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Transcripts   /

Joint News Conference with Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg

April 27, 2010, Oslo

Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg (as retranslated): Mr President, it is a great honour for us to welcome you to Oslo. Our nations are united by very close, friendly ties. We have been interacting personally for five years now and our cooperation will be further developed by your visit to the Prime Minister’s Office today.

Our cooperation has enormous potential, and the eight new agreements to be signed by our two countries today evidence that during your visit to Norway we have taken our cooperation in many sectors to a new level. In addition to reaching these agreements, it was resolved that another agreement should be finalized, that on the IDs for residents of the near-border zone. Under that agreement, people residing in either of the two countries within 30 kilometres off the state border will enjoy a visa-free regime for border-crossing which will constitute an important new step in developing our close ties.

Yesterday, we participated in a very successful business conference. Over one hundred Norwegian companies are registered in Russia, and many of those took part in the event.

Our cooperation develops in many sectors, including finance, tourism, and shipbuilding, while Norway’s presence in northwest Russia will further expand through establishment of an honourable consulate in Arkhangelsk.

There is great potential for our economic cooperation. To promote it, favourable framework conditions are required. Energy cooperation is the core element in our bilateral relations, with Statoil closely interacting with Russian companies at the Shtokman field and internationally. We will be signing an agreement on promoting energy cooperation and jointly exploring renewable energy sources.

Referring to fishery, it is the area of our major achievements as no other sector compares with the high cooperation results reached by Norway and Russia in the fishing industry. The current biological resources of the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea are fine.

For many years we cooperated in regulating fishing in Norway’s waters by introducing preclusive measures which resulted in terminating unlawful cod fishing with not a single case registered in 2009. This is a perfect example of our efficient cooperation in maintaining living marine resources, protecting the environment, and ensuring law obedience in fishing.

Norway and Russia have a special role to play as coastal states of the Arctic area. We do not merely enjoy essential rights, but bear major responsibilities too for developing this fragile and significant region. We welcome Russia’s support for the provisions of the [United Nations] Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both Norway and Russia are concerned with emissions resulting from nickel production in Pechenga town [in Murmansk Region]. I am truly glad that the Russian authorities have expressed their readiness to help reduce these emissions.

Norway and Russia are engaging in constructive dialogue on human rights. I must give credit to the President of Russia for his decisiveness on human rights and civic society matters. I also expressed my concern over the situation with human rights in Russia in general, and the safety of human rights activists and journalists in particular and this matter was addressed during the talks.

President Medvedev and I participated in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington which I hope will promote further progress in strengthening nuclear security and preventing terrorist organisations from gaining access to nuclear materials. I think that the upcoming conference in May will also contribute to nuclear security.

In addition, I would like to congratulate President Medvedev on signing the new START treaty between Russia and the United States which is an active step toward a nuclear-free world.

In nuclear security Norway has been cooperating with Russia for many years. We initiated various projects and our cooperation resulted in dismantling five outdated nuclear submarines and replacement of radioactive batteries in 180 beacons with solar batteries thus eliminating use of radioactive material. Therefore, our cooperation in nuclear security is most essential.

Mr President, your visit to Norway will be a historic visit. I am glad that today the two of us will be able to jointly announce the new agreement reached between our two nations. Our meeting, which has just ended, has resulted in an agreement on maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. This is a historic day. We have reached a breakthrough in the most important outstanding issue between Norway and the Russian Federation. The problem has been discussed for forty years. We have agreed now on every aspect of this complex solution: the maritime delimitation line, the exploitation of oil fields, and regulation of fishing. This agreement is the result of meticulous efforts on the basis of international law and is an expression of the great importance attached to international law by Norway and the Russian Federation as coastal states.

The negotiated solution appears to be well balanced and will benefit both our countries. The recommended solution involves a maritime delimitation line that divides the overall disputed area of about 175 000 square kilometres in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean in two parts of approximately the same size. The negotiations have now been completed. We worked on finalising these matters through today, and we are happy that we made a decision on this highly important matter.

Some technical control work remains before the final treaty is ready for signature. After that it will be considered by the two countries’ national assemblies.

We will be signing a joint statement at the Akershus Castle in a few minutes. I want to extend my thanks to the negotiators for their extensive efforts, which have now proved successful.

The agreement mainly concerns maritime delimitation, but apart from that it evidences the closeness of our good neighbourly relations. A clear border is a proper foundation for developing relationship between our two countries as it will bring us closer together rather than separate, and become a bridge toward enhanced cooperation.

This is a very happy day for Norway, Russia, and especially for our populations in the north. I am glad that history will remember this visit as an important visit, one that significantly promoted bilateral good-neighbourly relations between Russia and Norway. Thank you.

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Now that the Prime Minister has just announced the main sensation all that’s left for me is to add a few remarks of my own. But I will start, as is proper, by expressing my thanks for these productive, forward-looking, intensive and open talks with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and for the helpful spirit in which they took place.

I fully believe that our countries’ cooperation is a positive force in developing European relations and is something that our countries and peoples need.

Much time indeed has gone into reaching a settlement on our maritime borders in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. Frankly, this was an issue that had been complicating our relations. Now we have come to the point of finally settling and closing this matter. I hope that our teams, who I would also like to thank, both the Norwegian and Russian teams, will soon continue the talks in order to put on paper the technical details of the agreements reached and prepare everything for the final signing.

The joint declarations that we will adopt today – that of the Prime Minister and I, and that of our foreign ministers – will set out the main principles on which our settlement is based. This really is a big event in Russian-Norwegian relations, and I think that Europe as a whole will only be better off for it.

The Prime Minister noted the various areas that we discussed, thus saving me from having to list them all. I just want to add that, despite the [global] crisis, our cooperation has posted decent results so far this year and grew by almost 50 percent over the first two months of 2010 compared to the same period last year. This was one of the points I mentioned at the business conference that took place here in Oslo yesterday. 

This conference was a good initiative and I hope it will continue with a similar event in Moscow next year. This is important because the closeness of our business ties have a direct impact on the investment climate, on opportunities for reciprocal investment, on how successfully we carry out big projects, and also on the success of projects between our small and medium-sized enterprises. Naturally, our cooperation has its flagship sectors such as energy, oil and gas, shipbuilding, telecommunications and information technology development, and nuclear and radiation safety.

The fishing industry is one of our priority sectors, of course. We noted the close contacts between our agencies in this area at the meeting in expanded format today. They provide a good example of how we need to go about this area of significance for both countries. After all, this is a sector in which we have closely interwoven interests and need to follow closely what each other is doing. At the same time, we should produce constructive solutions and lay the foundations for cooperation as partners who do not jostle and obstruct each other, but go about sharing this [maritime] space in proper fashion and joining efforts in developing [fishing] industry. 

There is another area that Russia has made a priority in its cooperation with our main European partners and this is innovation. This was another of the questions we discussed at the talks today and at the [business] conference yesterday. I hope to see us work together as actively as possible with Norwegian government agencies and private businesses, to develop modern innovation opportunities in Russia, taking into account Norway’s experience in this field. I hope we will cooperate on developing joint products. 

We had good talks on building up the legal base underlying our relations. Today we will sign a series of agreements, including in law enforcement, education, and energy efficiency, which is also an important topic for Russia today. We will work jointly on renewable energy sources, hydrometeorology, and training management personnel. We have made clear progress in these spheres. 

Of course, I also discussed with the Prime Minister issues on which we differ. This is a normal thing and we will continue these discussions. We spoke about particular cooperation matters and also about how to join efforts in protecting human rights, as the Prime Minister mentioned just now.

This is an important subject. I believe that human rights are a priority for the Russian authorities. I think that Russia’s authorities will successfully address this issue as we have everything we need to do this without any outside assistance. At the same time, we also seek an active dialogue between our civil societies in this field. This is beneficial and we view this very positively. We think this should be an area that is open for discussion.

The ties between our regions are showing good growth. In my view, our cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council are very important for developing our relations in this respect. We are happy to see that our positions coincide in large part or in full on all the main issues, including issues pertaining to a modern international law framework for the Arctic in general.

We discussed matters related to European security and some of the issues concerning relations between Russia and NATO. I expressed my thoughts and concerns on the situation in different respects here and the Prime Minister responded positively, so we look forward to making progress.

I say once again that all that we have accomplished over these last two days will most certainly contribute to developing our relations. This is a clear step forward and I am very happy with the way we are working together.

Once more, I want to thank our Norwegian colleagues for the work accomplished and thank the Prime Minister for his hospitality.

Question: I congratulate both of you on this historic agreement. This is indeed a big step forward. Mr President, last year, on September 10, under the slogan “Go, Russia!” you told us how you plan to build up civil society in Russia. Does this mean that you are a supporter of glasnost and of less reliance on the security organisations and bureaucracy?

Dmitry Medvedev: No, it does not. I am not calling for glasnost. Glasnost is the wrong term. What we need is freedom of speech. Glasnost is a placebo, a notion invented in the Soviet Union as a means of avoiding giving this concept its proper name. This is why I say that it is not glasnost that we need but freedom of speech, in Russia, in Norway, and in all countries.

Question: Mr President, you recently signed an agreement with President of Ukraine [Viktor] Yanukovych on Russian gas supplies to, and extending the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence in Ukraine. The two countries’ parliaments have just ratified this agreement. This agreement will cost you around $40 billion. In your view, is it in Russia’s interests, does it mark a political success for you?

Dmitry Medvedev: I have no doubt whatsoever that this agreement is in Russia’s interests. I think that both Russia and Ukraine will benefit from it. Only, in calculating the benefits we need to put aside the purely arithmetic approach, not look at things in terms of who gains more and who loses more, but look instead at what impact this will have on various areas and analyse the situation in terms of the future.

Yes, it is a big amount that we have agreed to offer for our fleet’s presence, but it is not excessive. I say it is not excessive because you have to see things in terms of the strategic relations we have with Ukraine. Ukraine is a country with whom we have very close ties indeed, and we hope that these ties will continue, and that our centuries-old bonds and friendship will go hand in hand with mutual assistance. The presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet at the base in Sevastopol also contributes to ensuring security in Europe and the Black Sea region.

As for today’s decisions [in parliaments], it must be admitted that our Ukrainian colleagues did things with their usual flair. First the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] of Ukraine came together and then there followed some kind of a show over this whole issue involving most impressive tricks, but in the end the decision went through. This makes me very happy to see. It shows that reason has triumphed and that Ukraine’s strategic interests have won out over the emotions of the moment that came through in the initial hullaballoo over this issue.

I am really very happy that this has taken place. Ratification commenced in our country too, and so I expect that soon this document will come before the upper house of [Russian] parliament, receive its final seal of approval, and then be given to the two presidents for signing. I think this is a big diplomatic event, a big diplomatic achievement, if you will, and I am very pleased that it has happened. 

Question: Mr President, what motivated you to reach an agreement on the border in the Barents Sea, and what specific cooperation opportunities do you see in this region?

Dmitry Medvedev: What kind of motivation can we have in such cases? We need to live with our neighbours in friendship and cooperation. If there are issues causing friction, issues that remain unsettled, this is always a source of tension. We had good relations with Norway, a partnership, even before this agreement was reached, but it is nonetheless important to settle the difficult problems because only by doing so can we look towards the future. I am very pleased that we have taken this step because the longer we left the situation unresolved the greater the tension would have grown, even though our countries already work together in the energy sector, in fisheries and in other areas.

As for the opportunities that will open up following the signing of our declaration and, I hope, the signing of the final agreement quite soon (we will think about how and where to do this), I hope quite simply that this will open the way to a bigger number of projects, including in the energy sector. 

As I said to the Prime Minister, once the final borders are drawn it could turn out that development and operation of this or that [oil and gas] field could require our joint participation. I think the best solution in such cases would be to establish a joint venture to operate the fields concerned. We need to see practical results.

Furthermore, our fishermen will now feel more comfortable and better protected, given that the legal decisions have been taken and all that remains is simply to ensure they are now properly enforced. If any incidents arise we will now be able to make use of the procedures agreed on in the border agreements rather than simply saying that the situation is still unresolved.

As a lawyer, I can tell you that a clear legal framework is always ten times better than legal uncertainty with the blank areas it entails. As I said, I am really very pleased that today we are turning this page.

Question: I have a question for the President and the Prime Minister.

How ready are the two countries to cooperate in the Arctic after Russia adopted a document last year setting out its basic state policy in this region? How does Norway intend to cement its presence in the Arctic? Perhaps there are some projects you could name? Was this something that you discussed? 

Dmitry Medvedev: This is something we always discuss because we are both Arctic countries. For us the Arctic is not something abstract at the top of the globe, but a very concrete area in which we cooperate. As Arctic countries we take part in all of the international forums, are parties to the international conventions, and have an interest in reaching common agreements between the countries that want to take part in developing the Arctic and Barents Sea regions. We therefore did discuss these matters today. 

In this particular area I think that our positions are very close. In this respect we simply need to help each other, perhaps, to reach agreements in a number of cases with other countries that sometimes show great interest in this region. I do think that the main responsibility in this area rests upon the actual Arctic region countries, which see this region as part of their living space and a place where their businesses can create new economic opportunities. We will continue to work on these matters and I hope for full cooperation with the Prime Minister in this respect too. 

We need to develop our cooperation in all fields of course, including security in general and environmental security in particular, and the business. Our companies need to know the principles on which our cooperation with each other and with third countries is based. As I said, third countries are also a constant matter for our attention.

Jens Stoltenberg: I would like to emphasise that the agreement we reached today is a very important input into cooperation in the Arctic region. Previously, we discussed delimiting the Barents Sea, but in recent years we also began negotiating the delimitation line in the Arctic Ocean from Svalbard and Franz Josef Land toward the North Pole. An important element in this agreement is an affirmation of the Russian and Norwegian position that this region is subject to international treaties and international law – whether maritime or civil. Russia and Norway both support the provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea as regards the Arctic. For the purposes of amicable settlement of delimitation disputes, we rely on the principles of this Convention and civil law.

Therefore, international law was applied to delimit the Barents Sea and the continental shelf. This means it may offer sufficient grounds not only for delimitation, but for addressing other issues as well, be it maritime traffic safety, rescue and surveillance, a system for responding to oil spills, or maritime biological resources. All these issues are addressed within the international law.

In addition, we – both Norway and Russia – believe that international law regulates extension of the continental shelf. Norway submitted a request to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf aiming to ascertain our rights to the areas of this shelf – in other words, to extend Norway’s continental shelf further into the Arctic Ocean. Here, we have no controversies with Russia, but nevertheless, these issues are already resolved for both the Norwegian and Russian side by the maritime delimitation line in the Barents Sea. The delimitation line agreement is therefore a very important document establishing Norway and Russia as two major states in the Arctic. The essence of our policy here is not speed racing, but cooperation and mutual achievements and our two nations have reached understanding in this regard, which is important for both countries and offers a model solution applicable to unresolved matters in resource management and peaceful cooperation.

Question (on maritime delimitation negotiations): With no leak of information there is no key to understanding this major secret. (Laughter.)

Dmitry Medvedev: In Russia, as you know, the conspiracy traditions are deep-rooted (Laughter.) and well practiced. I don’t know about Norway.

Jens Stoltenberg: Norway also has such traditions of its own.

April 27, 2010, Oslo