President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
I want to start by thanking my colleague, Bronislaw Komorowski, for this warm reception on Polish soil. Our first contact came at a very difficult time for Poland. I remember how I called Mr Komorowski, who was Marshal of the Sejm at that moment. Since then, we have spoken to each other on several occasions and I think this has been to the benefit of our relations.
Today’s talks were the first full-fledged Russian-Polish talks in narrow and expanded format to take place for quite a while. I say quite frankly that these talks took place in an open and trusting spirit, and this is perhaps the most important thing of all, because all of this, from the trust that is growing between our two presidents, between our leaders, to the trust developing between our civil societies, is an integral part of building full-fledged relations between our peoples. We have used today’s opportunity to discuss the widest range of issues. The formal results of our talks are on the table before us. This does not mean that our promising projects end here. It means that we have at least given a big new boost to various economic and humanitarian cooperation projects. We have agreed to step up youth exchanges, in particular, and decided to take this project under our personal supervision.
I hope that this is just the start of full-fledged, mutually advantageous and modern economic relations between our countries, all the more so as conditions are quite good now for moving ahead. Our trade and economic cooperation has increased by almost a third of late, and it would be a sin not to build on this opportunity.
We support pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas. We want these talks to give impetus to our interregional ties and make full use of the regions’ potential. Kaliningrad Region and the neighbouring Polish regions have huge potential in this respect. We need now to settle the various problems that exist in this area, including visa issues. I hope that this will produce results. The fruit of these efforts will be important not so much for our countries’ politicians as for our citizens living on both sides of the border.
We discussed our cultural cooperation, and as I said, also paid much attention to the difficult moments in our relations. I think this is normal. It is our job as presidents to give these issues our greatest attention. President Komorowski mentioned just before that we discussed the Katyn tragedy too. Russia has made a number of unprecedented steps recently to clear up ambiguities regarding the past’s legacy, including by handing over to Poland archival documents on the Katyn case, and there was also the statement our parliament, the State Duma, issued just recently, as President Komorowski mentioned. This policy will continue. This was our conscious and deliberate choice. I made this choice and we will not change course. We need to know the truth. The Polish people need this, and our own people, the Russian people, need this just as much, because our history has many tragic chapters, during which people suffered. A huge number of people, not only Poles, but also a huge number of our own citizens, died during the repressions. We need to examine this past with maximum thoroughness and seriousness.
We will continue our contacts on this matter and I am sure that this will ultimately help us to finally settle the various difficulties that exist in our relations. The Katyn case is not the only difficult moment in our relations. We need to restore our historical memory in general, addressing the tragic events of earlier periods too, including the time of the civil war in our country, when tens of thousands of Red Army soldiers who found themselves in Poland disappeared or died. We need to pursue a dialogue on these matters, completely open and friendly in spirit, as we are doing now on the Katyn events.
Of course we discussed this year’s tragic event too, the terrible plane crash near Smolensk. President Komorowski thanked me for the openness that the Russian authorities have shown from the start since this disaster took place and for the subsequent work together. I am sure that this work will continue and be completed, and its results will be made known to all interested, above all to the peoples of Poland and Russia.
As the President said, we agreed to take personal charge of preparations for marking the anniversary of the disaster that took place this April, including the matter of building a memorial at the crash site near Smolensk. I think this is the right decision and it has my full support.
The President and I examined European security issues. Both countries are in Europe, after all, and although Russia does not belong to the EU or NATO, we are building full relations with both organisations. I hope that getting our Polish friends more involved in this dialogue will help us to settle the various issues between the Russian Federation and NATO, and help develop our cooperation with the EU too. I hope that more active political contacts in these areas with our Polish partners will help us to achieve greater results.
Once more, I thank the President for the hospitality and goodwill we have received here. This really was a long-awaited visit and I am sure that it will give a new boost to our relations. Looking through the background documents prepared for this visit, I saw that most Poles hope it will bring an improvement in relations between our countries, and we must not let them down in their hopes.
Question: I have a question for President Medvedev. I would like to ask about your assessment of the investigation into the Smolensk catastrophe. Many months have already gone by. Do you suppose it’s possible that our nations’ investigators will come to varying conclusions when the wreckage of the plane and the documentation is finally brought to Poland?
Dmitry Medvedev: No, I do not. I feel that responsible politicians and responsible heads of the investigative agencies must base their conclusions on the same thing: objective data. In college, I was taught that any criminal case requires a full-fledged investigation, based on an analysis of the corresponding evidence, which the experts in both Russia and Poland are conducting right now. This is a very tragic event for the Polish people, and I will tell you frankly that it is tragic for the Russian people as well. And so, we must do everything to ensure that the results of this investigation are objective, reliable, and accessible to all interested parties.
As for the results, the investigation, as you know, is covering different areas. The investigation conducted by the aviation authorities – the Interstate Aviation Committee – is essentially complete, and its results should be made public soon.
The investigation being carried out by investigating officers, on the other hand, has no time limit. I feel that the goal is not to rush the investigators, but rather, for them to thoroughly carry out the investigative work and all the necessary procedures. That is the only way that we can we count on objectivity. And so, I feel that in this regard, the cooperation that exists between the Prosecutor Generals’ Offices and other authorities involved is very good. Incidentally, Mr President and I initially agreed on doing this while talking on the phone the day of this horrible tragedy.
As for returning various objects and other elements that are currently under investigation, the investigative authorities must make their decisions on these matters. I will simply note that there is such a concept as material evidence, which has its own legal destiny, and that should not be forgotten. But all of the corresponding information from the black boxes has been given to the Polish side long ago. And I hope that ultimately, there should not be any problems on this issue.
Question (retranslated): A question for President Medvedev. As relations between Russia and Poland improve, economic cooperation between the two nations is improving as well. Are Russian companies interested in entering the Polish stock market? Is it true that Gazprom Neft is interested in privatising the Lotos firm?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I had a chance to meet Polish businesspeople before I met Polish politicians. That happened at the dawn of my career as a practicing attorney in the early 1990s, when our nations began to cooperate. And overall, this involved good projects – although initially, they were small – which Polish businesspeople brought to St Petersburg at the time, in search of business partners.
A lot has passed since then; certain plans have come to fruition, while others have not. Incidentally, Mr President and I agreed that we need to give particular attention to small and medium-sized businesses, which make up the foundation of Poland’s economic development and to which, by the way, we are also giving a great deal of attention in our nation as well, because there is not a single state that can develop with large corporations alone, not even one as large as the Russian Federation. So we are certainly interested in Russian companies having a presence in Poland. As far as their presence on the stock market, why not? That’s absolutely normal, just like the presence of Polish companies on our stock market, or that of other nations. The question is, what will this add to the capitalisation of those companies, and what additional opportunities will they have as a result of having shares on the stock markets of other nations? This is normal, and I feel that all of it can be considered.
You mentioned Russian companies’ interest in making investments in Poland. This interest does indeed exist – I said so today to Mr President – including, as far as I know, on the part of certain Russian energy companies toward privatising Lotos.
Question: Just recently, Russian-Polish energy cooperation could hardly even be called cooperation. Warsaw perceived Russian projects as a threat to its security and saw them as purely political. Has anything changed now, following the thaw in political relations between Moscow and Warsaw? Can we expect any kind of serious, major, bold decisions in this sector anytime soon? If so, then what kind?
Dmitry Medvedev: Naturally, the economy does not exist in a vacuum. There is always pressure from politics. Granted, sometimes, it develops in contrast to political trends, which Mr President just mentioned when he gave data about growth in turnover, in spite of the fact that political conditions were not ideal for it.
This applies to energy as well.
It is true that there is speculation on the politicisation of nearly all Russian energy projects, Russia’s desire to make all of Europe dependent on its energy, and then use that for political advantage. You know our position. We feel that this is absolute nonsense. We believe that we are developing good-hearted, open, mutually beneficial energy relations with all European states, including those that are connected to us by a common pipeline.
So lately, I feel we have been able to reach a whole range of consensus-based decisions, although they are based on compromises. As far as gas is concerned, for example, we had some fairly difficult talks, particularly within the conditions of the relevant EU directives, but we were able to find some generally reasonable solutions. I hope that this will be true in the future as well.
As for our outlook, I feel that many major energy projects pertaining to the privatisation of various facilities in Poland might be of interest to the Russian Federation. But naturally, all of this can only be developed with trust and mutually beneficial approaches toward those transactions.