President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ms Federal Chancellor, colleagues,
I am very happy for this opportunity to meet and talk with you, especially in this lovely hall, which is quintessential to the history of Bavaria. The very atmosphere here is conducive to free-flowing discussions on a variety of different topics. I would like to also thank the Prime Minister of Bavaria, Mr Horst Seehofer, for the opportunity to meet in this hall here in Bavaria, to hold Russian-German consultations here, and for the opportunity to have a discussion within the framework of the Petersburg Dialogue.
Naturally, life always provides us with topics of discussion; sometimes, those topics are lighter, and at other times, they are more dynamic and intense. In any case, it is clear that right now, we are witnessing the fall of an economic era, and we are living through a time when some very major changes are occurring in foreign policy. It is clear that the world is changing and becoming more globalised, and this has both advantages and disadvantages. By now, we are all aware of globalisation’s disadvantages; any changes in the economy of a large country will lead to problems in other countries as well. Nobody can be guaranteed against these problems, and nobody can hide or protect themselves from them. Even the financial resources accumulated to ensure some level of stability may turn insufficient to withstand these economic shake-ups, to our disappointment.
Indeed, we had a significant drop in industrial production, and our GDP has fallen. This is true in all of Europe, and it is true in Russia as well. Russia has its own specific problems. Some of them are particularly complicated, but in some other ways, we are better prepared compared to other countries. Still, all of this affects your discussions here. Naturally, we must think about ways to develop economic ties between our countries. But it is no less important to consider human dimensions, and that is precisely what the Petersburg Dialogue allows us to do.
I feel that during this dialogue, it is important to discuss all issues, and not just the major issues in foreign policy and international cooperation, although I also feel that we need dialogue regarding European security, because we all live in Europe. Ultimately, security in Europe will affect security, stability, and calm livelihood in our countries, for our families, so this matter is not off-topic, abstract, or out of place.
Still, I believe that in addition to these key issues, we must concentrate on other subjects as well. We need to discuss establishing truly normal dialogue, which should exist between the civil societies of our countries. We must devote our time to discussing social life in our nations. We have some very similar problems – in particular, societal problems related to unemployment and the effects of the crisis. We also have our own problems, which are different from one another. Russia and Germany have different political systems, and our legal and political institutions are at different stages of development. No doubt, it is therefore very important to exchange ideas on ways to develop our societies. The Petersburg Dialogue makes important contributions to these exchanges.
We need to address various issues, we must discuss problems, and we must talk about defending not only the rights and interests of social groups, or the nation as a whole, but those of individuals as well. This is our common concern. The world is complicated, and Russia faces its own set of challenges which, unfortunately, it has inherited from the past. Today, we must think about how we can safeguard the fundamentals of the state, while at the same time maintaining our values, and most importantly, protecting the lives and health of our people.
That is why human rights issues, which were just mentioned by my colleague Angela Merkel, are indeed very important to our nations, particularly for Russia, since we are currently at an initial stage in the formation of our own political and legal system. Human rights activists play a critical role in creating a normal atmosphere in the Russian Federation. This is why some of them are targeted by various criminals, either simply wanting to settle old scores with people who are inconveniencing them or, more often, as an element of a large-scale provocation toward the government, intended to cause problems for the whole country. In any case, the government needs to respond firmly and severely to such actions. And yesterday’s unfortunate event, the murder of Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, once again shows that problems of this kind are still very much present in our country, and the Russian nation must respond to them directly and unambiguously.
I believe that any time this occurs, we must conduct investigation very consistently and firmly; we should not be hysterical or make premature accusations against anyone. But what’s most important is to find the criminals responsible and to sentence them to the punishment they deserve. This is important. It is important to do this to honour the people who died while defending our legal system, defending regular people, and to educate an entire new generation of citizens.
Still, in my opinion, we must work on improving our ties in all areas: we need to foster cooperation between young people, and improve contacts between our scientific, humanitarian, and cultural communities. I think this could become an important priority, for the Petersburg Dialogue and in general.
Germany is already engaged in this kind of work. I think that in Russia, we can promote bilateral contacts between out youth, as in any case, we are all interested in educating the future political, economic, and social leaders of our countries. And in this regard, the Russian-German partnership’s talent pool is an investment in our future.
Studying languages is very important. We are doing a great deal in this area. There is an interest in both Russian and German as foreign languages. At the same time, I feel that we need to make a greater investment in this matter. We should support initiatives to create Russian-German schools and bilingual education in general. Such schools are very much in demand within the Russian-speaking Diaspora in Germany, and I think that we can have more schools of this kind, and the results could be better. This is just one of the matters that I believe to be extremely important.
I would like to say that right now, in spite of the crisis, and in spite of our current difficulties, we have plenty of opportunities to develop civilian dialogue. This dialogue is becoming increasingly intense with every passing year. And the meetings that have taken place here in Bavaria have once again demonstrated the progress we have made.
Next year, this forum will be held in Russia. It is my understanding that we can discuss the location and time of this meeting. As far as its agenda is concerned, we will just have to wait and see what life has in store for us.
I am almost certain that many of the problems that the Russian and German societies are dealing with will remain. Perhaps, the crisis will be alleviated, as we are doing a great deal to improve that situation, and we will continue our efforts in the future.
But the problems in our societies remain, and we will continue to discuss them, at the Petersburg Dialogue and elsewhere. I would like to thank all of you for your participation in this forum and to wish the Petersburg Dialogue further successive efforts.