of the 1990s. I am very grateful to our Finnish and Swedish friends for helping to find a solution to this problem. Work resumed on the project in 2002 and has now been fully completed.
Of course, Russia’s financial and economic possibilities have now expanded considerably and I fully agree with you that work together within the Northern Dimension is of interest for all our countries. For our part, we intend not just to support all these programmes but also to develop bilateral relations. Indeed, several new production facilities with Finnish investment are due to open soon.
We were just talking about your initiative to improve the situation at the checkpoints along our border, and the Russian side will try to do everything in its power to ensure that this project is launched by next spring.
I am sure that we should try to maintain the pace we have gathered over these last years because this is in the interests of both the Finnish and Russian economies as it creates new jobs, increases the taxation base and has other positive benefits for us both.