President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to once again welcome the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Christian Wulff, to Moscow.
We have held talks. I would like to mention one aspect indicative of our relations: this is one of the first state visits made by Mr President since taking office. He is making this visit to Russia, and it is not an ordinary visit but an official state visit, which testifies to the fundamental and constructive character of our relations, to the partnership that binds our two countries.
At today’s talks, which took place in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust, we discussed a variety of bilateral, European and international issues.
”Germany is our key economic partner in Europe, and our relations are currently at a very high level, which is extremely gratifying.“
Germany is our key economic partner in Europe, and our relations are currently at a very high level, which is extremely gratifying. They have evened out after a difficult period last year, when the overall trade fell about 40 percent. This year we can see the same rate of growth. It is particularly inspiring that this is not only due to increasing volumes of economic cooperation, ordinary trade growth, but also due to investment growth. There are investments in both directions and there are some significant achievements in each of them.
There is one subject that, in my opinion, is currently very important in relations between our countries: Partnership for Modernisation. Mr President and I have talked about it. This topic correlates perfectly with the ideas that are perhaps the most important ones today regarding the transformation of the Russian economy’s structure: the idea of transition from a raw material economy to a high-tech economy, or the diversification of the Russian economy.
In this regard, we are counting very much on the development of friendly relations with Germany. Germany has traditionally played a major role in such exchanges and in investment cooperation. Now, perhaps, is the most favourable period for this in that we are building new facilities such as the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, but also in the sense of ordinary, more routine but equally important investment projects. We are expecting very significant and serious results from our cooperation with Germany, including in such advanced fields as energy efficiency and various modern technologies. I hope that there will be movement forward here.
Humanitarian and cultural cooperation is developing dynamically. We can expect to see new opportunities in these spheres next year, which has been declared the Russian-German Year of Science and Education. I hope that it will involve excellent examples of youth exchanges, educational projects and cooperation between universities. In general, I hope the entire agenda, which is focused on educational projects, will be realised.
We are working on a number of other ideas, including the organisation of other years celebrating cultural achievements, such as the Year of German Language and Literature and the Year of Russian Language and Literature. It has become a tradition to hold similar events every decade. The last such event was in 2003–2004. I think it is quite possible to revisit this idea. As I understand, it has elicited a positive response in our German partners.
The development of the human component in our ties should be urgently addressed because relations between Russia and Germany are not limited to relations between the presidents, governments, agencies or regions, but first and foremost it is a relationship between people. The civil society component, which involves non-governmental organisations and various public and political forces at different venues is extremely valuable. I hope that this component will continue to be the basis for our cooperation.
We touched on the European agenda and a number of international issues. I would just like to note an indisputable fact: Russia is without a doubt interested in building a very good and strong relationship with Germany, with other EU states and with all countries on the European continent. Russia is also a European country, and the initiatives we have put forward, including my first foreign policy initiative — let me remind you that it took place in Germany immediately after my inauguration as President — the European Security Treaty, have not been withdrawn or shelved. We continue to promote it and hope for constructive cooperation with our European partners from the Federal Republic of Germany, and we expect that this initiative will be further discussed at various venues. We are ready to discuss different versions of the treaty and at different venues. We will also develop all aspects of our cooperation with the European Union and we are ready to intensify our relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Mr President and I discussed all these issues during our talks, as well as in the expanded format.
During the meeting in the expanded format we heard considered opinions of our colleagues, members of parliament. This does not always happen at expanded meetings because usually heads of various agencies make their presentations or the Presidents speak. This time our deputies addressed the meeting. Thank you for that, it was very interesting. And that is certainly one of the components of our multifaceted relations with Germany.
I would like to finish these introductory remarks by expressing a special gratitude to the leadership and people of Germany for the assistance they rendered Russia in fighting wildfires. This was a very difficult year. The help and the suggestions made were very timely.
By the way, tomorrow I will present state decorations to a large group of firefighters, a large group of people who were involved in organising these efforts. There will also be foreign experts among them.
I would like to wish Mr President and Mrs Wulff a successful stay in Russia in all the four cities on their itinerary. I hope that this trip will be memorable and interesting, and that the impressions of this visit will be somewhat different from 1984, when Mr President first visited the Soviet Union.
President of Germany Christian Wulff (retranslated): Thank you, Mr President, for your very warm hospitality. It is indeed wonderful to make an official visit to this very important country right at the beginning of my presidency. A special rapport has always existed between Russians and Germans against the backdrop of a most variable history with huge highs and equally enormous lows, such as the suffering of World War II, for example. Therefore I believe it is very important to be accountable for the past and to act accordingly, monitoring our relations and developing them.
For Germany, Russia is a key partner in global development, global stability and economic and cultural development of our states. We know and appreciate it that our relations grew better and better with every passing year, and are continuing to deepen further. We want to intensify them in every possible sphere, including culture, the economy, politics, and such very important areas as youth exchanges so that the young people of our countries could unite spiritually, so that they understand and trust each other in a spirit of cooperation. We have partner relations, friendly ties, and we have a strategic partnership. Yet what is most valuable is not the foundation but our shared values. This must also be accompanied by the development of civil society, corresponding competition of ideas, legal security for investors and the necessary stability.
We Germans believe we are natural partners in modernisation, in increasing competitiveness and in tackling enormous challenges that are caused by demographic trends. We have a lot of elderly people, and the number of young people is decreasing. Therefore, we must make their heads more intelligent, enhance education, schools, universities, transform education into a sector of dynamic cooperation, increase research and propose global solutions to such issues as climate change or reducing carbon dioxide emissions. For example, German and Russian scientists could work more closely together, then Russian and German companies would be able to cooperate more closely. Germany, at least, is ready to cooperate with Russia on a stronger, deeper and active level and to invest in Russia. There are many examples, such as Volkswagen, a very important player, or dialysis centre Fresenius, or the education centre at Bosch, which is trying to offer young people a better education both here and in Germany.
In addition, we have common history, which is a good basis for our mutual sympathy, our mutual interest in literature, music and society. For example, now we are thinking about the firefighters, about the peat fires that burned here in the summer and the forest fires. All this shows that here we can also exchange experience and somehow affect the development, for example, of such a model as a volunteer fire department, so that the people themselves take on greater responsibility, and the responsibility does not rest entirely on the state. So that people don’t think that the state will deal with it somehow but realise that they can make their own contribution if they have enough equipment and training.
I am very glad that my delegation does not consist only of representatives of economic and business circles, but also of fire fighters: we have the chairman of the firefighters’ association here so that he can share our experience of civic engagement; he can tell you about it and we can build up our cooperation in this field.
I am very pleased that I will be able to visit Russian regions and see in Tver, St Petersburg and other cities the dynamic development underway in Russia and the country’s positive experience. I will be able to learn some lessons for myself and to take away good memories. We must learn from each other, while at the same time respecting each other and knowing that, of course, each country has its own path and it is possible to consciously decide to follow the right path.
I am looking forward to conversations and contacts, and I can only praise and pay more and more complements on the Russian hospitality. This hospitality is particularly impressive when it is extended to Germans, because it is not a self-evident fact but a gift that Germans always appreciate, given the great suffering caused by Germany’s attack on Russia seven decades ago.
This theme will always be introduced in the course of any visit by those who were born after World War II, and young presidents — Russian, Polish and German presidents (it is not just the older generation that bears responsibility here) — must also say that we understand, we take on this responsibility, passing this knowledge from generation to generation in order to act more responsibly than in the past.
I’m glad to have this opportunity to present an exhibition here showing the fate of Russian prisoners of war at the time of National Socialism, who experienced great suffering, who lost their lives and their health and who deserve wider recognition of what happened to them. This exhibition will be shown in Germany. I opened it recently at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It is a symbol of how to build a future and what the future can be like if Russia and Germany cooperate in such areas as countering terrorism, climate protection and others. That will be a great success for our states and other nations if we promote stability for the benefit of the world.
Thank you very much. I’m happy to answer your questions.
Question: I have a question for both Presidents. Mr Federal President, you initiated debates on interfaith dialogue in Germany. You consider this one of the central issues of this century. I would be interested in the Russian President’s opinion on this issue. And I would be interested in knowing how you, Mr President, perceive the current development of this discussion in Germany.
Christian Wulff: As far as the discussions in Germany are concerned, I adhere to a very reasonable phrase: do not engage in domestic policy while abroad. As for Russia, it is my great pleasure to be here and see the coexistence of the Russian Orthodox Church with Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, to get acquainted with this and have an exchange of opinions. Tomorrow, I will see the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and then I will meet with representatives of the Evangelical and Catholic communities here in Russia. Naturally, they are in the minority, but this, too, is an area where there have been improvements, intensification in relations with the Orthodox church. In my view, this coexistence of faiths is, as you rightly noted, a central issue.
I think that overcoming problems tied to the change in climate, overcoming and building religious dialogue, particularly between the monotheistic religions, is extremely important for global development, and tomorrow, we will also have a conversation on this topic. Certainly, there are various forms of Islam. In the North Caucasus, for example, we have taken note of the varied development of civil societies, and varying development of diverse entities. Here, we are also talking about compatibility with democratic institutions, which is very important. I will do everything so that dialogue between the world’s religions is deepened, so that amicable agreements are reached, and so that negative confrontations are replaced with peaceful coexistence. Russia has a great deal of experience in this area.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is easier for me to answer than for Mr President, as I am in my own country, so I can comment on anything, as I see fit.
On a serious note, Russia is a very diverse, complicated nation. It is a country with a large number of faiths, where members of different religions have lived, developed, and built their relations over the course of hundreds of years. Currently, I believe that interfaith dialogue in our state is at a very good level.
Overall, a great deal has been done in our country with regard to this issue, in order to develop good relations between faiths. In Russia, we constantly hold consultations on this topic. I, personally, am the chair of the Council for Coordination with Religious Organisations that gathers regularly and includes representatives from the traditional faiths and representatives of other religions practiced in our nation.
I think this helps to soothe the controversies and problems that occasionally flare up. We count on the continued development of interfaith dialogue in the spirit of religious tolerance and good relations between various religions. The state will promote this in every way, without interfering in religious activities, but creating the necessary conditions in order for a follower of any faith to freely attend services and participate in any given religious observance. This is normal; it is an element of secular society and is guaranteed by our Constitution.
Granted, our country, like many others, has also experienced cases of religious extremism and the use of pseudo-religious rhetoric to achieve political goals. Like other nations, we cannot view this indifferently and hence we are carefully monitoring the processes that are taking place in this area. The biggest problem for us is the situation in the North Caucasus where, for various reasons, throughout a certain period, there were contradictions, so we had to employ various means to achieve calm and re-establish a normal, interfaith dialogue that is so necessary for the peoples of the Caucasus. The Caucasus is also home to a very wide variety of religions, including Islam and the Christian faith, and there certainly should be normal, productive dialogue between them, especially since people of different religions and representatives of different creeds have lived there side by side for many centuries and achieved very good results. That is precisely what the state’s efforts will be aimed at in the future.
Question: I have a question for the President of Germany. Mr Wulff, as already mentioned today, there is the need to develop cooperation not just in the economic sphere, but contacts in other areas as well, particularly between representatives of civil society institutions, and the establishment of cultural ties. Simplifying the visa regime between our nations could help this. What are your thoughts on continuing the dialogue with Russia on this matter, and what could Germany do to contribute to this issue?
Christian Wulff: I very much welcome the fact that the European Union has advanced a proposal containing certain steps aimed at introducing a visa-free regime, when the prerequisites of all participants are fulfilled, whenever that might be. I would like to say that the rate of rejection for visa requests is really very low. Visas are generally granted, and at a very high rate, so that people can go from one nation to the other – as tourists, for education, or for the purpose of economic relations. I also noted that travel could be made easier within Russia itself, particularly for foreigners, so that they do not need to register and reregister, and can simply travel in peace. Many people have told me that it’s very difficult; they have to keep reregistering when travelling, and then they are reproached for not ending their registration elsewhere. Thus, these are all areas where we can do a lot so that travel in Russia, as well as travel between Russia and Germany, can be simplified. Our goal is to ensure that there is less and less distance between us. It’s only a 2-hour flight for us to meet with one another. We should also extend our motorways.
For example, tomorrow I will be travelling to Tver, because it is home to a very powerful system that was built with the help of German technologies, which we are proud of. We must bring our people closer together.
The President and I also spoke on certain issues regarding intensifying youth exchanges, so that Russian young people can come to Europe, to Germany. I think that this will serve our common goals most of all.
Question: The topic of European security architecture has already been raised, so this question is to both presidents. How do you assess the developments in recent months? And what specific expectations do you have toward the other party?
Christian Wulff: In our efforts, we must seriously take into account the specific interests and desires of Russia, and distinctly weigh and intensify our dialogue. Ultimately, what prevails between Russia and NATO, or between Russia and Europe, is what binds them, rather than what divides them. Naturally, these are issues which are discussed very emotionally. There are ABM matters, and issues pertaining to security architecture. In my view, these are topics that can be resolved, if we truly take them seriously and take into account the corresponding interests of the other party. There is a particular Russian position that we must keep in mind within the framework of developing the common security architecture. I consider both countries to be important stabilising elements for the security situation, and not just in Europe.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have addressed the subject already, but I will just add a brief remark.
Security in Europe must be common; I find this is absolutely obvious. It should not be divided into pieces or fragments. Europe is what it is. It includes NATO, it includes many states that are not a part of NATO, it includes the OSCE, the European Union, and the CSTO – the Collective Security Treaty Organisation – which, incidentally, is often forgotten, and in which Russia is a participant. All of these are different fragments that guarantee security in Europe. Do they cooperate well with one another? Overall, they have been doing this fairly well recently, but not ideally. Do we have a single platform to try to resolve the most difficult issues that we faced in the 1990s and in the current decade? On this, my position is simple. We do not yet have a platform of this kind. Thus, dialogue on ensuring European security must be continued. At the same time, the Russian Federation, for its part, will certainly make additional efforts to develop full-fledged, full-blooded relations on security matters with the European Union, NATO, and other regional and European associations.
Question: This is a question for both presidents. Both you, Mr Medvedev, and your colleague mentioned the importance of the Partnership for Modernisation programme. A declaration on this topic was signed at the EU-Russia summit this June, and the next summit is coming up soon. I would like to know, has this relatively obscure wording become any more concrete? You see, journalists are interested in names, deadlines, and figures.
Dmitry Medvedev: As you may recall, we came up with this idea almost a year ago at the EU-Russia summit in Stockholm, afterwards, for some time, it was subject of discussion, and then we discussed it more specifically at the summit in the Russian Federation. The overall idea thus now has several dimensions.
First of all, we told our partners what we would be interested in, in terms of that partnership. These are not just new projects, although clearly, those are also important. And I agree that figures and corresponding new facilities are important. But as important as they are, knowledge and know-how is no less vital. And in this regard, this is one of the areas for our cooperation. Incidentally, things stand quite well with Germany. We have a broad variety of agreements on this matter. Today, we agreed that educational contacts in this area will continue. We need unified standards that, in essence, already exist.
Last year, I was much engaged in bringing standards of operating in Russia in line with the present-day requirements. Unfortunately, Soviet-time industrial standards became outdated long ago. And at a certain point, I suggested implementing European Union standards in Russia. That is what we did, and now, we can use European Union standards for the purposes of technical regulations. This, too, is an element of the Partnership for Modernisation. Indeed, this is something we can already do today, and it simplifies the promotion of new projects and the launch of new facilities, as well as the resolution of a wide range of practical tasks in technologies.
And finally, with regard to our partnership with Germany in this area, things stand pretty well, because we have a whole set of new projects that are already being implemented at this time. These projects perfectly fall within the Partnership for Modernisation, for example, projects such as the Energy Efficient City. We have designated a number of cities where our German friends are helping us with enhancing energy efficiency, and they doing this very actively and scrupulously. I believe these are good projects and they will lead to good results. And even now, we are generally able to have energy savings of 30, 40, and sometimes even 50 percent in these cities. This is especially important for the residential sector, in which our colleagues have specific know-how that we could use. So overall, this partnership is taking shape, but for the moment, I cannot say that it has entered its final stages or gained the necessary level. We are awaiting additional suggestions on this matter from our European partners.
Christian Wulff: I think you’ve asked a very good question. One German philosopher said, “What good is the most beautiful sunrise, if you are not awake?” The intensification of our partnership must now have truly clear, concrete results. Just recently, I was able to state that the educational centre in Ulyanovsk pertains to these concrete measures, as much as the creation of a logistical centre at the university in St Petersburg, as well as the German-Russian RUDEA energy agency and a new Science and Innovation Centre. And we have a very positive opinion of Russian technical universities, since they have a high level of research in aircraft manufacturing and other areas.
I also heard that there is some need for acceleration, that all of these things are still at a virtual level and still remain to be organised. That is precisely the aim of a visit like this one, a state visit: to see the goal and the subsequent concrete result. I think that this trust-based cooperation, this intensity of relations, influences the fact that there are more and more places in Russia where you can feel the positive effects and good results stemming from this Partnership for Modernisation.