Prime Minister of Great Britain Anthony Blair:
Good afternoon. First, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to President Putin and the ministers who have accompanied him here. We are delighted to see him here for the EU-Russia summit, followed by the summit between the UK and Russia. I am joined by President Barroso and Javier Solana, representing the European Union (EU).
I would like to make a few introductory remarks; first, to say how important the relationship between Europe and Russia is now becoming. We discussed what are called the 'Four Common Spaces' between Europe and Russia: the economy, external security, external affairs, and culture and education. However, outside of the form of those four common spaces, there are some very important realities that give strength to this relationship. The first is in respect to the economy — the increasing economic exchange between Russia and Europe, particularly in the area of energy, but not at all limited to that. This is a relationship, in economic terms, which can only grow, prosper and strengthen.
There is a strong common interest in relation to organised crime and terrorism. All the citizens of Europe today know the dangers that come with organised crime in respect of people trafficking and drugs, and all of us face the common threat of global terrorism. In this work, the levels of work and cooperation that we are achieving with Russia are immensely important for our own security, peace and safety here in Europe. Therefore, we want to try to take the relationship between Europe and Russia to a new, more intense and stronger level. One way of doing that will be when we begin talks, as we will soon, on the successor agreement to the present Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which is due to expire in 2007. We are anxious to ensure that we strengthen those institutional links between Russia and Europe.
There are a series of initiatives, such as the agreements that we have concluded on readmissions and visas, to give effect to the practical cooperation that we need in our own common and mutual interest.
The need for us to have a close working relationship is very clear indeed, as we discovered when we discussed some of the regional and international issues, whether in respect of Iran or the Middle East peace process or any of the aspects of the countries surrounding the Russian Federation. I think that the meeting we held today was very constructive and it has, once again, become obvious to me and my European partners and colleagues how important this relationship between Russia and Europe is for our own economic future and security. Today marks yet another development in that relationship and one that is to be greatly welcomed.
Mr President, welcome. It is very good to have you and your colleagues here. I think what we discussed and agreed today gives us a very strong basis upon which to build.
President Vladimir Putin:
Dear Prime Minister!
First of all, I would like to thank you and your British colleagues for the invitation to these negotiations and this meeting, and for the brilliant organization of today's work.
During the meeting we examined a broad range of questions. The Prime Minister has just mentioned a great deal of them. We discussed the lines along which our future joint activities will take place.
First and foremost, we focused on the four common spaces and four Road Maps towards implementing these common spaces.
Let me remind you that these four common spaces are the common economic space, questions of internal security, of external security, and of freedom, education, and academic research.
We agreed to charge our experts with working on questions pertaining to launching the Road Maps’ joint implementation. Regarding this, let me point out that concrete work towards fulfilling some of the previous agreements’ provisions is already being carried out. This is primarily true of the so-called industry dialogues. In particular, the transportation dialogue between Russia and the European Union began the day before the summit. Yesterday colleagues signed the document pertaining to this question.
Another of the meeting’s important themes is strengthening our cooperation’s legal framework. The Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Russia and the European Union has played a key and well-known role in the strategic partnership’s development. It regulates the many different aspects of our cooperation. However, both the fact that 2007 will mark the end of its initial ten-year term and that the EU plans to accept new members requires creating an up-to-date legal framework in line with the realities of our time.
Today we spoke about changes taking place inside the EU, since both the adoption of the constitution and other institutional changes are at the forefront of discussions. Life itself requires this, but conditions and life can change, and if they do, it is evident that certain corrective amendments to Russia-EU cooperation will have to be made. In due time, we must thinking of strengthening the legal framework on which our cooperation rests.
Already today we consider it necessary to plan the priorities for our cooperation and to optimise institutional mechanisms. In connection with this we have agreed to set up the relevant expert dialogue.
In our discussions with our European partners we give great value to measures which will allow us to remove dividing lines between states on the European continent. I will point out that we reached a consensus on the basic elements of agreements to simplify the visa regime and readmission between Russia and the European Union.
In connection with this I would like to thank the experts, European commissioners, and our Russian colleagues who worked on this document. I wish to say a special thank you to the British Presidency. In practical terms, we consider this an important step towards the implementation of plans we previously agreed upon.
We consider these agreements to be one of the steps that would help us to approach a situation where a visa-free regime could be introduced.
We discussed the launch of a forthcoming programme to train young researchers in the fields of economics and European law at the Moscow Institute of International Relations in detail. We consider training young researchers who will develop our cooperation with the European Union one of our high-priority tasks.
As in previous summits, special attention was given to the EU fulfilling the Joint Statement on EU enlargement and the Russia-EU relationship.
We discussed actual international problems in a constructive way. The Prime Minister mentioned them just now, and I shall not repeat what he said.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize that the London summit’s results confirmed that we are consistently strengthening our partnership and giving it new substance and quality. I am firmly convinced of the success of our future teamwork.
We have not yet agreed on the exact date, but as a whole our colleagues agree that the next summit can take place in the spring of 2006.
Thank you for your attention.
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso:
We had an open exchange on a wide range of issues between two strategic partners, neighbours and friends. This summit confirmed our common willingness to move forward on the implementation in the four common spaces. We think we should maintain this positive evolution and accelerate implementation of our joint commitments.
This summit can take of the very good progress achieved; namely, in terms of common spaces and justice, freedom and security. In fact, there was an important agreement on visa facilitation and readmission, which is a good concrete example. I commend Vice President Frattini of the European Commission, as well as his counterparts from the Russian Government who, with the support of the British Presidency, made this possible.
I would also like to underline some very important issues that were discussed this morning, such as energy, counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and international issues such as Iran and the Middle East. Other areas addressed include human rights, fundamental freedoms and the situation in the northern Caucasus. We announced our allocation of 20 million for healthcare, education and training in that region, which is in addition to the 170 million of humanitarian aid channelled through ECHO (European Community's Humanitarian Aid Office). I am also glad to witness the progress in terms of science, research and education. We decided to go ahead with the European Institute in Moscow and we hope that it will be open for the school year 2006–07. This is a symbolic and concrete example of our deep and strong relationship.
Prime Minister Blair emphasised that we are now planning a new institutional framework for future relations between the EU and Russia. We have been developing them pragmatically around these four spaces, but the world has now changed and more can be done, so we have decided to give instructions to our experts to start thinking about which shape this new institutional framework can take for the future of the EU's relations with Russia in the 21st century. Thank you very much for your cooperation. I think we have a pragmatic and results-oriented relationship and I look forward to other opportunities to deepen our strategic and friendly cooperation.
Prime Minister Blair, you talked about trade and energy; is there a risk of Europe and Britain becoming so dependent on supplies of energy from Russia that it constrains you and others from criticising any failings in the development of Russian democracy and human rights? Do you feel you may be enslaved by your dependence?
President Putin, do you feel much stronger in your relations with the EU than your predecessors in the 1990s, who tended to come to these events looking for aid for Russia? Do you feel that you are now in a much more equal and more powerful position?
First, we discuss issues very frankly between us, whether it is to do with human rights or democracy. For example, we discussed the issue of Chechnya earlier today. However, the relationship between us is important in terms of our common interest. What we are looking for in Europe is indeed to make sure that we secure our energy supplies for the future, which I think is sensible, and to deal with the issues like organised crime and terrorism, in which we have a complete common interest with Russia. I do not think the relationship is one of dependence either on the Russian side or on the European side. It is a recognition of a very strong set of mutual interests today. If there are issues that may arise from time to time between us, we can discuss and resolve those. I have every confidence in this relationship today, not just because of the good personal relationships, which are important, but also because there is this strong interest between us.
Our economic future is now bound up together, but it was always going to be. The fact that Russia is a key exporter of energy to the EU is not something that has suddenly happened in the past year; it has been happening for many years. With the right relationship, that is a tremendous benefit to the EU. Likewise, in respect of organised crime and terrorism, I do not think it is possible for Europe to confront this challenge without the active partnership of Russia. I think the relationship is one of mutual interests rather than one of dependence. Personally, I feel the new institutional arrangements that will supersede the present Partnership and Cooperation Agreement are likely to see a significant institutional strengthening of the relationship between Europe and Russia for the future.
Vladimir Putin: Although the first part of the question was not addressed to me, if you will allow, I would like to say a few words about this issue of our European partners becoming ‘overly dependent’ on Russia in the energy sector.
As we discussed just yesterday in Brussels, Europe, the European economy, covers one third of its total demand for oil with oil supplies from Russia — supplies that are delivered either directly or through intermediaries. Trade takes place on the international markets and according to international rules. Russia is constantly increasing its oil production and its supplies to the world market, thereby contributing to the normal and stable development of the entire world economy, including the European economy, and holding prices at least at today’s level for economic actors and ordinary consumers. Prices would be even higher than they are now if it were not for Russia’s contribution to the common effort in the energy sector. This is why we think that Russia, and the European Union of course, have an interest in developing the energy dialogue.
I would remind you that some European Union members cover 90 percent of their gas consumption needs with gas from Russia – 90 percent – but no one has complained so far. Everyone is happy.
Russia is a reliable partner and even during the most difficult periods in its economic development it never let down its partners in Europe. Furthermore, we have moved over now to a completely new system of cooperation with our European partners. We have taken the strategic decision of letting our European partners take part in gas production on Russian territory. Our partners have reciprocated this by letting us enter their distribution network, including the electricity distribution network in European territory. Together we have plans to carry out major infrastructure projects, including the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline. Europeans will be in control of everything from production to the final consumer, and we will take part in all of this. This creates a completely new situation. And so the rumours that Europe could lose its independence in the energy sector are highly exaggerated. That is the first point I wanted to make.
The second point I wanted to make regards the question of whether we feel more assertive now as a result of the Russian economy’s growth over recent years. Yes, we have had very respectable results with the economy showing annual growth of around 7 percent over the last five years. The Central Bank’s gold and currency reserves have increased considerably, as has the Government Stabilisation Fund. We are following a carefully planned and balanced economic policy. People’s real incomes – that is, minus inflation – are rising by around 8, 9, 10 percent, even 12 percent a year. Of course this situation creates favourable conditions for us to be able to pursue an independent foreign policy. This is naturally the case.
But at the same time, even during what were for us the most difficult years of economic decline and internal problems within the state, serious European politicians never allowed themselves merely to pay lip service to Russia, never humiliated our country. There were no instances of such behaviour. We have not forgotten this and we are grateful for it. Today therefore, now that our possibilities have increased considerably, we have no intention of putting on airs. We have every intention of engaging in a dialogue on an equal footing with our partners and of looking for compromise solutions where we think it possible, taking into account that our European partners will also give consideration to our national interests.
To all participants: how much have you advanced in the visa facilitation? When can we expect a broadening of the list of people who will be entitled to facilitated visas? When will it be related to all participants?
President Putin, there was a very tough position on the readmission. Have you now backed off of that position?
Jose Manuel Barroso:
The disagreement was about visa facilitation for diplomatic passports, which is the starting point; it is not yet for ordinary passports. Of course, the strategic goal is to have as much freedom of circulation between Russia and the EU as possible, but this is a process and we are just now starting that process. At the same time, there was an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants coming to Europe from Russia, which was an important step as well. I believe it is an important first step because it is a very concrete thing. We hope for the future that more steps can be taken when the conditions are met.
When President Barroso began his introductory remarks I noticed the good choice of words he used. He said that “a dialogue is underway between strategic partners, neighbours and friends”. This is the foundation of our dialogue on humanitarian contacts. Our common position is that there should be no dividing lines in Europe, but at the same time we realise on both sides that there is still a lot to do before we can introduce visa-free travel. Today we agreed on simplifying visa procedures for a large number of people. This will concern students, scientists, politicians, diplomats and also businesspeople. Yesterday, incidentally, a round table took place that brought together the Russian and EU business communities. The Russian business community has established a permanent representative office at the European Commission. This shows that both Russia and the European Union have an interest in settling these issues and that we are committed to making progress in this area. Of course, it is hard to give an exact date for when we will have visa-free travel, but it is satisfying to see that none of my colleagues have any objection against this as our ultimate goal.
As for the question of whether Russia has backtracked on the issue of readmission, I do not think that this could be said to be the case. Yes, we have made some concessions to our European partners and our Foreign Ministry’s position has undergone considerable change over the course of the negotiating process. This is linked to the fact that, as I said, we were trying to reach a compromise. We made some concessions to our European friends, but this is not all. The fact of the matter is that we now have practical experience in cooperation with an EU member country in this particular area. A few years ago we signed an agreement on readmission with Lithuania. Since that time, a large number of people – 1.7 million – have crossed the Russian-Lithuanian border and there has not been a single case of readmission. So what is there to debate? Why then should we be so insistent and take such a hard line on our position? Yes, we have changed our position but we have done so in the interests of Russian citizens and of our friends and partners in Europe who want to facilitate relations and foster contacts between our citizens.
We will take the last question. This is one for President Barroso, is it?
Yes, and for yourself, Prime Minister. If I could ask both of you, please, President Barroso and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Can Turkey realistically ever become a member of the EU, given the debacle that we saw last night – at least one EU member did not seem at all concerned on reneging on a previous agreement – and given the hostility around Europe and the other obstacles that lie in the path? Also, could you each say what role you played in securing the deal late last night?
Jose Manuel Barroso:
Turkey was not exactly the topic of this summit. The goal is accession. I believe it is possible, but let us be completely honest. Accession, as for every country, is neither guaranteed nor automatic. A lot depends on the evolution from now until that moment. We do not know how Turkey, Europe or the world will be in 10–20 years. We do not know, so let us work for it.
What we saw yesterday was a consensus. There was an agreement to start negotiations with Turkey. This was a major development in the relations between the EU and Turkey. I think it is a very positive development and now let us work to make that become a reality. I think it is in the interests of the EU and in the interests of Turkey that we have a dynamic, modern, democratic Turkey. We will only know the outcome of the process at the end of the process.
I agree with that, obviously. In fact we had a success rather than a debacle, because we opened negotiations for accession and that was the objective that we set ourselves. We achieved the objective but, as the President rightly said, that then begins a process. It depends on the criteria then being met. It is clear that Turkey will be treated in the same way as any other prospective entrant into the EU. That is exactly as it should be.
As I have tried to explain in all my conversations with Turkey's leadership – and I spoke to Prime Minister Erdogan last night – it is important to recognise this is a process that will take place over time. It essentially depends on people meeting the obligations that have now been set out. Those obligations are very clear. There are objective criteria that have to be met.
Incidentally, I entirely understand the concerns in different parts of Europe about this. It is a very, very big change for the EU; there is no doubt about that. It would be unnatural if there were not worries and concerns. As the President of the Commission has just said, this takes place over a significant period of time. There is time for these concerns, worries and doubts to be allayed. I do not doubt it will be an issue of controversy in the years to come, both in Turkey and in the EU, but we now have a process in place and we should see it through.
Right, thank you all very much indeed.