President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
The talks with the Italian Prime Minister took place in the friendly and constructive spirit that traditionally characterises relations between our two countries. This was my third meeting with Romano Prodi this year, not to mention the telephone conversations and other contacts we have had. This busy schedule of political contacts reflects the stable and rapidly developing character of our relations.
We have achieved important results and taken major steps in our bilateral cooperation since my visit to Italy in March this year. Our bilateral trade continues to increase. It grew by 7.6 percent over the first nine months of this year as compared to the same period last year, and reached a figure of $24.5 billion. Overall, we will reach a figure of more than $30 billion in annual trade.
Italy remains one of Russia’s biggest trade and economic partners. We are carrying out crucially important projects in the energy sector. I note, for example, the acquisition of Russian gas and electricity assets by Italian energy sector companies Enel and Eni.
These acquisitions are also evidence that the Russian economy is open to our partners in Western Europe. This lays the foundation for taking our energy sector cooperation to a new level. The Southern Stream project has strategic significance for ensuring Europe’s energy security on the basis of transparency and consideration of the mutual interests of energy suppliers and consumers. We are grateful to the European Commission for supporting this project. I want to stress that the joint construction of a new gas transport system to take gas from Russia to Europe via the Black Sea will enable us to deliver up to 30 billion additional cubic metres of Russian natural gas to European consumers.
The agreement signed today by Gazprom and Eni will boost cooperation in this sector. I would like to thank the Italian Government and Mr Prodi for their active support for this project. Mr Prodi has personally done a great deal to enable it to go ahead.
The Prime Minister and I noted the good progress made in developing industrial cooperation between our countries, and also projects in the high-technology sectors. This cooperation includes joint participation in work on the new SuperJet-100 medium-haul aircraft and work together on developing high-speed rail transport, building helicopters and car manufacturing. There are also possibilities for Italian participation in building infrastructure facilities and the projects to prepare Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Games.
We are also seeing many positive developments in the humanitarian sphere. A joint research centre, Hermitage-Italy, has opened in the town of Ferrara. Italian artworks from the Moscow Fine Arts Museum’s collection were exhibited in Verona, and leading conductors from our countries’ main orchestras performed respectively in Milan and Moscow (Riccardo Muti performed in Moscow).
I especially want to thank the Italian Government and the municipal authorities of the city of Bari for carrying out the agreements to transfer to Russia the property rights to the Russian Orthodox Church complex in Bari. The signature of the agreements today cements concrete steps to implement this important decision.
Thank you very much.
We also discussed international issues and will have the chance to come back to them over lunch.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr Prodi for a constructive and active discussion. I am sure that the results of this visit will enrich the traditionally friendly ties between our countries and will help to strengthen stability in Europe.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi (Translated from Russian): President Putin mentioned just now that we meet regularly and have very close contacts. This is evidence both of our excellent personal relations and the very close ties that exist between Russia and Italy.
Our relations are long-term relations and our friendly ties are very close and stable. It is true indeed that our economic relations are also showing very positive development and go beyond cooperation in the energy sector. It seems almost incredible that our bilateral trade has risen by more than 30 percent over the last nine months. Investment by Eni, and by Gazprom in Italy, is expanding. Our ties in industrial sectors are also developing, for example, between Alenia, Fiat and other companies. The signature today of the additions to the agreement by Gazprom and Eni will also contribute to developing our relations. I think that the mutual and interlinked nature of our economies forms the foundation for developing our cooperation. I think that relations between Russia and the European Union should continue to develop in just as positive a spirit.
As I just said, our relations are not purely economic in nature. We witnessed an important gesture, an important event today, namely, the declaration, signed by representatives of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Italy, to transfer to Russia the property rights to the Russian Orthodox Church complex in the city of Bari. This shows that we seek to develop our relations in all different areas, including in cooperation between the different religious faiths. This event is taking place at a time when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are drawing closer together.
We are also ready now to draw up a very important agreement on a very important issue, that of the international adoption of children. I think this will be the first agreement of its kind to be signed. It will help us to develop our relations in the social sphere. We also began discussions of various international issues, but we will examine these matters in more detail over the working lunch. I would simply like to emphasise that we are working actively on ways to defuse the tense international situation, especially in the Middle East.
We hope that all participants in this international process will make every possible effort to ensure that the upcoming summit in Annapolis (USA) will be a success.
I just mentioned the interdependence and mutual nature of the relations between Russia and the European Union. Europe needs Russia and Russia needs Europe. Our destinies are bound together and are interwoven.
When I was President of the European Commission four years ago, I said that the European Union and Russia are like vodka and caviar (I remember how we joked about this). But now, when four years have passed, I feel this interdependence all the more intensely and I think that we must establish a strategic partnership as soon as possible.
Finally, we discussed our planet’s environmental problems and ways to resolve these problems, especially global warming, in which the major powers play an important part.
With regards to the latest forum in Rome, we both committed ourselves to working actively in this direction.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: I would just like to add that Russia and Italy share very similar approaches to many of the international issues my colleague mentioned.
In particular, we consider the summit in Annapolis and the conference on the Middle East to be a very important event. We hope that the work of everyone taking part will bring positive results.
Question: I have a question for both leaders.
You both noted that Russian-Italian relations are developing in all different areas, and it seems clear that changes on the international or domestic stages do not affect this development.
Is there a secret formula for this success of Russian-Italian bilateral cooperation that could be applied to international cooperation with Europe in general?
Vladimir Putin: We already spoke about this, in principle. To formulate it again, the extent and quality of our cooperation is based on several factors: mutual interest and the mutually complementary nature of our economies, consideration of each other’s interests, reliability in our work together and a high level of trust in each other. That is the whole secret.
Romano Prodi (Translated from Russian): I am firmly behind the idea of strategic partnership. This means not just economic cooperation but an effort to work together in all different areas: in politics, in developing the legal aspects of our partnership, in discussing the most important and most strategic issues facing the whole of humanity, and, as I said, examining and discussing the future together.
I remember that it was right here in this room, I think, that President Putin announced that Russia had ratified the Kyoto Protocol. This was very important. It was essential to work together in this direction despite the difficulties involved. When I talk about strategic partnership I mean precisely this willingness to discuss all the issues facing humanity.
Question (Translated from Russian): In your discussions on strategic partnership and the relations between Russia and the European Union, did you look at issues such as the Balkans and Kosovo? Did you discuss the problems related to the upcoming elections in Russia and the important laws the Italian parliament is passing now? And did you discuss the missile defence issue and Italy’s and Russia’s views on this matter?
Romano Prodi (Translated from Russian): As far as the missile defence issue goes, we touched on it but did not have any in-depth discussion of the issue, in part because the situation has changed from a political point of view in Poland. I think that we first need to analyse the current situation.
Regarding Kosovo, we need of course to make use of all the possibilities we have before December 10 in order to ensure that Pristina and Belgrade engage in useful and productive talks. Of course, we noted our concerns over this issue, but we hope that we will be able to make best use of the time remaining until December 10.
We did not discuss our domestic policy. Thank you for the hint – we will definitely discuss this during dinner.
Vladimir Putin: As far as the missile defence issue goes, and our relations with individual EU countries, with Poland, for example, Kosovo and domestic policy matters, all of these issues are an ongoing part of our contacts with the Italian Prime Minister. Today we mentioned some of them. We regularly discuss these issues during our telephone conversations.
Regarding missile defence, I can tell you that I discussed this issue on the telephone with President of the United States George Bush just a couple of days ago. As I said, we had the impression that our American partners have heard our concerns. Some proposals were made during the visit by the U.S. defence secretary and the secretary of state to Moscow. We are now waiting for these proposals to be set out on paper and sent to us.
Regarding Poland, there has been some progress made. The Prime Minister has made his position clear: he wants all outstanding problems with Poland to be resolved as soon as possible. I informed Mr Prodi that our work with our Polish colleagues has taken a positive turn. Our specialists have been given access to Polish agricultural enterprises in order to carry out checks. We think it would be good for the Polish agriculture minister to visit Russia in order to settle the issue of imports of agricultural goods from individual companies, which would be the subject of an agreement between the relevant agencies in Poland and Russia. Overall, we are seeing progress now.
Regarding Kosovo, the Prime Minister knows my position. He and I have ongoing consultations on this issue. We have not discussed it yet on this occasion but I know what he will say and he knows what my reply will be. I will have the opportunity to inform him on all the various domestic policy issues in Russia.
Thank you very much.