The forum was established at the initiative of the heads of state to promote direct ties between the civil societies of Russia and Austria.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Federal President, friends,
It is a pleasure to welcome the participants of the Sochi Dialogue Russian-Austrian Civil Society Forum at its constituent meeting. Remarks by forum co-chairs, Mr Fursenko and President of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry Christoph Leitl, demonstrated that not only has the forum officially opened but the discussion of various aspects of practical cooperation has begun.
Let me remind you that the agreement to establish this new mechanism of bilateral cooperation was reached a year ago following talks between myself and the President of Austria in Vienna. It is symbolic that the constituent meeting of the Sochi forum was timed to coincide with Mr President’s visit. I am pleased to note that this event has brought together prominent representatives of the two countries’ civil society, business people, and members of the scientific and cultural communities. Ladies and gentlemen, each and every one of you makes a real contribution to the development of multi-dimensional and mutually beneficial Russian-Austrian relations. I am certain that your collaboration within this forum will be valuable and fruitful.
Indeed, the Sochi Dialogue has a very important mission of facilitating direct contacts between the civil societies and professional communities of the two countries in culture, education, science, sport, and other areas of the extensive humanitarian agenda.
The forum was named after the Russian city of Sochi, where we have gathered today. It is the city that, during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, became the capital of the Olympic movement, which is called upon to bring together and unite people.
Speaking of which, more than 40 major Austrian companies were involved in preparations for the Olympic Games. Mr Leitl paid us a compliment by saying that we did a lot for Sochi’s development but we did it also with the help of our Austrian friends. You helped us to build sports facilities, transport and tourist infrastructure. By the way, our Austrian friends also made good money here, 1.6 billion euros. This is a practical result of our cooperation.
I want to stress that thanks to maintaining consistent and constructive contacts at all levels, Russian-Austrian relations are progressing on the principles of good neighbourliness, mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests. These are not just empty words but the actual state of affairs. The special features of our relations are their stability against temporary volatility and focus on specific results.
Our economic ties are traditionally strong. Last year, bilateral trade increased by over 40 percent reaching almost $6 billion. The amount of Russia’s capital investment in the Austrian economy is close to $27 billion and Austria’s investment in Russia is $5.5 billion.
Russia and Austria are maintaining extensive contacts in science and culture. This year is a cross year of youth exchanges between our countries. Years 2020 and 2021 will be years of literature and theatre. It should be noted that next year, Salzburg in Austria will be the venue of the Sochi forum, which will coincide with the centenary of the famous Salzburg Festival.
As the organisers told me, the next session of the Sochi Dialogue will take place very soon, during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June. The session will focus on cooperation in education and professional training.
Naturally, we support plans to organise meetings with representatives of other civil society forums, such as the Russia-France forum, the Trianon Dialogue, and the Russia-Germany forum, the Petersburg Dialogue. I believe that this multilateral format will be a good opportunity for discussing the contribution of public diplomacy to the strengthening of pan-European partnership and cooperation.
Friends, I want to wish the best of success to all the participants of Sochi Dialogue. Thank you for taking part in this important undertaking.