Extracts from Video-conference during a Meeting with the Participants in the Junior G8 2006-07-14 19:20:15 Pushkin, Leningrad Region President Vladimir Putin: I would like to welcome all our guests gathered here today in the town of Pushkin, and our discussion partners in Cairo. I hope that I have not interrupted your discussions too much. I really did want to get to know you better and say a few words about this most important subject that you have been discussing today. I would like to start by saying that the G8 countries address education issues at practically all their meetings. I am sure that you have been talking about the immense importance of education in general in the world today. Education has become a significant factor in progress in the world. It is a driving force not just for progress in the broad sense of the term, but for economic success, for ensuring economic growth. Of course, these issues are of greatest importance now in the countries with developing economies. The G8 countries have proposed a number of initiatives for advancing education in the developing countries. These aid initiatives address issues such as ensuring education for girls in the countries where there are problems in this area, so that girls and young women can take a full part in society. Another initiative, which I’m sure you have all heard of, is the programme, Education for All. To be honest, not all the decisions taken by the G8, unfortunately, are being implemented as fast and as fully as we would like. This point was made to me by civil leaders with whom I met recently in Moscow. This is one of the reasons why Russia has made education one of the main items on the agenda for the G8 summit in St Petersburg, which will begin tomorrow. Regarding the region with which we are speaking now, I can say that we currently have more than 15,000 people from this region, from the Arab world, studying in Russia. Many of our former students, and we call them our students, even though they come from other countries, have gone on to reach a high level in their homelands, not just professionally but also at the administrative level. Many of them have become members of their country’s government, have become government ministers. These students come from many different parts of the Arab world, including Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria and many other countries, including, of course, Egypt. We have a very good joint project with Egypt – the creation of the Russian-Egyptian University, which is now in the practical implementation phase. This project means that not only will our student exchanges increase, but so will our teacher exchanges and our exchanges of teaching methods. We have succeeded in bringing our positions closer together on many problems related to education development. Of course, as part of the preparations for the G8 summit in St Petersburg, we held consultations with specialists, teachers and various experts in the education field. But the best experts of all are those who are right now using or who will be using education services. I am therefore very pleased to see you fine young people here in St Petersburg, boys and girls who are the students of today and tomorrow. I am also very pleased that we have been able to organise this discussion with young people in other parts of the world too, including in Cairo. I want to welcome you all and thank you for participating so actively. I am sure that when we meet with the representatives of the young people here today, all my colleagues, the leaders of the G8 countries, will be very interested to hear your views on education issues. I know that all my colleagues are looking forward to this meeting in St Petersburg. I would like to wish our discussion partners in Cairo all the very best. I know that tension is on the rise in the Arab world at the moment as a result of the serious events in Lebanon and Palestine. I want to say that when we meet with our G8 colleagues, we will do everything within our power to ensure that peace returns as soon as possible to Palestine, to Israel and to Lebanon, because only peace and security can guarantee basic human rights – the right to life and the right to education. Thank you very much.