President Vladimir Putin: Thank you all for your decision to come to Moscow today. I would like to make a brief analysis of the current state of affairs in the CIS, all the more so as recent decisions have been made regarding the organisation’s medium-term development.
The CIS is a clear and constant priority for Russia, not only by virtue of our common past and the need to maintain the historic ties between our peoples, but also because the development of the CIS is crucial in many ways for the future of all of our countries. This is why I think it is important to give this issue the time and attention it deserves. Of course, we would not have been able to create such an atmosphere for our work without your support, understanding, combined efforts and political will.
We take varying approaches to building our relations with the CIS, but one thing that is clear is that our organisation is the forum that enables us to deal with issues of substance and to simply keep in contact when necessary. This has been true for many of the complex problems we have inherited from the past. No matter what the problems we have faced, and despite the fact that many of these issues have not lost their urgency and have still to be resolved, the CIS has always been the forum that enables us to meet, discuss and continue our dialogue.
I think the adoption of the Concept for the CIS’s ongoing development and the main work programme for implementing this development strategy is an extremely important step. These documents give new meaning to the CIS’s work and clarify the directions for the organisation’s development. Most important now is to move consistently forward in their implementation.
I see the development and implementation of an economic development strategy aimed at expanding economic cooperation, making our countries more competitive and accelerating their social and economic development as one of our priorities.
We think that in drafting this document we should analyse the national social and economic developments being carried out in our countries, identify our common current and long-term economic interests and use this as a basis for deciding on the areas in which our consolidated efforts will produce the greatest results.
This strategy needs to set out our main cooperation priorities for the period through to 2020, putting the emphasis on innovation and building a new economy. It needs to address the development of the modern production and services that will give our countries competitive advantages for many years to come. It also must take into account the importance of far-reaching cooperation, the strong cooperation that we have inherited from the past and that remains of vital importance today.
2007 was declared the year of migration in the CIS. This is an area of our cooperation that directly affects the interests of millions of our citizens, and as such we gave it our particular attention. We discussed this issue in considerable detail at our last meeting.
The Council of Directors of the CIS Member States’ Migration Agencies has a key part to play in carrying out the decisions approved at the meeting in Dushanbe. Right from the outset, this council must be focused on achieving serious results in this area that is very sensitive for people’s lives.
Resolving migration and social issues is something that is closely interlinked with humanitarian issues in general.
I had bilateral meetings with some of my colleagues yesterday and practically all of them raised the problem of the fact that CIS citizens, including in Russia, sometimes encounter xenophobia, intolerance and even criminal attacks on their lives. We regret these cases and will do everything possible to find and punish the criminals. We will be constant and unswerving in our efforts to combat this. At the same time, we are all very aware of the fact that nationalism and xenophobia are directly interlinked with issues such as how the authorities regulate immigration. It is for this reason that, as I said earlier, we have taken decisions regarding the economy and the small business sector, acting in the aim of ensuring that CIS citizens who come to Russia temporarily or who wish to remain for a longer period, will be protected, while the local population will not feel that their own rights, especially on the labour market, are being infringed in any way. Our position is open and clear. As for the crimes being committed, I repeat that we will fight these crimes.
The immigration issue brings together all of the biggest tasks we face in developing human capital, including forming a knowledge economy and establishing national innovative systems, and also putting in place a new social development policy based on the principle of people being able to realise their own potential.
This is why I think that coordinated humanitarian cooperation is one of the fundamental building blocks of our development and in this sense can give a big additional boost to the whole process of reforming the CIS. The Concept for the CIS’s ongoing development and the work programme for its implementation also give considerable attention to developing our humanitarian cooperation.
These documents set out large-scale objectives, based on today’s demands, for developing and modernising our educational, scientific, information and cultural space and our contacts through youth cooperation, sport and tourism activity.
In essence, humanitarian cooperation is one of the main sources today for making our economies more competitive, developing our science, promoting the health of our citizens and raising and educating the young generation. It is no longer enough simply to view humanitarian cooperation as the development of friendly cultural ties. In this respect I am very pleased to see that our cooperation in the education sector is expanding. I was very happy to hear my colleagues and friend, the President of Azerbaijan, announce yesterday that an agreement has been reached on opening a branch of Moscow State University in Baku. The university has already opened branches in other CIS countries. It has a branch in Ukraine and another working very successfully in Astana, as [President of Kazakhstan] Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarbayev] informed me today.
The basic principle in humanitarian cooperation is maximum involvement and interaction between all the CIS countries. Also, our intensive efforts to develop our humanitarian cooperation should be focused on achieving concrete results.
In this respect, I note the active work being carried out by organisations we have already established: the Intergovernmental Fund and the Council for Humanitarian Cooperation. These bodies are organising practical work and high-level coordination of the different partners in the CIS to expand the possibilities for humanitarian cooperation.
We will welcome the decision by all of our CIS colleagues to join the agreements on the Fund and the Council. Eight countries are already participating in this work and even more are becoming involved in a number of new humanitarian initiatives, including the Year of Literature and Reading in the CIS that we are examining at the moment.
We are certain that this kind of continued and equal cooperation offers many benefits and opportunities for our citizens. The Fund, for example, is already carrying out a number of much-needed projects, from publishing updated textbooks and providing support for young creative talent to organising the big annual forums of the CIS intelligentsia.
We hope for your active joint efforts to implement the big package of decisions and recommendations that came out of the second Forum of the Creative Intelligentsia and Academics that took place with great success in Astana. We hope the next forum, which Tajikistan has offered to organise this year, will be just as successful.
Given the importance of developing literature and the cultural dialogue, we have decided to sign agreements declaring 2008 the Year of Literature and Reading in the CIS. We hope to see all of our colleagues play an active part in this work.
One of the activities planned as part of this Year of Literature and Reading is to celebrate the anniversaries of famous national literary figures Abu Abdullo Rudaki, Mikail Mushvig and William Saroyan with the support of the Fund and the Council that I just mentioned. Specific events will also be held to promote the development of national literature, book publishing, reciprocal translations, and libraries. I think these things are very important and have been neglected. This kind of work was carried out in perhaps too formalised a way during the Soviet period, but today we see that it is practically impossible to find publications of, say, the translated works of Ukrainian writers and poets. Many, the vast majority, probably, write in Ukrainian, and this means the Russian reader is cut off from their works. We need to publish translations from Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, and indeed from all of the languages of the CIS peoples. We in Russia want very much for our citizens to be able to learn about what is happening in the cultural life of their closest neighbours.
The Intergovernmental Fund also has projects planned in conjunction with the Mir television and radio broadcasting company. As you know, this company plays an important part in forming our common media space. We intend to do everything we can to help the company activate its work, in particular by expanding its reception in Russia. We hope that our CIS partners will also give the company’s work their attention and support. I am sure that this is in our common interests.
I propose that we look at raising the current financing for Mir by at least 50 percent and also that we examine the question of separate financing for a programme to introduce modern digital and multimedia technology at the company.
We need to concentrate particular attention on optimising the work of the CIS’s organisational structures, for their work has a direct impact on the overall effectiveness of the CIS.
In this respect I would like to say a couple of words about the institution of the presidency within the organisation. World practice shows that this institution can play an important organisational and coordinating role and act as catalyst for integration processes. At the same time, greater powers for the presidency also come with greater responsibility. This is why I think that the work underway at the moment to draft a regulation on the presidency is of such importance.
We hope that these and other steps will make it possible to give a more systemic basis to the CIS’s work and ensure that our cooperation produces greater practical results.
Finally, dear colleagues, I will not hide the fact that I invited you all in part because my term in office is coming to an end very soon. I invited you also because I wanted to thank you all. We have worked together very closely over these long years. We have had more than enough difficulties to deal with but we have nevertheless managed to avoid unnecessarily exacerbating problems that could have been worse. We have always worked towards finding solutions acceptable to each of our countries. Within the CIS, at least, this has always been our approach.
I want to say once again that the CIS has been the forum where we have formulated the principles of our cooperation and laid the base for work that has helped our countries to develop and benefited millions of our people. None of this would have been possible without your active participation and positive commitment to these common efforts. Aside from anything else, at the purely human level I have always felt your support and I am grateful to you for this. It has been a great pleasure to work with all of my colleagues in the CIS and I would like to thank for this. I know that you all know from the media, but I would like to say to you here in this narrow circle that one of the candidates in Russia’s forthcoming presidential election is First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev. It is also no secret that I am giving him my most active support. I would like to explain why. I have known Dmitry Anatolyevich for a very long time now. We have worked together for more than 17 years now. Dmitry Anatolyevich was one of the closest members of my team, especially when he was chief of staff of the Presidential Executive Office. We worked in direct contact together on all of the main decisions, including in our most important foreign policy area – the CIS. He is, in essence, one of the authors of Russia’s policy in this area. I do not think therefore that any revolutionary change lies ahead, precisely because Dmitry Anatolyevich is one of the authors of our country’s policy in this area. I want to offer him the opportunity now to speak his own words on this subject.
Dmitry Medvedev: Vladimir Vladimirovich, [President of Kyrgyzstan and current President of the CIS] Kurmanbek Salievich [Bakiev], heads of state,
I would like once more to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich for giving me the chance to take part in this meeting. As was just noted, these kinds of meetings that give us the chance to hold open and detailed discussions on all of our current cooperation issues have become a fine tradition, a tradition which has now been given a legal framework in the form of the provisions set out in the Concept for the CIS’s ongoing development.
Continuing on from what the President said just now, I would like to reaffirm that the Commonwealth of Independent States remains a foreign policy and economic priority for Russia.
Our peoples and our countries have only one choice, and that is to continue to live as good neighbours and develop cooperation over the long term.
To say a few words on the different issues that have been discussed, Vladimir Vladimirovich spoke just now about migration, which was the main issue on the CIS agenda in 2007. For my part, I would like to say a few words about the transport issue, which is the main issue on the CIS agenda this year. Work in this area is based on the objectives set out in the CIS member states’ coordinated transport policy concept document, which was adopted in 2004. Transport issues have also been discussed on numerous occasions at government meetings. We in Russia, will of course pay the closest attention possible to developing and modernising the transport infrastructure and introducing modern logistics and management systems, and we will make use of the most advanced technology in this work, all the more so as this is the only way to move forward today.
The transport issue is relevant for all of our countries today. Historically, an extensive network of inter-state transport corridors has taken shape in the CIS area and we therefore think that cooperation in this area is particularly useful today.
An effectively functioning transport infrastructure is vital for the development of many different economic sectors and for being able to carry out mutually beneficial joint projects.
Close cooperation between our transport authorities is extremely important in this respect. They are already working together actively within the working group that has been set up.
I am sure that we can make visible progress this year and be able to produce perfectly concrete results by the time of the CIS summit in Bishkek.
Another subject that I know quite well from my work in the government is that of strengthening humanitarian cooperation and youth activities. This is an immensely important condition for the harmonious development of our countries and peoples. Vladimir Vladimirovich spoke just before about the successful forum of the CIS intelligentsia in Astana. The forum took place under the unifying slogan: Culture, Science and Education for the Commonwealth’s Future Generations. The CIS Council for Youth Affairs is now into its third year of work. The third forum of youth leaders from the CIS and Baltic countries, A Responsible Generation, was held in Baku last autumn. Other events are also planned to help develop cultural, scientific and education ties and to cultivate in young people a corresponding spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.
In this respect, we also need to get our young people more involved in the preparations for the sixty-fifth anniversary of victory in World War II, all the more so as our fundamental agreement, the Declaration on Humanitarian Cooperation, was adopted on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of victory celebrations on May 8, 2005.
Another area in which we are working actively and which we think is essential for progress is the development of nanotechnology. I think that this sector offers immense potential for cooperation. The formation of a common regional nanotechnology market throughout the CIS would help to support and develop science-intensive economic sectors, realise the scientific, technical and education potential of our countries and enable us to maintain our place in the high-technology global world, all the more so as in the past, practically all the countries that make up the CIS were home to a part of what we now call the nanotechnology industry. Incidentally, the Humanitarian Cooperation Fund’s portfolio already contains an application for support in organising Higher Courses on Nanotechnology within the CIS.
Another big humanitarian project that Vladimir Vladimirovich mentioned just now is the development of a library system. What we are talking about, of course, is developing a library system based on modern digital technology. Everyone is working in this area today. This project aims to help preserve our countries’ cultural identities and the common space we have established. This is essential work.
Furthermore, as was said, Russia has decided to introduce digital broadcasting. This is a big and complex process. Just think back to all the work that went into introducing the SECAM broadcasting standard throughout the Soviet Union. That was all work done in vain, but nevertheless, in order to avoid such mistakes, it would make sense to carry out these sorts of projects on a joint basis in order to avoid future mistakes and create yet another basis for cooperation.
Social issues are one of the most important areas for our work together. It is not by chance that the CIS’s ongoing development concept document and main work programme set out a whole separate work programme for these issues.
Another subject that is unfortunately very relevant is that of working together to deal with emergency situations and natural disasters. This is an area that calls for effective measures and practical mechanisms. It is very clear today that it would make sense to combine the efforts of experts in this area, including, for example, by setting up a fund for rapid economic assistance in the event of emergency situations in the CIS countries. We are currently drafting such a proposal.
Heads of state, I would like to thank you sincerely once more for giving me the opportunity to take part in this meeting.
If I am successful in the forthcoming election I hope for a continuation of the trusting working relations and hope to establish good personal relations with you all, and I have no doubt at all that this is very important for our peoples and for our countries.