President of Portugal Anibal Cavaco Silva: I would like to wish the President of the Russian Federation a warm welcome. I ask President Putin to make himself at home in Portugal during this visit, which has two aspects: a bilateral visit, and the summit between the European Union and Russia.
Although a huge geographical distance separates Portugal and the Russian Federation, our countries have excellent bilateral relations and we wish to continue developing these relations.
Our relations have shown very positive and dynamic development, especially since the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement in Moscow in 1994.
The dynamic growth in our bilateral trade is the best proof of the good relations between our countries, as, in the area of culture, is the exhibition that we will open today, the exhibition of works from the State Hermitage Museum’s collection.
Russia and the European Union are the main players on the international stage ensuring and contributing to strengthening and promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity, and this is why Portugal will always make every effort to ensure that Russia and the European Union remain engaged in far-reaching dialogue.
During the Portuguese presidency of the European Union we will continue our efforts to expand and deepen the all-encompassing dialogue between the European Union and the Russian Federation in order to create the climate of trust that we consider so important. We hope that the summit tomorrow in Mafra will make an important contribution to creating this climate of trust.
Once again, Mr President, welcome to Portugal, and allow me to say how happy we are with your visit.
President Vladimir Putin: For my part, I would like to thank the President for his invitation and for the fact that Portugal is receiving Russia today (and tomorrow too) as a partner of the European Union.
Today we will have the opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations. I remind you that the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement mentioned by the President, was signed in 1994, when the President held the post of prime minister and signed this very agreement on the Portuguese Government’s behalf. Since that time, relations between our countries have indeed shown a great deal of change for the better.
We can see today that there are no issues between us awaiting urgent resolution and nothing that could cast a shadow over our relations.
Our trade and economic ties are growing. We are in constant contact on political issues and international affairs and our positions are very close on many different issues.
Our humanitarian contacts are developing and there is increasing interest in our countries’ languages, increasing interest in the Portuguese language in Russia, and in the Russian language in Portugal.
The Slavic School recently opened its doors with an initial intake of 120 students.
We hope very much that student exchanges, exchanges between leading museums and between universities, institutes and other higher educational establishments will develop and expand.
The number of Russians visiting Portugal doubled last year.
It is my hope that direct contacts between our citizens will expand. I hope very much that the friendly atmosphere our hosts have created, and that characterises our relations, will continue tomorrow at the Russia-EU summit and that it will help us to achieve positive results in our work with our European colleagues.
Question: Russia and Portugal are at opposite ends of the European continent. How does this geographical situation affect the vision of the European continent’s future? How does Portugal, as the country presiding over the European Union, view various aspects of cooperation between Russia and the EU, including the issue of visa-free travel and Russian investment in the EU countries?
Vladimir Putin: Regarding the fact that Russia and Portugal are at opposite ends of Europe, there is saying in Russia: ‘It’s a small world’. If the world as a whole is a small world, Europe is really a tiny continent. We are at opposite ends of this continent but it is our common continent. Of course, from a modern logistics point of view and from the point of view of traditional forms of trade, the geographical distance does involve certain costs, but logistics is improving all the time, and modern trade is developing along new lines. If we look at investment activity, for example, distance in general is of no importance and there is no distance between Russia and Portugal that would prevent us from developing our relations. The question is not one of distance but of the level of trust and the conditions for our companies’ activities in European countries, including in Portugal, and for foreign companies’ activities in Russia. Russia will do everything to raise this level of trust and to put in place the most modern and reliable conditions in order to encourage our partners to work on the Russian market. We hope that these efforts will be mutual, of course. The fewer the barriers, including visa barriers, the better. But these issues need to be settled on a mutual basis.
Anibal Cavaco Silva: I would like to add to what Mr Putin just said and recall that diplomatic relations between our countries were first established in the mid-eighteenth century. Over these long years we have never had any serious differences. There are most certainly a lot of areas of common ground between the EU and Russia, areas where the two sides can work together. During its presidency of the EU, Portugal will do everything it can to resolve any remaining problems and misunderstandings in the different areas in which the EU and Russia work together through more intensive dialogue and creating a particular climate of trust. At the meeting which has just taken place we analysed the potential opportunities that still exist for developing bilateral economic relations between our countries. We hope very much that Mr Putin’s visit to Portugal today will help give Portuguese entrepreneurs a better understanding of Russia and encourage them to invest in Russia, and also help encourage Russian businesspeople to invest Portugal. We in Portugal are always open for investment. As I said, we analysed the development opportunities and they are many, whether in tourism or in investment. There is still a lot we can do.
Question: Both Presidents have noted the excellent relations between our countries, but relations between Russia and the EU have been at their lowest point of late, it seems, since the end of the Cold War. My question for President Putin is: what prospects do you see for settling these divisive issues in our relations, above all the Kosovo issue and the Iranian nuclear issue?
Vladimir Putin: I do not think that our relations are in such a lamentable state. Yes, there are issues on which our positions do not coincide as yet. But as I said quite frankly to the President, and I will say just as frankly to you now, our position on these two particular issues is quite succint. Sometimes it seems to me that in our discussions with our colleagues from the European Commission we are defending European interests more than our opponents.
Take the Kosovo issue: our position is based on the fundamental principle in international law of respect for countries’ territorial integrity.
Now take a look at what is happening in Europe. Do you think that Spain, for example, does not have enough problems to deal with, or that Romania does not face potential problems, or Belgium, which currently faces problems of its own? If we look at the Balkans in general, the region where Kosovo and the other entities that have emerged from the Yugoslav collapse are all located, we see that there are plenty of similar problems there. In this situation, is it really worth rocking the foundations of international law by inciting and developing separatism? And the same applies to the post-Soviet area too. Is it not better to be patient and work within the existing international laws to find solutions acceptable to all the parties to the conflicts?
With regard to Iran and its nuclear issues, we categorically oppose any violation of the fundamental provisions of international law on non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
This was reiterated during my visit to Tehran. Moreover, it was set out in the document signed by all of the Caspian nations, including Iran. This was achieved during my visit to Tehran. Why exacerbate the situation now, pushing it towards deadlock and threatening sanctions and military action? Only a short time ago it seemed as though it would be impossible to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, but peaceful means were found nonetheless and we are now well on the road towards settling this problem. I do not think that running around like a madman with a razor, brandishing it in all directions, is the best way to resolve problems of this kind.
Anibal Cavaco Silva: The issues of Kosovo and the Iranian nuclear programme were on the agenda not just at our meeting today. I think that these matters will also be discussed at the summit in Mafra tomorrow. I hope very much that tomorrow’s summit will send constructive and positive signal that we have found common ground that will raise the prospects for our continued cooperation.