President of Finland Tarja Halonen (as translated into Russian): Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to offer my sincerest apologies for the fact that we are running behind schedule. We had many things to discuss, and as a result, our talks ran late.
President Medvedev and I will continue our discussion this evening over dinner, as well as tomorrow. I am pleased to let you know I have accepted President Medvedev’s invitation to visit the Russian Federation.
Tomorrow, we will talk about our history and our historic heritage. Today, we are talking about the present and the future of our relations. We spoke today about economy, trade and environment, as well as security policy.
I am quite pleased with the atmosphere during our talks today and with the fact we quickly found a common language.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
As a guest, I would like to begin by thanking President Tarja Halonen for her warm welcome and for the opportunity to visit Finland on a state visit. As we see today, our bilateral relations are well developed and most appreciated by both countries.
I would not fancy having you overburdened with numbers, but they are too good not to be shared. I refer to our trade turnover of over 22 billion dollars. No doubt, even in the hardest times of the economic crisis we must maintain the potential we have.
We must progress with the major projects launched some time ago. We were able to cover nearly all of these issues today, as well as infrastructure and energy projects, and the ways to improve contacts and cooperation between our people. I believe our achievements are a very good foundation for our further cooperation, and we will certainly continue our discussions. Naturally, we also talked about international politics, economic and environmental problems. As our countries are situated by the Baltic Sea, we must treasure and protect it.
Overall, we had so many topics of prime concern to discuss, that it took us a bit longer and I too must apologise for running a little late. I hope we will be able to compensate for this delay with interesting answers to your questions. As for our contacts and discussions, Ms President and I will certainly continue them tonight at dinner and tomorrow.
Tarja Halonen: There are issues that remain unsettled, as we were clearly unable to resolve everything here today, but our foreign ministers and economy ministers will stay in touch and will continue the work. In the near future, a meeting between our countries’ prime ministers will take place too.
Dmitry Medvedev: I can confirm this.
Question: First, a question to both presidents. It is no secret the attitudes within the European Union toward Nord Stream pipeline are controversial, in particular, Sweden and Estonia have objections. Did you discuss this subject? Could Russia count on Finland’s support here?
If talking about natural gas supplies in general, another question to Mr Medvedev. You had already spoken about a new agreement to be made between gas producing and transit countries. Does Russia have any specific suggestions? Thank you.
Tarja Halonen: In answering the first question, I can say we discussed the subject and the Nord Stream milestones. As Finland has repeatedly emphasized, we view this project in terms of environment. If the pipeline when built is environmentally friendly, then it is a good project and a good undertaking. Relevant environmental impact assessments are still underway, so I think that when our prime ministers meet in June, we may know by then about such assessments possible deadlines. Nonetheless, I believe it will not take us long to find an acceptable solution.
As for the documents provided to Finland regarding the pipeline construction, they will naturally be reviewed under Finnish legislation which requires that two permits are granted by our country for the project implementation. I think our prime ministers will be able to specify the dates at their joint news conference this summer.
Dmitry Medvedev: I will first elaborate on the Nord Stream. We have indeed discussed the subject in a constructive manner. I would like, first of all, to thank Finland for its generally positive attitude and for a fruitful discussion of the topic. Even though the project does excite diverse emotions, we feel that it is ultimately beneficial for entire Europe, as well as for the participating countries, so we are determined to promote this project.
We are determined to do so, because projects like that create the backbone of energy security in Europe. This security will increase pro rata the natural gas delivery routes variety, rather than diminish. We will certainly continue our efforts in this respect subject to compliance with all environmental regulations and legislative procedures in Finland. The framework for the project approval shall be set by Finland on its discretion.
In general, there are two key elements to resolving problems of energy resources supply. The first one is the new pipelines construction and creating new options for deliveries in practical terms. The second element is the legal framework development. The need for it was so clearly demonstrated by the gas transit crisis in January.
As I promised some time last year, today I will submit a draft basic document to define various aspects of international cooperation in energy sector and to outline suggestions for a prospect transit agreement. The document is intended for out G8, G20 and CIS partners, and for such close neighbours and partners of ours as Finland.
Russia has voiced on many occasions the problems pertaining to the various unsettled energy security aspects. These issues remain unsettled by the Energy Charter, the Energy Charter Treaty or any other documents. Russia has not ratified the above documents and therefore resolutions therein contained are not binding for us. Hence our goal now is to maintain, or rather, to ensure a fair balance between the interests of supplier countries, transit countries, and consumer countries. That is what our suggestions are aimed at, and I will instruct Russian government to initiate legislative support for these suggestions.
We would like to start discussing these documents with the European Union and our other partners, as soon as possible, and hope they will respond positively to our ideas.
Question: A question for President Medvedev. Recently, we have heard opinions even from higher-ups in the government who said that even though sometimes agreements are reached with Russian authorities on certain issues, relevant instructions do not always reach the right agencies, so such agreements are either put off or forgotten entirely. I would like to ask: are there any difficulties in communication between the President of the Russian Federation and the ministers of the Russian government? Are there any problems with information reaching some executive bodies?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, the question sounds too vague. If you can give me examples of failure in following instructions, I will make sure appropriate officials are punished or even fired.
If your question implies that some ministers or the government as a whole do bad job, I disagree with that. Although, one can always find reasons to be dissatisfied.
Tarja Halonen: From my end, I can say that I have been President for nearly nine years, and before that, I was foreign minister. Over the course of those five years, many issues we are discussing today already were on the agenda.
I can give an example: the issues concerning national border control and national border crossings. It must be said that improving this situation is quite a lengthy process. Of course, citizens turn to us with requests of what is done to facilitate border crossings making the process quicker, but also safe. We again raised this issue at talks today to see what else we can do to make the border function more efficiently.
I do have several questions that we will discuss at dinner tonight. But I would like to say now that Finns are advocates of efficient government, and if decisions are made or agreements are reached, we would like such decisions to be carried out and such agreements honoured. Sometimes, this is possible, but sometimes, it is not. Nonetheless, I am certain that my colleague, Mr President, is doing everything in his power, and that his Office is doing everything in order to advance our agreements and decisions.
Dmitry Medvedev: I completely agree and feel that our Finnish colleagues are taking all the necessary steps on their end. In our cooperation, we sometimes come across some really sophisticated problems. There are some routine issues that seem to take us to a dead end. There are other things that we need to monitor on a daily basis.
Some 10 or 12 years ago, I crossed the Russian-Finnish border myself. It was not the most pleasant experience, because it takes a lot of time. But we must find ways to resolve this challenge. It is something that we are working on.