Vladimir Putin: Madam Federal Chancellor! Dear Mr Barroso! Dear Colleagues! Ladies and gentlemen!
I am glad to meet with you once again and I would first of all like to thank my colleagues, the leaders of the European Union and EU President Madam Angela Merkel, for their constructive approach towards discussing a whole range of issues.
In fact, we already began speaking about almost all issues yesterday evening.
As you can see, we are expanding the geography of our relations in Russia. Last year the European Union delegation was able to visit Sochi, a Russian resort on the Black Sea coast. This time we have invited you to the heart of the Volga region, another dynamic region of the Russian Federation.
A significant part of our country’s history is linked with the Volga, a river that flows from the easternmost part of our shared continent. Its banks are inhabited by different peoples that have lived in peace and harmony for many centuries, people that are developing their cultures, traditions and, at the same time, certainly consider themselves Russians. The Volga region also concentrates a significant part of Russia’s industrial and intellectual power. Many important enterprises and research centres are situated here. I am convinced that, along with its sizeable economic potential, this region offers excellent opportunities for developing tourism. And I believe that we were both convinced of that yesterday evening. Russian citizens have long appreciated the beauty of the Volga and I hope that, in the near future, citizens of EU member states will be able to enjoy it as well. The agreement on simplifying the visa regime and readmission that will enter into force on 1 June 2007 is supposed to help in this respect. And eventually I hope that the citizens of Russia and the European Union will be able to travel without visas to each other’s countries.
Our meeting today provides us with a good opportunity to continue our dialogue on strategic Russia-EU relations. We are keenly aware of the need to coordinate our efforts to counter the global threats and challenges that carry increasing potential for conflict not only in our continent, but in the whole world. We intend to have a frank open discussion, without excluding any possibilities that would help our relations develop further, provide them with a new stimulus, and help us overcome any problems that arise.
I would like to thank you for your attention.
That was what I wanted to say at the beginning. I would ask Madam Merkel to please say a few words. Please go ahead.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (back translation from simultaneous translation into Russian): Thank you very much for receiving us in the Volga region. This is the nineteenth EU-Russia summit meeting. These meetings are a good tradition and give us the opportunity to speak openly about all issues, about what we have already achieved, and about what we still need to achieve.
I think that from a strategic perspective we have a large number of areas — in addition to those in which we are already cooperating today — in which we can cooperate in the future. I am thinking first and foremost about cooperation in the energy sector, in research, but also in the resolution of international conflicts. Today we will certainly use both the session and the working breakfast to continue to talk about what we mentioned yesterday and new ones as well. We need to define concrete steps that will allow us to address more topics that we should be addressing as well as talk about how we are going to respond to global challenges. I am thinking about protecting the environment and conserving energy.
I think that it is important to say a few words today about the situation in our neighbouring countries, in regions that border the EU and are linked to Russia. I am referring to the Black Sea region and Central Asia, which have been incorporated within the geopolitical good-neighbour relations that exist between Russia and the EU.
And, therefore, we have many issues that we can talk about and I very much welcome the fact that today we are in a region that was previously unknown to us and that we can now refer to when back in Europe. This region used to be made up of closed cities.
I thank you very much for this meeting and welcome the upcoming constructive consultations. Thank you.
President of the European Commission Jose Manual Barroso (back translation from simultaneous translation into Russian): Thank you very much for hosting this meeting after last year's meeting in Sochi. We are now able to once again discover a new beautiful region of Russia, the Volzhsky Utyos. Thank you very much for the invitation and for this opportunity.
The European Union and Russia are committed to strengthening their strategic partnership. Our long-term objective is clear: to build a better future for our peoples, to deepen economic integration and closer cooperation and, in addition, to resolve global challenges such as problems in the energy sector and with respect to climate change. These goals are supported by our shared responsibilities, the ones that we have committee to upholding, namely, support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
I think we can say that we have engaged in good cooperation in the four common spaces. Cooperation is increasing on all levels and I think that we can now bring our cooperation to a significantly new level. In my opinion, this is particularly important with respect to relations between people. There are a number of areas in which we have recently achieved significant progress. For example, the agreement on simplifying visa formalities and readmission will shortly enter into force and we have also made good progress in science, culture and education. It seems to me that this summit can play an important role in achieving objectives in both these and in other areas. Again, I want to say how pleased I am to have the opportunity to participate in this meeting here in Russia.