President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Federal President, Ms Merz, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Federal Council, Your Excellency,
I would like to thank the Federal Council of Switzerland for this invitation to visit your wonderful country and for the warm welcome I have received.
This is the first visit by a Russian leader to Switzerland in the history of our bilateral relations, and for us, this is a significant, special event. The goal of this visit is to strengthen relations between our two nations and to greatly advance our cooperation in all areas. We are happy to see that our partners feel likewise, which will undoubtedly be conducive to success on both sides.
We also count on reinforcing this common success by signing joint documents.
Russia has a long history of respect for the Swiss nation. As far back as the end of the 18th century, the Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin described Switzerland as a land of freedom and prosperity. Here in this land, many of my great countrymen first came up with some of their finest work; at the same time, there have been some very well-known, shining examples of Swiss participation in Russia’s development.
Today, we will be marking the 210th anniversary since Alexander Suvorov’s army heroically crossed over the Alps, and we will continue our observance tomorrow with special events. Switzerland carefully preserves the memory of Suvorov’s deeds, which serves as more evidence for the historic basis of our relations. I am happy that tomorrow, I will pay tribute to my ancestors at the site where these events took place. This kind of respectful attitude toward historic events serves as an important condition for successful joint cooperation and partnership and shows the maturity of our civil societies and the politicians in power. Unfortunately, we sometimes witness examples to the contrary, when attempts are made to turn history into an instrument for political pressure.
Switzerland stands as an example of the benefits to Europe’s development that result from having different forms of government. It also demonstrates how people of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions, speaking different languages, can coexist in harmony. Of course, for centuries, Switzerland has stood apart for its tradition of neutrality – and in the 19th century, Russia was a key proponent of Switzerland’s neutrality and independence at the Vienna Congress. Even today, neutrality gives Switzerland national sovereignty and credibility as an active participant in multilateral diplomacy and a mediator in settling international conflicts, including in issues that Mr President just spoke about.
Switzerland, a nation free from the problems tied to alignment and other prejudices, holds a dignified position in today’s modern, multipolar world, doing everything it can to strengthen it. It is no accident that Switzerland is home to the headquarters of most influential international organisations – all those who work constructively with our governments to promote security, stability, trust, and cooperation, in Europe and throughout the world.
We appreciate our Swiss colleagues’ positive attitudes toward the idea suggested by Russia of developing a legally binding agreement on European security. It would be based on a non-aligned approach to providing security in the Euro-Atlantic region. We count on your active participation in the ongoing discussion on the architecture of this security.
Security, in the widest sense of the word, will also be a central topic during our talks in Bern. This is not only a matter of disarmament, weapons control, or preventing and settling international conflicts, but also a matter of financial and economic security. It is particularly relevant on the eve of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.
I find it telling that two of the major contemporary economic forums currently take place in Davos, Switzerland, and St Petersburg, Russia. Of course, the Swiss forum is much better-known, but we are also striving to develop our own forum. In general, these forums have turned into a platform for discussing ways to intensify the global economy, particularly in the conditions of a global crisis. We are also interested in addressing problems of energy supply, approaching the matter both from the angle of its consumers and suppliers.
To conclude my greetings and introductory remarks, which are directed toward everyone present, I would like to say that Russia supports dialogue among participants in international relations – dialogue that is as fair, open, and wide as possible.
I hope that we can discuss many of the issues mentioned with our Swiss colleagues using the same language, especially since Mr President has just demonstrated his excellent proficiency in our language, and is happy to use it beautifully at any opportunity. I hope that this will help us to hold productive, substantial talks and will be conducive to expanding our bilateral dialogue and cooperation.
I would like to thank you again for your very warm welcome.