PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals, and to wish you fruitful work. This dynamically developing city is steeped in history and cultural traditions, and is a contender to host the World Expo 2020.
Our regular meetings testify to the interest of Russia and the EU in developing a sustainable partnership. Since the December summit in Brussels, we have accumulated a number of topics for discussion and issues that need to be addressed. In the interim Mr Barroso and I met in March of this year in Moscow, but our discussion focused mainly on the Cyprus crisis.
Last night, we exchanged views on the economic situation in Russia and the European Union, as well as the global economy as a whole. It was important for us to get first-hand information on the measures taken to normalise the situation in the Eurozone. The Cyprus debt problem has further highlighted the need for further consultations and efforts to strengthen trust and transparency in our relations.
We also touched upon the topic of G20. I would like once again to express my gratitude to our colleagues in the European Union for constructive cooperation and support for Russia’s Presidency. We will be pleased to see our European colleagues at the summit in St Petersburg.
The March meeting between the Russian Government and the European Commission has played a useful role in the development of Russia-EU dialogue. The heads of key sectoral agencies discussed the full range of practical cooperation issues. Russia and the European Union have a solid foundation for progressively deepening our mutually beneficial relations.
We often hear and talk about the problems that exist between us. It is true that they exist, but even amidst the challenges facing the global economy in 2012, bilateral trade grew by 4.1% to a record $410.3 billion. This is half of Russia’s foreign trade.
Europe is the largest investor in the Russian economy. The accumulated investment of the EU countries amounts to $276.8 billion. In turn, 60% of Russia’s accumulated foreign investments are in the European Union. About 40% of Russia's international reserves are denominated in euros. All of this is clear evidence of close interdependence; therefore, we must listen to each other, consult each other and work with each other.
As I said, there are some issues between us that require our constant attention and often provoke disagreements. One of such issues is energy, despite the fact that we are natural partners in this area. Obviously, the energy dialogue can move forward successfully only if the interests of both parties are respected and the predictability of business operations is ensured.
Another issue that demands our close attention is the development of a new basic agreement between Russia and the EU. Both sides have an interest in completing this work as soon as possible. It will soon be 20 years since the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was concluded.
Eurasian economic integration is taking on an increasing importance for the development of the Russia-EU partnership. Russia builds cooperation with its partners from Kazakhstan and Belarus on the basis of the World Trade Organisation regulations. We also take Europe’s experience into account, and regularly inform our colleagues from the European Union on the integration progress within the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space.
We hope that the European Commission will establish close contacts with the Eurasian Economic Commission. Our integration associations are largely built on similar principles and are fully compatible. This opens up good prospects for deepening cooperation.
The Russia-EU agenda includes a number of current international issues. Yesterday we began our discussion on Syria and some initiatives in this area, and today we will exchange views on other matters.
We are ready for a frank and practical discussion. Welcome, we are very glad to see you.
I am pleased to give the floor to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Thank you very much for your attention.