Joint Press Conference following the Russia-EU summit meeting
November 24, 2006,
City Hall, Helsinki
PRIME MINISTER OF FINLAND MATTI VANHANEN: Good afternoon, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen!
Welcome to our press conference. As you can see, the representatives from two summits have been incorporated into our presidium today. This morning and over lunch we held our eighteen Russia-EU summit with President Putin. In addition, we conducted a Northern Dimension summit in which the prime ministers of Norway and Iceland also participated. In the future, the Northern Dimension will not only be an EU policy but a common policy between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. At the EU-Russia summit that began this morning we engaged in an open, fruitful discussion that covered a wide range of issues. We were not able to attain a mandate for beginning negotiations concerning a new agreement between the EU and Russia. However, we all agreed that this is not the last opportunity to do so. The Finnish presidency will continue to make efforts towards completing work on the mandate. Cooperation in all areas is proceeding as per usual based on the existing agreement. We are happy with the fact that we were able to qualitatively improve our relations after accepting the road maps towards the four common spaces last year. These issues represent priorities for the agenda of the Finnish presidency. We held four ministerial meetings to improve practical work done in areas such as transport, external communications and protection of the environment.
Our goal is to concentrate on the issues which directly influence the lives of our citizens. Today we emphasised the importance of increasing contacts between the ordinary citizens of our countries. Contacts between citizens and various communities are necessary for increasing mutual understanding between countries. It is also necessary to pay special attention to social and other kinds of cooperation. We paid special attention to contacts between students and youth. We aspire to allocate as many financial resources as possible so that Russian students can be educated in Europe and vice versa. In the economic sphere we recognized that it is in our general interest to expand business investment cooperation and to remove existing trade barriers. In today’s world it is very important that environmental issues be considered an integral part of economic cooperation. The EU and Russia are committed to stable economic development and to fighting against climate change.
There is a common understanding that our energy partnership is based on strong positive interdependence and we are ready to develop these relations for the good of both parties. Before our meeting, Ms Huovinen had a discussion with Mr Levitin and European Commission President Mr Barroso on the issue of constitutional rights. They discussed human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In November we held consultations on human rights.
We hope that this mechanism will continue to be discussed in a constructive way. We expressed our concern in connection with the way the investigation into Anna Politkovskaya’s murder is proceeding.
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, the Northern Dimension summit ended just several minutes ago. During this meeting we adopted a new policy for developing our relations. In practice, the Northern Dimension reflects processes that take place in northwestern Russia and will be regulated on the basis of our partnership – the partnership for social well-being and resolving problems related to living standards. In the partnership to protect the environment we implement joint projects that have a total sum of more than two hundred billion euros. We also continue to work towards establishing a new fund to protect the environment. We aspire to increase the volume of financing and Finland decided to contribute an additional six million euros. And Germany, who will hold the next EU presidency, will contribute ten million dollars. Today we also discussed establishing a new partnership in transport and logistical fields and the possibility of consolidating our partnership in energy effectiveness. In conclusion, I would like to express my satisfaction with today’s talks that took place in the spirit of cooperation between business partners and I hope that they allowed us to continue towards achieving our goals.
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen!
The eighteenth Russia-EU summit has ended. And I must say with satisfaction that the summit meeting today provided us with a genuine opportunity to not only discuss key cooperation issues but also to make a number of important decisions.
As such, it is our common opinion that we were able to reach quite positive results with respect to implementing the road maps. And as a whole, the process of forming the four common Russia-EU spaces is developing in an active and dynamic way. I shall remind you that these are common spaces in economics, in freedom, security and justice, in external security, and in research and education.
And in view of such dynamic cooperation, we suggested holding a new meeting between the Russian government and the European Commission in February 2007.
We discussed implementing the Joint Declaration on EU Enlargement and Russia-EU relations in detail. This document, adopted 27 April 2004, defines the basic obligations of EU member states and its implementation should minimize the consequences for Russia of having 10 new states join the EU.
Today this document’s provisions have a special urgency. It is well-known that next year Bulgaria and Romania will become members of the EU. And Russia considers that these countries must also take on the obligations established in this agreement. And we call on our European partners to accelerate the process of coming to a decision on this issue.
We certainly spoke about human rights and about the humanitarian component of our cooperation. We recalled the rather strange status of the Russian-speaking population in certain Baltic states. We expect that visible changes in this situation will take place. Of course we did not forget about well-known crimes and the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. But I think that this is not the only thing to remember. I say this with regret that we should also recall other similar crimes. Another American journalist, Mr Paul Khlebnikov, was also murdered. As you know, an investigation is underway and this issue is before the courts. Unfortunately, the court’s jury let off those that the Prosecutor General had accused. The Prosecutor General questioned this decision in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. We should not forget about political crimes in other countries, including political murders in European countries. We all need to remember this, condemn all crimes of this type and prevent them.
One feature of the present summit was the four-party meeting between Russia, the European Union, Norway and Iceland. This was a genuinely significant event. The documents adopted at the meeting – the Political Declaration and the Framework Document – will allow us to fundamentally update and modernize a promising field of cooperation, namely the Northern Dimension programme.
As a result, as of 1 January 2007 in northern Europe a new international project will be implemented. Within this regional initiative we need to implement the key provisions of the road maps for the four common EU-Russia spaces. Along with this the Northern Dimension will also have its own programmes that will allow it to realise the powerful potential of northern European states.
Our country has already prepared a number of concrete, mutually advantageous initiatives for discussion. And in the future we will continue to pay careful attention to this project. In fact, relations between Russia and its northwestern European neighbours have traditionally been a part of our international priorities.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our summit hosts for the contribution that Finland has made towards organising this meeting between the members of the Northern Dimension. And also to point out the work done by experts who prepared quality, important documents.
When summing up our meeting’s results, I would like to express my regret that we were not able to start negotiations on a new fundamental Russia-EU agreement. The European Union has not yet developed a unified position on this issue. For its part, Russia confirms its readiness to start negotiations.
In any case, their delay will not affect the whole range of our relations with the EU in a negative way. Our relations are based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, and thanks to this document our relations can continue every year. There is no legal vacuum in our relations with the EU. We will wait patiently for the moment when the EU agrees on a common position. For our part, we are also ready to make a contribution towards achieving this goal. Thank you.
PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: We had a very constructive discussion on a number of issues, ranging from economic cooperation to climate change and from human rights to international problems. And I consider that we can say that we achieved important progress with Russia. Russia is our important strategic partner and our closest neighbour. It is true that at this summit we were not able to begin negotiations on a new agreement with Russia to continue the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that is set to expire, but we are not going to avoid a common future. We are going to begin this process as soon as possible and, as you know, we already agreed that the present agreement will continue to be in force until a new agreement has been prepared. Therefore no legal vacuum will form nor be reflected in the good relations that exist between Russia and the EU.
I raised the issue of the Russian restrictions on imports of Polish meat. The European Commission considers that it is a disproportionate measure. We asked that these restrictions be removed. The technical commission determined that this ban is unfounded. We consider that this problem can be resolved and we are ready to actively contribute to resolving it, possibly through three-party talks between Poland, Russia and the European Commission.
We raised other issues that directly affect our citizens. For example, the long transport queues at EU and Russian borders. We must work together to resolve this problem and to develop trade. As you know, one of the key goals of our common economic space is our aspiration to have Russia do everything possible to simplify customs and border procedures. And we can cooperate with the EU member countries that participate in this process to increase their ability on their side of the border to take into account congestion of the roads at these points. And we can cooperate with Russia if Russia so desires. But this is an intensive effort from both sides. A good signal in this respect is that economic and trade relations between Russia and the EU are growing, and we see this as a positive signal for our relations as a whole.
Energy is certainly a very important priority in our relations. And it is an important part of our summit. We discussed energy and we are now developing the progress we reached in Lahti and aiming for a win-win situation: when the EU can offer technology and a market and Russia can of course use its profits to modernize its own production capacities and distribution networks. We base ourselves on the principles in the Energy Charter, the Agreement on the Energy Charter and on the G8 Declaration on Energy Security adopted in St Petersburg.
And in conclusion I would like to emphasise this summit’s important achievements. As you know, for a long time the European Commission held talks to gradually abolish taxes on flights over Siberia and we envisage that this will be fully implemented by 2013. This requires a comprehensive modernisation of the system and will open a new era of cooperation between Russia and the EU in the sphere of aviation. This is possible due to the fruitful cooperation between the EU and the Russian government. I must note the good work done by Jacques Barrot who has reached a very good agreement with Minister Levitin with the support of the Finnish minister Susanna Huovinen. We reached this agreement and it represents a very important event for developing our economies.
I truly consider that today at the summit between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland we inaugurated a new era in the Northern Dimension. And I especially congratulate the Finnish presidency, Prime Minister Vanhanen and all of his team for their contribution to this success. Thank you.
EU HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE COMMON FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY JAVIER SOLANA: It is true that this was a very good meeting. And I hope that we meet with our publics’ expectations. This was a very good, friendly meeting. And as you can imagine, we talked about issues concerning bilateral relations between Russia and the EU. But we talked about important issues, including issues that concern our countries’ borders – the borders of EU member countries and Russia. We talked about strategic issues that are very important for our agendas. We talked about Iran, the Middle East, resolving the situation in Transdnistria and Moldova. We talked about Georgia and Kosovo and other issues that are very important both for the European Union and for the Russian Federation. We would like to solve these issues in the spirit of friendship and cooperation and therefore I consider that this summit was very successful. At this summit we did not only discuss issues concerning our mutual relations but those that concern the international community as well. It is possible – I would not be mistaken if I say – that we discussed the most important issues. We also participated in the Northern Dimension and opened a new stage in our cooperation.
PRIME MINISTER OF NORWAY JENS STOLTENBERG: Dear gentlemen! I shall only briefly add something with respect to the Northern Dimension. Norway has already cooperated with Russia, the EU and Iceland for a long time. We have supported the Northern Dimension since its foundation. We supported the Northern Dimension since we consider that it represents an important basis for cooperation, political dialogue between the countries of the region and the European Union, as a well as a good basis for implementing concrete projects and initiatives in areas such as public health and the environment.
One example is the work that we carry out concerning nuclear waste and nuclear pollution. Norway supports this programme. We have allocated 10 million euros for this purpose. We also provided preliminary help in non-nuclear cooperation and have allocated two million euros for these purposes. These are concrete projects, concrete initiatives, in the environmental sphere and public health services. For Norway the Northern Dimension is also very important because it is part of what we refer to as our work in the Far North. Work and cooperation in the Far North is a very important issue for our government. Especially since this also concerns energy deliveries. We have large energy resources in the Far North, along the coast of the Barents Sea and in the Barents Sea. This also concerns fishing and the sustainable development of sea resources. And it concerns environmental problems and climate change. Therefore we consider that this is a very important forum and we are very happy with the close cooperation with Russia, the EU and Iceland to resolve all of these important issues. The meeting that we had today was an excellent meeting and we are also very happy that we could agree on a Political Declaration since this will act as a basis for further cooperation and further development of the Northern Dimension. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER OF ICELAND GEIR HAARDE: I would like to thank our Finnish hosts not only for today’s Northern Dimension meeting but also for their constant efforts, for their contribution to developing the Northern Dimension concept. The network of regional cooperation in northern Europe is a universal structure and the full participation of the European Union and Russia in the Northern Dimension has a huge significance with regard to its political weight, existence and resources.
Iceland is satisfied with the Political Declaration and new Policy Framework Document. In particular I would like to draw your attention to what the Declaration says about having senior officials examine the possibilities for more enhanced cooperation in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. This sphere has a huge potential and we hope for further cooperation in this field. After this session Iceland will study which contribution it can make to the concrete partnership and projects of the Northern Dimension and in cooperation with other members. Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a question for Mr Putin and Mr Vanhanen. Mr Putin, after you arrived in Helsinki yesterday, Aleksandr Litvinenko’s death in London became known. Today we were informed that before he died, he wrote a letter in which he accused you of his death. What can you say about this? And Mr Vanhanen, did you raise this issue in your conversation with Mr Putin and are you concerned about it? Do you think it is somehow connected with Anna Politkovskaya’s death? Thank you.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: A person’s death is always a tragedy. And I offer my condolences to Mr Litvinenko’s family and friends. Meanwhile, as far as I know, the medical conclusions of British doctors offer no indication that this was a violent death. No indication. This means that there is no reason for such suppositions.
In any case, we consider that our British colleagues, including in the law enforcement agencies, understand their responsibilities with respect to ensuring the security of citizens that are on their territory. This applies in full measure to Russian citizens on British territory, independently of their political views and convictions. I hope that the British authorities will not support any tendency to inflate any political scandals which are groundless.
If necessary, Russian authorities, including investigation agencies such as the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, will provide all necessary help in the investigation if such an investigation is needed.
And finally, with respect to the note that you mentioned. If such a note really did appear before Mr Litvinenko’s death, then this raises the issue of why it was not made public during his life. And if this appeared after his passing away, after his death, then naturally it deserves no comment? The people that have done this are not God and Mr Litvinenko is, unfortunately, not Lazarus. And it is very much a pity that even such tragic events like a person’s death can be used for political provocations.
MATTI VANHANEN: His death was a tragic event but I did not raise this issue during our discussions today since at present we do not have the details. British authorities are investigating this issue and they must first finish their work.
QUESTION: We have already talked about Poland’s position and the fact that Poland prevented you from starting talks for preparing a new document. I would like to clear up certain aspects. In particular, Mr Barroso, are you aware of data the European Commission has on infringements of phytosanitary regulations that really took place in Poland? Do you think that Warsaw is unduly politicizing the issue or, is it possible that Russia is defending its position too rigidly? And the same question to the President of Russia. Vladimir Vladimirovich, how do you intend to resolve the problem of the delivery of Polish agricultural products to Russia. And what is your forecast for the future development of Russian-Polish relations as a whole? Thank you.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Just recently a mission composed of specialists was sent to Poland to investigate these veterinary questions. And there really were problems. And it is true that in our eyes there are no reasons to keep this ban. We are considering this. And during the meeting with President Putin we examined this issue and we qualified Russia’s reaction as too strong. But I am certainly no expert in veterinary issues. And today I understood from the conversation with Mr Putin and from the comments at the session that the problem is not connected with Polish meat. Actually, President Putin said that Polish meat is excellent. It seems that the problem is connected with imported meat that is sold on the Polish market and with the system for certifying the said meat. This issue falls under the competence of the European Commission and we will insist on finding technical solutions for this problem since we consider that this problem should not be blown out of proportion. We do not need to be too dramatic about this because all agree that Polish meat is good. Perhaps at the next summit we will all have a good Polish steak for lunch. And I truly think that we cannot and should not draw the conclusion from this problem – no matter how serious it was – that our good relations with Russia or the opportunities for finding a new agreement are undermined. It is important that we continue our work and our constructive and fruitful dialogue with Russia. And we – the European Commission – certainly regret that this happened, and that it was impossible to begin talks for a new agreement with Russia at this summit.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr President Barroso has outlined the problem well. The problem does not consist in the quality of Polish meat. Polish manufactures know their business and perform it well. Polish agricultural products have been available on the Russian market for decades. The issue is something else entirely. The issue consists in the fact that meat products from other countries are delivered to Poland, including from Asian countries whose products are forbidden not only on the market of the Russian Federation but also on the EU’s market. And we have recorded instances of these meat products on our customs territory. Precisely for this reason we forbade deliveries of meat from Poland. And Polish authorities should pay more attention to administration and thereby protect the interests of their producers. In this case there would not be any restrictions. I repeat that this equally concerns European consumers.
Incidentally, it is not only Russia that has introduced these restrictions. Since March 2006 other neighbouring countries, including Ukraine, have introduced restrictions on deliveries of Polish meat. 400 tonnes of meat from Poland were detained on the Polish-Ukrainian border. And, as far as we know, Ukrainian authorities have declared that they will not open their market to Polish meat before the problem has been dealt with.
I repeat that we are ready to look for solutions to this problem together with our Polish colleagues and friends. We do not want to dramatize or politicize this issue unduly. This is a technical problem. As soon as we agree on this, the problem will be resolved. But it is not necessary to link this purely technical issue with the general state of Russian-EU relations. Such economic egoism does not help business. And it will not help business.
As to the development prospects of Russian-Polish relations as a whole, I consider that they have good prospects. We have always cooperated with Poland in a large number of fields. In fact, right after the current President was elected I sent my adviser Mr Iastrzhembskii to Warsaw. He met with the President. We suggested holding a very high-level summit meeting, at the expert level. We are ready to cooperate with our Polish colleagues in all fields and on all levels. I am confident that mutual relations will develop successfully.
MATTI VANHANEN: Now after our discussion we understand that this is an absolutely technical and not a political issue.
QUESTION: Mr Putin, you mentioned this affair of Anna Politkovskaya’s and Prime Minister Vanhanen talked about this as well, and it seems that there are concerns about how the investigation is being carried out. Mr President, please answer this question and comment on how the investigation is proceeding.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have already said that we should not forget that such crimes do not only happen in Russia. In other European countries there are well-known political murders that have not yet been resolved. This is our common problem and let’s look at what is happening with the mafia in several EU countries which, not in an isolated incident but systematically, destroys representatives of law-enforcement agencies, judges, prosecutors, investigators, journalists and political figures. It takes decades to catch these mafiosi in European countries. This is a common problem. Maybe this problem is somewhat sharper in Russia with respect to our country’s present level of development. We are not about to deny this and together with our European colleagues we are preparing to fight against this and to change the situation. I am confident that we will be able to do so. It would be unfortunate if we endlessly politicised these issues or stigmatised only Russia for this. The same thing happens in many other countries. Ms Politkovskaya was a critic of the Russian authorities, that is true, but Mr Paul Khlebnikov was also an American journalist, as I said before. Ms Politkovskaya had American citizenship and Paul Khlebnikov was of Russian origin but was also an American journalist. He criticised precisely those people who are leading an armed struggle against the federal authorities. He was also killed. Is it correct to forget about him? I think not. Let us not politicise these questions but join our forces in the struggle against this evil. And as to the investigation into this affair, hundreds of people are being interrogated, hundreds. I want to express my hope that the work is not only being conducted in the most active way but will also be brought to completion.
QUESTION: The first question is for Mr Barroso. Please tell us how your energy dialogue with Russia proceeded today. And a question to the Russian President: Vladimir Vladimirovich, please tell us whether when talking with the European Union you hear a united voice or many voices? And now a question to everyone, if possible. What is your actual impression of relations between Russia and the EU – are they composed merely of declarations? There are many more declarations than concrete actions. Did you discuss the question of how the future enlargement of the European Union could potentially complicate relations between Brussels and Moscow? Thank you.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: As I already said, we exchanged opinions on what both parties are doing. However, we did not make any significant decisions that we had planned. As you know, a short while ago we began a very important dialogue on these issues. But there were no really new developments in the energy dialogue. However, it was still very good to use this possibility. President Putin told us about the present situation and Russia’s future plans. I also talked about how the EU sees the situation and I think that it is perhaps the first theme for our energy discussion today.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: As to the question of whether Europe has a united voice or, as you expressed it, whether we are aware of many different voices, then you know that in those issues where EU countries have a united position then we speak with a united voice and they speak with us in a united voice. Certainly where the European Commission has not yet received a mandate of course it is more difficult for us – we have to resolve the issue with each country separately, with each EU member. Now, your colleagues were already interested in agricultural problems, for instance, our relations with our Polish colleagues. Since the European Commission has a mandate to talk with us about imports, in this respect the European Union speaks in a united voice. But there is no such mandate with respect to exports. And we have already said that if you adopt a united position within the EU, an export mandate, then it will be easier for us to resolve these problems with the EU. However, within the EU there is still not a united point of view on this issue. We will wait.
QUESTION: A question on the EU’s plan to present an energy policy in January. President Barroso and Ms Kroes talked about separating various capacities meaning that production facilities and distribution networks of a compny should be separated. For that reason I want to ask whether such a plan really does exist? And Mr President, I want to ask how this concerns Russia? Because it will undoubtedly affect Gazprom…
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Allow me to begin. The formal decision has not yet been made. We are now developing comprehensive energy measures that will be presented in January. I told President Putin this informally on the sidelines of the official summit. Our opinions differ. However, we have not yet made an official decision on the details of the offer we will make concerning the separation of production and distribution. We will undoubtedly propose separation in the European energy market. It seems to us that this is necessary and that today it is obvious that there is insufficient competition. However, we have not yet determined the details of this decision. We are working on this within the European Commission and I cannot yet confirm this officially. However, this really is the current tendency. I told President Putin that the plan to open our markets within the EU is contingent on this because our energy markets are not quite uniform, despite the successes we have recently achieved.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We do not yet know either the parameters or the final version of the European energy strategy. We spoke with Mr Barroso about this today. Moreover, I am deeply convinced that the more coordinated our actions are, the better they will be. With respect to Russia, then I can tell you that there are no secrets. To date there is still a certain disparity between the prices inside Russia and on the world market, and as long as this holds true we are going to preserve the unity of companies such as Gazprom. Because when there are differences in prices, any producer of any product will sell goods wherever they can be sold for more. But we have an agreement with the European Union on aligning price parameters. And the most important thing is not the prices themselves but the formula according to which prices are calculated. And we are going to gradually, smoothly, keeping in mind the changes in the population’s incomes, changes in public services and in the Russian economy as a whole, move in the direction of resolving this problem. To divide our companies into producers and transporters or to not divide them is exclusively within the national competences of the Russian Federation. And while no one can take this decision for us, we are going to work closely together and cooperate with our European partners.
QUESTION: I have questions for the President of Russia and the President of the European Commission. Every summit we hear less and less talk about the free movement of Russian citizens between Russia and the European Union. Is the problem that you cannot agree or are the problems technical ones?
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: We discussed this issue very actively today. But we cannot tell you in a few minutes something we discussed for several hours. You must remember that at the previous summit we concluded a very important agreement on simplifying the visa regime and on readmission. We, the Russia and the EU, agree that our long-term goal is a visa-free regime between the EU and Russia. However, we have begun our work, we are continuing it today, and doing everything we can to support this process, to bring it to completion. And this is being done so that the visa regime is simplified and that contacts between Russia and the EU increase. There remain a few technical issues, in particular, the issue of Kaliningrad and the free movement of people from the EU to Kaliningrad and vice versa.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Today we spoke quite a lot about transport problems – transporting people and goods. We talked about the visa and visa-free regimes. We discussed all these themes. I agree with my European colleagues: we are seeing progress in this respect. The agreement on simplifying the visa regime for various categories of citizens is already signed. I am not going to repeat what you already know. I want to inform you that in Russia the internal state procedures concerning this issue are coming to an end and next week the corresponding project and agreements will be brought before the Duma – the Russian parliament – for ratification. This represents the first step towards a visa-free regime that both Russia and our European partners have not yet ruled out. But to attain this we have to do a lot and, for example, the Russian Federation must ensure the security of its state borders. This is required for our internal security and also for our European partners. It is a fair requirement, just as is the readmission agreement. Work on this document will be completed in Russia and it will be ratified in the very near future.