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Opening remarks at First Russian-Ukrainian Interregional Economic Forum

October 4, 2010, Gelendzhik

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, let’s start.

Mr President, friends,

Time always seems to fly. I remember when in Kharkov we first discussed the idea of establishing this forum and chose Gelendzhik as the venue for our meeting today.

Since then, we have succeeded in taking Russian-Ukrainian relations out of the depressive state in which they had fallen, and I want to thank everyone who played a part in this. But we still have many other tasks ahead of us, and this is why we are here today to talk about developing trade between our border regions, environmental protection, strengthening infrastructure, and improving the operation of checkpoints on the border between our two countries. There are many other matters on which we will also exchange views. 

During the recent working meetings President Yanukovych and I had on both Ukrainian and Russian soil first in Glukhov and then in Zavidovo near Moscow, we discussed how to organise our common efforts, given that we have the Interstate Commission meeting at the end of the year, and our Council of Heads of State. By then we must have drafted and settled our final decisions on how to best promote and organise our bilateral dialogue.

We should reflect on how to expand a whole number of areas in our interregional cooperation. I am thinking particularly of infrastructure, which I already mentioned, and of carrying out a number of large scale innovative projects in the border regions, in our European regions. We could establish technology parks, for example, and other cooperation centres.

We need to not just preserve but also strengthen the common information space by composing a common data base on supply and demand on our two countries’ markets, with sites presenting the various business proposals and projects that the regional governors are already working on.

We are to follow the various trends on the markets and minimise the common risks associated with our interregional cross-border cooperation. I mean here issues such as economic security, the various environmental issues that have been mentioned, preserving marine biological resources, for example, and protecting shipping. In this respect, cooperation between Russia’s and Ukraine’s southern regions is especially important, and it is particularly fitting to make this point here in Gelendzhik.

The President and I just reviewed one of the possible projects for building a bridge [over the Kerch Strait]. This is a very important, even destiny-making project, and we shall think now about how best to develop the links between us, look at which projects are most feasible, and what would be the costs involved. The relevant instructions have already been issued to our agencies, but this subject deserves attention at the presidential level because it is something that unites our countries and creates greater possibilities for our people to cross the border, and new opportunities for increasing passenger and goods flows between our countries.

We should organise our interregional cooperation taking into account the integration associations in which we already take part, specifically, the  Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. We would like to make greater use too of the potential of our Business Council, our Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian border region cooperation. All of this would also be useful. 

I hope that the forum will also see the signing of our bilateral programmes for interregional and border regions cooperation for 2011–2016, the cooperation activity plan between Krasnodar Territory and Zaporozhye Region, and the cooperation agreement between the Russian and Ukrainian unions of industrialists and entrepreneurs. The most important thing is that these documents be followed by practical intensive steps, business consultations and contacts between peoples. If we achieve this we will be able to realise all of the objectives that the President of Ukraine and I have set in our goal to fully restore and develop the trade, economic and humanitarian relations between our countries.

I would like to note too that today’s forum is not an event for show, but must have practical substance. It offers us the chance to exchange views and make practical preparations for the big intergovernmental consultations that our two countries will hold at the end of the year.

October 4, 2010, Gelendzhik