Vladimir Putin: I would like to sum up the results of our meeting today.
I would like to say right off that we welcome our continued constructive and comprehensive dialogue with a united Europe. I have to say that this meeting was very constructive, very frank and, I think, productive. It dealt with a broad range of problems of mutual interest both for Russia and the European community. Russia informed its European colleagues about the economic and political situation in Russia, and about the handling of the complicated issues Russia has been confronted with in the North Caucasus. Our cooperation in the economic sphere got a large share of attention. We took note of the expectations of our European partners in terms of the development of Russian legislation and the creation of a favourable environment for more investment in the Russian economy by our western European partners.
During the course of our work we introduced amendments to our draft final communique to make it more substantive and concrete. We agreed that the European Union would consider Russia’s application to be covered by social preferences before the end of the year.
A fair amount of attention was paid to coordinating the positions of Russia and the European Union in international affairs.
On the discussion of acute international problems, we can report the following: neither Russia nor the European Union is thinking in terms of blocs. My Russian colleagues and our European guests here were divided today not by bloc affiliation or affiliation with various delegations but by their approach to some complex European problems.
That creates a very good foundation for finding a common approach to solving problems related to European security and other issues.
I would like to thank my colleagues for their discussion today, for their constructive dialogue and for the very friendly atmosphere created today through the efforts of our negotiating partners.
Question: Four weeks ago you had a meeting with Mr. Solana and Mr. Gama, and you said then that Russia was working on a plan for a peaceful settlement of the situation in the Caucasus. Have any measures been taken to achieve peace in the Caucasus and in Chechnya?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, such measures are already being taken. And we intend to move forward towards a settlement for that situation. After putting down the armed resistance of international terrorists and religious extremists, we will certainly move on, are already moving on to the reconstruction of the social, cultural and economic spheres in the Chechen Republic. As before, we will pay great attention to respect for the law and human rights in the Chechen Republic, we will work with international organisations and with your colleagues, the international press, to make the situation there more transparent.
I would like you to know that of late practically all the representatives of international organisations that wanted to visit the Chechen Republic have done so. At present more than 1200 journalists are accredited in Chechnya, of whom more than 500 are foreign journalists.
We will do all we can to make sure that at the earliest possible date an OSCE group has a permanent presence in the Chechen Republic and in the region.
The Russian law enforcement bodies are broadening the scope of their activities there. We would like not only human rights, but all Russian laws to be respected there. We are interested in this because it has never been our aim to enslave the Chechen people. First, that task would be impossible, and second, it would be counterproductive in terms of restoring order there and establishing peace and prosperity. We would never do that and we are not going to do it.
But we categorically object to human rights being used as a pretext to prevent Russia from restoring order in that part of the country.
We call on all of you to pool your efforts in the fight against international terrorism. And likewise to pool your efforts to support human rights, including in the Chechen Republic. All violations of the law in the Chechen Republic, whoever commits them, will be resolutely punished.
Several dozen criminal cases have been opened and a number of people guilty of violating the law have been convicted, including some Russian Army servicemen. It must be said that any breaches of law by servicemen are sharply condemned by servicemen themselves.
We have briefed our European colleagues on the further steps we are going to take towards finding a settlement for the situation in Chechnya. We told them about the drafting of a law on provisional rule in Chechnya and its submission to the State Duma. The draft law will be introduced at the Russian Parliament soon. Needless to say, it has been drafted in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation.