Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme (retranslated): Ladies and gentlemen,
It was a great pleasure and honour to welcome Mr Medvedev here on this official visit to Belgium. We consider this official visit a real milestone in our bilateral relations.
It was not the easiest task, but the first thing I did was to congratulate President Medvedev on Russia’s victory in Zurich last weekend. Russia will now host the FIFA World Cup. We share your enthusiasm, Mr President, and we hope to work together with you on the preparations, and we hope too that our countries’ teams will have the chance to take part in this event. I remember several legendary matches between Belgium and Russia, starting with the match in Mexico in 1986. I remember that match very well, and its outcome did not have any negative impact on our relations.
Today, we signed our bilateral economic cooperation action plan for 2010–2011. Many Belgian companies continue to invest in Russian companies and are showing interest in Mr Medvedev’s modernisation project. Many Russian companies are also investing in Belgian companies. We signed a declaration on modernisation today, in which we affirm our mutual desire to support each other and encourage this kind of investment. A very important economic mission headed by Prince Philippe will visit Russia next April, and we think this is a timely event.
One of the sectors in which we work together is the energy sector. Of course we discussed cooperation between Russia and Belgium in energy transportation, and our companies signed an agreement on underground gas storage. We also exchanged views on yesterday’s Russia-EU summit and discussed the serious progress on visas and other issues, as well as Russia’s commitment to modernisation in various areas of society.
We also discussed our cooperation within various organisations, security issues, and business cooperation between our two countries. Thank you very much.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to thank Prime Minister Yves Leterme and all of our Belgian colleagues for these talks and for the friendly atmosphere. Circumstances would have it that we discussed football throughout this whole trip. You might have the impression that this was all we talked about. But this is not the case. I said this at the Russia-EU summit yesterday, and I say it again now.
We did not just discuss football, although we did of course talk about the recent decision to give Russia the right to host the World Cup. Of course, this is wonderful news for us all. We recalled the match between the Belgian and Soviet teams in Mexico. That result was not such good news, but that is already football history now. We are optimistic about our future football rivalry, and also about our future business cooperation.
We discussed bilateral issues too, regional and international affairs, as the Prime Minister said. Our countries are engaged in active and open political dialogue that enables us to resolve all kinds of issues, including economic issues. Belgium is one of our biggest European partners. Last year was a difficult year due to the crisis, but this year we have managed to stabilise our bilateral trade, which has returned more or less to the pre-crisis level. We have also developed our investment ties. We now have a special ‘roadmap’ – a joint action plan – and the Prime Minister and I agreed that we need to expand the horizons of our mutual investment planning and economic cooperation.
We are very pleased that we have real projects, mutually advantageous projects with Belgian involvement. In Nizhny Novgorod, for example, construction has already begun on Russia’s biggest PVC production plant (RusVinyl), and the Prime Minister took part in the ceremony marking the start of construction. The Bekaert-Lipetsk plant producing metal cord is already up and running. I was present at the ceremony launching its production line.
There are other examples too, including work on sports facilities, which we discussed today. We are building the Olympic facilities in Sochi at the moment. DEME company has signed a contract to take part in this work. The list of our investment areas does not end here.
We just discussed our cooperation in innovation areas, and signed an agreement on this. We think this is a very important area for our cooperation. It offers good prospects, and we hope that cooperation on Russia’s economic development priorities and high technology will develop as productively as possible. I have invited Belgian companies to take part in building the Russian innovation centre in Skolkovo.
Our cooperation in the energy sector is a traditional area of work together, but is also very important. A memorandum was just signed expanding cooperation between Gazprom and its Belgian partner, Fluxys. I hope that this will also bring good results.
We are expanding our cooperation at the regional level — business and humanitarian cooperation. I think this is very important for our countries, in which the regional component plays an important part in both cases. I think this cooperation will continue to develop.
Of course, we discussed international and European issues too. Yesterday’s Russia-EU summit was very successful. We noted that Russia is now in the process of finally settling its accession to the World Trade Organisation. We are also working on a number of big projects in Europe. Of course, cooperation on ensuring Europe’s security is an extremely important issue, and I want to thank Prime Minister Leterme for supporting Russia’s initiatives in this area and creating the right atmosphere for conducting a dialogue on security issues. We value this and think that this dialogue still has a lot of potential. There is very clear need today for the idea of this European security treaty, and for other possible forms of security cooperation that we can develop with our European friends.
We discussed development of Russia’s relations with NATO and a number of other matters too. I think this exchange of views was very useful indeed.
My visit to Belgium is not over yet. We have an audience with His Majesty King Albert II of the Belgians ahead. I thank him too for this invitation to make an official visit to Belgium, and I express my conviction in the need to comprehensively develop our ties with Belgium, this country that is our friend.