President Vladimir Putin : Dear Mr. Prime Minister!
Ladies and gentlemen!
First and foremost, I would like to thank Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi for the invitation.
We gladly accepted the invitation to visit southern Italy and to hold part of our talks here, in the city of Bari.
And in connection with this I would like to thank you, Mr Mayor, for the warm welcome and for the opportunity to hold our talks precisely in your city. I would like to thank all of Bari’s inhabitants for the warm and gracious welcome.
Until 1917 the city of Bari was called Bargrad in Russian (The Hole city of Bari) and was one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Russians, after Jerusalem. And today the spiritual attraction for believers and for ordinary tourists to visit holy places is gradually reviving. I hope that our visit will make a contribution towards strengthening these traditions.
I would like to thank the Bari city authorities and the Italian government for reaching an agreement on the issue of transferring Bari’s Orthodox Church and the house of Russian pilgrims to the Russian authorities.
On a broader level I would like to point out that the dialogue between cultures and religions can and should be used to resolve difficult contemporary problems to the benefit of all. Russia will do everything possible to support this. My meeting yesterday evening in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI took place in this spirit. We agreed that globalisation poses certain challenges and that the resolution to these problems can only be found in dialogue.
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
The centuries-long tradition of Russian-Italian relations is reflected in the trusting atmosphere of the present talks.
Indeed, this is already the fourth time that we have met with Mr Prodi in the past few months.
Our governmental agencies cooperate intensively. We held expanded intergovernmental consultations for the fourth time in the past five years. By promoting our political dialogue in this format, we are able to effectively reach agreements and make decisions on all important issues.
During the last two days we had constructive discussions on the entire range of issues concerning our bilateral cooperation and international cooperation more generally. And, most importantly, we confirmed that Russian-Italian cooperation is developing dynamically and steadily.
The basic results of our negotiations are reflected in our joint release. Today we also signed a package of bilateral documents. It includes a wide range of issues, concerning both government and, directly and indirectly, the business communities.
Some remarks on various aspects of our relations. As a whole we are satisfied with the general development of our trade and economic cooperation. Last year our volume of trade grew by 26 to 28 percent and attained a record volume. Mr Prodi cited this figure in euros and according to our statistics it amounts to about 30 billion dollars. And it is clear that we made progress in the task of diversifying our cooperation. A range of contacts and important practical results are visible not only in our traditional areas of cooperation – oil, energy, and commodities – but also in sectors such as transport, communications, telecommunications, aviation and the space sector. Mr Prime Minister mentioned this.
Prospects for mutual capital flows are gradually emerging in the investment sector. I hope that the agreements between our companies and financial institutions that we signed today will help this develop.
I have already said that if you look at our volume of trade, at the structure of our trade, then it is clear that it is mainly commodities that come from Russia – even though this is slowly changing, today it is still mainly commodities. Industrial products are exported to Russia. And if you count and determine the amount of these deliveries then it is clear that Russian cooperation with Italy ensures and supports approximately 500,000 – 700,000 jobs in Italy. This is a practical result of our cooperation.
I would like to mention cultural relations between Russia and Italy separately. I have no doubt that there is simply huge potential in this area. And we have already established a good tradition of agreeing on major new projects and initiatives at every summit meeting.
I would like to tell you that today we signed the Programme for Exchanges in Education and Culture for 2007–2009. These exchanges have already begun. In the next few days the regions Le Marche and Emilia Romagna will host the youth festival Slavic Spring 2007. And as far as I know a Faberge exhibition is taking place in Bari; today we saw advertisements for this festival. Incidentally, an exhibition of Russian contemporary artists has opened in the Vatican and, as far as I know, an exhibition on Italian Renaissance artists opened in the Hermitage, something that has now become routine.
Yesterday in Rome a regular meeting of the Russian-Italian Forum for Civil Society Dialogue took place.
I must say that interregional ties play a special role in our relations today. We have significant reserves in this respect. Reserves that must be used to strengthen the whole range of Russian-Italian relations.
Creating a special economic zone specialised in producing household appliances in the Lipetsk region acts as convincing proof of this.
Today a joint prize will be awarded to the Governor of the Lipetsk region, Oleg Petrovich Korolev, and President of Indesit Company Vittorio Merloni for their contribution to this shared success.
I would like to note my satisfaction that our positions on key international problems are very similar. We traditionally cooperate within international organisations. And Italy’s election to the UN Security Council will expand our cooperation designed to strengthen the UN as well as other fundamental frameworks for multilateral diplomacy.
During our talks we paid special attention to discussing Russian-EU relations. We expect that 2007 will be an important year for the development of these relations and will allow our dialogue to reach a new level.
Similarly, we discussed our cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance in a constructive and trusting way. And we certainly discussed the work of the Russia-NATO Council. Let me recall that the Council itself started in Italy, was founded precisely in Italy.
Our talks reconfirmed that Italian and Russian authorities are of the same opinion regarding the impossibility of resolving international conflicts through the use of force. There is no viable alternative to political and diplomatic methods. This fully applies to Iran’s nuclear programme, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and other conflicts.
In conclusion, please let me thank the Italian leadership once again for their hospitality, these substantial negotiations, and for the trusting atmosphere in which they were held.
Romano Prodi (simultaneous translation): Good afternoon everybody,
I am very pleased with this visit by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. He began his visit yesterday in Rome, and it has continued today with our summit meeting here in Bari. I am happy with this excellent summit meeting in which twelve ministers took part. This is the best evidence of the strategic partnership between Italy and the Russian Federation. It is no coincidence that this is already my fourth meeting with Vladimir Putin. In the ten months that I have headed the government, we have met in Moscow, in St Petersburg at the G8 summit, in Sochi, and now here in Bari. Our partnership is one of genuine strength, as can be seen by the results of today’s summit.
We discussed the broadest range of subjects at our meeting. In our bilateral discussions, we raised issues such as freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and human rights and freedoms as fundamental values in our society. We discussed subjects such as peace between peoples and the freedom of every individual in every country. All of this is an inalienable part of human rights in any country. While we respect each country’s sovereignty, we do not close our eyes to violations of human rights or violations of peaceful relations between peoples. We therefore place great importance on the common values our two peoples share, values based on the Human Rights Charter, and we consider it important to promote these values by putting them into practise, working together through the United Nations, and working through the forum of Italian and Russian civil society groups, which come together every year to discuss issues of mutual interest.
We think it is very valuable and important to pursue dialogue on important matters such as these both at intergovernmental level and through civil society. These were the subjects discussed at the Italy-Russia Dialogue Forum yesterday in Rome.
Regarding international affairs, we do indeed share a common view with Russia, namely that we need to take a multilateral approach to events. The United Nations is still the world’s forum for resolving its problems and, as the case of Lebanon has shown, it is precisely through the United Nations that we can respond to crises today in the third millennium. It was in this spirit of multilateralism that we examined the main international issues of mutual interest to our countries, issues such as Kosovo, Iran, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. We discussed the Middle East peace process and agreed to maintain close contact on all of these issues within the UN Security Council.
Both Italy and Russia share a common concern at the growing number of conflict situations in the world, in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. Many hotbeds of conflict are still burning and have yet to be resolved. This situation worries us and we discussed it at our meeting in Sochi, in Rome yesterday and here in Bari today.
We reaffirmed the importance of strengthening relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation. We want the next cooperation and partnership agreement to be broader than the present one and cover a more diverse range of areas, including the energy sector. There is no European dependence on the Russian Federation; there is interdependence between the Russian Federation and the European Union. We discussed the bilateral relations between Russia and Italy in this spirit of interdependence.
Italy is Russia’s third-biggest trade partner. In 2006, our bilateral trade reached a figure of 21 billion euros, and our exports have risen by 25 percent over recent years. In our discussions on energy cooperation, we stated that demand and supply in this sector are two sides of the same coin. Interdependence is defined by access to markets and guarantees for consumers. In this respect, the agreement between ENI and Gazprom can be considered a model agreement. ENI is now in the initial phase of a process that will eventually see its activities cover every stage of the electricity production and distribution chain.
The agreements signed today are evidence of the high level of relations we have established. We have signed agreements in industry, the banking and social sectors, and in the cultural field. I would just like to say a few words about some of these agreements. First, the protocol on cooperation in the development of the Superjet [regional aircraft] is a project with a huge potential market, and it will be an exemplary project between Russia and its European partners. I would like to add that in my view, this is the last chance for Italy and Russia to take centre stage in this exceptionally important civil aviation sector. If we wait any longer, the markets will be closed. We realise that this is a big challenge today, because we know just how fierce competition is on this market, but together, Russia and Italy can take up this challenge as a worthy competitor and emerge victorious.
ENEL and Rosatom have signed an important protocol on mechanics and components. ENEL is already present in the Russian Federation and plans to take an active part in the privatisation process in the energy sector.
A number of banking sector agreements were signed between the companies Intesa and Mediabank and big Russian and Italian banks for a total of 500 million euros.
Finally, an agreement was signed between the Hermitage Museum and the city of Ferrari on opening a branch of the Hermitage in Italy.
I can also inform you that we will sign an agreement on the adoption of minors, and many Italian families have high expectations of this document. We share the view that some kind of framework, some kind of model agreement, is needed in this area.
The decision was approved today to return a church building to the Russian Orthodox Church. I would like to thank the Bari city authorities and the town hall for their decision to transfer this church building to Russia. This is a great gesture that bears witness to our friendship with Russia. It also testifies to the particular attention the Italian Government pays not only to politics, but also to cultural, social, and religious matters, all of which our government has been helping to develop.
Thank you once again, Mr President, for coming to this meeting in Bari and for the dialogue that we have had here.
Question: President Putin just mentioned Afghanistan. I would like to know more details in light of the fact that NATO is now reinforcing its operations in Afghanistan. And did you talk about our hostage who is languishing there?
And a question for Prime Minister Prodi: the former Chechen Health Minister is now in Italy – will you grant him asylum or not? What is the situation in this respect?
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi: We spoke a great deal about Afghanistan. We talked about the need to make concerted international efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan and so that it is possible to hold a conference on restoring peace in Afghanistan. We agree on these issues but we did not touch on the question of the hostage and the problem you mentioned in the last part of your question. Because at present I simply do not know anything about this problem.
Vladimir Putin : Regarding Afghanistan, Russia supports the international community’s efforts to normalise the situation in that country. Russia even took an unprecedented decision and made available the possibility of transport through our country. Not only through our airspace but also through our territory, including for essential military loads designed to support the activities of international forces. We intend to continue to fully cooperate with international efforts designed to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. We discussed this issue – discussed it in quite a bit of detail – and we are going to cooperate. Russia will make a positive contribution towards resolving this problem.
As to the second issue –please forgive me because I wasn’t asked the question about the possibility of giving political asylum – but I want to say that though a great many problems remain in the Chechen Republic, still, as you know, practically all internal democratic procedures linked with electing a parliament, electing a president, forming the authorities, bodies of government, public prosecutors’ offices, courts, and legal authorities have been completed. Moreover, all Chechen political forces are represented in the parliament, including those who had previously used weapons to fight against the federal authorities. Even the former Defence Minister of Mr Maskhadov’s government. For that reason I think that there is place for the former Health Minister in Chechnya, should he want to return to peaceful life there. Moreover, the parliament of the Russian Federation has made several decisions with respect to granting amnesties to those who want to return to a peaceful life.
Quesiton: My first question is for the Russian President. Vladimir Vladimirovich, yesterday we only saw a fraction of your audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Could you tell us more about the results of this meeting?
And the second question is to both heads of state. Considering that we are presently in Bari, where relics sacred for both Orthodox believers and for Catholics rest – Saint Nikolai’s hallows– in your opinion, how can Christian heritage further impact on the convergence of Russia and Italy, of Russia and Europe? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI and I engaged in a very extensive dialogue concerning fundamental international problems and the possibilities for resolving various well-known international crises. Part of our discussion was devoted to universal values and another to cooperation between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church. In Russia, church and state are separate but we know – and I am personally aware – that the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia aspires to develop friendly relations, close relations, between two sister churches. And for our part we are going to support this dialogue between churches in every possible way.
As to where we are now and the problem you mentioned, then I personally believe that eastern and western Europe are united by universal humanistic values and, first and foremost, Christian values. Even those who consider themselves non-believers are steeped in the Christian tradition. And this certainly represents our common moral heritage.
Romano Prodi: In answer to the last part of your question I consider it important to encourage dialogue between religions and the city of Bari plays a particularly important role in this respect. This is where we are meeting today and, I hope, that in the future Bari will host further such meetings and will be able to stimulate intensive dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. This dialogue has been difficult; there was a great deal of divisiveness in the past that made reestablishing dialogue difficult. But there are already signs that could act as the first steps towards engaging in a deeper discussion of mutual problems. I consider this to be very important for the future. And returning to the Orthodox church its holy place in Bari is an extremely important part of attaining this dialogue’s goals.
Question: A question for both heads of state. Before the beginning of this summit you said that ENI and Gazprom could complete a second part of their agreement concerning shareholders’ shares of stock. Has this problem been resolved or has this agreement been reached?
Secondly, did you talk about telecommunications, a topic that concerns Italian companies such as Telecom Italia linked with Russian companies’ desire to enter the telecommunications networks in Italy?
Romano Prodi: No, the terms and conditions in which this could be signed were not stipulated. I can only say that ENI and Gazprom work well together. And the existing agreement provides that they will continue their activities within the wide range of cooperation the two companies are engaged in. This cooperation will be supplemented by technical aspects that will require going into certain features of work in more detail and paying special attention to them.
With reference to telephone communications, we did not talk about investments in concrete companies but we did mention the topic of Italian investments in Russia. We talked about providing easier access to credit to support Russian investments in Italy. We noted that there are no barriers here. These investments are increasing and I hope that they will continue to do so in the future.
Vladimir Putin: I am very glad to hear what the Italian Prime Minister just said about the lack of any restrictions on Russian investments. I can say the same thing about the lack of restrictions for Italian investments in Russia. If a company such as ENI wants to expand its sphere of activities, including investment activities in Russia, then we will only welcome this. As far as I know, ENI is interested in doing so and considering the very positive experience of cooperation between our major energy companies and ENI, then I think that these plans can be realised. You know that Gazprom and ENI have signed the corresponding agreement. In my opinion, they act as literal proof of the possibility of implementing the principles contained in the Energy Charter. In addition, we intend to not only work with ENI but also with our other European partners in mutually advantageous conditions.
Question: Good afternoon! I have a question for both heads of state. Iran, Iraq and Kosovo are presently the most acute international problems and I would therefore like to ask how much time you discussed these topics during your talks, on what issues do your positions converge, and where are they fundamentally different?
Vladimir Putin: We paid special attention to these issues during the meeting yesterday evening. And we talked about this separately and in great detail. We are united by the desire to resolve these problems by peaceful means. Quite frankly, I do not see any problems that one could classify as differences in Russia and Italy’s approaches to resolving these issues. In fact, as diplomats say in these circumstances, our positions are either close or actually coincide.
Romano Prodi: I have absolutely nothing to add. I would only like to emphasise that the topics that you mentioned constituted a significant part of our discussions, because we consider them to be the very sharpest problems. We worked a great deal together to help each other shape out ideas concerning how we can reach a definitive peace process both in Iraq and with respect to resolving the problem of the Iranian nuclear programme. Because these really are problems that affect both Italy and Russia. They create tensions in the international arena, represent a danger to the whole world, and we feel this keenly.