President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Lebedev, this year Russia is chairing the Commonwealth of Independent States. For us this is an honourable duty. Naturally we are preparing for this and are keen to carry out all our responsibilities in this regard.
I would like to discuss with you the most pressing challenges we face this year, given that the CIS, as the main integration association that exists in post-Soviet space, is in the process of changing. And despite the fact that all of us are not always happy with the process of integration itself, we all – and here I am referring to my fellow presidents, the Commonwealth leaders – proceed from the assumption that there is currently no other such structure, and that we must do everything we can to ensure that projects implemented within the framework of the CIS will benefit our nations and our peoples.
Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States Sergei Lebedev: Mr President, I want to say that the CIS Executive Committee and the CIS member-states welcome Russia’s chairmanship in the Commonwealth and its active start.
In November of last year Russia introduced its concept of Russia’s chairmanship. On the basis of this concept, a detailed, effective and comprehensive plan was worked out later. In November 2009 the CIS Executive Committee already had its own, very extensive plan of support for Russia’s chairmanship. I regularly visit the CIS states, and I should say that everywhere there are very high hopes for Russia’s chairmanship, as CIS members believe a great deal depends on Russia and that it can give new momentum to cooperation and make new proposals.
We have already begun implementing a programme for Russia’s chairmanship. The CIS Executive Committee has been working closely with Russia’s national coordinator for CIS Affairs, Mr Igor Shuvalov [First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia], with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Presidential Executive Office.
One of the first major activities to be carried out in Moscow is the economic forum of CIS countries on March 5 of this year. We are now actively engaged in the preparation of this forum. It will be devoted primarily to Russia’s new initiatives in the CIS framework.
In the CIS countries 2010 was declared the Year of Science and Innovation. Therefore the subject of scientific, technological and innovative collaboration will predominate in discussions at this forum which is one of the first major events.
Then on March 26, 2010 there will be a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and we are currently preparing the agenda for this meeting.
Of course another important event will be the activities involved in the preparation for and celebration of the 65th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. As you know, this year has been designated Veterans Year under the slogan “We Won Together”, and we are also preparing a lot of activities in this regard.
Certainly, a landmark event will be the military parade in Moscow [on May 9], to which you have invited the leaders of CIS countries, and as far as I know an informal summit of the leaders will also take place at that time.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have invited the CIS leaders to an informal meeting, since of course in the run-up to our common holiday that seemed to make perfect sense.
Sergei Lebedev: We are working with the Presidential Executive Office to prepare for this summit and hope that it too will be a landmark event this year.
In addition, during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum every year the CIS countries participate in a round table discussion. This is an interesting event: we have done it twice, and now there is a proposal from the CIS states to make it a tradition. Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has supported the proposal, and this year again we are preparing a round table discussion, and we plan to combine it with the meeting of the CIS Economic Council, to which members of the Economic Council will also be invited. As a rule, this means the Commonwealth’s deputy prime ministers responsible for the economy.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that in addition to economic projects that we are implementing within the CIS, there are other forms of integration in which we are trying to pursue our joint economic policies. In fact, this year we should really pay special attention to cultural and educational projects. Of course May 9 [Victory Day] is the most important of these, the holiday that brings us closest together. It is the basis for such meetings and discussions. But there are other projects in the field of culture and science, the innovative projects about which you spoke, those to be undertaken during the Year of [Science and] Innovation. I think that we could still do much more in this regard to make this year memorable and effect results.
Sergei Lebedev: That’s absolutely right. For these purposes the Council for Humanitarian Cooperation [of the CIS Member-States], which is headed by [Presidential Aide] Ms Dzhakhan Pollyeva, and the Intergovernmental Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation [among the CIS Member-States] can make major contributions.
We’re also already busy preparing a CIS Intelligentsia Forum involving scientific and creative professions, which is to be held in Moscow. Over the years this forum has also become a landmark event. And with regard to the [CIS] Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Fund, the great achievement of this fund was the creation of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of CIS countries, which is now giving performances.
Dmitry Medvedev: They’re terrific. Last year they came to the Kremlin and performed there.
Sergei Lebedev: They played in Moscow and Chisinau for the Council of [CIS] Heads of State. We plan to continue this practice.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the CIS creation, and of course we have to think about how to celebrate this date.
Dmitry Medvedev: And not just celebrate but to take stock: talk about what has been done and more importantly what hasn’t been done. I think we all need to do this.