President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
This official visit by President of Slovenia Danilo Turk to our country has been a success so far. This is only natural, as we have given the needed impetus to our relations in all different areas of late.
Whether we are talking about the economy, coordination on European affairs, on security affairs, cultural ties and humanitarian cooperation, we are working together well in all of these areas and producing results. The documents we have just signed, including the declaration on the partnership for modernisation, show the level our cooperation has reached over this last year.
Today, we discussed our economic ties one-on-one and in expanded format, and were pleased to note that our bilateral trade has grown stronger this year, as both countries are recovering from the crisis. Our trade has posted an increase of 60 percent, which is certainly a significant result. Our bilateral trade comes to figures not in the hundreds of millions, but billions of euros now, and this shows that our relations really have reached the level of strategic partnership.
It is important now to strengthen our investment potential. Our Slovenian partners are investing in Russia, and Russian businesspeople are looking for investment opportunities in Slovenia. I think that we definitely need to consolidate these positive trends now.
I am happy to see that President Turk has brought with him such a big delegation of businesspeople, who will meet with their colleagues in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Samara.
As I said during the talks today, it is absolutely essential that our business contacts develop in all different areas and include not only big projects such as South Stream, but also smaller projects, relatively small-scale investment, because this is vital for developing our common economic and interstate relations.
We discussed big projects today, including the energy projects our countries are both involved in. We both expressed our satisfaction with the South Stream project, which is a strategic undertaking indeed and has stepped up its development of late. We hope that it will be carried out as we agreed. It will benefit all participants. It will have not just direct economic benefits, which are probably most important, but will also have indirect human benefits too, as it will be a factor that unites us and helps to build better conditions for European countries’ development. This is the way that Russia sees this project’s purpose.
We think that along with this project we need to develop other infrastructure projects too, and this is something the President and I discussed today. I hope that the business meetings that will take place will see these projects develop further. We approved a memorandum on priority projects, and it is now essential that these priority projects become concrete action, carried out at state and company level.
Our cooperation in science and education is very important, and scientific exchanges and education projects are part of the memorandum on a partnership for modernisation that we just signed. We hope to see our Slovenian friends take part in the work on big science and education projects in Russia, projects with clear innovative aims, including the innovation centre that we are building at Skolkovo near Moscow. The doors there are open not just to those who come with big investment, which is probably not even the main thing. The main thing is to welcome all who want to take part in cooperation of ideas, and I therefore think that this is another area where we could obtain good results.
Also important is our cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sectors, and in tourism, and we signed agreements in these areas today. The number of tourists is growing, and growing in both directions, though it must be admitted that the number of Russian tourists visiting Slovenia is growing somewhat faster. We are happy that our Slovenian friends are building the necessary infrastructure, because without this it is hard to attract tourists, as people are very aware now of where to go and where to spend money. Our Slovenian friends said during the talks that they value Russian tourists, because our people are good tourists who travel abroad to relax and spend money, and are not at all stingy with their money. I think that we should therefore work more intensively to meet the expectations of all who spend their holidays in Slovenia, and those who come to Russia too.
I discussed a whole range of international issues with President Turk. We spoke about European security and the current state of relations between Russia and NATO. I said to the President that these relations are developing along positive lines overall at the moment. If we take Russia’s relations with the European Union, I see no big problems at the moment. We are in the process of drafting a new agreement that will bind Russia and the European Union.
Perhaps the biggest problem that remains to be resolved over these coming years, and on which we hope for the European Union’s understanding, is the visa issue. Considering the level of partnership we have achieved today, we are justified in hoping that our European colleagues will make the needed effort to introduce visa-free travel between us. This is a very important matter right now, and during exchanges of views and contact with Russia’s citizens I am often asked when the European Union will make the needed decisions.
I shared my thoughts on guaranteeing European security with the President, and thanked him for his thoughtful and attentive attitude towards Russia’s European security treaty initiative. President Turk and I are both lawyers, practising lawyers, and we understand the values of treaties and the application of universal international legal principles in international relations, and I therefore hope that this initiative will be taken further and discussed at pan-European level.
We discussed too, of course, some of the most complex specific problems that still remain in Europe, including in the Balkans. I think this exchange of views was very useful indeed.
I want to thank once again my colleague, the President of Slovenia, for visiting our country with such a big and prominent delegation. I think this will help to develop the ties between our two countries.
President of Slovenia Danilo Turk (retranslated): Thank you very much, Mr President, for such a full review of our talks, which gave me the chance to practise my Russian comprehension skills a bit. I think we have achieved good results today and made good progress in the relations between our countries. We discussed the full range of our bilateral relations, and also spoke about some international issues and looked too at the upcoming meetings on our agendas.
I just want to mention of few points regarding our bilateral relations. I think the South Stream project is something that merits particular attention. It is developing well now, though there was a time when not everyone believed that it could go ahead successfully. Today we are in a very good situation. Slovenia has worked hard and we hope that this project will contribute to developing Europe’s energy security and open up new opportunities for cooperation between the European Union and the various countries taking part in the project. We are strongly committed to this process also because we realise that this project will have a multiplier effect.
I note that today we began discussing some subjects that offer good opportunities ahead. Our trade relations have reached a satisfying level and are posting good results, but we talked today about the greater opportunities that exist now for investing in the automotive industry. Slovenia views positively Russia’s strategy to develop this sector through to 2020, and wants to take part in this big project.
We discussed cooperation in some other sectors too, including pharmaceutical and pharmacological equipment. We can start moving forward in this sector too. We discussed our relations in the healthcare sector and in tourism, which also offer new opportunities. We spoke about cultural cooperation. We are very pleased that the Russian cultural centre will open soon in Slovenia. I hope it will open this year, and will become an important centre for closer cultural contact between our peoples, and for Russian language studies. As far as our bilateral relations go, we have many projects in progress.
We discussed international issues too. I will not repeat what President Medvedev said just now. I fully agree with him. I want to say how pleased I am that President Medvedev will take part in the summit in Lisbon at the end of the week. We place great hopes on the partnership between NATO and Russia. We hope the Russia-NATO Council will become a permanent and effective international cooperation body, built on a solid foundation and at our disposal to help us resolve important issues during good times and perhaps more difficult times too. In other words, it needs to become a permanent body for resolving problems.
I hope the European Union will treat its issues with Russia as a top priority. We need to take a strategic and long-term approach in our thinking. Partnership with Russia has strategic importance and should be a top priority for the European Union as a whole, and in this context we think that abolition of visas would be a positive step. We have experience in abolishing visas, and we hope that this policy will develop further and that the visa issue with Russia will be successfully resolved.
There are a few specific issues concerning the Balkans and some other regions. I want to express my support for President Medvedev’s important efforts to achieve a settlement in Nagorno Karabakh. This will require a tremendous effort and the hard work of the Minsk Group. Russia is playing a leading part in this process and President Medvedev is making the utmost effort. I take this opportunity to appeal to all parties in this conflict to join these efforts. We in the European Union are somewhat further removed, perhaps, but we realise how important it is for the EU’s security too to settle this issue.
President Medvedev, I said at the start that I have been using this visit to deepen my knowledge of the Russian language.
(Speaks in Russian) President Medvedev’s policy of modernisation has brought big hope. It opens up prospects for new relations in Europe and in the world.
I wanted to stress this by saying it in Slovenian and in Russian that the policy of modernisation is our way forward. It is our hope that offers us real expectations. I want to end my remarks today with these words.
Thank you very much.
Question (retranslated): I have questions for both presidents. First, for Mr Turk, you met with Russian journalists this morning. Why did you include this meeting on your programme?
And for Mr Medvedev, journalist [Oleg] Kashin was attacked recently, and you made a firm response. What else will you do?
Danilo Turk: First of all, I want to say that I responded to all invitations to speak with the media. These meetings began yesterday, and I have had several such opportunities now, which continued today. I try very hard to explain to all journalists just what our cooperation and our modernisation efforts are all about, for the sake of greater common understanding.
I just mentioned the visa issue. I think this is part of efforts to ensure human rights and freedom of movement. I am concerned about ensuring all rights, and this is impossible without the mass media’s help and cooperation, so you can be sure that I will respond to all invitations from the media.
Dmitry Medvedev: The authorities’ job is not to repeat spells or say what has already been said. I already said everything I have to say on this incident, and it is the job now not of the Russian President, but of the law enforcement agencies. Let them get on with their job.
Question: I have a question for both presidents. As was said, the Slovenian President brought with him a large business delegation, and three business forums are to take place. What are the key high-technology sectors offering potential for developing cooperation, in your view? Can you give some clarification on prospects in the energy sector? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: As far as high technology goes, I think that any sector in which we can find commercial applications for projects are of interest. We already have good cooperation with our Slovenian partners in the pharmaceuticals industry, and this is an interesting area for Russia, because we currently import a large share of the medicines we consume. We are therefore interested in developing our pharmaceuticals industry and we are ready to work together on this with our Slovenian partners, establishing joint production enterprises and working on joint research and development in this sector. Development of new medicines, and even more so groups of medicines, requires huge investment, and combined efforts could produce good results in this respect.
I recently visited research centres working on developing new medicines here in Russia. Our Slovenian colleagues are also working hard on this, and we already have joint ventures in Russia. I think this is therefore one of the possible areas for developing our cooperation, but there are other sectors too.
There are telecommunications, space, and also various other sectors in which we could develop our cooperation.
As for the energy sector, it does not require any particular impulse because cooperation in this sector is developing well as it is. The main thing here is to unswervingly fulfil all of the obligations on all sides, those of Russia, Slovenia, and our other European partners, when it comes to big trans-national projects such as South Stream, for example. But our cooperation should not stop here. We discussed today opportunities for projects in electricity generation, supply of other types of energy resources, and other energy-related projects. We are ready to continue our work in all of these areas.
Danilo Turk: I could add a couple of words here perhaps. Our research and development and economic cooperation in the pharmaceuticals sector goes back a long way. There is a big enterprise working here in Russia — KRKA-RUS – and President of the Management Board and Chief Executive Jože Colarič is here in the delegation today. Talks are taking place today, and will probably lead to the signing of an agreement on further investment in developing Russia’s pharmaceuticals industry. There are good opportunities here.
There are good opportunities in the automotive sector too. I spoke about this. These are quite complex technical issues. I stress that automotive sector development in Russia is an area that offers excellent opportunities for developing the use of the new technology and new electronic and other components needed to manufacture cars today. We have already made some progress here with UNIDO’s help, and this will continue and bring technology benefits to both sides.
As far as information technology goes, we have Iskratel and other Slovenian companies that are reaching agreements with Russian partners in this area.
Finally, to say something that might seem somewhat abstract but is important nonetheless, Slovenia has an image within the EU as a country that has contributed to the EU’s development in science and technology. Until recently, our [European] commissioner, Janez Potocnik, was commissioner for science and technology, and he drew up the concept for our common research centre in Europe. Of course we need to join our common efforts here.
In the energy sector, South Stream is the main project of course, but we want it to continue with the maximum results. Of course we will develop new types of cooperation too. I will not speak about the form these projects will take, in the area of gas-powered electricity power stations, for example. They will be new forms of energy use that will benefit Russia and the European Union.