President Vladimir Putin: Mrs Federal Chancellor,
Today we are opening this new round of Russian-German intergovernmental consultations. Members of the new German government headed by Mrs Merkel are taking part in this work for the first time. I stress that this well-oiled bilateral cooperation mechanism that was created eight years ago continues to function well today and we all, myself included, see this as yet another sign of the solidity and continuation in Russian-German relations.
It was not by chance, of course, that we chose to hold these consultations in Tomsk, one of the business, cultural and scientific centres of Siberia. The Siberian region has great importance not only for Russia. It is endowed with immense natural resources and significant scientific and production potential. It is also a region crossed by the main transport routes linking the east and west of our broad European continent.
This all provides an excellent foundation for launching genuinely large-scale and long-term international projects. We just spoke about this at the meeting with the business community representatives.
Cooperation has been developing actively in practically all areas since the last round of consultations took place. The Federal Chancellor and I have already had the chance to discuss a broad range of bilateral and international issues. We share the view that Russia and Germany now have every possibility for setting and achieving new goals, more complex and large-scale goals, based on the level of partnership we have already attained.
I propose that we hold our exchange of views today in the light of this strategy. I will begin by briefly analysing what we have already achieved together and by outlining our plans for the future.
First of all I would like to say a few words about the economic aspect of our partnership. We have reached a record level in bilateral trade. Russian estimates put our trade turnover at close to 33 billion euros, while German estimates are a lot higher and put it at more than 39 billion euros. German investment in the Russian economy has increased by more than two thirds. We have laid the foundations for ambitious new joint projects in the energy and production sectors.
There are excellent prospects ahead for intensifying our cooperation in the high-tech and science-intensive sectors that will determine the future of progress in the world. This concerns the aviation and space sectors in particular. It is a noteworthy sign in this respect that Russia has been invited to be the principal partner country in the international ILA-2006 air show near Berlin.
Cooperation in the energy sector is of principle importance in our eyes. This includes cooperation on the North European Gas Pipeline project that got underway last December.
I note that a Russian exhibition, “Industry and Energy in Russia”, opened a few days ago as part of the annual Hanover Fair. The exhibition’s aim is to showcase our country’s immense potential as a reliable supplier of energy resources and technology. Furthermore, the exhibition also aims at drawing public attention to the question of global energy security, which is one of the main themes proposed by Russia during its presidency of the G8.
One of the tasks facing us today is to move away from the traditional, principally trade-based forms of bilateral ties and turn instead to large-scale scientific and industrial cooperation between our countries. The Strategic Economic and Financial Working Group can play a considerable part in this respect and I hope that the group’s co-chairmen will report in more detail on this and other areas of activity.
Dear colleagues, among the strategic priorities of both Russia and Germany, ensuring European and international security holds an important place.
Recently, we have taken steps to cooperate more closely on preventing new threats and challenges, including in as important an area as the fight against terrorism.
It is in our common interest to strengthen and develop this trend, and I ask our foreign ministers to give this issue their attention in their presentations and report on the results achieved over the last year by the Joint High-Level Working Group on Security.
Germany is one of the recognised driving forces of European integration and we hope for the assistance of our German partners in creating the four common spaces in which Europe and Russia will participate together. As you know, this is one of the key items on the agenda for the upcoming Russia-European Union summit in May. We also hope for continued close cooperation within the G8, where Russia will be handing the presidency over to Germany in 2007.
It is pleasing to see that humanitarian ties between our countries are growing stronger all the time. I would like to note the increasingly significant contribution made by the Petersburg Dialogue public forum in developing these ties.
The youth exchange national coordination offices that have been set up this year will give new impetus to contacts between young people in both our countries.
In conclusion I would like to say that the heads of the ministries and agencies have carried out very thorough preparatory work. I hope that they will report in detail on the current situation in their areas of responsibility, focusing on the main problems we face and ways to resolve them.
I welcome all of our German colleagues to Russia and it is my pleasure to now give the floor to the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel (translated from German through Russian): Thank you very much, Mr President.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
President Putin has just spoken about the whole range of areas in which we work together. I would just like to add a few words. I think that the presence here of the different ministers is a clear sign that our strategic cooperation is based on a very broad foundation. Yesterday evening, along with our bilateral talks, we also spoke about scientific and marketing programmes with our partners and saw that it is precisely these programmes that have won a lot of approval, the DAAD academic programmes, for example. We also heard what the Humboldt scholars and others had to say. I am very pleased to see that our strategic partnership will continue in the areas of innovation, scientific research and education. The federal minister, Annette Schawan, will tell us about this in more detail.
I think that the economic forum also showed that our economy ministers have opened a large number of doors in the area of energy cooperation, and that we are looking to the future in our desire to improve cooperation in the different sectors. First of all, we want to and can give small businesses access to the Russian market, because 70 percent of our companies are small and medium-sized businesses. We also want to establish a bilateral Russian-German Foreign Trade Chamber.
Regarding foreign policy, our foreign ministers will speak first, as they will then have to leave for Sofia, and they will tell us about what is happening in this area. They are in constant contact with each other. I think they will soon be speaking with each other and holding consultations every day.
We have a great amount of common work. There are still some problems that need to be resolved. For example, we spoke yesterday about the steps we need to take in the area of culture with regard to returning cultural heritage that was displaced during World War II. I think that the message of these consultations is that we will hold a lot of discussions in our daily bilateral work and consult with each other on all that we have spoken about and make it part of our agenda and our work programme.
I would like to thank everyone for giving us the opportunity to come here to Siberia, to Tomsk. Looking back into the past and seeing how relations between Germany and Russia developed in past centuries, the library’s director said, for example, that many students who studied law at Tomsk University, and also their professors, often went to Berlin, to Humboldt University, and this was considered something perfectly normal. We need to try to come back today to that level of intensiveness in our relations.