President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I would like to thank the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, and the President of the Government of Spain, Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, for welcoming us so warmly to Madrid, and for the atmosphere that was created to promote the work of our delegation.
Mr Prime Minister, I fully agree with you, Russia would indeed like to have the most friendly, positive, strategic relations with Spain, and that is the very reason for this state visit.
The programme for our delegation’s stay in Madrid was very eventful. We not only attended protocol events, but also achieved that which is most important: reaching a new level of cooperation and a new level of mutual understanding regarding the most important issues we face today.
We have had very nice conversations with King Juan Carlos; we spoke about traditions of productive cooperation, the dialogue that exists between our nations, and the new possibilities that open up as a result of such contacts. I was particularly happy to discuss humanitarian issues and several other issues that traditionally bind the Russian and Spanish communities.
We had a very informative and fruitful discussion with Mr Prime Minister, talks in which our delegation participated. We looked at a wide range of issues regarding our main positions in close detail, and I would like to note that in the 21st century, we truly can reach a fundamentally different level of cooperation between our countries. And I do not just mean cooperation in the business sphere, but also in the humanitarian sphere, on issues of cultural ties. We value this deeply, because the relations between our countries have been going on for many centuries; and the modern status of these relations is determined by our work today.
The new realities of our relations are reflected in the Declaration of Strategic Partnership. This is, in my view, an historic document, because on the one hand, it confirms our commitment to common, democratic values, and on the other hand, it lays the foundation for future work, and most importantly, provides coordination for our efforts toward a variety of challenges in economics, humanitarian relations, and foreign policy, which is of no small importance, given the roles that our countries play on our continent and in the world.
Spain is a very important trade and economic partner for Russia. Recent turnover has grown by almost 25%, reaching over 9 billion dollars. Our goal is to maintain this positive growth, even with the understanding that there will be difficulties this year, and we may even have some breakdowns. Nevertheless, the key priority is to maintain the high quality of this turnover, meaning, its upward direction, directedness toward the future.
Great prospects are emerging in the domain of fuel and energy – Mr Prime Minister has spoken about this in great detail – and in sectors such as metalworking, chemical and petrochemical production and industry. In this regard, the work being done by intergovernmental commissions on economic and trade cooperation (I feel that it is good work) should be reinforced and we must continue to work actively in this direction, perhaps by setting some kind of interim goals, as we discussed today during our talks: to meet once every six months and discuss the current situation and state of affairs.
Naturally, today we discussed the state of the world and issues relating to the global economic crisis. Both governments feel that these kinds of problems can only be solved through joint efforts, as a result of coordinated efforts by all of the world’s key players. Today, we cannot rely on solutions implemented by one state or even a group of states, because such solutions will not work, in the same way that the financial security system which was formed on our planet 60–70 years ago is not working now. This system is not functioning, which means that we must seek a solution, a way out of this situation.
Soon, there will be a meeting in London. We have submitted our suggestions to all of our colleagues, our friends in Spain. Today, we briefly exchanged ideas on what should be done; Mr Prime Minster has spoken about this already. Of course, we are also talking about reforming international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, corporate transparency, standards of conduct, and the possibility of conducting consultations on macroeconomic indicators of large countries, because the well-being of economies in those countries influences the well-being of other states, which are bound to those countries with the invisible threads of economic ties.
That is why the agenda is difficult, but I hope that we will nevertheless be able to reach some new agreements. In any case, Russia’s position is this: during the consultations in London and the subsequent consultations (we understand that London is not the last stop), we must not only reach an agreement regarding the fundamentals, but also reach universal, international agreements that will have a binding effect.
Russia and Spain are interested in strengthening stability and security in the world and in Europe. We also discussed this issue with the Spanish head of government. You know that for some time now – over a year – Russia has been suggesting new ideas, and last summer, I suggested the idea of a treaty on European security. We feel that that this could be a good foundation for moving forward, and we count on continuing dialogue regarding this issue on various platforms, including with our Spanish partners.
We are ready to jointly counteract the most serious threats existing in the world today. I am referring, of course, to terrorism and international crime. In this regard, I would like to particularly emphasize the treaty on military transit for Afghanistan, whose implementation will facilitate the security of the Spanish contingent currently located there.
We also have positive experience of cooperation between our law enforcement institutions. Today, a memorandum was signed on cooperation between the Prosecutor General’s office [of Russia] and the State Prosecutor General’s Office of Spain. I hope that we will have good results in this area of mutual cooperation as well.
A major issue that is important to our countries concerns our cultural ties. We are glad that Spain regularly hosts artists visiting from our country; this includes the leading performers from our artistic groups, as well as exhibitions and musical performances. Russian viewers, in turn, take great pleasure in going to concerts by Spanish artists. I feel that we must strengthen these kinds of contacts, especially since there is a constant growth in the number of our citizens visiting Spain, as well as Spanish citizens visiting the Russian Federation.
Mr Zapatero said that over 500 thousand Russians visit Spain every year, or at least, this was the figure for last year. Nearly 150 thousand Spaniards visited the Russian Federation last year. I feel that this is very important, since nothing brings us closer than direct contacts between individuals, the possibility to come and see a country, to socialize with regular people, to relax. This is very important, and it also increases our economic contacts.
We discussed a variety of very different issues; we talked about the situation in the world overall, and we talked about issues of international security. If this interests you, you can ask questions about it. If not, then we will not talk about it.
I would like to once again thank Mr Prime Minister for this constructive dialogue. I am certain that with this dialogue and with all the results that we reached – I would specifically like to emphasize that today we have entered a new level of cooperation, – we are demonstrating a mutual desire to develop our relations in the widest way possible, and in the friendliest way possible. We count on the resolutions that we made today to be brought to life.
Mr Prime Minster, I thank you.
Question: I want to ask about the letter Barack Obama sent, in which he said that he wants to stop the construction and deployment of a missile defence shield if Russia cooperates on the Iranian issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: Relations between Russia and America are indeed a very important element of international security. Russia wants to have normal and full-fledged relations with the United States. This was our position during the previous period too, when we worked with the Bush Administration, and it remains our position today. I hope that the positive signals we have received from Washington will become embodied in actual agreements. In any event, what we have received so far is evidence that our American colleagues and the new President, Barack Obama, want to intensify cooperation and arrive at a number of decisions of importance not just for Russia and the United States.
We are in constant contact and have spoken several times on the telephone. We do indeed correspond with each other, and it would make no sense to pretend otherwise, but as for this kind of exchange, this kind of deal you mentioned, I can tell you that the issues were not phrased in this way, for it would be counterproductive. We had and continue to have serious doubts about the missile defence project, at least in the form the previous administration’s plans in this area took. Rather than strengthening security on the European continent, the missile defence initiative proposed a while ago only complicates matters further. In this respect Russia has taken a clear and straightforward position: let’s work together on a missile defence system and build an effective and reliable shield against various threats, which are indeed many in number.
But what has been proposed was fragments of a system, and located close to the Russian Federation what’s more, and this cannot but worry us because this will most likely be a defence not against global threats, but against something else again. This is why our reaction was so straightforward: we do not agree with what has been proposed, and if the new U.S. Administration shows common sense and proposes a new construction that would gain the approval of all Europeans, the approval of the United States itself, and our country’s approval, we would be ready to discuss these proposals. But this would have to be a real full-fledged global system, not just fragments of a system deployed in close range to Russia’s borders.
What we have received from our American partners shows at the very least that they are ready to discuss this issue, and this is already a good sign. Not so long ago, we were getting other signals, namely, that the issue had already been decided, there was nothing to discuss, and the Americans would go ahead with their plans. But the tone of the conversation always determines the tone of the response that follows.
Now the situation has changed, I hope. But no one is setting conditions of some kind of deal, some kind of swap, all the more so on the Iranian issue. As it is, we work in close contact with our American colleagues on the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme. These contacts were always just as close and just as regular even when we had a confrontation on a number of issues. We will therefore continue to discuss this matter on a regular basis, all the more so as we and the United States pursue the same objectives when it comes to this issue.
Question: Did you discuss at today’s talks the Russian President’s initiative to conclude a new agreement on European security, and has there been any rapprochement in positions on this issue?
Dmitry Medvedev: The issue of concluding a new treaty on European security is constantly being examined and discussed. We hold these discussions personally, and they also take place between our respective ministers and expert groups. I think there is no need now to set out the substance of what we are proposing, although I do hear from time to time calls for us to be more specific about what this whole thing is actually about. I think that it is very clear by now what this proposal is about. The situation is very simple: so long as there are various countries in Europe that are part of different groupings, different blocs, members of this or that organisation, only a treaty of the kind we propose can ensure security in Europe on a universal basis. But as for the choice of forum for holding discussions on this treaty and on the creation of a new organisation, this is a matter of taste. We are considering various options. It could be the European Union, the OSCE, or other forums. In any case, there are a great many different options for discussing this issue.
I talked about this already today during the meeting with the senior officials of the Spanish Cortes Generales. I want to say to you too that in my view, there is no alternative to this kind of treaty if we see security in Europe as something that goes beyond blocs, something that is an indivisible whole. I think that everyone understands this now. Every citizen, every person living in Europe realises that they depend on the level of security established, so let’s work together on concluding an agreement of this kind.
Question: Does the memorandum on cooperation in the energy sector mean that the door is once again open for talks between Lukoil and Repsol on Lukoil’s acquisition of a stake in Repsol?
Dmitry Medvedev: I will just say a couple of words about the cooperation between our companies. A memorandum has been signed. This memorandum does indeed bolster the possibilities for developing contacts in various areas of the energy sector. This includes gas, oil, other fossil fuels, and also new energy sources, which is also very important. As for specific business projects, they should develop and unfold according to their own rules. In this sense, I want to say that no one ever closed the door on talks between Lukoil and Repsol. They have to decide for themselves when to meet, what to discuss, and negotiate the conditions of any potential deal. This is a normal business process in which companies engage in.
I just want to say that Russia has always been in favour of our big energy companies working together with their European partners. Exchange of assets is one of the best ways of reinforcing energy security in Europe. As for the concrete results this will produce, let’s wait and see.
Question: Continuing on from the last question, could you clarify the basis for developing energy cooperation? Will it be done through asset swaps, or through investment in new projects, or perhaps work together in other countries’ markets?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think you have just answered the question yourself, because normal energy cooperation should include all of these things.
Asset swaps are good because they create immediate reciprocal access to each other. This is a business procedure that makes it possible to start rapidly carrying out projects at a good level. But this does not mean that big projects, and even smaller-scale projects, could not also involve the creation of new enterprises. There could be investment in new facilities, and new companies could be created for this purpose.
I think we should therefore keep all avenues of cooperation open, all the more so as energy cooperation is perhaps one of the biggest priorities today for our countries.
But, looking at the future, I would not want the economic relations between Russia and Spain to be dominated only by energy sector issues. I want to see us develop economic ties that are as multifaceted as possible, have us work together in high technology sectors, work on new materials, work on creating the potential for the twenty-first century, while at the same time realising the importance and promise of cooperation on the big energy issues.