President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: First of all, I am extremely pleased to welcome the President of Finland, dear Tarja, to our Sochi residence. This is our third meeting this year and it certainly demonstrates that our relations are absolutely not short-term but relations for strategic purposes – they depend neither on the economic climate, nor the climate outside our windows. We communicate, discuss a wide variety of issues and, most importantly, keep our relationship moving forward.
Of course, now is not the simplest time for our peoples and for our countries, and this is because of the crisis. I think that the challenge of close partners, good partners like Russia and the Republic of Finland, is to ensure that the impact of the crisis has a minimal effect on factors such as our trade relations, to make sure that a decrease in volume of our trade is minor and insignificant. That is why we hold regular meetings which is a very good way of attaining these objectives.
We have common goals and objectives related to security on the European continent and with regards to ensuring environmental conditions for normal life, including in the Baltic region — Finland is making a special effort in this respect and we appreciate this. We have a number of major joint projects, both economic and environmental ones. I think that our meeting today will provide an opportunity to pursue cooperation on these fronts. Once again, I would like to welcome you to Sochi. We will talk.
And the last thing – a present. In connection with the fact that we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Finnish autonomy, we have translated the book by Osmo Jussila, The Grand Duchy of Finland: 1809–1917, into Russian. A magisterial study.
President of Finland Tarja Halonen (as translated into Russian): Thank you. This is a great surprise. 1809 has been mentioned many times this year both in Finland and in Russia, and not without reason. Finland was part of Sweden for over 600 years and it was then that the foundations of our society were established. As you know, following the war between Sweden and Russia [February 1808 to September 1809], Sweden ceded its eastern part to Russia. War is always very sad, but at the same time the end of this war meant autonomy for Finland [as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire]. Sometimes we joke about this serious issue and say that no one wanted a war between Sweden and Russia, but because of France and England there was no other choice. It was the European politics of the time. But now Europe has lived in peace for more than 60 years. With regard to the period of autonomy, we have studied this issue from different angles. I think that during our talks we will probably find other aspects as well.
With regard to the Baltic Sea, I believe that this is an important issue for Sweden, Russia, Finland and our other neighbours. Sweden is the current President of the European Union and the strategy for the Baltic Sea is a very important topical issue for the European Union. There is also the EU’s Northern Dimension programme in which Russia participates. Participants in this field want to increase the intensity of our cooperation.
The Baltic Sea is not in good condition and we need to work together so that if not our children, then at least our grandchildren can enjoy a clean sea. But the Baltic Sea is safe for swimming and I want to say that I very much hope that you, dear President Medvedev, will have the opportunity to come and swim in Naantali.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course. I have swum in the Baltic Sea since I was a child. There were never any problems.
Tarja Halonen: But you probably did not swim in Naantali.
Dmitry Medvedev: I did not. That was an oversight.
Tarja Halonen: Good, in the presence of the media I want to say: we will meet next summer in Naantali.
Dmitry Medvedev: Agreed.