President Vladimir Putin:
Good afternoon dear ladies and gentlemen!
We have just finished the first part of work involved in the 19th Russia-European Union summit meeting here in the Volga region. As you know, this meeting traditionally plays a key role in coordinating our cooperation and taking future-oriented strategic decisions.
As per usual, the summit’s agenda was full. We discussed the main results of recent Russia-EU cooperation. We laid out guidelines for future endeavours.
The positive dynamic in our economic relations received special attention during the meeting. Russia ranks a solid third among the EU’s trading partners, after only the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Along with this, Russia holds the first place when measured according to the growth rates of cooperation with Europe. 52 percent of Russian exports go to the EU. In 2006 the amount of Russia-EU trade grew by almost a third. And indicators from the first few months of 2007 suggest that this trend will continue.
The EU is the largest investor in the Russian economy. And recently a number of major projects have been created in energy, modern technologies and space exploration. I am convinced that creating a more favourable business climate for entrepreneurs and investors is in both of our interests. And today Madam Federal Chancellor proposed that we create a special mechanism, a special instrument to improve conditions in the investment sector. We agree with this and think that such a mechanism certainly should be created.
We are satisfied with the new concrete agreements that we reached during this summit. The agreement on a simplified visa regime between Russia and the EU will enter into force as of 1 June 2007 and we will intensify negotiations on the future transition to a visa-free regime for both parties.
Despite the fact that Lithuania has entered into Schnengen, the regime governing trips by Russian citizens to Kaliningrad and also from Kaliningrad to the rest of the Russian Federation remains unchanged until the introduction of a visa-free regime for mutual trips.
The positive results of the Volga summit include the fact that Russia and the EU are organising a preliminary exchange of electronic information on transporting mutual trade goods. This would reduce the time at the border and would help combat fraud, the forgery of transport documents and, especially, the falsification of goods themselves more effectively. We are also going to work in a coordinated fashion towards resolving the problems associated with the long lineups at the Russian border with EU member countries. We discussed this topic during the Finnish EU presidency and we will continue to work on it today.
I would also like to point out the agreement on speeding up work on programmes for cross-border cooperation between Russia and the European Union. Presently Russian regions are participating in preparing seven out of fifteen such programmes in the framework of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument for 2007–2013.
And finally, at the request of our European partners, we are going to continue working on establishing a mechanism for mutual information and notification in the energy sector.
One sensitive issue was strengthening the legal framework of Russia-EU cooperation. And we have not yet begun negotiations on a new agreement. But we are not over-dramatising the situation and understand that before the EU can engage in talks, it must resolve its internal problems. We respect this. I will repeat again that Russia values the strategic nature of our partnership.
I would like to emphasise that Russia, a country in which a large number of peoples and cultures have lived and developed for centuries, has made an enormous contribution to the European concept of democracy. And in this context we discussed an extremely important issue, namely the violation of the rights of the Russian-speaking population in Latvia and Estonia. Our position on this issue is well-known and we repeated it during the meeting today: we consider that this is unacceptable and unworthy of Europe.
And finally, an important part of our summit will consist in discussing major international issues. I said ‘will consist in’ because last night we only touched on several crucially important and painful international problems. We will continue to discuss these problems today following our meeting with you, and the discussion will include the issue of a Middle Eastern settlement. We will certainly speak in more detail about Afghanistan and the Balkans. I hope that Russia and the EU will once again confirm their readiness to join forces in the interests of peace and stability on our continent and in the whole world.
The Samara summit has proved once again that we are intent on engaging in a constructive dialogue and able to find mutually acceptable solutions to existing problems.
And in conclusion I would like to thank our European colleagues for the useful and very constructive discussion, for understanding the need for a dialogue among equals, and the stable development of every European country without exception.
I am very glad that the Volga Region was at the centre of our cooperation with various European structures: with the European Union and the European Commission. Tomorrow the yearly meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will open in Kazan. It is really quite near to where we are now. We welcome this event as well. We would like to thank the Bank’s leadership for having made the decision to meet in Russia again. And I am sure that this meeting will be just as successful as our meeting today.
Thank you very much for your attention.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation):
I think that it was good to sit down together today. We finished the first part of our work. In the second part we will be talking about foreign affairs. I would like to thank you once again for having invited us here. Given our agenda, it seems like it would be impossible not to notice that there are many issues on which we are working very intensively. For example, the fact that the European Union is Russia’s largest trading partner and that Russia is the EU’s third largest is evidence of just how intense our relations are.
In addition, this summit revealed that there are a great many problems that have accumulated and that we naturally talked about. At the same time, we have not always been able to convince each other of our opinions. However, I consider that it is always much better to talk to one another rather than about one another. And I think that it was a good idea to meet in the heart of Russia, to meet here in the beautiful Volga region. We had the opportunity to get a fleeting impression of the beauty of this region and its industrial capabilities.
I will say honestly that I would have preferred it if those who wanted to demonstrate today in Samara had been able to express their opinions and received the opportunity to do so. I am very concerned about the fact that there were some problems linked to entering here. But I hope that they will be able to express their opinions. I am speaking on behalf of all EU member states, and there are 27 of us.
We talked about our European-wide competences. The President of the European Commission will also say a few words on this topic. Let me just emphasise that we are naturally interested in discussing the partnership and cooperation agreement again and in beginning negotiations on this topic. This must happen. We have no doubts on this regard in the EU. But there were a couple of things that we talked about here during the meeting. There are issues within Europe’s competences that have not yet been resolved.
I am very supportive of the fact that we continue to cooperate in the energy sector. President Vladimir Putin talked about the possibility of eventually classifying European demand and in this respect we can think about what we can or cannot do together. There is a tangible readiness to cooperate in this sector.
I also think that we have good cooperation prospects with Europol in cross-border cooperation and research. We have the opportunity to enter into quite new territory here. In particular, I see prospects for cooperation within the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme. There are also good opportunities for cooperation within the GALILEO system that the Russian party mentioned today. And I think that, in this respect, there really are a lot of options and possibilities.
As EU President I can say on behalf of all 27 members that we are in full mutual understanding about the fact that we must have a strategic partnership. We hope that the unresolved issues of individual countries or other European-wide issues will be resolved in the near future.
I very highly value the fact that we had such an honest and open dialogue. This is the main prerequisite for successful negotiations and I am therefore very grateful to you.
During our working breakfast, we will talk about international policy matters. We will focus on Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East. We will make joint efforts on these issues.
President of The Eu Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (simultaneous translation):
I would like to thank President Putin and the Russian leadership for the hospitality that they have shown us here in Volzhsky Utyos, a beautiful corner of central Russia.
It is very important that we are holding this summit — this open, frank exchange of views. We recognise that there has been progress in many areas, particularly in our economic investment relations. There has been visible development in that respect. This is one of the reasons why we support Russia’s accession to the WTO.
Today Russia is the world’s only major economy that is not a WTO member and we are very supportive of the process by which Russia becomes a WTO member.
In addition, we are aware of significant progress in the dialogue relating to the free movement of citizens. In particular, we would highlight the agreement on simplifying visa procedures and on readmission. It will enter into force in June. It represents a significant success. We are also engaged in dialogue on a visa-free regime.
We would also emphasise the progress in our academic and cultural cooperation. Russia is one country outside the European Union that receives the most funding for research projects within a cooperation framework. And we consider this a success.
Of course, there are a number of important issues linked to the work we can do in the energy sector and in the fight against climate change. Especially in view of the forthcoming G8 summit that will soon take place in Germany under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
There has been significant progress in cross-border cooperation and we have managed to resolve some practical problems. We can consider this to represent positive developments.
Of course, difficulties remain. The question of Polish meat is a difficult one for us. We had the opportunity to tell our Russian partners that difficulties for an EU member amount to difficulties for the entire EU. The European Union is based on the principle of solidarity. We now have 27 members. And Poland’s problem is a pan-European problem. Just as Lithuanian or Estonian problems are problems for all of Europe. And in order to achieve real, positive, close cooperation, we need to understand that the European Union is based on the principle of solidarity. And I therefore believe that this issue must be resolved in a spirit of cooperation, in a constructive spirit.
We also examined the issues that concern us in the spheres of civil rights and human rights. We discussed these issues openly and honestly.
I hope that we can see progress on some of these issues. The European Union appreciates cooperation with Russia. We see Russia as our nearest neighbour and an important strategic partner. Thank you.
Question: Good afternoon. I have three quick questions: one for each leader. The first question is probably for Madam Merkel. We know that, ostensibly, as part of the preparations for the G8 summit there were a number of searches and raids on radical social organisations in German cities and quite coercive measures were used to disperse demonstrators. Please tell us the reason behind this brutality?
And a question for Mr Barroso. You are from Portugal. You are all too well aware of the meaning of fascism. What is the EU’s attitude to neo-fascism in general and to the fact that fascist monuments are being erected in some EU cities?
And finally, I have a question for President Putin. Vladimir Vladimirovich, do the Dissenters’ Marches disturb you? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to walk? In what way are they bothering you?
Thank you. Could you start by answering the last question?
Vladimir Putin: Dissenters’ Marches, as you said, take place not only in Russia; they also take place in virtually every other country in the world. In any case, in almost all of the world’s major cities. And generally people take to the streets not because they are approving the authorities’ actions but rather to express their opinion or to have the opportunity to make critical remarks or take on a critical position with respect to the actions of certain authorities. And Russia is not an exception in this regard. I am not bothered by these marches in any way. I believe that any such activities must take place within the existing legislative framework and not prevent other citizens from living a normal life. One must abide by the law and the requirements of the local authorities that define, and should define, the place that certain actions can take place in accordance with existing legislation. This refers both to Russia and to our EU partners. You yourself alluded to what happened in Tallinn, for example. It was not just that demonstrators were dispersed — a demonstrator was killed there. And it is not even the fact that an accident happened that was the issue. We are concerned by something else, by the fact that the person in question did not receive any help when he was injured. And he was dying right in front of the police. This constitutes a voluntary crime and we demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation): There will be big demonstrations in connection with the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in which thousands of peaceful demonstrators will take part, and there are no concerns that these demonstrations will not be able to take place. They will receive a great deal of support. For example, pop singers are already supporting it and others are as well.
The raids that were carried out were done so in connection with a very long pursuit of arsonists. The Prosecutor General’s Office in Germany examined this issue and investigated it. There is evidence to show that these criminal elements have a network throughout Germany.
This is an absolutely normal occurrence. As to demonstrations, including the ones in Hamburg, there will always be cases in which demonstrators themselves use force or violence and then the police must act. It is possible to have major demonstrations in Germany and they will certainly take place during the G8 summit.
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (simultaneous translation): You are correct regarding Portugal. But I am not here to represent my own country — I represent the European Union. But what you mentioned and the fact that I can remember a time when my country was not free (a democratic revolution took place in Portugal 18 years ago), have resulted in my sincere belief in democratic values. And not only for myself but also for the European Commission and the European Union. Democracy and freedom, the rule of law, and freedom of the person are all sacred principles. And that is why we condemn any manifestation of support for fascism or neo-fascism. We strongly condemn this. No country in the European Union supports fascism, or speaks favourably of fascism or neo-nazism. We are against any manifestation of support for such regimes. We fully support democratic development. It is for precisely that reason that we emphasise the importance of democracy, freedom of associations, and of demonstration. And that is why we are repeatedly required to express our concern when we see limitations imposed on these rights and freedoms. And for that reason we believe that it is very important that all European countries and Russia, a European country that is close to us and with whom we want to have common values, fully observe those principles and values.
Question: A question for the President of the Council of the European Union [Angela Merkel]. Do you have the impression that Russia really wants to draw closer to the European Union? Problems exist and you mentioned them. You probably were unable to resolve any of these problems. Do you perceive Russia as desirous to converge with the European Union?
And a question to Mr President [Vladimir Putin]. If you want to compare with the treatment of demonstrators in other countries, Mr Kasparov is now sitting at the airport because he does not have a passport — it was taken away. The police has seized computers. Why do you fear giving such a small crowd the opportunity to express its opinion?
Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation): In answer to the question of whether we want to work together (you asked about my impression of Russia), it is always difficult to transmit one’s impressions. I can say that we talked very constructively about a great many things. We saw evidence of the fact that we are very close to one another and that we have very close trade relations. For that reason we are also interested in reliable relations. We agreed on one thing that I consider to be very important in connection with the law on investments in strategic sectors that was discussed in the Duma. We agreed that the EU will engage in dialogue about this law. And of course this will determine both reliability and reciprocity, including with respect to Russian investments in Europe. In other words, this dialogue is tangible and visible. There are sectors in which dialogue is now difficult. The outcome depends on us. I can speak for the European Union when I say that we have the desire to overcome all these obstacles. We are well aware that we had problems in the EU but we will still be able to move forward. And time will tell. I consider that these obstacles are surmountable ones. And we have differences on certain accounts but it is good that we can now talk about them openly and honestly. And this will continue to be the case in the future.
Vladimir Putin: As to the suggestion that we were not able to agree on any issue, it is absolutely mistaken. We agreed on almost all issues, except for on the particularly sensitive problems that require further study and additional work. And in general these are issues that are in the economic self-interest of a certain European country, but as a whole they are always in the EU’s interests as well as in Russia’s interests. As I already mentioned, we agreed on border cooperation. We agreed on customs cooperation. We agreed on cooperation in combating crime. We agreed on the fight against illegal drugs. And there are yet many other agreements which will certainly benefit the citizens of the European Union and those of the Russian Federation.
True, we have not yet resolved the issue of Polish meat. Our Polish colleagues, our friends, have not talked to us for more than a year now — thank God that the German Chancellor is able to represent their interests. We are going to continue to work on this issue. Russian producers also have interests at stake. You understand that the EU engages in huge subsidies for its agriculture. Our producers could not even dream of such subsidies. And a product is tossed out of eastern European countries onto our market. We cannot yet cope with or resolve this problem. However, exporting agricultural products — and especially low quality ones — through EU countries, including through Poland from third countries, is unacceptable for us. We must engage in dialogue on how to resolve this problem. We are in favour of this, we are not against it. And we have accepted several proposals that Madam Federal Chancellor put forward and we will continue to work on this.
And now as to what we are afraid of and what we are not afraid of. You know, after seven years of work, after restoring the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, its defence capabilities have increased significantly, as have its democratic and governmental institutions. If we were to calculate in euros then we can say that the incomes of Russian citizens have quadrupled. They have doubled in real terms. We have nothing to fear from marginal groups. And especially not the very small ones we know about. But the law enforcement agencies implement preventative measures in all countries. Is that good or bad? I think that in many cases it is far from being justified. And we cited such examples today. And such examples also exist in Germany: arrests, detentions and so forth are a part of preventative measures. What happened in Hamburg? 146 people were detained. I think that in our case two hundred people gathered to demonstrate, and there as much as 160 were detained as a preventative measure. Is this good or bad? We talked with Madam Merkel today. I think that such actions by law enforcement agencies are far from always being justified. And certainly we — the people involved in public and political activities — bear responsibility for this. We are going to work with our law enforcement system. But I can assure you that everyone who wants to demonstrate in accordance with the existing legislation and not by violating the order or the laws of the Russian Federation, will benefit from the opportunity to do so. Many of them provoke the law enforcement agencies to use violence and force and this, of course, draws a predictable reaction from the police or, in our case, from the militia. We are going to work with our law enforcement agencies to in any case ensure that journalists have the opportunity to disseminate objective information.
Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation): I would like to say something about the Polish meat, to say one thing. The export of Polish meat and the protection of the consumer are matters incumbent to the European Union. As such, they are being debated at the European level with the appropriate commissioner and in cooperation with the responsible Polish officials. And as the current President of the European Union, I am responsible for the 27 member countries. It is not an internal Polish affair, rather, it is a pan-European issue that involves the European Union.
With regards to the demonstrators, I understand the issue very well. If demonstrators are using violence, throwing stones, breaking store windows or car windows, then of course it is important to limit their actions. I am not saying that we are questioning the state’s monopoly on power. However, if a person has not done anything and is simply on his way to a demonstration, then it is a different situation.
Question (simultaneous translation): If you recall three recent summits then there was one in Lahti and Politkovskaya was killed, then there was the Helsinki summit and Litvinenko was murdered, and the most recent example is the detention of Kasparov. How can this be reconciled with a strategic partnership?
Jose Manuel Barroso (simultaneous translation): Let us be honest. Difficulties exist, we discuss them honestly and openly; we discuss these difficulties candidly. Madam Chancellor and I discuss them openly with President Putin. But it is precisely because of these difficulties that we are interested in developing our dialogue. We have identified and highlighted the areas where there has been visible progress. There is significant progress in a number of areas. Difficulties remain in several other areas.
The Polish problem is an important one because it relates to EU exports. And this is very important for us. This is an EU export that cannot enter Russia. Compared with other countries, Europe has the highest standards for protecting the rights of consumers, the very highest. And for that reason meat from Poland can enter any other EU country. We have confidence in their system. They had certain problems and they made efforts to resolve them. We consider that there is no justification for the ban on Polish meat. If it were founded we would not let meat from Poland circulate in the European Union. Because we also want to protect our own consumers. This is a difficulty that we have faced with our Russian friends and partners.
Human rights are a constant topic in our discussions. This certainly is a serious problem. People are killed and we do not know who is responsible for this, or who is to blame. We declared in Helsinki that this is a cause for concern. Having said that, I must say that we believe it is in the interests of both Russia and the EU to develop their strategic partnership since we share common interests as neighbours. And it really is an important problem for us, an important international problem. And yesterday we started to discuss this issue and we will discuss it during the second half of our meeting today.
I think that the only way forward is to be honest, forthright and value the moments in which we can reach agreements. However, we must not allow the difficulties to pollute or contaminate — if I may put it that way — progress towards good collaboration. Our cooperation in many areas is positive cooperation. President Putin said so, I said so myself, and Madam Chancellor remarked that recently there is progress in a number of areas. If we were to compare (and I am taking part in the sixth or seventh summit with Russia) the situation today and that of three or four years ago, then you can see that our economies are more integrated. We trade more. The level of mutual investments is also higher. Therefore, I believe that the potential for further improving our relations in all these areas and in the interests of the Russian Federation and the EU exists.
Vladimir Putin: If possible, I would also like to make a few comments. As to preventative measures, the police and law enforcement agencies in European countries also operate on a preventative basis — they do not simply react to violence committed by demonstrators. And we know of examples in which there were anticipatory preventative arrests, very fresh examples — right now, the day before, very recently, a couple of days ago — though we are not going to point fingers. And for that reason I would repeat that it is a common problem. That is the first thing.
Second, the crimes that you mentioned. The murder of Politkovskaya, and the murder, the death, of Litvinenko. First of all, these must be investigated. And courts must make the appropriate decisions. And only then can one look for those responsible and draw conclusions.
But you again failed to mention the demonstrator who was killed in Tallinn. And it was not just a random killing, nor was it murder by negligence — it was a deliberate act. A person who was bleeding received no help and died. Let us not forget about that as well. And we are not using this as a justification for asking whether we need to develop strategic relations with the EU. I think that this would be baseless, unjustified.
The EU has other countries with which it cultivates strategic relationships. And there is the problem of Guantanamo and the problem of the death penalty, something that is not one the EU’s moral values. And yet you don’t question the need for developing a strategic partnership with those countries.
So let us not provoke anything. Both Russia and the EU are interested in developing their relations. And whether we like it or not they are still going to increase. 52 percent of Russia’s trade is with the EU. We provide a country such as, for example, Finland with 90 percent of its energy. And the amount we supply to other countries is growing. We are interested in this. Problems exist. Both in Russia and in the EU. We are ready to discuss and resolve these problems actively, openly and frankly.
Question: I have a question for Madam Merkel and President Putin. You are well-known as very pragmatic politicians. Yet in spite of this it seems that relations between Russia and the European Union have reached a dead end. Please say whether Europe is already ready to abandon Russian gas and whether Russia is ready to abandon European currency? Thank you.
Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation): I do not agree with you. On the contrary, the entire programme we talked about today demonstrates that we are not only cooperating very intensively, but that we are also starting to cooperate in different and new fields. We talked about railway communications and about cooperation in scientific research. We both understand that European and Russian enterprises must have equal opportunities on their corresponding markets when developing deposits and other resources. We want to cooperate. We want to take stock of the demand for energy and other things in the near future. And therefore there can be no discussion of a dead end. We have difficulties that we are talking about, that we are discussing, and if such difficulties can not be overcome then we might have difficulty finding a shared path. Everything is just as we have reported here. I see that we need a strategic partnership because we are already within a strategic partnership. We will develop it further.
Vladimir Putin: I am ready to sign underneath every word that Madam Federal Chancellor said. We need each other. We are cooperating with one another and will continue to cooperate in the future. We are ready for an open and honest dialogue between Russia and the European Union. And today's summit once again confirmed that we are on the right track. Thank you very much.
Question (simultaneous interpretation): Mr Putin, the discussion on human rights shows that there is a debate in Germany on the issue of whether Mr Putin is a pure democrat. Why do you think doubts have surfaced in Europe as to your capacities to be a democrat? And do you see yourself as a pure democrat? And is it your goal to be seen as such?
And another question for Mrs Merkel, and to you, Mr Putin. What concrete steps are you planning to improve your relationship with your direct neighbours, with Poland and the Baltic States?
Vladimir Putin: You asked a very good question. Thank you for that.
What is pure water? What is pure blood? What in today's world could be pure German or pure Russian, without impurities? (You know that in Russia they say: “If you scratch a Russian you’ll find a Tatar”. And this is especially topical in the region we are in.)
What is pure democracy? Where can you find it? I already answered your colleague: do we have pure democrats somewhere in the world, or in Germany itself? It is always a question of political judgment and a desire to see the glass half-full or half-empty.
I would like to once again emphasise that we want to work together with our European partners. We are interested in one another. And this process will continue independently of whether someone wants it or doesn’t. Our task and the task of people engaged in political activities is to support this development in the interest of millions of people.
And as to neighbours, you know that you do not choose your neighbours. We have lived together for centuries, if not for millennia, and we will continue to live together. Despite the difficulty of neighbour relations and the fact that our interests are sometimes exclusive, we are going to look for solutions. I am confident that we will find them. And if some of our other partners in Europe can act as mediators for both us and our neighbours than that is a good thing. We would not refuse this. But of course direct dialogue is always better. We want to engage in such work and will continue to do so.
Angela Merkel (simultaneous translation): With regards to direct dialogue, I can only subscribe to that thought. We really have moved forward. I think that today the Lithuanian parliament ratified a border treaty with Russia. The Lithuanian parliament ratified the treaty. We have always advocated that people speak directly to one another. And it seems to me that we are continuing to do so. Neighbourhood policy on a global level is always a topic that the EU and Russia discuss intensively. We will talk about this during our working breakfast. And we are more referring to our southern neighbours than to our eastern or northern ones.
Question (simultaneous translation): President Putin has made certain reproaches to the Estonian institutions. He talked about the fact that one demonstrator was allowed to die. Addressing Jose Manuel Barroso: Do you agree with this? And what do you think the reaction of the Estonian authorities should be? Do you think that the Estonian government made the correct decision to relocate the monument to the Soldier Liberator shortly before the celebrations for the end of World War Two?
And another question for President Putin. You emphasised that it is important to you that relations between the EU and Russia operate on the same level. And here is my question: do you think that this was not the case before, that you were not on the same level? Thank you.
Jose Manuel Barroso (simultaneous translation): The Estonian problem, the Estonian issue, does not fall within the competences of our commission but I will nevertheless answer the question.
These issues, these historical issues, are very sensitive and sometimes very painful. The European Commission believes that all countries should deal with these issues in an atmosphere of moderation, by showing respect and an understanding of how sensitive these problems are. That said, I must point out that it is, of course, the government’s sovereign decision to decide what monuments it wants to or doesn’t want to have. Russia also makes certain decisions in this regard. For example, Russia has renamed certain cities. There used to be a Leningrad, a Stalingrad, and the names of other towns have changed as well. This is Russia’s right. And Estonia also has the right to change names, to change monuments and memorials but, at the same time, if you asked the European Union we would say: be careful, discuss these issues. These issues are very sensitive and delicate and should therefore be treated with caution. That is our position.
As to what occurred in Estonia, we consider that the Estonian authorities made all the appropriate decisions with respect to the judicial system, and that is important. Crimes do happen. Crimes are committed in all countries. And when a given crime occurs it is important that the authorities fight against these crimes using all available mechanisms in accordance with the rule of law. I consider that the Estonian authorities are now acting very clearly and forcefully to overcome the difficulties that have arisen. Again I think that one must act with great care and very cautiously when dealing with historical issues. And we must first and foremost try to look towards the future, to consider our interests. And I think that such an approach is in the interests of the European Union and certainly in Russia’s interests as well.
I would like to say something else. In Europe we are very respectful of the struggle of the Russian people — and I must say the Soviet Union because it was the Soviet Union — we are very respectful of the fight against Nazism. And we respect the contribution the Soviet Union made within the struggle against Nazism. Together with other EU representatives I was in Moscow to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War. And we have enormous respect for the huge sacrifices of the Russian people during their struggle against the Nazi threat in Europe.
And since I am here I would once again like to state very clearly — this is a consistent and clear position of all EU institutions and all EU governments — our respect and our gratitude for the sacrifices that the Russian—Soviet people made in the struggle against Nazism.
Vladimir Putin : We know the EU’s position. We constantly hear about the need for solidarity. We talked about this very frankly today. My colleagues will not be offended that I also asked whether there were any limits to this solidarity. Since there are some issues that must still be resolved from within. But on the whole we are satisfied with how our relations with the EU are developing over the entire period of our cooperation.
Moreover, you know that at the beginning of the 1990s I worked in Leningrad, St Petersburg. And I am very aware of how difficult it was for us. How difficult it was for the city’s residents and, more generally, for the residents of country whose domestic economy had almost entirely collapsed, as had the normal mechanisms for supplying the population with the most essential products. And I remember how EU countries helped us, how Germany helped us (I myself met ships from Germany at the time), and how other EU countries helped us. We must not forget about this. That is the first thing.
Second. Now, of course, the situation has changed radically. And not simply because Russia has changed. Russia’s economic potential has increased: it has been restored and continues to develop. Russia is ranked tenth — and by some counts ninth — on the list of the most economically developed countries of the world. According to various estimates we hold the second place in Europe for attracting investments after the Federal Republic of Germany. Our opportunities have increased. They have become more significant. But the EU has also changed. The number of EU member states has increased. And of course it became more difficult to resolve issues within the EU that had previously been easier to resolve. We understand this. And we sympathise with the EU leadership. But we must defend our interests as professionally as our colleagues do — as professionally as my colleagues who are sitting on my left and on my right.
We are always being criticized for the fact that we have not yet ratified the Energy Charter — this is one of the sharpest issues in our discussions. True, we have not done this. But the EU has failed to fulfil its obligations contained in the Charter. The EU should have liberalised the market for nuclear materials in 1997. According to the Charter we should have been allowed access. Yet nothing was done. In fact, there are quite a few such issues. But they are routine ones.
Or issues concerning the deliveries of agricultural products. But are there few disputes on agricultural issues in the European Union itself, within the EU? Or on agricultural problems between the EU and, shall we say, other countries on the American continent? There are also enough of those. But what is the link between deliveries of meat from an EU member country and, for example, joint space activities? Poland is not involved in the space sector the way, for example, France or the Federal Republic are involved. But it is clear that shared principles must exist. We respect this attitude of our EU partners.
I can not say whether anything has become better or worse, it has simply become more difficult. But we are satisfied with the quality of our relations with the EU. And when we talk about equal rights we mean that we expect that our dialogue will take into account the interests of both Russia and the EU and that we will find a compromise that satisfies both sides. Today’s summit has supported this.