Question: A question for both presidents. Several very important events occurred this week with regard to relations between Ukraine and the European Union. In particular, I am referring to Ukraine getting an action plan to establish a visa-free regime with the European Union. Yesterday, the European Parliament stated that Ukraine can apply for EU membership. My question is, how do relations between Ukraine and the EU reflect on the relations between Ukraine and Russia?
President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych: I think that an improvement in relations between Ukraine and Russia will reflect positively not only on the situation in Europe, but throughout the world as well. The NATO summit in Lisbon was an example of this. I am certain that Ukraine’s position as a non-aligned state, as laid down in a corresponding law, has had a significant influence on the situation in Eurasia, and I am certain that it has influenced Russia’s position on this matter as well. Thus, the efforts taken by Ukraine toward integration with Europe may ultimately allow Russia to also move forward in this direction.
I think we understand that today, the entire world is modernising. Russia also heads toward creating a Common Economic Space with Europe, and this in no way contradicts today’s integration processes between Ukraine and Russia; it only broadens our perspectives.
As for deepening our integration processes with Russia, today we took another step forward and signed a whole set of protocols that will broaden the perspectives for these integration processes between Ukraine and Russia.
I think it is very difficult today to discuss the depth of the integration. For example, people ask me whether Ukraine will join the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. It’s possible, but we have procedures to follow in Ukraine, for example, making amendments to the Constitution, which is possible. This could be resolved in the parliament, or through holding a national referendum.
Today we are deepening integration in terms of our trade and economic relations, broadening the respective opportunities. So far this year, over the course of nine months, turnover between our states has increased and currently stands at 29 billion dollars, which serves as an example of the success of this work. By the end of the year, it may reach 40 billion dollars; in other words, this represents a 75–80 per cent growth.
We are making our relations more concrete in a wide range of economic sectors and removing barriers that existed between our states, which were particularly prevalent during the last five years. Eliminating these barriers now allows our manufacturers and entrepreneurs to make some very promising plans. We must create all the necessary conditions so that our economies have the opportunity to actively develop. And I think that the ten meetings that we have had so far this year with Mr Medvedev are not the end; the year is not yet over. We hope that in December, we will have a chance to resolve another set of issues, to finish this year well, and to lay a good foundation for 2011. That is very important.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: The question about any government entering into any kind of regional alliance is a question of sovereign choice for any free nation. And Ukraine must act in accordance with the procedures existing in Ukraine, and in accordance with the sentiments of its people.
Mr Yanukovych has just given a detailed answer to this question. In my view, it concerns both entry into the European Union and potential entry into the Customs Union, the creation of a Common Economic Space with participation of the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. These questions must be resolved based on two issues: economic expediency and legal feasibility. For our part, we would naturally like to see Ukraine as a Customs Union member and a part of the Common Economic Space. We think this would make good economic sense and improve interaction in all possible areas, ranging from political to humanitarian. I want to emphasise again that this is an issue Ukraine must resolve in accordance with its own procedures and decide for itself.
As for Ukraine entering the European Union, I have no comment. Russia is not an EU member. It seems to me that the European Union must take a close look at its current state of affairs and deal with its long-time candidates for EU membership. And it seems, as far as I can see, that the waiting time for other nations seeking to join the EU will be rather long. But again, this falls under our EU colleagues’ authority, so I don’t have anything in particular to say about it.
As for the latest Russia-NATO summit and the issue Mr Yanukovych touched upon, it is true that relations between our nations depend on the alliances we participate in. We have always had a simple position with regard to Ukraine’s participation in the North Atlantic Alliance. We feel that this disrupts Europe’s security zone. We have always stated that we consider this to be a sensitive topic.
We perceive the fact that Ukraine is currently aiming for non-aligned development as absolutely justified. I said this during my speech at the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon. For us, this is an entirely normal development. We also feel that it serves the existing security system in Europe, as well as Russia and Ukraine’s long-term development interests.
Question: A question for both presidents. Energy has always been a basis for cooperation between the two nations. But I recall how, only recently, discussions on this topic were very difficult. Could you please describe the way, the atmosphere in which you discussed this matter today, what other topics you talked about and in what context? Did you reach any agreements?
Viktor Yanukovych: First of all, today, Mr Medvedev and I had another one-on-one meeting in a very constructive and trust-based atmosphere. We covered a wide range of issues pertaining to our interstate relations and, as always, we were open and well-intentioned. I am grateful to President Medvedev for the hospitality extended to me and my delegation here in Moscow.
The scope of our relations is truly very wide, and our goal is to find solutions that will give boost to our nations’ economies, meet our national interests, and open up prospects for developing strategic relations we are striving toward. And we are working on such an agreement now. It is on the agenda for our relations.
I have never hidden the fact that we have certain unresolved issues that require different approaches and compromises. We speak about them openly, we are looking for such approaches and compromises, and I am certain that as a result, we will find them.
One such topic, a sensitive one for Ukraine, concerns fuel and energy sector. And signing today’s protocol between relevant agencies in Ukraine and Russia was an example of how we resolve these issues. This protocol increases oil supplies, oil pumping up to 18.5 million tonnes. This is a matter of great interest for both Ukraine and Russia. We are gradually returning what was lost in our relations, and this corresponds to the level in our relations that has now been established, even during this brief period of time this year.
Naturally, a very serious issue that Mr Medvedev and I strive to resolve is the gas issue. It is a very complicated matter, but then again, throughout the history of our relations, it has never been simple. The most important thing is the atmosphere in which the problem is resolved – at different times, it has been addressed in different ways. We have issues of tactics and strategy here, and we discussed them today. I think that we will not find solutions to this problem quickly, but the most important thing here is that we resolve this issue consistently, in the interests of Ukraine and Russia, so that these solutions truly help us fight the economic crisis and meet our national interests.
I will say today that we see the prospects, and we must try to find solutions to this problem by the end of this year, and I think that we will find them. Mr Medvedev will talk more about that. In the long term, as far as strategy is concerned, we are interested in having relations with our strategic partner, Russia, which will help resolve these issues on a bilateral basis and ease the tension in the area of energy supplies – gas, to be specific – to the European Union, to Europe. Ukraine will be a reliable partner that will tie together the interests of Russia and Europe, implementing a sound, predictable policy in this area while protecting its national interests. This is the only way we will develop our bilateral relations in.
Dmitry Medvedev: Energy is a very important area in our relations – the area where there has truly been a lot of difficulties. It is a sector that affects the sustainable development of economies, including, to a significant degree, the Ukrainian economy, which is currently recovering from the crisis – indeed, much like the Russian economy – but which depends to a significant extent on fuel supplies. This is an obvious issue.
I will not hide that today, Mr Yanukovych and I truly gave this issue very close attention, when we talked one-on-one and later, with several of our colleagues. We expect that in the future, relations in the energy sector between our nations will not only be foreseeable, but absolutely mutually beneficial and absolutely predictable as well. Incidentally, we took some good steps this year concerning, for example, nuclear energy, and we have reached some very serious agreements. We are ready to develop energy cooperation in other areas as well. And naturally, a key area is gas and oil supplies. We understand that energy security in all of Europe will depend on the way the relations between Russia and Ukraine develop. And that is precisely why we are giving so much attention to these relations.
In turn, the Russian Federation understands that Ukraine’s economic stability depends greatly on the conditions that will accompany the corresponding energy cooperation between Russia and Ukraine. For us, this issue is clear. And that is precisely why we are ready to discuss the strategy for energy cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, as well as tactical issues pertaining to energy cooperation, in an absolutely friendly spirit, taking into account two factors. The first factor is that we currently have advanced relations with Ukraine and a very good relationship with the President of Ukraine, which is quite important. The second factor is that Ukraine is naturally our very important economic partner.
We also understand that forming Ukraine’s budget and forming a whole set of economic programmes in Ukraine is dependent on how it will build its energy cooperation with Russia. So today we have devoted a large amount of time to discussing upcoming plans in energy cooperation and gas cooperation, as well as long-term plans. We must find a solution to this problem, in spite of the fact that from a legal point of view, we have a basis for this cooperation, in spite of the fact that this basis may not have been created during the most favourable moment in Russian-Ukrainian relations. But that’s how life works – we are always following the agreements that we have.
Thus, we have agreed to continue discussing issues pertaining to energy cooperation and the relevant strategy for building these relations, as well as short-term plans, based on the need to find forms of cooperation and compromises in this area that will suit both states and allow our nations to develop in a steady and stable way. Today, we gave the necessary instructions to the Ukrainian and Russian governments.