President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
We have completed our 12th round of intergovernmental consultations at the highest level.
I would like to begin by thanking Ms Federal Chancellor and all our German and Russian colleagues for their productive work and for everything that has recently been accomplished. Indeed, we have done quite a lot. Only twelve months have passed since we met in Munich, but since then, we have had a wide variety of events. We remember the situation when we met in Munich: all the economies were sinking and the mood was gloomy. Now, we are all in more-or-less decent shape, although there are certainly problems that remain. And Russian-German relations have played an important role in the fact that we are now overcoming the crisis, since we are major trade partners. The well-being of our economies depends partially on the state of our trade relations.
The pinnacle of the work we have been doing over the last year is represented in the documents that have been signed. Quite a few were signed today, and they serve as evidence of the fundamental nature of our strategic partnership. I will not talk again about what was signed; you have all seen and heard about it.
These are truly serious, major agreements concerning social relations (which is important for us), as well as healthcare and, naturally, major investment projects, including railway connections. They also have to do with joint technologies and cooperation in the fields of education, science, and culture.
We are developing our relations in all areas. This truly is important with regard to how we build contacts in the future. We hope that German businesses will be very active within the framework of the large project being implemented in Skolkovo innovation centre.
We support the Siemens company’s desire to build a competence centre in Skolkovo and Siemens executives’ participation in Skolkovo’s administration. We see these as very encouraging examples.
We came to an agreement with the European Union on implementing our Partnership for Modernisation initiative, and in this sense, Germany is certainly our key strategic partner to whom we are connected through thousands of various business contacts, and with whom we have an enormous trade. Incidentally, I wanted to note my pleasure that this trade has rebounded after the crisis, and in recent months, it has reached nearly the same level as in 2008. This is very good.
We are promoting energy efficiency. Two years ago, we came up with the idea of establishing a Russian-German energy agency, and as I recall, we discussed this in St Petersburg. We have launched it, it is functioning, and it is making an impact on the problem of energy efficiency, which is exceedingly relevant in Russia since unfortunately, at this time, we still do not have the necessary skills in this area.
But a positive topic that was addressed today is the launch of a special Russian-German Year of Science and Education in 2011. We have a whole range of ideas for this event. I hope that they will be implemented and that they will be interesting.
We have attended the tenth Petersburg Dialogue, an anniversary forum, which is a human measure (although it is no less important than economic measures) on matters of contacts between people and civil societies, discussions of difficult historic periods, and conversations regarding current problems. Overall, I think that it went quite well.
We agreed to develop new projects such as Russian Germans: 1,000 Years of History, Culture, and Arts, or The Bronze Age: Europe without Borders. We also agreed to draft jointly a history textbook. Now, we have inquired into how soon it may be prepared and it was decided such a joint history textbook should be published in two years. Our experience of communicating with many other nations shows that a textbook like that is always useful. It’s not a matter of having an absolutely identical view of history. Rather, discussing and coordinating certain approaches to it which is certainly fruitful.
No doubt, we discussed a large range of topics that we and our German friends are actively addressing within the framework of the G8 and the G20. These include economic cooperation, resolving complex issues of financial architecture, work in areas identified some time ago with regard to foreign policy, including the suggestion to create an EU-Russia committee on issues of foreign policy and security, and coordination on difficult regional matters, which I think, have been quite successful lately. We are in agreement on issues and problems which even a few years ago could hardly be expected to produce consent. Overall, we discussed just about everything.
I would like to say that the discussion was very good-hearted and sincere, just like my relations with Ms Federal Chancellor. Angela and I have a genuinely friendly relationship. I think that this is important in order for our nations to have harmonious, all-encompassing relations of strategic partnership. Yesterday, we talked for a long time, just as we did in Meseberg, until 1.30 in the morning local time (it was not that late in Berlin, though), but nevertheless, we had another lengthy discussion of various aspects. We have already had a whole set of talks, consultations, and discussions today.
So I am very glad that all this has happened here, in Yekaterinburg. I would like to take a moment to specifically thank Yekaterinburg for its hospitality, for these wonderful conditions, and for the great weather we’re having, which was conducive to our work – it’s been nice to take a break from the heat.
Question: Mr Medvedev, in your recent speech at the Foreign Ministry, you spoke about the need to create a modernisation alliance with foreign partners, and Germany was first on that list. Could you explain what you see as the basis for this alliance between our nations? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for paying attention to my speech at the Foreign Ministry. I am ready to repeat what I had said there, because I don’t know whether Angela read anything about it. I said that Russia would like to create modernisation alliances, and I quote, “with Germany, France, Italy, the European Union in general, and the United States.”
I would like to point out that Germany is number one on that list, and the reasons for that are clear. We truly have very long-standing relations of partnership that have not been spoiled even by the darker pages of history. We have always had a very productive exchange of views on a variety of issues, we have always worked on common technologies, at least in the last century, and we definitely now have exceptional economic relations. That is precisely why, in my view, Germany should hold the most esteemed place in an alliance for modernisation.
We are very much counting on the projects we discussed today, as well as the ideas we already came up with but which have not yet been put down on paper, to be implemented and brought to life, because Germany has excellent technological expertise.
Germany is the most developed country in the European Union and has the largest economy. Working with our German partners has always been comfortable, be it 300 years ago, in a near past, or at the moment. In this sense, we know how to find a common language and economic interests that fully bring us together.
Question: Mr President, allow me to ask a question in German. Don’t you think there is one element lacking in the Partnership for Modernisation – namely, Russian investments in Germany? Don’t you think that Russian capital is unwanted in Germany, given certain unsuccessful projects?
Ms Federal Chancellor, did you discuss the European security architecture? Do you think that the EU is currently the main instrument for integrating Russia into that partnership?
Dmitry Medvedev: Indeed, there is some disproportion. We have a total of about 20 billion dollars in German investments into the Russian economy. It’s a matter of calculation, but there is at least 20 billion. Clearly, Russian investments in Germany are smaller, but they are there. Some of these are investments that people hear about, and some are less well-known; there are some that were made during the crisis, and others that already have somewhat of a history.
Indeed, we would like to have greater presence in the German economy, and most importantly, we have both the desire and money for that. Thus, we expect the investment process to become reciprocal. I think this will be to the benefit of our German friends as well.
Overall, I believe the situation is favourable for our investments and an allegation that our investments are unwanted or restricted in Germany is certainly untrue. That is simply not the case. There are states within the European Union with which we have far greater issues. In this regard, we consider Germany a very comfortable partner.
Question: A question to both leaders. During the talks in Meseberg as well as today you discussed visa-related matters and agreed that the visa regime makes life more difficult for businesspeople and tourists. Generally speaking, this is a problem for everybody. As everyone knows, acknowledging a problem means making the first step toward resolving it. In your view, what is necessary in order to make the next step, and when will it finally be made? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is easier for me to answer this question, because everything here is quite obvious and we clearly would like to establish visa-free relations as we think we are ready for that. Our businesses want this, our people want this; present times dictate it. Thus, as you rightly noted, we have made the first step, and I have even delivered a draft agreement on this matter. Certainly, it is only a draft and it is evident, the situation within the European Union is not simple. Our partners are discussing this subject and we hope that we will see some real progress in this issue.
By the way, the meeting we had today with Russian and German business leaders convinced me that we should really address the visa matter decisively and energetically, as this question was raised today not even by Russian but by German businesspeople.
We drew attention of our European partners – in this case, not just Germany, but our European partners in general – to the number of countries with whom the European Union has agreements on visa-free travel. Some of our European partners may not be aware of the full list of such countries. I do not want to comment on anything here, but you should simply look at this list and you will understand everything. It is just like the issue of Russia’s accession to the WTO where all sorts of countries are members already. The countries granted visa-free regime are also most diverse.
Question: Mr President, I would like to come back to your speech at the Foreign Ministry this Monday when you said that in your opinion Iran is getting close to acquiring nuclear capability that can be used to create nuclear weapons. We have not heard from Russia any new comments. Did you get any news that led you to this conclusion? Will this have any repercussions with regard to Russia’s policy on sanctions?
Dmitry Medvedev: Iran has been conducting nuclear research for a long time, and as far as nuclear technologies are concerned, the expert community has, for quite some time, listed it among the countries that are close to becoming nuclear threshold nations. Assessments may certainly differ, but we give a lot of weight to what Iran is doing and saying.
I have stated many times that Iran is our active and long-standing trade partner. But this does not mean that we are indifferent to how Iran is developing its nuclear programme or that we are unconcerned by the military components of this programme. In this regard, we are awaiting clarification from Iran, because the information received through open channels and, naturally, supplied by intelligence agencies in their reports, evidences that these programmes are advancing. As these programmes are progressing, Iran must act responsibly and engage in full-scale cooperation with the international community, even if it does not like the questions being asked.
I understand that to a certain extent, this is an issue of national pride for Iran; it is an idea that unifies the Iranian people and is actively exploited by Iranian leaders to achieve their political goals. But ultimately, they do not live in a vacuum, and they must understand the degree of responsibility that Iran has toward the international community.
We certainly hope that after the UN Security Council resolution and some other steps, Iran will nevertheless agree to properly cooperate with the IAEA and the countries participating in discussions on this issue.
Before passing it over to Angela, I would like to say just a few words about the investigation into the tragic death of Ms Natalia Estemirova. I regularly receive reports from the Investigative Committee, so I can summarise the latest one. First of all, it is wrong to say that there is no investigation as it is fully underway. Second, unless the perpetrator is captured in the act, investigations of cases like this never bring quick results. Third, the murderer, the assassin has been identified. Fourth, he has been placed on the international wanted list. And finally, further investigative activities are taking place to identify, in addition to the assassin who is on the wanted list already, the individual who contracted this horrible crime.