President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the media,
First of all, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Swedish prime minister, Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt, for the invitation to hold these talks and visit Sweden. It has indeed been quite a while since we met in this format. It was a very good thing that today’s formal meeting was preceded by the informal time we spent together yesterday. We met over dinner and discussed various issues in an informal atmosphere.
I think this is important because we are never short of subjects for discussion, and at the same time, talking to each other gives us the chance to clarify our positions and answer the questions that inevitably build up. We spoke just before about how there are always some things that neighbours agree on fully, and others on which they differ in their views. This is normal. The important thing is simply to meet more often and clear up these kinds of questions.
The Prime Minister has already just given an exact account of the content of our talks. We looked at all the issues on the bilateral agenda and also discussed the international issues of most importance for our countries, bearing in mind that very soon, in less than an hour, the EU-Russia summit will begin, where we will continue our discussions and examine other international matters.
As far as the specific subjects discussed are concerned, the climate change issue is indeed one of the most important. Our countries are among the world leaders in the extent of their voluntary commitments in this area, and their desire to take this process forward.
I briefed the Prime Minister on the discussions in Singapore, where a meeting on climate change took place, and on the, for now interim and modest, but nonetheless promising results that were obtained. This is perhaps an example of just the kind of international cooperation we are actively promoting, all the more so we have quite specific issues into which to put our energy. The Prime Minister mentioned these issues just now. One of them is the Baltic Sea. We live alongside the Baltic Sea and have an interest in seeing it clean, so as to make our own lives along its shores more comfortable. I grew up in St Petersburg and know through personal experience just how fine this sea can look, and also just what problems it has, because the problems are certainly there, unfortunately, and have built up over the decades. This is an area in which we will definitely continue our work.
Coming back to our bilateral relations, they have grown steadily over recent years and are in general looking rather good. Our bilateral trade reached a solid figure of more than 8 billion US dollars last year – the highest result in our trading history. Of course, trade has decreased this year due to the crisis, though it is not our fault but the price we pay for being part of the global economy.
I hope to see our trade grow stronger again, all the more so as we have a large number of joint projects, as the Prime Minister said just now. Some Swedish companies are flagships of cooperation, including IKEA and some others. They are popular brands in Russia. I hope that our cooperation in this area will continue and that our consumers will receive the quality goods produced here.
Of course, we are also interested in developing the agreements underpinning our relations. We know that several memorandums are ready and could have been signed here today in Stockholm, but for some unknown reason it was decided not to hold the signing today, obviously so as to give our colleagues the chance to meet once more and sign these documents either in Moscow or in Stockholm. We still have preparation work ahead on a whole package of documents concerning healthcare, law enforcement cooperation, which I think is important for our countries, and a number of other areas. We have agreed that this preparation work will be stepped up to get these agreements ready for signing.
It is also my hope that the Prime Minister will come to Russia so that we can continue our discussions and build on this positive impetus that we are seeing in our bilateral relations.
Question: Trade has grown considerably over recent years, but even so, a good number of Swedish companies are still nervous about working in Russia, in particular because of the high corruption levels there. This is a big problem. What can be done to address it?
Dmitry Medvedev: First of all, I agree with my colleague that we are interested in developing a wide range of contacts with Swedish companies and developing business, including business in science-intensive sectors, in IT, and in making our economy more energy efficient – one of our strategic goals and something I spoke about recently. Of course it is in our interests for business to be able to operate in a quality environment and without problems of any kind.
Naturally, we are aware of the problems that exist in our economy, including the corruption issue. This is not something we can be of two minds about. Russia will continue taking action to reduce corruption and punish those involved in such crimes.
For objectivity’s sake, I have to agree with what the Prime Minister said on this point too. Russia is not alone in this case. Corruption has infected practically the entire planet and exists in every economy. The task for us is to bring the situation under control and stamp out as many of these corrupt practices as we can. We still have a lot of work to do in this direction.
Question: My question is similar. Russian-Swedish relations have stagnated somewhat of late, but now, following the decision on Nord Stream, is it possible they will gain new impetus? In particular, could telecommunications companies and automakers such as Volvo and Saab, say, enter the Russian market and invest in the Russian economy? Overall, how do you view the prospects for growth in trade and economic relations?
Dmitry Medvedev: Who is your question for?
Question: For you.
Dmitry Medvedev: I am happy to share it with the Prime Minister, if he wishes to add his comments too.
What can I say? First of all, the very fact that we are standing here shows that we agree on the need to intensify our cooperation, including economic cooperation. This is obvious. Those who do not wish to develop cooperation do not go visiting each other. Second, we value the Swedish Government’s decision (a decision made following serious reflection and analysis and that followed in full the required internal procedures, as my colleague and I discussed yesterday) to authorise the Nord Stream pipeline to be laid across Sweden’s economic zone. I think this decision is evidence, first, of Sweden’s considered and balanced approach, and second, of the fact that this project is mutually advantageous and that Europe has an interest in it, because it will ultimately make Europe’s energy security more universal. This is our common goal. The more such possibilities exist, the more energy supply route possibilities there are, the more independent Europe will be in terms of energy supply sources.
Our position is therefore straightforward. We have always supported these kinds of projects. Some of them benefit Russia, and others go ahead without our involvement, but this is all normal and there is nothing out of the ordinary here.
As for other investment, of course we would be happy to see it come, especially as we already have good experience of developing investment cooperation with Sweden. Yesterday, we recalled the 1990s, when this cooperation began. I was still working in St Petersburg then, but it was at that time that the first Russian-Swedish joint ventures opened and large-scale serious work began.
We would be happy to develop cooperation in the automotive sector too, all the more so as some work in this area is already underway. Assembly production would be possible, and other kinds of investment too, though, to be honest, these are not the easiest times for the car industry.
Yesterday, we spoke about the fact that very tough standards will apply in the car industry in the future, whether in Sweden or in Russia. We have to ensure that tomorrow’s automotive sector is more modern, meets high environmental standards, and of course, adapts itself to consumers’ demands and offers them quality products.
But overall, what I want to say is that I think our countries have good prospects for investment cooperation, because where political contacts show development, investment usually follows.