Angela Merkel: We met yesterday and today for intergovernmental consultations. This time we invited you to Germany after our last meeting in Tomsk. We invited you to Wiesbaden, a city which has very close links with Russia. During the last centuries, more Russian citizens have come here than to any other German city, and it was the ideal place for intergovernmental consultations. Therefore I would like to thank the city of Wiesbaden and the federal land of Hessen for this opportunity.
Last night we talked about a lot of political topics. Today, we have participated in the Petersburg Dialogue Civic Forum, and then our ministers had intergovernmental consultations. It is clear that the strategic partnership between Russia and Germany is very much alive. There are a very large number of joint actions, in the context of the Petersburg Dialogue Civic Forum and at the level of civil society. I listened with great interest to the reports of working groups, in which a large number of people came together to discuss the situation of non-governmental organizations, the church, issues involved in building democracy in our countries, and youth exchanges, which for me personally are very important. Following the forum, we held intergovernmental consultations in which we included almost all the ministers from both parties, and it was obvious that both at the level of foreign and internal security we have a very close relationship, as our ministers of the interior and defense informed us.
Obviously economic cooperation constitutes the core of our working relations. I would also include academic research in this category. The increase in our volume of trade is simply breathtaking: last year it rose by more than 35%. In addition, we have signed a whole range of interesting agreements. The structure of our economic cooperation is changing, moving towards greater diversification. Of course, Germany is a country that buys its gas and oil from Russia, and these sectors play a significant role. Apart from that, cooperation has become much stronger in many other areas such as the automotive industry. Here we are planning a great deal of closer cooperation with Russia, and this will of course be at an entirely new level. I am very pleased that today we have taken the first significant steps towards cooperation in the field of scientific research. Here I am referring to the projects in Hamburg and Darmstadt, to our cooperation there. Concerning economic cooperation we can now report that we have initiated collaboration in the field of aircraft construction and in other areas.
Of course, we exchanged views on various foreign policy issues. I was happy to hear that Russia is now in the final phase of accession to the WTO. I think that this is very important for Russia’s economic situation. And, of course, we talked about topics such as the conflict in the Middle East and Kosovo. Very complex negotiations are now taking place within the troika [Russia, the European Union, the United States]. We talked about Iran, its nuclear programme, and, of course, we also discussed the issue of dialogue between the United States and Russia. And we emphasised once again, as did our defence ministers, the importance of the NATO-Russia Council as a useful forum for making progress on such issues. Overall, these working days have been very busy. We talked about how inextricably linked our economies and our countries are and about our strategic partnership. We had the opportunity to engage in an open and sincere dialogue, to talk about what binds us together, and of course to say what differentiates us.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Madam Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I fully agree with the assessment made by the Federal Chancellor of the outcome of our negotiations. The heads of departments, experts and ministers have done their work productively. We have thoroughly analysed what has been accomplished since our last meeting in Tomsk.
Most importantly, the dialogue with our German partners focused on specific results. And the primary frame of reference for our work has been the socio-economic interests of the citizens of Russia and Germany and, together with this, the welfare and prosperity of the whole of Europe and its peaceful and sustainable development.
I note that Russia and Germany have offered a good example, a large-scale example of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation. I would draw to your attention that, in the first half of this year, our trade volume increased by 13,5% to 22,7 billion dollars, when compared to the same period in 2006. This means that for the whole year we shall have – well, you can figure it out. German investment in the Russian economy has been growing year after year, including the energy sector.
You have just attended the signing of one of the agreements: E.ON, Germany’s largest company, is investing 6 billion dollars (4 billion euros) in Russia’s largest electricity company, a company that oversees a series of large generating stations. This is an important step for us, a responsible step, which proves that we are open to liberalising our economy and that we are not going to cut ourselves off from the world. One of these power stations linking Siberia to Moscow is the largest in Europe. This is a good example of our collaboration, especially in the fields of energy and investment.
Today, we were again talking about massive new investments. The multilateral North Stream pipeline project will proceed according to schedule. Its implementation is in the interests of Russia and its European partners.
Concluding our consultations, I said that our economies complement each other quite well. We have not tried to overwhelm the European market by dumping goods there; we supply those goods that are most necessary for the development of the Russian and German economies. And where we join efforts in the high-tech areas, all of our actions are aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of our businesses in world markets.
In modern Russia we are successfully implementing priority national projects in health, education, agriculture and housing construction. Our construction sector has been growing quickly, at an annual rate of 15%, and this year's growth is 25 or even 30%. It is now approaching a so-called construction boom. Certainly, the opportunities for our German partners are very great. All these areas also are open to our German colleagues, as well as the projects for close cooperation in high-tech fields I mentioned earlier.
Russia is dealing with the challenge of innovative development. Now we have the power and the means to do it. Here, the involvement of our foreign partners is obvious, as is our own involvement. Today we witnessed the signing of a number of documents, but these documents and these projects are just the beginning for our plans in this area.
This year Russia has displayed its impressive technical capabilities at the International Trade Fair for Information Technology and Telecommunications in Hanover, as one of the main partner countries, as well as at the International Industry Fair.
Russian presentations have become very telling evidence that our country is participating more actively in the international division of labor and the technology of the future. And the Federal Republic for us is not only a venue for displaying Russia’s accomplishments but the target for an innovative partnership.
As Madam Chancellor has said, we have devoted quite a lot of attention to the international agenda. We are convinced that globalization should not become global instability, and we shall work together to ensure that it does not.
The discussion focused on the problems in the Middle East, the situation in Afghanistan and in the Balkans, as well as the current state of Iran’s nuclear programme. An important focus for us is the joint efforts with our German partners in the fight against terrorism. I note that we exchange information on this subject on a continuous basis.
We spoke in detail about the cooperation between the European Union and Russia and about military cooperation, including with NATO. We agreed that the best model for such relationships is an equitable, reciprocal partnership characterized by mutual respect.
Here I would also mention the extreme usefulness of our exchange of views on the future of Russian-EU relations on the eve of the 20th Russia-EU summit, which will take place at the end of October in Portugal.
We have thoroughly reviewed the possibility of further expanding cooperation in the educational and cultural spheres. In this regard, I would like to point out the outstanding contribution made by the Petersburg Dialogue Civic Forum, in which we took part. The forum has taken on the role of a think tank for the development and enhancement of the dialogue between civil societies, links with non-governmental organisations and improving contacts among people. We shall continue to actively support the work of this forum.
In conclusion, I wish to thank Madam Chancellor and all our colleagues for working together so effectively, the government of Hessen and the administration and the residents of Wiesbaden for their hospitality.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: The first question for Mr President. Mr President, there is some confusion in the announcements made by various news agencies about whether you are going to Iran or not. And the second question for Mr President and Madam Chancellor. What expectations to you have for the visit to Iran?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all I would like to say that the visit to Iran was planned long ago. It primarily deals with cooperation among the states on the Caspian Sea. There is a summit of Caspian states scheduled, five countries: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran. The previous meeting was held in Turkmenistan. That was a few years ago, and we agreed that the next summit would be held in Tehran. That is the first thing.
Secondly, during the meetings with the Iranian leadership, of course we will discuss issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme. And in that regard, I would like to say this: I hope that many will agree with me that in order to solve this problem, and solve it by peaceful means, there are examples we can follow. Most recently, you will recall, we had emotionally charged discussions about North Korea's nuclear programme and we can now see positive developments on the Korean peninsula in this regard. There we called for patience and, step by step, looked for solutions like the ones we are now finding. We believe the same approach needs to be used with respect to Iran's nuclear programme. Trying to scare someone, in this case the Iranian leadership or the Iranian people, is hopeless. They are not afraid, believe me. But practicing patience and seeking a way out can work and must work. Can we do it without engaging in a dialogue with the Iranian people or the Iranian government? I think it’s impossible or unlikely. If we have the chance to follow up on these direct contacts, we will do so, hoping for a positive collaborative result, and I emphasise — collaborative — result. For these reasons Russia has worked and will continue to work with its partners in the United States and Europe to reach a common goal.
ANGELA MERKEL: Yes, it is a very clear action plan, which we agreed upon in New York. For the EU, it means talks between Solana and Larijani. These are talks that should take place. In addition, I think that in the same spirit Mr President will say to the Iranian president that there must be transparency, that Iran must follow what is prescribed in the resolutions of the UN and the international community. And if it does not, then it will be necessary to impose additional sanctions. But we will do everything to keep Iran on the path of cooperation with the IAEA, so that they comply with the demands of the world community. In this way we are on the same course, although we present it in different ways. And if all this doesn’t work, then we will need to adopt new sanctions, but there is a chance that the negotiations will make progress.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have not responded to your first question, am I going to Iran or not. Of course I am going to Iran. If I always paid attention to different threats or the recommendations of the security services, I would never leave my house. The security services have to do their job, while Madam Chancellor, and I, and our other colleagues must fulfill our responsibilities, and we will certainly do so.
Question: I have a question for both leaders. You were discussing investment in each other’s countries, the level of which, at least for Russian companies, is not very high. I get the impression that Europe isn’t exactly waiting for Russian business.
Here I would like to request a clarification from Mr Putin. Please tell me why Russia has not responded adequately, has not imposed any bans, for example?
And a question for Madam Merkel. The future of the North European Gas Pipeline project is currently being discussed, and some are suggesting that this project is going to fold. Please tell us how you see this situation developing? Thank you.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thus far we have not seen any serious restrictions on Russian investment. It’s all more of an emotional or psychological question. Thus far no institutional decisions limiting our investment in Europe have been taken, although this has been discussed, and of course even this discussion affects cooperation adversely. This is obvious. We think retaliatory responses in these circumstances would be inappropriate and harmful, harmful not only to our partners but also for ourselves.
ANGELA MERKEL: In Germany, there is a very open investment climate, one in which nobody prevents anybody from investing. We are talking about investments that are in the interests of national security. We are engaged in a discussion about whether we need additional protection there. There have been similar debates in Russia, where such laws have been discussed. For example, the Duma is currently discussing a law on strategic investment in strategic industries. I can say that we are happy with the Russian investment here. And it’s taking place.
Regarding the North European Gas pipeline, we took this up in great detail during our intergovernmental consultations. From a political standpoint, we want this project to succeed. Where there are problems we can only help if it can be dealt with at the political level. Concerning investment, that is being decided at the economic level. There is no need for us to take action at the moment. I assume that we will be able to agree and eliminate the difficulties that exist, for example as regards the transit countries. On the German side there is a desire to finish the project and make it economically viable.
Question: Madam Chancellor, you talked to Mr President yesterday and I wanted to ask you this question: did he say in what capacity he would sit across from you at the next G8 meeting?
And a question for the Russian President. The Prosecutor General recently told you that the Politkovskaya murder case is closed – we heard about this in the Russian press. However, now it would seem that the case is not at all closed. How can you explain the fact that the Prosecutor said something that wasn't true?
Angela Merkel: I assume that specific decisions are announced in due time, at least this is true for me, so I l try to use the gift of patience.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, with regards to the investigation of so-called high-profile cases, including the Politkovskaya murder. Yes, the Prosecutor General's office announced that the case is in its final, concluding phase. I think this is correct. The real question is who ordered this murder, because the implementers and those who participated actively in preparing this crime are obvious. They are providing conclusive evidence.
Some detainees have been released, that is true. This obviously tells us something about the quality of the investigation but, in general, they are on the right track. Of course I do not think that in investigations of this kind you need to rush unduly and communicate the results ahead of time – you first need to close the case. And when that happens, we can be satisfied, satisfied when a decision is taken by the appropriate court. Until the court has made its decision all are presumed innocent. This, I think, is clear to any even partially educated lawyer in Germany or in Russia. In Russia, as in Germany, there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But the investigation is, in my opinion, on the right track.
Now, about whether I will or will not participate. I increasingly encounter this type of issue in government activities, in politics, and so on. Just look at how political life is proceeding in other countries. For example, your neighbors, Great Britain, had one Prime Minister leave and another one came. The most important person in executive power changed without elections having been called. And this was clearly done so that the party in power could stay in power. And there are other examples of this kind.
In Russia we are going to follow not only the letter but also the spirit of our Constitution. But this certainly does not mean that representatives of the existing political authorities do not have the right to participate in the life of their country. And only Russian citizens, Russian voters, can determine who and to what extent can take part in this work.
In my opinion, that is not the issue – it is obvious that we abide by the law, by the Constitution, and the fundamental principles of democracy – the issue is not whether we are respecting this or not. When people are interested in this topic it is most likely that they appreciate the results of the work done by your humble servant and the people who have worked with me in recent years. And perhaps the steady development of the Russian Federation is not to everyone's liking.
But in answer to these people I can say that there is no reason to worry about whether Russia is going to be able to stand tall, about the growth of its economic and military power, and about the increase of its social opportunities. That is the first thing. Second, it would not be possible for anyone to stop this growth. And third, you need to use this to cooperate and to benefit from working with Russia.
Question: A question for Mr President and Madam Chancellor. Do you agree with some of the results of polls in Germany, in which the majority of citizens are wary of Russia? And this despite the fact that we can see, it's no secret, that businessmen and ordinary people communicate very well with each other. What kind of policy could change the results of such surveys? Because if policy does not improve relations, then this could become a trend in both countries.
Angela Merkel: First of all, I think that we should always react cautiously to polls. Surveys are very, very fragile things: a lot depends on just how the question is asked. Secondly, I am deeply convinced that our cooperation should have a broad base. This includes intergovernmental consultations. They involve not just Mr President and Madam Chancellor, but the entire government. This involves cooperation between regions, and cooperation between towns. We just signed a new agreement between two partner cities, Perm and Duisburg. Many people know each other. That is why I think the Petersburg Dialogue is such an important forum, because it is precisely within this forum that a very large number of people are able to disagree with one another, share their views with each other, and exchange opinions in order to better understand one another. And the more this happens, the less emotionally we will talk about key topics on which our opinions do not coincide, and the better we will be able to cooperate with each other.
Therefore, I believe that precisely the Petersburg Dialogue Civic Forum is a very good forum because it allows people to get to know each other outside of the political context. Secondly, I believe that youth exchanges are very important, because when you have lived in another country when you are young, your whole life benefits. It is a bonus, it is always a bonus. And let's not forget economic relations. People get to know each other. They have friends, they have acquaintances. If you ask a German manager at any level how often he has been to Russia or what he knows about Russia, you will see that his response will be very telling. And what we need to do is simply to transfer this to other levels: workers, employees. And then we shall see that there will be far less prejudice and less things that people are afraid of. If we look at the history of German and Russian relations, we can see that they have always been very intense. As Mr President just said, if there is fear, if there is concern, we need to talk about it, and for that reason it is good that we have such regular contacts.
Vladimir Putin: We do need to think about improving our relations, but I honestly do not know exactly what we should improve. Personally, I am very pleased to see how our relationship with Madam Federal Chancellor has developed. We have a very trusting relationship and I want to emphasise this: it is business-like and trusting. We simply do not have any taboos, no topics that are off-limits. Yet I do think that we are very honest with each other as we discuss any issue, and I have the impression that we understand each other, even if we do not always agree. In any case, the dynamic is obvious: we do not, I repeat, have a false side to our contacts, and I truly value this.
With respect to what else we can do, as Madam Federal Chancellor just said, we can create the conditions for direct contacts between those engaged in business, between ordinary citizens, and remove the barriers that still exist. And in this respect we certainly have a very long way to go. But the very fact that we are gathered here today, and almost the entire Russian Government is here and we see just as many of our German colleagues, bears witness to what we are trying to do. And I want to reassure you that we are going to continue doing so in the future.
Thank you very much.