PRESIDENT OF SLOVAKIA IVAN GASPAROVIC (as translated): Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to welcome the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Medvedev, to the Slovak Republic, and I would like to report that our talks, which began yesterday, have been very interesting and comprehensive, and we have covered a variety of ideas for future cooperation.
Russia is an integral part of Europe. It is a strategic partner not only for the Slovak Republic, but for other nations in the European Union as well.
We have always supported and continue to support open dialogue. This open dialogue is imperative when we need to resolve disputable issues. We have never wanted to avoid a dialogue on these matters.
Today’s dialogue has strengthened our mutual trust. It is very much in our interest for the European Union and Russia to continue talks regarding a future strategic partnership agreement. We have common goals concerning more than just cooperation between our nations – they also concern our positions with regard to foreign policy and other vital current issues on today’s agenda.
I very much appreciate Mr President’s presence at our celebrations in honour of the 65th anniversary of Bratislava and Slovakia’s liberation. I would like to thank the Russians who gave their lives to liberate our nation, and I am proud of the Slovaks who fought hand in hand with Red Army soldiers and liberated our country. Slovakia is proud of its sons and daughters, just as it takes pride in and exalts the heroism of Russian soldiers.
Our relations are also developing nicely in the economic sector. I would like to give you a little bit of history: between 2004 and 2008, we saw great growth in trade turnover. Although the global economic crisis has hampered this progress somewhat, we are trying to do everything possible to overcome the effects of this downturn through our joint efforts. In the future, this may involve joint ventures that we will create together with our Russian partners, or perhaps other projects or joint investments, which we discussed today. This is also confirmed through the agreements we signed – as you witnessed today – and the many business contacts that will provide a legal framework for our economic interactions and serve as the main pillars of our relations.
But our cooperation is important not only in the economic sector. It’s just as important in the energy sector, as well as in transportation and oil supplies. But in addition to all this, we also discussed developing the tourism sector. We would like for Russian citizens to enjoy the wealth of natural resources, such as mineral springs, located in the Slovak Republic.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr President has already described our relations and talked about our work last night and today during our talks. Nevertheless, I would like to say a few more words. First of all, I would like to talk about the reason why I came to Bratislava.
All of us – representatives of the Russian delegation – are particularly happy that this visit is taking place specifically in the context of celebrating the liberation of Bratislava from the Nazis. We truly see this as our common Victory and we are prepared to do everything to forever preserve these events in the memory of our peoples, so that this memory remains a source of friendship and good relations between us.
Thousands of our citizens who fought for our Victory – liberating Europe from that terrible disaster – are buried here, in the Slovak soil. Yesterday, during our talks, I told Mr President that if Victory had not been achieved then, at such a terrible cost, today’s Europe would be very different. Everyone needs to remember this fact, particularly those who are currently trying to give different interpretations of that period’s history.
It is true that our agenda was and continues to be quite substantial. We discussed nearly every issue, beginning with international security, the situation in Europe, and creation of potential new institutions in order to maintain this security at the appropriate level, as well as execution of a new European security treaty.
And naturally, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing our trade and economic relations and the investment climate between our nations, which we consider to be exceedingly important for the development of harmonious relations between Russia and the Slovak Republic.
It is true that trade turnover has decreased because of the global economic crisis, but this situation can be remedied. Energy serves as the backbone of our cooperation, but it is not the only sector where we have strong, close cooperation. We must seek out new sectors where we can work together, and today, in this hall, we signed documents that lay the foundation for this kind of cooperation for the years ahead.
This includes issues relating to nuclear fuel supplies and cooperation in railroad freight car manufacturing, as well as other areas that, for the time being, are under discussion, but which I hope will soon be turned into documents.
Mr President said that Slovakia is a very open and comfortable “door” between Russia and the European Union. I told Mr President that we are ready to actively enter through this door. In this regard, we have prospects not only for bilateral cooperation, but also for cooperating with third countries, and in my view, this, too, is always good for relations, particularly since Russia is currently in the process of preparing a new agreement between our nation and the European Union.
I would once again like to thank my colleague, President Gasparovic, for his invitation to visit Slovakia and for the two memorable days we spent together.
Question: I have a brief but vital question for both Presidents with regard to what you just said. When will we finally be able to visit Slovakia and Europe without any visas at all?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think it would be best if you respond first.
IVAN GASPAROVIC (as translated): I hope that this question was addressed to me.
I would like to say that the EU member states have some differing opinions on this issue. The only way out is to reach a consensus, find a common solution for this matter. I also think that since we have resolved this problem with regard to the Western Balkans, we should also be able to resolve it with regard to Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to just express my hope that Mr President’s suggestion will soon become a reality. If we are serious partners – and we are indeed serious partners (let me remind you that our trade turnover with Europe is worth 250 billion dollars) – then we should create comfortable conditions for meeting, socialising, and simply developing positive contacts.
Question: I have a question for both Presidents. You talked today about the decrease in turnover; what is the outlook for the future?
Also, a question for the Russian President. You have talked about a treaty on European security. What role does Slovakia play in this major project involving the European Union and NATO?
IVAN GASPAROVIC (as translated): I would like to respond to your question. We have talked about the fact that turnover has decreased. But let’s also talk about the fact that we do not necessarily need an enormous turnover – it may be sufficient for us to work together on smaller economic projects, and this may be a first step toward more extensive economic cooperation.
I would also like to say that perhaps Slovak and other entrepreneurs do not have the courage to enter Russia, and vice versa. The government is doing everything in order to improve this situation and provide various opportunities for mutual cooperation. For example, we can cooperate in various sectors and we can make mutual investments.
As for our taxation policy, I would say that it is quite favourable for Russian entrepreneurs. We can create joint ventures, and Slovakia and Russia can make joint investments in third countries.
Dmitry Medvedev: First, I would like to add a few words. I am not an expert in economic history, but I think that the turnover we had in 2008 was the best in the recent history of Slovakia and the Russian Federation as an independent state. It is unlikely that it was anywhere near as good anytime before. And so, this is a good result, and we should strive to reproduce it.
However, the quality of the turnover is also important. It is no that good if the increases are due only to energy supplies, even if those energy resources are coming from Russia, which is therefore beneficial to our nation as we make profit. It is very important for our turnover to include technological products, to see the creation of new joint ventures – and not just large companies; we would like to see the emergence of small and medium-sized businesses as well. This, too, would play an important role in helping to unite the economies of our nations.
As for your other question, I feel that everything is going well with regard to our joint efforts to ensure security on our continent, develop economic cooperation, and prepare a new treaty between Russia and the European Union, and also with regard to the initiative the Russian Federation put forward regarding a new European security treaty, and the development of relations between Russia and NATO.
As for the role of our close partner Slovakia in this process – we really are privileged partners – we have been discussing all these issues, including during today’s talks with Mr President; we are openly discussing all areas for cooperation. And I am certain that if we can agree on a new framework agreement between Russia and the European Union, especially concerning a treaty on European security, then Slovakia’s interests will be fully taken into account in these agreements.
IAN GASPAROVIC (as translated): I think that it is good to discuss the future of European security within the OSCE framework. With regard to the Corfu Process, we will discuss this issue at a meeting that will be held this summer in Kazakhstan, where we can also look into many issues regarding the European security system proposed by Mr Medvedev.
Thank you very much for your attention.