President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Media representatives, colleagues,
We have just completed our sixth round of interstate consultations. I fully agree with the Italian Prime Minister’s assessment, and I think that we really have achieved very good results, impressive results. I would like to say a special thank you to Mr Silvio Berlusconi and our Italian colleagues for the wonderful atmosphere that they created for our work. When I was invited to the news conference here, in a tent, I thought at first that it would be like the tent of our friend the leader of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. But when I actually saw the tent, I realized that it is more like a work of art. Thank you, my friends.
We have taken up many different issues, as my colleague just pointed out. We talked about bilateral affairs and multilateral international topics.
First the bilateral agenda. I am not going to repeat what has been said and bombard you with figures; nevertheless, I will say that we really have accomplished a great deal of important work in recent years. Last year trade between our countries amounted to $53 billion. Italy is one of Russia’s most important trading partners.
True, this has been a difficult year, but these difficulties are temporary and we will overcome them. Firstly, we are working on them, both with Silvio and at the government level and, secondly, they are linked to changes in market conditions. So we see great potential there.
Let me cite you one more figure. The total Italian investment in Russia's economy is $10 billion. And this is not just paper investment, but real investment in various sectors of our industry. We will continue to facilitate conditions for Italian investors so that they feel comfortable and confident investing in our country.
We have a lot of joint projects. We reviewed some large projects that are already up and running, such as Superjet 100, in which our companies are involved, and Sollers and Fiat are producing automotive products together. We are discussing cooperation in the field of agricultural production.
Important agreements involving Russian and Italian companies were just signed, which really will serve as an excellent basis for the future. We cooperate in many different formats. We are pulling the banking industry towards industrial production, and that is why our banks are represented here as they must find ways during this crisis to ensure full funding for projects that were initiated in previous years. I think that in this sense nothing has ground to a halt. Everything is continuing to move forward successfully and I would like to thank the representatives of the business community and the banking community for the fact that we continue to work together despite the difficulties thrown up by everyday life.
As I mentioned today to our Italian friends, this year marks the 40th anniversary of commencement of natural gas supplies from our country to Italy. In just a few days, this event will be celebrated, and we will be doing more than merely opening some Italian sparkling wine, as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out. We are ready to begin full implementation of a big new project, one that will provide stability and energy security for Europe, the South Stream project. We have just signed further documents related to it.
We enjoy very good contacts between our countries’ regions. There are fruitful contacts in all areas between 60 different regions in Russia and regions of Italy in the economic area, by virtue of educational exchanges of course, and in the cultural sphere. All of this is very important.
In 2011 there really will be very large and significant event. We have just signed the relevant documents and I would like to give it special mention. In 2011 we will be celebrating the Year of Russian Language and Culture in Italy and the Year of Italian Language and Culture in Russia. This will bring our two peoples even closer together and contribute to improving the excellent relations that already exist between our countries.
We have paid a great deal of attention to international issues. My partner and colleague has already touched on this. But first and foremost I would note that relations between Italy and Russia are genuinely strategic and oriented towards the future and, secondly, relations between Russia and the EU are the same. In recent years we have worked hard to promote this dialogue and it is developing very positively. We count on the continued involvement of Italy in resolving the issues on our common agenda. Italy has always given us this kind of support, and in this sense the Prime Minister of Italy, my colleague Silvio Berlusconi, has personally been a great help. We would like to sign a new agreement between Russia and the EU. The EU has a new identity now. Maybe this will make our work easier, maybe it won’t. Let’s wait and see. In any event, I am convinced that with the help of our Italian friends, we can further promote our relations and usefully extend the dialogue between Russia and the EU.
We have reset our relations with NATO. We are ready to develop them to ensure a real partnership in the spirit of Pratica di Mare [Italian Air Force base where meetings between Russia and NATO took place in 2002]. In my view the Italian Government deserves credit for this framework that was established some time ago.
I recently published the text of a draft treaty on European security. Thank you for the comments that have been made about it here. We are ready to discuss this subject with all the nations in Europe and all European institutions. In my opinion this is a purely constructive idea. It is not directed against anyone but is intended to contribute to a full-fledged united European space and we would like to get on with creating it.
Our consultations have been interesting and extensive. Even the speeches of the various ministers, which are often somewhat mundane in my view, were informative, concise and to the point. Like my colleague, I would like to thank our colleagues, the ministers in the Italian Government and that of the Russian Federation, for their constructive and fruitful work.
Question: Mr Medvedev, the OSCE recently discussed your proposed European Security Treaty, and NATO will examine it tomorrow. Are you happy with your European colleagues’ response to your proposal, and do you expect it to gain any sort of practical embodiment in the near future?
Dmitry Medvedev: Regarding the document itself, I have explained its sense already and will do so again briefly now. When I put forward this proposal more than a year ago now, everyone said, “Good on you, nice idea, but we’d like to know the specifics”. I have explained all of this on numerous occasions, but even so, my colleagues in Europe and America, and simply people interested in politics, still say, “Yes, this is all very good, but it still looks like it’s directed against NATO, and it proposes nothing concrete”. So I had to give more explanations and the document sent to our partners and published on the kremlin.ru site is thus our response to all of these questions.
What we propose is a full-fledged treaty based on the principle that European security is indivisible. It offers a whole set of control mechanisms needed to settle even the most complex issues. I think that you will all agree with me that Europe still has problems to resolve. Some of these problems in fact jeopardise our continent’s security, as we saw last year. I expect therefore that our partners will study this document attentively. I hope we will continue discussing this proposal at all of the different forums: in the OSCE, with our partners in the European Union, at the forum through which we work for rapprochement between the positions of the Russian Federation and NATO, in the CSTO, and in the Commonwealth of Independent States. We all need to get involved if we want to create a new treaty.
When you look at it, after all, Helsinki was a long while ago. From time to time we need to modernise our institutions. We need to preserve all the good work accomplished of course, and at the same time we also need to build new structures that will help us to guarantee security.
Question: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said recently that he does not rule out the possibility of running for president in 2012. I therefore want to ask President Medvedev: can we speak now of an open contest between you and your predecessor?
Dmitry Medvedev: Prime Minister Putin said that he does not rule out this possibility. For my part, I can say too that I do not rule out this possibility. We have said in the past that we are close, understand each other well and work together. I am sure that we will be able to agree on how to not get in each other’s way but make the best decisions for our country. In any case, this whole issue will be relevant only if Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin actually have a reasonable chance of winning the election. We cannot read the future and we do not know what the situation will be like in a few years time. But whatever the case, I am sure that we will behave as responsible politicians.
Question: The declaration on energy sector cooperation is certainly better than the weather forecasts, though Moscow has a winter record temperature of +8 today, and in Rome it is +15 and sunny. I think that everyone is hoping that the winter will be warm in Europe in all respects, however.
The closer we come to carrying out the South Stream project, the clearer its outlines become, the more calm and reliable the situation is for all of our partners in Europe. What does the memorandum signed today entail? What changes will it bring?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think the important thing now is not to look for something new but simply to put our full efforts into the work we have before us. We are making good progress on South Stream. We signed documents just recently with another of our European partners, Slovenia, and today we are signing these special agreements with our Italian friends.
The main task now is to keep to the timetable and agreements already reached, despite the fact that, as you said, it is +15 in Rome today and +8 in Moscow. This difference between us is degrees Celsius, not time zones, and so I hope we will simply continue moving forward as we agreed.
South Stream and Nord Stream are projects aimed at guaranteeing a real modern energy security system in Europe. If we carry out this South Stream project I am sure that everyone will benefit. We have excellent prospects for seeing it through, and today’s agreements contribute to this.
Question: Does the Russian President support, and in what way, the strategy [on Afghanistan] announced by President of the United States Barack Obama? And I would like to hear your comments on the criticism coming from many former Russian soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, which the Financial Times wrote about.
Dmitry Medvedev: Afghanistan is a big problem for the international community. The issue is not just that it is a problem for all of us. The issue is that Afghanistan has to find its own place as a country. This process has been going on for decades if not centuries. We have all seen that attempts to build statehood in Afghanistan through importing foreign political technology fail to bring results. This was the case last century, and I am sure that it will be the case now too. But we have a duty to help our partners in Afghanistan.
The American and European servicemen, including Italian servicemen, currently in Afghanistan are essentially playing a peacekeeping role. This is very important, all the more so as not too long ago Afghanistan posed a threat to security throughout Europe. We all remember what the situation there was like.
President Obama called me as a partner and told me about his new plans regarding Afghanistan. I value this step. This is a serious plan and we are ready to support our partners’ efforts, including by providing transit via the Russian Federation and also by carrying out reasonable economic transformation. There are some projects dating from the Soviet period that remain in Afghanistan, and there are opportunities for us to help in training Afghan police and military servicemen, for example. In other words, we can make our contribution too.
But ultimately, I think that only Afghanistan’s own government can bring order to the country. I hope President Karzai, who was just re-elected to office, will focus on establishing the mechanisms he needs to govern his own country.