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Official website of the President of Russia

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Press statement and answers to journalists’ questions following Russian-Italian interstate consultations

December 3, 2010, Sochi

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,

I will just say a few words and then give the floor to Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi.

The seventh Russian-Italian interstate consultations have just taken place today. Chance would have it that exactly a year has passed since the last consultations took place in Rome. We have achieved much over the last year. Our economies have only just come through the peak of the crisis and are still in the process of recovery, but we have increased our trade cooperation and brought our bilateral trade back up to practically the pre-crisis level – around $40 billion.

Perhaps even more important are not the figures but the fact that our cooperation is improving in quality. The big investment projects that we agreed on are going ahead with companies from both countries taking part. I am referring to the energy sector projects such as our work on the South Stream project, and also all of the agreements already in operation in the energy sector, offering us some very good opportunities.

We just signed new agreements. They concern the energy sector, cooperation in small and medium-sized business, and cooperation between our postal services. This all shows that our work over this year has not been in vain. Indeed, these consultations took place in a completely open and concrete spirit that came through in all of the speakers’ remarks, those of our Russian and our Italian colleagues.

We discussed specific cooperation areas and future plans. They are impressive and show that we have excellent prospects for developing the strategic partnership that our two countries have established.

Next year is a particularly significant year as we will hold culture and language years, the Russian Culture and Language Year in Italy, and the Italian Culture and Language Year in Russia. I think this will be a very good event, because our countries both place a lot of emphasis on humanitarian and cultural matters.

The cooperation between our civil societies is really very good indeed. We always give an enthusiastic reception to the cultural events our Italian friends bring to our country, and I hope the same will be true in Italy. In this respect I think these will be very good events. There are certainly many plans, and they are all very good and interesting plans.

Turning now to what I discussed with the Prime Minister, my colleague, I can mention some of the international issues on which we constantly exchange views. We met recently at the OSCE summit in Astana. It is clear that this organisation has not been used to its full potential over these last years, and so it was a good thing that this summit took place, and in this respect this was certainly a success for our Kazakhstani friends.

We all realise today that many of the ideas we need to develop and problems that we need to address in Europe require more active intervention and closer cooperation on security matters. In this respect the OSCE has not developed its full potential. It is my impression, at least, that we should make some efforts to breathe new life into this organisation.

How can we do this? We have our recipe, our idea. In 2008, I put forward the idea of a new European security treaty based on a system of indivisible security regardless of the blocs and partnerships that various countries belong to. We want to see this idea grow, see consultations take place. I know that Italy and the Italian Prime Minister have shown positive interest in this idea.

We are ready to discuss other ideas too. I met with Silvio not long ago in Lisbon. That was also a very important summit. Relations between Russia and NATO have not always been smooth sailing over recent years, but the recent summit showed that we can talk to each other and obtain decent results and work together, very closely what’s more, in a wide range of areas.

In fact, we just saw one of the fruits of this cooperation here at this table, with the signing of the agreement concerning Italy’s participation in the mission in Afghanistan. We are ready to take our cooperation further in this area. 

On a separate note I want to say that at the talks in Lisbon I recalled that we already had a good example of cooperation between Russia and NATO that came out of the summit in Pratica di Mare, and that the principles that Silvio Berlusconi helped to formulate on that occasion provided, in my view, a good foundation for future work.

We must keep advancing, but at the same time, we also need to remember what good and not so good results we have achieved. Of course we discussed all of these issues, discussed the Middle East situation, the situation in Iran, and a range of European issues. In short, we exchanged views on all the different issues.

But the discussions are not over yet. After this news conference and my colleague’s talk with Italian journalists, we will continue the discussions of our bilateral relations and the international agenda.

Question: Do you think the OSCE is a suitable place for discussing possibilities for creating a joint missile defence system?

I have another question, too. Our entire country is celebrating Russia’s successful bid to host the football world cup. Mr President, will a ticket for the world cup be equivalent to a Russian entry visa in 2018? It’s also interesting that the Russian bid’s video presentation showed the Italian and Russian teams playing in the final. Who do you think will win the world cup when it takes place in Russia?

Dmitry Medvedev: Regarding the OSCE, I think it is an important and useful organisation. It grew out of the CSCE and the Helsinki process. But even if it had a charter – which it does not have – and a developed set of other documents, it is not likely to be the place for working on missile defence. There are other forums for this, existing forums, and forums that we could establish. In particular, there is the idea of a special pan-European treaty on security. This is certainly something that could provide us with a suitable forum for these discussions, but this forum does not exist yet. We are ready to discuss these matters at existing forums, including at Russia-NATO summits.

The main thing is to do all of this in time. It would seem that we have time at our disposal. NATO, after all, has proposed ten years for developing its adaptive approach. I said to President Obama, and to my colleagues, the French President, Chancellor of Germany, and Italian Prime Minister, that we are ready to cooperate to whatever degree we can all agree on. We are ready for cooperation, ready to take part in a sectoral-based missile defence system, discuss the principles for this cooperation, and take responsibility for a whole segment of Europe. Most important for us is to guarantee our interests.

But if we fail to reach agreement, in ten years time, whoever will be working in our jobs will run into a serious problem. I spoke about this just recently in my Address to the Federal Assembly [of the Russian Federation]. They will have to make decisions on countermeasures, and this would amount to another arms race. We need to realise this now, in 2010, because in 2020, they will find themselves having to take different decisions, deploy the needed missiles and radars, glare at each other and argue things out with each other in various areas.

This is not a good scenario, and we hope to avoid it. Russia, in any case, is ready for very close cooperation in this area. 

Turning to the good news now, yesterday did indeed bring us a much hoped-for but in some ways unexpected decision. Of course, we all worked hard, prepared, made our presentation. Our friends helped us, and I want to say a big thank you to all of them. But there are always numerous different factors at play, and of course it made me very happy to see all these factors come together in our favour. It makes me very happy for two reasons. First, like Russia’s millions of football fans, I will also be looking forward to this world cup and want to see it take place here in Russia, in our capital, and in other Russian cities, as is tradition. This will help us to improve our football infrastructure, not to mention that it will make all fans of the game very happy indeed. 

There is a second reason, rather high-flown, but no less important, and that is that this decision recognises our country’s sporting and other capabilities. Our country has never hosted the world cup, not even back when the Soviet Union was a huge country with enormous economic resources. But now we have been chosen, and we are grateful for this and will do everything, of course, to organise this world cup to the very highest standards. We will all work on this, the Government, the regional authorities, public organisations, volunteers, and our business sector, of course, which still needs to build many facilities.

The fact that the video presentation showed a match between Russia and Italy reflects several aspects in my view. First, we really are very fond of Italy and Italian football. To be honest, in cases when Russia’s team fails to do so well, I usually give my support to our European partners, often to the Italian team. I won’t mention others, but it varies, of course. If our two teams were indeed to meet in the finals, this would be a huge victory for Russian football, regardless of the match’s outcome.

Question (retranslated): As many of the documents signed today testify, relations between Italy and Russia are becoming closer. The relations in Europe and diplomacy, as Wikileaks proves, are tied up with US actions. Did you expect such ‘undiplomatic,’ harsh opinions, and have your relations with the United States of America changed as a result?

And second, Julian Assange is a very mysterious personality. In your opinion, are there any governments or government agencies backing him and what he is doing?

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, we’re not paranoid, and we do not link Russian-American relations with any kind of leaks, even though these leaks are illustrative. They show the full measure of cynicism in the assessments – and sometimes the judgments – that prevail in various states’ foreign policy; in this case, I am referring to the United States of America. They have the right to make these judgments. It’s another issue when these judgments become public; then they are truly capable of damaging foreign policy ties and can generally affect the overall spirit of the relations.

On the other hand, I do not see anything extreme about it. Especially since the judgments can be different and the assessments can vary. I think that if, God forbid, certain assessments made by Russia’s Foreign Ministry or other Russian special services were leaked to the media, including to our American partners, then our partners would also have a field day. But is it necessary? In my view, diplomacy is a quiet business, much like banking, and should be based on corresponding principles.

Question: Today, you attended the signing of a separate bilateral agreement on cooperation for modernisation. What was the reason for signing this agreement specifically on a bilateral level, even while Russia and the European Union are working on signing joint common framework, which would allow Russia and the European Union to work together?

And a second, related question. Judging by the commercial and corporate agreements that were reached today, modernisation is already becoming one of the important topics. Can it be said that it is, at the very least, approaching the status of the traditional energy cooperation, like the South Stream project, on which for some reason no agreements were signed today?

Dmitry Medvedev: First of all, we do not need to sign papers concerning South Stream every time we meet, or concerning energy projects in general. If we aren’t signing them, it does not mean that nothing is happening. On the contrary, it means that everything is going according to the schedule, and all the mechanisms are working as planned, like clockwork. I hope that everything will be fine in that area.

With regard to the volume of cooperation in high technologies, modernisation, and energy: unfortunately, these are still entirely non-comparable areas, but we are determined to do everything so that the amount of cooperation within the so-called modernisation priority areas becomes comparable to the amount of cooperation we have in regular, traditional energy. Although I want to note that if we are discussing our technological priorities, energy also pertains to the high-tech sector, but it still needs to develop. We must use new modern technologies, including green technologies and certain others that are currently being used throughout the world.

And with regard to our cooperation, we have agreed to create the partnership for modernisation at the Russia-EU summit at the end of last year. We will keep moving in that direction during my visit to Brussels next week. But we have separate agreements on this matter, and separate memoranda with our key partners, including the Italian Republic, so one does not contradict the other. We have bilateral agreements, we have multilateral agreements, and we will approach matters from all sides and all angles, because that is the only way to ensure results.

Question (retranslated): I would like to get back to the economic topics that were the subject of this summit meeting at the ministerial level. There was talk of transitioning from quantity to quality. It seems to me that the signing of certain agreements and documents today highlights this new component. Important examples are innovations between postal service administrations, as well as strategic military agreements on producing bulletproof equipment and the transit of our military personnel, headed to Afghanistan, through Russian territory. So, with regard to Afghanistan, are there any opportunities for joint initiatives? Are they being already implemented by our two nations with regard to regional crises? I touched on Afghanistan, but there are also situations in the Middle East and elsewhere – for example, Iran and North Korea.

And regarding the 2018 World Cup: Spalletti, who is triumphantly heading the Zenit team, is well-acquainted with the football spirit of both Russia and Italy. Perhaps, we need to turn to him for advice as regards both national teams that will meet in the World Cup finals?

Dmitry Medvedev: The quality of our cooperation is truly very high. And you just saw the signing of agreements that reflect this high level of quality. This year, we began cooperating on more than just economic and humanitarian issues. Our cooperation in defence and security is working out well. We now have a new format, which did not exist before in our relations: the ‘two plus two’ – in other words, the Defence Minister and Foreign Minister of Russia, and their Italian counterparts. I think this is an indicator of that kind of cooperation.

As for transit agreements, we have such transit agreements with our lead partners on these matters, and accordingly, the Italian Republic is now one of them. I feel that this is our contribution to resolving some very complicated issues that currently stand before the Afghani people. In the long-term, we would like for Afghanistan to be a modern, effective state, with fewer threats emanating from the nation than, unfortunately, there are today. Because the threats of extremism, religious fanaticism, terrorism, and drug trafficking are, unfortunately, quite evident. And we are ready to work together with our partners – partners in the European Union and NATO – to reach these goals.

As for football, quite honestly, we are pleased with the way our cooperation is developing. You mentioned Zenit. For me, this is a special team. After all, I have been a fan of this team for all of my life. It is now achieving good results, although some people might beg to differ, but that’s normal. If the entire nation were rooting for Zenit, that would be a problem. I believe it is good when some people support Spartak or Dinamo teams as well.

But one thing I would like to return to, which I do not get a chance to say, is that we would like to truly create a special atmosphere at the World Cup. Thus, to answer your question, I feel that in this situation, we must make substantial progress on the visa issue with regard to one another. Frankly, it would be preferable to abolish visas between Russia and the European Union by that time. I know that Silvio supports me on this, and we are very grateful to our Italian friends for that. We will see how things turn out, but in any case, for those who will be coming to our World Cup, tickets and visas will be the same concept.

* * *

I will say a couple more words, not about Afghanistan. I would like to use this opportunity, being here in Krasnaya Polyana, I would like to invite everyone present today at the consultations – our colleagues from the Italian government and our journalist colleagues – to the Olympics that will be hosted here, in Sochi, in 2014, and subsequently, the 2018 Football World Cup.


December 3, 2010, Sochi