President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano (as retranslated from Russian): Good afternoon, everybody.
I would like to thank President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev for the invitation to make a state visit to the Russian Federation – the first visit by a foreign head of state since his election – and for the hospitality I have received at the Kremlin.
This is our second meeting following that which took place at the Quirinal Palace in Rome in June 2007. Our joint talks confirmed very rightly that the relations between our countries are at an excellent level in all areas: in the economy, in trade, and in cultural and humanitarian ties. Our intensive political contacts and all-round cooperation show that Italy considers the Russian Federation a strategically important partner with who we can discuss subjects of direct concern to both countries and all issues concerning peace, development and stability in the world in general. We are talking here about issues that we all have an interest in resolving, and it is important that the Russian Federation also take part in their resolution and be given recognition as one of the main actors in the system of multilateral international relations. In this spirit, as you know, Italy supports the Russian Federation in its accession to the World Trade Organisation.
We are happy with the latest decisions on holding talks based on the specific mandate for drafting a new partnership and cooperation agreement between the European Union and the Russian Federation. We should make use of this important opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our relations, which have deep-reaching roots and important reasons and motivations, and we will therefore continue along the pragmatic road of constructive dialogue. Despite the institutional difficulties that we have encountered since enlarging to 27 countries, the European Union intends to pursue a common foreign policy and speak with one voice, so as to make its weight felt in this changing world. I am sure that Russia, for its part, can appreciate the importance of the security guarantees offered by a united Europe, a Europe united in democracy and peace. President Medvedev and I therefore discussed the most sensitive and complex international issues and in this respect it is our conviction that the NATO-Russia Council is a forum of fundamental importance for discussing the challenges we face in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, in stabilising and establishing peace in crisis regions, and in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing arms in general. NATO and the Russian Federation both have an interest in establishing an effective system for controlling conventional arms in Europe. We need to continue our dialogue on all the issues that have not yet been resolved, make mutual efforts and show mutual flexibility. I personally listened with great interest to the ideas President Medvedev put forward on a new European security architecture. In its work within the European Union Italy will certainly support giving this subject particular attention and will be open to further discussion of this proposal.
Allow me to conclude by taking a brief look at our bilateral relations, which were a separate part of our talks, talks that will continue with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and which will also be discussed at the important Russian-Italian intergovernmental summit. We have excellent economic relations at every level and in every sector thanks to Italian and Russian companies’ ability to open up new areas and sectors for cooperation. The government’s task is to support this kind of work. I can say that Russia and Italy are doing everything necessary to create a favourable climate for businesses working in trade, finance and in the energy sector so that they can develop their bilateral relations with ever-increasing success.
Cooperation between our two countries in price stabilisation and ensuring energy security is of particular importance today.
Thank you for your attention.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my genuine pleasure to welcome to Moscow one of Europe’s most influential politicians – President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano. I want to say right away that I agree with what has just been said: today’s talks were substantial and were the logical continuation of the meeting we had in June last year in Rome.
Our talks took place in the businesslike, trusting and friendly spirit that is traditional for Russian-Italian ties and were, by common agreement, productive. This privileged relation of genuine partnership with Italy is especially meaningful for Russia and it is important that our relations have developed even more intensively and become even more dynamic over recent years. The President spoke about the economy just now and I also said a few words about it during our meeting. Our bilateral trade is growing very fast indeed. To give another figure not yet named today: our bilateral trade increased by almost 70 percent over the first four months of this year. It is pleasing to see that this increase is mutual and not one-sided. Exports from Russia are up by 70 percent and Italian exports have risen by 50 percent.
The fuel and energy sector remains a key area in our bilateral relations. The successes are evident here. A new project, Southern Stream, was launched almost a year ago now and is developing actively today. Other deals have taken place – deals related to the acquisition by major Italian energy companies ENEL and ENI of Russian gas and electricity assets. Also important is the large-scale Russian investment in Italy’s fuel and energy sector. In other words, this is a two-way street. On the agenda now are further diversification of our ties and the development of new high-technology products, and this is also something that makes us happy.
Our humanitarian ties are traditionally substantial and diverse and they remain so today. We know that the Italian President pays particular attention to this area and I would like to express once again my sincere thanks to Mr Napolitano for the presentation of the Hermitage-Italy Centre in October last year, and to the President’s wife for taking part in the opening ceremony of the centre’s first exhibition, which was on the work of the Renaissance-era Italian artist Benvenuto Tisi.
On behalf of Orthodox believers in Russia, I also thanked the Italian leadership for the return without compensation to our country of the church complex, the Russian Orthodox Church Metochion in the city of Bari. This year also marks 100 years since the Russian Navy’s famous humanitarian operation to rescue people in Messina after the city was struck by an earthquake. We plan to hold special commemorations of both of these events.
The President and I exchanged views on a wide range of European and international issues during our talks. I want to say that our approaches are very similar in many ways. This applies above all to ensuring a stable and democratic world order, economic progress in the interests of all countries, and the search for suitable responses to the challenges emerging in our world. In this respect we place great importance on our close cooperation within the G8, and this is especially relevant given that Italy will hold the presidency of this group in 2009. Our countries support the unconditional priority of international law and diplomatic means of resolving all conflicts, and seek to strengthen collective foundations. Of course, we also support the construction of a united Europe.
I note that Italy has always taken a very constructive approach to developing the whole spectrum of relations between Russia and the European Union. This is something I discussed in considerable detail with the President during our meeting in narrow format. I hope that the relevant documents will be drafted and work will soon continue on the foundation of the new Russia-European Union basic agreement.
We also exchanged views on general European security issues. We know what problems currently exist in this area. Russia’s concerns in this area are also well known: our concerns about missile defence plans and about a number of other problems in Europe today. We think that in this respect the proposal put forward recently on convoking a pan-European summit to start the process of drafting a legally binding treaty on European security could be particularly useful. As far as I understand, the President also considers this idea interesting. All countries in the Euro-Atlantic area could take part in this treaty as individual states.
There are many regional problems too: the situation in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, and the Iranian nuclear problem. Our countries are engaged in ongoing dialogue and consultations on these problems and our approaches to their resolution are close or practically identical.
In conclusion, I would once more like to thank Mr Napolitano for the interest he took in these talks and for the constructive dialogue, and I wish him a pleasant and productive stay in our country.