News conference following meeting of Council of CIS Heads of State

The Kremlin, Moscow
News conference following meeting of heads of CIS member states.
News conference following meeting of heads of CIS member states.

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,

The long series of summits that took place in Moscow has now come to an end. In my opinion, the summits were very productive and the last, the fourth one, that of the CIS, has just ended. We had two sessions: one in a restricted format, the other in an expanded one, and discussed what we accomplished this year under Russian chairmanship.

We really devoted a lot of time to our common Victory, the anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Very good events were held in each of our states.

In general, I want to say that such humanitarian issues, those concerning our common history and cultural interaction, are what really bind us together. And despite the fact that the CIS may not have great economic achievements, our work in the cultural sphere, in humanitarian cooperation is, in my opinion, quite well established.

With regard to the development of integration processes in the CIS (before this we worked on the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the Customs Union), this year has also been really very good; we agreed on a Free Trade Agreement and the related documents will be signed very soon. We gave corresponding instructions to our governments and ministers to do this before the end of the year. This means that despite the difficulties, despite certain problems in the economic sphere, for example, that affected our countries this year and last, integration processes in the CIS are proceeding nevertheless. Yes, they are not going as fast as, for example, in the EurAsEC or, especially, in the Common Economic Space, but nevertheless they are moving forwards and we must acknowledge this.

Traditionally, we work on different themes every year. This year we dealt with science, education and innovation; it was a success. There were many good events in the Russian Federation and in other places too. We opened so-called network universities, which allow students to communicate, to get a global education with due regard to the specific nature of education systems in different CIS countries. So in general quite a lot was done in that field and we are pleased to take stock of this.

Does this mean that the CIS has no problems? No, it doesn’t, and there are enough of problems. Naturally, we do not agree on all issues, and perhaps our different interaction mechanisms are not established as well as in other integration associations, and not all countries vote on all questions. But in general – and this is normal – ultimately each sovereign country decides for itself what it wants to do.

In any case, today we had quite a lively discussion about what the Commonwealth has brought our countries over the past 20 years. And despite all the different positions that participants defended at today's summit, all said that without the CIS our countries would have developed differently. We already suffer greatly from breakdowns in cooperation, in cultural relations. So if the CIS did not exist, these ties – which are in many respects not as active as we would like – would be completely distorted. This has not happened. So I think that all directions in which the CIS is developing: economic and, naturally, political, cultural and humanitarian ones, will be in demand next year.

Tajikistan took over the chairmanship from the Russian Federation. Mr Rahmon is taking on the presidency of the CIS and will work at it. Next year we will meet in Tajikistan and work under its leadership. I'm sure that a lot of useful things will get done.

You know, ultimately, there will always be some difficulties relating to CIS activities. But we have no other forum to harmonise our interests that covers virtually the entire post-Soviet space; such an alternative does not exist and, in all likelihood, will not arise. It is unlikely that those who left our forum, in this case I'm talking about Georgia, gained anything from it. They have no opportunity to communicate with all countries at once, often our treaties with them lapse. This means that even in this negative sense the Commonwealth of Independent States is proving able to regulate relations between countries and help us develop together.

I will give the floor to Mr Rahmon.

President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon: Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mr Medvedev just told you about the main outcomes of the meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State. Let me simply say that the Republic of Tajikistan attaches great importance to the decisions that were taken regarding the Treaty on Free Trade Zone that can act as the legal foundation of our trade and economic relations; we also value intergovernmental programmes with joint measures to fight crime, terrorism and other forms of violent extremism, as well as drug and human trafficking.

In accordance with the CIS principle of devoting every year to one theme, heads of state decided to declare 2011 the year of increased food security in the Commonwealth. In our view, the planned activities during the year to come will help us reach solutions to this problem. Global climate change and natural disasters during the summer of 2010 obviously demonstrated that collective efforts are very important in ensuring food security.

We decided that the Republic of Tajikistan will take on the chairmanship of the Commonwealth in 2011, and the meeting of CIS heads of state will be held in Dushanbe in early September next year. In connection with this, I would like to say that Tajikistan's presidency will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the CIS development concept, adopted in Dushanbe on October 5, 2007. Along with this, particular attention will be paid to implementing a plan of key events to realise both this concept and the CIS economic development strategy through to 2020. Our presidency will be inspired by the principle of continuity. In this regard, among other objectives, we will give priority to increasing the efficiency of the CIS as well as its value as a regional organisation.

Next year the CIS will celebrate its 20th anniversary. One of the main tasks of Tajikistan's presidency will be implementing the decision of the CIS Council of Heads of State to declare 2011 the Year of the Commonwealth of Independent States and managing related events.

We see as one of our main tasks cooperation and support via CIS charter and sectoral bodies for our member states whose economies were the hardest hit by the global financial crisis. We also want to jump start work on creating an effective system for regulating migration and social-labour relations.

We deem it expedient to hold a meeting of national coordinators for CIS affairs in respective member countries, and to exchange experiences on implementing the decisions taken by the Commonwealth. So Tajikistan sees its main task as continuing all the positive work begun by the Commonwealth, and further developing and deepening integration processes within the CIS.

Question: Today we heard the phrase 'CIS free trade zone'. Mr Medvedev, please tell us what the differences are with the zones we heard about yesterday, and what stage this discussion is at. As I understand it, with four countries it is already more difficult than with three, and yet how many CIS members are there? And for how long can you travel down this same path?

Dmitry Medvedev: Naturally things are very different because, for example, what we did yesterday within the Customs Union involves creating a Common Economic Space: a space where there are no customs fees, no special separate procedure for certain goods, and where there are absolutely common rules, common tariffs, common approaches to the movement of commodities, and absolutely free movement of goods, services and people. That is, we are talking about the highest form of economic union, what is generally referred to as a common market. And it is for this reason that in our declaration yesterday we mentioned a concept such as a Eurasian Union. Naturally, here you can look at other existing economic unions to understand what we want. This is very high degree of economic integration, very high indeed.

As for the CIS free trade zone, its purpose is much more prosaic: to ensure normal conditions and equal criteria for goods from countries that sign the relevant documents concerning the Free Trade Zone Treaty. Above all, this represents a first step towards integration. But it is nevertheless still a very important one. In my opening remarks I said that this really is the first time in recent years that we are seriously engaging in economic issues within the CIS. And of course this treaty will be open to all CIS members who wish to join. The most important thing is that this work be carried through to the end. Russia's Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina just spoke and told us about the current situation, and we signed the decision. In practice we have until almost the end of the year to sign the relevant treaty. It will be open for signing somewhere around December 20th. I think this is a very important event for the CIS. This does not mean that we have proceeded as within the EurAsEC or, especially, as in the Customs Union, but it is nevertheless a first step towards economic integration.

Question: A question for the President of the Republic of Tajikistan. Mr President, which results do you think Tajikistan's presidency of the CIS will be remembered for?

Emomali Rahmon: I already said in my opening statement that, along with other priority tasks, Tajikistan will try to raise the CIS profile as a regional organisation and improve its efficiency. And next year when the CIS turns 20, one of the main tasks of our chairmanship will be implementing the decision of the CIS Council of Heads of State to declare 2011 the Year of the Commonwealth of Independent States and managing related events. Along with this, we will pay particular attention to organising and holding major events designed to realise the development concept and economic development strategy of the Commonwealth through to 2020.

There is also a plan of events which, according to the heads of state instructions, were adopted by the CIS heads of government. There are a number of very good events, more than 30 of them, to celebrate the Commonwealth's 20th birthday next year; these are events on which we have to work very seriously and closely.

Today Ukraine suggested holding in April 2011 an international conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, as well as a Business Council meeting in Yalta. We will actively cooperate with and support relations with our colleagues in this context.

Naturally, we will work together very diligently with the executive committee and Secretary General for almost 11 months. I think that given the experience Mr Medvedev has acquired during his tenure, he will be able to provide us with valuable assistance and support in implementing the activities we've scheduled for next year.

Let's wait and see. Next year will bring a lot of activities to Tajikistan, the former Soviet Union, and other CIS countries, but the key event will take place in December 2011 in Moscow, in accordance with the events plan adopted by the CIS Council of Heads of State and the Council of Heads of Government.

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