Russian President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen! We have just completed our talks with the Dutch Prime Minister and his colleagues.
First, I want to say that this is the first visit to Russia by a Dutch head of state, which is in itself significant. And I want to point out that it has been very dynamic and substantive, and we discussed a whole range of issues of mutual interest.
Since my visit to the Netherlands in 2005, we have accomplished a lot.
The volume of trade between our countries has increased substantially. The Netherlands has become our second most important trading and economic partner, after the Federal Republic of Germany: our trade will be 42 billion dollars this year.
Our investment cooperation is growing. The Netherlands is the second largest investor in Russia: 34 billion [dollars]. In the first half of this year alone, the inflow from the Netherlands was 12 billion dollars.
Energy, machinery, high-tech, energy-saving technology, culture, science and education, these are the areas where we are actively developing our cooperation.
Our relations in the sphere of energy have gained new quality after today’s signing of an agreement between Gazprom and Gazunie. The participation of the Dutch company in the North European Gas Pipeline project makes it truly multilateral and, of course, creates better conditions for the realization of the project. But in addition to this project, there is the long-term potential for cooperation between Russian energy and Dutch energy companies in their various activities in Europe, and perhaps in third countries.
In 2005, the Council for Business Cooperation was created. This evening we will have the opportunity to meet with members of the Council and the leaders of the companies in both countries and to discuss practical issues of cooperation.
I hope that we will soon be signing a new joint programme of action for 2008–2010.
Partners will also meet within the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation.
As I said, our cooperation is not confined to economic spheres. As is well known, the largest affiliate of the Hermitage Museum operates actively and successfully in the Netherlands.
The national culture days of Russia in Holland and the days of Dutch culture in Russia, called “A Dutch Window on Russia”, were very successful, particularly in St Petersburg.
Contacts among community organizations and academic institutions have increased and expanded.
We talked about international issues of mutual interest, first and foremost, of course, about Russia-EU relations and those between Russia and NATO. We talked about the issue of the CFE Treaty, missile defense, the problems surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, the problem of Kosovo, and the situation in Afghanistan.
I briefed Mr Prime Minister on the internal political developments in Russia: the upcoming elections to the State Duma and the election of the President of the Russian Federation in the spring of 2008.
And, in conclusion, I would like once again to thank Mr Prime Minister for the substantive, engaged and very frank conversation. I am sure that this visit will be a landmark and will benefit the development of bilateral and inter-state relations.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende: Ladies and gentlemen, dear Mr President, I would like to point out that the President and I have just had a very frank, interesting and constructive conversation. And again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr President for his hospitality and openness.
And let me, on behalf of the Dutch people, express my condolences to all in connection with the tragic event that occurred in the Tula Region, and I want to assure you that the Dutch people sympathize with the Russian people.
Undoubtedly, the purpose of my visit is to give the necessary impetus, the stimulus needed to further the development of our relations. I am referring to such issues as the economy, politics, including public relations.
I should point out that in the conversation that took place I emphasized once again the need for such meetings and our mutual need to develop our partnership further.
I also want to acknowledge and thank Mr President for the fact that we understand that we need to talk about various topics, including those about which we may not agree.
And of course, when we talk about the opportunity to discuss various issues, it again confirms the strength of our relationship, the durability of our relations, which are based on respect for each other. In addition, it once again gives us the opportunity to discuss those issues where we sometimes disagree.
I would like to reiterate that Russia is a very important country for the Netherlands. And, as I learned from my conversation with Mr President, the Netherlands is an important country for Russia. As I realized again, Russia is closely monitoring the economic opportunities for the Dutch in Russia.
Without a doubt the Netherlands is an important partner for the Russian Federation, in trade, economic issues, investment and technological development including energy. But we should not forget that the Netherlands can also be an important partner in international issues as a member of the United Nations, the European Union and NATO.
And, of course, it is not only a question of establishing contacts between the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and President of the Russian Federation, but the expansion of such contacts and increasing in their magnitude. I am referring to contacts at the level of students and teachers and to all kinds of important areas.
Of course it is worth noting that the Netherlands is one of the largest investors in the Russian economy, and it is important to note that today two large business delegations from the Netherlands accompanied me on this visit.
A large delegation of major entrepreneurs and the heads of important Dutch companies are hoping to contribute to the future strategic and long-term development of Russia's economy, which can develop in various fields. And I noted with pleasure that Mr Putin accepted the proposal and is keen to cooperate. Mr Putin also expressed his desire to support Dutch businesses, both large and small companies. And it is in this area, too, that we can cooperate.
You have just witnessed the signing of a comprehensive agreement between the Dutch firm Gazunie and the Russian firm Gazprom, and this once again underlines the importance of relations in the areas of energy security between Russia and the European Union.
Undoubtedly, there are still some concerns and questions regarding environmental issues, but it is important to note that we are trying to address and resolve these issues.
We discussed the following issues: the rule of law in the Russian Federation and our cooperation in this field. And, of course, we touched on the subject of human rights. For me it was particularly encouraging to note the implementation of the Russian Civil Code, compiled with our assistance.
And, of course, as Mr Putin said, we talked about relations that are developing within the Russia-European Union framework, and the Netherlands is and will continue to be a constructive partner in this cooperation. And we once again stressed that this is how things should evolve between our countries.
With regard to international politics, we in fact did discuss Iran and Kosovo. We also raised the topic of climate change, particularly in anticipation of the conference, which will take place at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the island of Bali. And we agreed that these topics should receive the necessary attention.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize once again that my visit to the Russian Federation and the visit that Vladimir Putin made in 2005 to the Netherlands reaffirm the importance that the Netherlands hold for Russia and the similar importance that Russia holds for the Netherlands. There is no doubt that the new Russia is becoming an important player in the international arena and our exchange with you, our contacts with you, help make the necessary contribution to further strengthening Russia's position.