Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to Khanty-Mansiysk.
As we discussed, we are continuing to give our contacts greater geographical scope. Two years ago, a Russia-EU summit took place in Sochi, last year it took place in Samara Region, and this year we are meeting in another of Russia’s fast-growing regions – the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District. The fact that this summit is taking place here in Khanty-Mansiyskis symbolic in a sense given the growing energy problems we currently face, problems that will certainly be part of our discussions today. Although, when we made the invitation last year to come to Khanty-Mansiysk we did not know just how acute this issue would become eight months later.
I just want to point out that Khanty-MansiyskAutonomous District is Russia’s biggest oil and electricity producing region and the second-biggest gas producing region. It is here that the ‘energy rivers’ that flow to Europe take their source, and it is here that a large part of the Russian Federation’s budget revenue is generated. As you have been able to see, the region has a developed economic and social infrastructure.
Today’s meeting gives us a good opportunity to continue our dialogue on all the strategic issues concerning development of relations between Russia and the European Union. I especially want to congratulate the European Union on settling its differences and approving the mandate for negotiating a new agreement with Russia. We see this as the chance to review many positions and outline new areas for the future development of our relations. As we discussed yesterday evening, we feel an urgent need to work together with the European Union on coordinating our efforts to counter the threats and respond to the challenges affecting the international situation today.
We want a frank and open dialogue, want to develop our relations and give them new impetus so as to be able to overcome any problems we encounter along the way as we draw closer to each other.
To say a few words on the actual substance of our contacts, first, as concerns the approval of a new mandate, we very much welcome the European Council’s decision on general issues and foreign relations. We agreed at the Sochi summit that the new agreement would be a framework document, brief and without excessive detail. It should enable us to working smoothly on putting in place a system of sector-based agreements for cooperation with the European Union in various specific areas. We think that these are the key points to keep in mind as we begin work.
Slovenian Prime Minister and President-In-Office of the European Council Janez Jansa (retranslated from Russian) : Previously, Russia-EU summits have taken place in the western part of the European continent, but today we have chosen the east. It is important to realise the importance of this part of the world that Russia and the European Union encompass, and it is helpful here to think of the distance between Mafra [the Portuguese town where the last Russia-EU summit took place] and Khanty-Mansiisk.
We are grateful for this invitation to come to Western Siberia, because our knowledge of Russia, the Russia we are familiar with, usually ends somewhere around the Urals, and our knowledge of more distant parts of the country often owes more to outdated stereotypes.
Khanty-Mansiyskoffers us a modern picture that gives us an idea of just how rapidly Russia’s economic potential is growing. At the same time, preparations are underway for the festival of Finno-Ugric peoples. One of the European Union presidency’s priorities is intercultural dialogue and, as the first Slavic country to head the European Union, Slovenia has made its contribution to this dialogue.
We are aware on both sides of how important our common history and the civilisation and cultural heritage we share are for developing the relations between Russia and the European Union.
At the same time, we have been working lately to ensure that the message sent out by this summit is that of a promise to usher in a new period.
Since the first summit ten years ago, our relations have made such progress that we now have a better foundation for our future development, and we are pleased to be opening a new chapter here today.
There is much that is symbolic at our meeting today at the start of this European Union-Russia summit.
Once again I thank you for your hospitality and give the floor to the Chairman of the European Commission.
chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (retranslated from Russian): Thank you. It is a great pleasure to be here today in Khanty-Mansiisk.
This Russia-EU summit is taking place at a time of renewal. We are starting negotiations on a new agreement between the European Union and Russia. Russia has a new government and a new president now, and we in the European Union pay close attention to your statements on Russia, on international relations, on global economic management and on climate change and security issues.
These statements concern many issues that are very relevant today for relations between Russia and the EU. In particular, this concerns strengthening the supremacy of the law and working together as members of the international community to resolve the global problems that affect us all (problems such as climate change and energy security). These are important items on the agenda for today’s discussions too.
In this era of globalisation we find ourselves under constant pressure. We need to reform, modernise and introduce innovations. You have come up with a programme of reform and modernisation that emphasises innovation, infrastructure and institutions. We are confident that we can become your partners in these combined efforts. The European Union is also committed to our joint efforts to modernise and innovate.
In the face of the global challenges to the international community we think that your accession to the WTO should be the next important step in developing our trade and economic relations. We have very strong trade and economic relations and I hope that new horizons will open up before them and that they will take on a new quality.
Energy is also an important aspect of our trade and economic relations. We think that we need to establish a genuine energy partnership with Russia.
Russia is one of the European Union’s main energy suppliers and we are one of Russia’s biggest export markets. We should all benefit from this situation. Producers and consumers both see energy security as a very important issue at this time of high energy prices, and this is a signal that our citizens understand well.
We have healthy trade and economic relations and they are growing all the time. But I am convinced that there is still unrealized potential on the trade front and that we need to find solutions to the problems and overcome the obstacles that still exist in our relations. We also need to take into consideration progress in other important areas for our citizens, whether simplifying visa rules, developing scientific contacts, or strengthening our ties in the area of disaster relief.
This summit should give us the chance to work effectively on issues concerning the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear issue, and Afghanistan.
We will also look at the complex issues facing our neighbourhood environment in general. It is important to ensure stability. We are responsible for taking more active measures to resolve the existing problems.
Mr President, we are looking forward to a very constructive summit.
Thank you very much for the invitation.