President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank my colleague, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mr Balkenende, and Her Majesty Queen Beatrix for the welcome shown our delegation, the wonderful events that took place yesterday, and the productive dialogue today.
Yesterday was indeed a very special day. I was very moved as I stood on the banks of the Amstel and watched the opening of what is in effect part of a Russian museum, one that will display the treasures of Russia’s museums here in the Netherlands.
Today my colleague and I had very specific, positive, solid negotiations, during which we discussed many different issues that bind our two countries together and the prospects for our cooperation in the years to come.
As it happened last year the Netherlands accounted for more than 8 percent of Russia’s total foreign trade. That is a splendid, fantastic figure, a record figure. Of course, this year things have been more difficult but we intend to do our utmost to maintain this momentum. The meeting with business leaders that will take place after the news conference was designed with this in mind.
Our relations have developed in a number of areas: in energy, engineering and agriculture. Nevertheless, we expect that these areas will change and expand. I’m referring to knowledge-intensive industries and high-tech products, because for us this is a very important area of cooperation.
If we turn to the cultural sphere, in addition to the wonderful event that took place yesterday, we are counting on a new momentum for the development of contacts in this area. In 2013 we will be celebrating the Year of Russian Culture in the Netherlands and the corresponding Year of Dutch Culture in Russia. I am sure that this will be of great interest to our peoples. In any case we are going to work on these issues and we will lay the groundwork to ensure that these Years will be successful.
The Prime Minister and I discussed a number of regional and international issues, because we live in a troubled world. It seems to us that it is essential for Europe to come up with a security agenda, in particular for European security in its various forms. Russia has put forward its own initiative on this subject.
Issues of energy security have also become very topical of late, and we agreed that we will work to ensure that security in the energy sector is better able to protect the European continent. This includes the establishment of a new regulatory framework on this issue.
In general, I would like to say that these have been very cordial and productive talks. In my view the whole atmosphere for this brief working visit has been very positive, because we have managed to combine a very important cultural event and a very specific business agenda. I therefore hope that our contacts will continue. And I would like to sincerely thank our Dutch colleagues for their hospitality and for the wonderful welcome they have provided for us.
Once again I want to say that I was very impressed by yesterday's event. It was terrific.
Question: How important is the meeting between the Presidents of Russia and the United States that will be held in Moscow in July, insofar as the issue of European security is concerned?
Dmitry Medvedev: This meeting is indeed important, because security is indivisible and global. And while we are talking about European security, we should remember that it largely depends on the relations between the major players on the international stage, between nations that have a strong nuclear capability. We are preparing the agenda for the activities that will take place in July. We have agreed that we should try to get full value from this important meeting with my American colleague. I hope that it will provide answers to a number of questions, including such critical issues as the fate of the START-1 treaty.
You know that this treaty expires on December 5, 2009. At the moment, our negotiators are hard at work and are off to a good start. But the challenge is to reach a totally objective, absolutely specific and at the same time binding agreement. Moreover, it is desirable that this be done in one document and that it be done effectively.
Of course everyone wants to know what our actual position is. Without going into detail, I would like now to say something on this subject because I think it is very important.
First, we are in favour of practical and effectively verifiable reductions. And we will continue to insist on this.
Second — and this is quite an important declaration — we are ready to reduce the number of our strategic delivery vehicles by a very significant factor vis-a-vis the provisions of the START-1 Treaty.
With regard to the warheads, their number should be below the level established by the Moscow Treaty of 2002, as we have in effect agreed with President Barack Obama.
On the basis of these proposals, we can continue our dialogue with our American counterparts with respect to the treaty on strategic nuclear forces.
But this does not mean that the agenda for our meeting is limited. We will be discussing various global issues as well as regional ones. Of course we’ll be addressing our bilateral relations, because in recent years they have unfortunately suffered some corrosion. I hope that with the advent of the new administration our relations will take on a new form, a more positive and more trusting one. The global climate depends on it.
Therefore, I am generally in an optimistic mood. I hope that we will be able to discuss all sorts of issues of mutual interest and those that are of interest to our partners.
Question: What do you think about the possibility of Dutch companies joining Gazprom in developing gas deposits on the Yamal Peninsula?
Dmitry Medvedev: We have very good contacts with our Dutch partners.
I want to say a few words about Yamal first. A very significant event took place this year with the opening of our first liquefied natural gas [LNG] plant on Sakhalin. This is a very big project in which our Dutch partners are also taking part. It is an example of how we can develop effective and, what’s more, profitable cooperation in as complex a sector as energy. Today, the pace at which commercial cooperation on this project is developing goes beyond what we even expected. This shows that the project is working.
I think the same applies to the Yamal projects, and I think that we can make progress on them. Consultations are underway. We also need to continue our consultations on the Nord Stream project because looking at our energy cooperation overall, I think it is developing in the best possible way and is an example of how the Russian Federation can work together with its European partners. This is something very positive. What is good is that there are no anxieties, no worries involved, on the contrary, it is an example of mutually advantageous and interesting cooperation. In this respect, I think that everything will be fine.
Jan Peter Balkenende (as translated from Russian): I would like to just add a few words.
We have very intensive contacts in the energy sector. Our economy minister had a meeting yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister Zubkov. This is an excellent example of international cooperation.
When I was in Moscow several years ago, Dutch companies organised a very good presentation that dealt precisely with Yamal. I think that this is an area in which we could indeed consolidate our relations.
There are many different aspects we can work on. You already mentioned Sakhalin and the Nord Stream project, and Yamal too – these are all good areas for cooperation. I think that your visit to the Netherlands will strengthen our ties in this sector, and I want to give my full support to what you said today.
Question: Two days ago at the meeting of the Commission on modernisation, you listed several priority areas for accelerated development of Russia’s economy. Which projects with Dutch involvement could help to speed up this process in Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: I said a few days ago quite openly that we are still only at the very start of our innovative development. And I once again criticised our civil servants for not doing everything they should be to modernise the economy and create an innovative society. But telling people off is not enough. We need to propose practical steps to take, and this is why I listed these five priorities, because it is easier to work when you have specific projects on which you need to concentrate your efforts, in which you need to invest, help your own business develop, and attract business from abroad.
As for the innovative and advanced technology sectors, the IT sector and related areas, they are of course a key priority for us, and I think that these are the areas in which Dutch companies have built up valuable experience.
We will have a meeting today with people from the biggest companies working in these areas. There is a lot of scope for cooperation, all the more so as these companies first arrived on the Russian market almost 100 years ago, sometimes even more than 100 years ago, with their first business proposals. They brought with them what were completely new technology and ideas for the time, incandescent light bulbs, say. The tsarist government bought a lot of light bulbs, and this helped the Dutch businessmen and marked the start of Russia’s electrification. Later, priorities changed, and our society changed too. It was said then that “socialism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country.” But I think the time has come for us to go back to our roots and lay the foundations for full-scale innovative modernisation. We hope that our Dutch colleagues can help us in this work.
Jan Peter Balkenende: Looking at the economic issues before us today, we must not forget that we are faced with a very serious financial and economic crisis right now. We have many issues to discuss – climate change, the future of the WTO and the talks on accession to this organisation, and also energy sector issues.
It is important to find solutions to all of these various issues, and this requires us to come up with new strategies and ideas, innovative solutions. It is very important that we talk about new developments and innovations, discuss them. It is important to highlight the link between innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development.
I think that Dutch companies have a lot to offer. We are specialists in areas such as water resource management and sustainable development technology. I am sure that we can find partners in Russia, and I am sure that our companies will be of use to each other. The important projects mentioned today are excellent examples of the new opportunities we can create. We need each other. This is not just about energy companies but also about investors and high-tech companies – everything that can help us develop new strategies.
I think the big issue today is really one above all of new strategies, entrepreneurship, sustainable development and innovation. We need to remember that these issues are global issues, and a global power such as Russia has an important play here.
Regarding the [UN Climate Change] Conference in Copenhagen, I hope that Russia will make its contribution because this is a very important event.
Question: Last October, the Russian authorities said that they would report on the results of the investigation into the death of Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans. We have not heard anything. Can we expect to hear some information?
Dmitry Medvedev: What happened to [cameraman] Storimans is a real tragedy of course, and we want above all to express our condolences to his family.
Unfortunately, these events were linked to the aggressive action taken by Georgia. Our position at this point in time is that the blame for what happened lies with the Georgian armed forces, as they are the ones who confirmed use of cluster bombs.
Overall, what we seek today, what we see as our task, is to play our part in ensuring Europe’s security and not allow a repeat of events such as those that took place last August. Those events were the regrettable outcome of the irresponsible and very dangerous policy that Georgia pursued at that time.
As for this particular case, I think the investigation should continue and should be completed, but at the same time, I want to say that our sympathy goes out to Mr Storimans’ family. What happened was a real tragedy, a tragic event that took place during this unfortunate conflict.