HERMAN VAN ROMPUY: Ladies and gentlemen,
It has been a pleasure to welcome President Medvedev to Brussels after our summit in Rostov-on-Don at the end of May this year. First of all I congratulated him on Russia’s victory in the bid to host the World Cup in 2018. It is an important prospect for the Russian people and for the world. There were other interesting candidacies but I sincerely congratulate Russia for that victory.
Today we have had a good summit, open and fruitful discussions, we will continue our discussions at dinner building upon the friendly and constructive atmosphere that came out of the summit in Rostov in the first semester of this year.
One of the most valuable features of our strategic partnership is that we can discuss a wide range of issues - both those on which we have converging and those on which we have diverging views. Let me highlight a few elements:
First, we had a chance to exchange views on the global economy, and on the economic situation in the EU and in Russia, respectively. The economic recovery remains fragile and uneven between member states, I for my part made it clear that the recovery in the EU is visibly under way. We are encouraged by the prospects ahead.
Second, the EU and Russia have taken some important positive steps regarding our bilateral relationship: I am particularly rejoiced by the fact that the EU and Russia have concluded their bilateral negotiations on the WTO, and we agree that we should now focus on the multilateral negotiations so that Russia can become a member of the WTO as soon as possible. This is a paramount step forward. And a step the world is closely watching. We now wish for a push on other parts of our bilateral agenda, mainly the negotiations on the New Agreement.
I am also happy for the good progress made on the Partnership for Modernisation and that we now have a common view on how to move forward towards an eventual visa-free travel regime.
These forthcoming decisions from your side, Mr President, are clear proof of your overall commitment to taking the path to modernisation.
We now have a chance to prove that good and close EU-Russia cooperation is not only important at the strategic level, but has tangible consequences for the wellbeing of our societies. Not just interesting for our diplomats, how important they may be, but for our citizens. We need, however, to keep this momentum so that we follow up on this progress and make it real. I am fully confident that Russia will deliver.
Third, we follow closely and appreciate very highly President Medvedev's personal commitment to the cause of modernisation of Russia. I deliver the message on behalf of the Heads of State or Government of the EU’s 27 Member States when I encourage you on working on Russia's modernisation based on democratic values, by building a modern economy, and by encouraging the active involvement of civil society. The European Union wishes to be Russia's partner in this historic endeavour. In this regard we take note of your efforts to push for political, judicial and economic reforms in Russia.
Fourth, I recalled to President Medvedev the questions and concerns of our Member States and in general the European public have about the situation for human rights defenders and journalists in Russia and particularly in the Northern Caucasus. I welcomed his personal involvement to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice, strongly encouraging him to translate statements into action. The EU-Russia Human Rights dialogue remains an important element in our bilateral relationship.
Fifth, we discussed a number of sensitive issues in our common neighbourhood, also in the light of the outcome of the OSCE summit in Astana, where President Medvedev, President Barroso and I took part.
We still face unresolved, protracted conflicts which are a threat to the stability and security to both the European Union and Russia. The EU is actively engaged in efforts to ensure long-lasting and peaceful solutions to these conflicts. Three examples stand out.
The EU has made specific proposals for an early resumption of the formal negotiations on the Transnistrian settlement process.
We also have re-emphasised the principles of peaceful settlement proposed by the Minsk Group as the best option to reach an agreement on Nagorno–Karabakh. We welcome the personal efforts of the Russian President to ease tensions and find solutions.
We have called for restoring a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia and for renewed efforts to deal with both the security situation and humanitarian and human rights issues, consistent with the 2008 cease–fire agreement, and with full respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. Close cooperation with Russia on the above is the key to success. Progress in this field will create momentum for EU-Russia cooperation in general.
The EU and Russia are real strategic partners who try to find solutions for common problems. The direction of our relations is towards more convergence. The political will is really present to go ahead with modernisation in all fields of society. The union itself is also involved in a broad movement of reforms, indispensable in a highly competitive world.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Good afternoon.
It was indeed a pleasure to receive President Medvedev, for this very important EU-Russia Summit.
Of course we congratulated President Medvedev on Russia's successful bid for the World Football Championship! Football today is one of the most effective ways of communicating to the entire world, making people feel closer.
We also achieved very important progress, mainly in three areas: trade, partnership for modernisation and visa.
On trade, it was a milestone. I remember we have been discussing this issue for a long time. If I may make a personal remark, this was my 13th Summit with Russia and 13 in fact is a lucky number, because today the Commissioner for trade and the Minister for trade of the Russian Federation were able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the settling of bilateral issues regarding WTO accession by Russia. We believe this is a milestone, because Russia becoming a WTO member in 2011 is now a very realistic perspective. We will continue to support it.
We believe WTO accession will strengthen trade and investment rules in Russia itself and will therefore be beneficial to Russian businesses and its citizens and also for trade and investment with the European Union. This was in fact a very important success.
It should also have a positive impact on our ongoing negotiations on a New EU-Russia Agreement. We want this to be a solid, ambitious agreement, with substantive provisions in all key areas, including trade, investment and energy. We believe it is very important to ensure a rule-based business environment in Russia and I am sure that the European and Russian Entrepreneurs that we will meet this afternoon will share this view.
A second area of progress is our Partnership for Modernisation following an initiative from President Medvedev, and I really want to thank him and congratulate him for that very important historic initiative, that we have agreed to launch last June in Rostov-on-Don.
A comprehensive progress report has been drawn up by our coordinators, as well as a rolling Work Plan. It contains a set of detailed priorities, from better coordinating business regulations and bolstering the rule of law in Russia to environmental protection. Of course, we have agreed in Rostov that it is not just about technology, but also about a world organisation, including the very important issues, already mentioned, of rule of law.
The fact that I want to underline is that apart from the good intentions, we have now a very concrete plan on the development of concrete actions around this partnership for modernisation.
The final point I would like to mention is the real progress on the visa issue. This is of great importance to Russia and to the European Union. I know it is very important for the Russian citizens and I think our ministers have found an understanding on how to proceed. We will now start elaborating a list of common steps and the implementation of those concrete steps will open the way for talks on a EU-Russia Visa Waiver Agreement.
These were the main topics of what I believe was probably the best summit in which I have participated so far with Russia.
We also discussed other matters, but I am not now going into details – energy issues; our cooperation in the G20; I am very much looking forward to the cooperation next year during the French Presidency of the G20; climate change; the conference in Cancun, where we also discussed the prospects to make it a positive step, because we have a shared goal to fight climate change - many areas where the European Union and Russia are working together.
So I really think that we can say today that the range and depth of our discussions, and the very good atmosphere in which they were held, show that our strategic partnership is certainly no empty catchphrase.
Like good friends, we discuss issues, frankly and constructively, including topics where our views may diverge, and we try to find common ground.
Our mutual interdependence is a reality. It is therefore not only in our shared interest but a political imperative for both sides to work together, as closely as possible, and on as many issues as possible.
Because I know that this is the spirit of Russia, I now want to thank once again President Medvedev for the constructive and open way in which he engaged with us, the European Union, and I think that was a very successful summit.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like to thank my colleagues Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso for the very good atmosphere fostered in Brussels during the 26th Summit. I’ll be honest with you, we didn’t only talk about football although after my friends’ comments you may have got the impression that Russia’s winning bid was the main subject of discussion. No, I am going to have to disappoint you: we talked about far more boring things. One of them is our interaction in the G20 format. I will tell you what we talked about but I’ll be brief because my colleagues have already informed you very precisely about everything we discussed and even the sequence in which we discussed it.
However, returning to the subject of G20, I can say that our cooperation within the group is very useful because those coordinated approaches and positions that emerge through the communication between Russia and the European Union help, in my view, to address the most complex issues connected with the development of global economy. Our main challenge now is to continue with the reform of the global financial system.
One of the topics that did not evoke as many comments is climate change. As you know, consultations on this subject are taking place at present in Cancun. None of us present here are optimistic enough to believe that something substantial will be agreed there, but nevertheless those negotiations are very important. Ultimately we must move to a comprehensive and compulsory agreement in this area.
Let me remind you that a small but crucial step in this direction was made at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and now we must focus our efforts in this area. It seems to me that practically everyone understands the importance of this issue today. Frankly, after the colossal drought and wildfires in Russia last summer even some of the sceptics in our country have realised that climate processes are extremely complex. We must think about what should be done next.
Of course, we talked about the Partnership for Modernisation, as my colleagues have just said. Once again, I would like to thank the EU leadership for its close attention to this idea. Indeed, the modernisation policy is the top development priority for our country. Apart from introducing changes, gaining access to new technologies, creating more efficient and less energy intensive economy, this policy stipulates upgrading social institutions. In this context we are always in dialogue, as my colleagues have said, discussing various issues in a completely open and confidential manner, which, of course, does not mean that our positions coincide perfectly on all subjects.
We believe that we already have a few achievements to our credit. We cannot expect to take our cooperation in this field to some extraordinary level in just a year. But it is evident that even the fragmented efforts moving our cooperation forward today are good results, especially since our agreements with the EU are supplemented by bilateral agreements with some of our partners among EU member states. Just recently, over the past few days, such agreements have been signed with Italy and Poland. Therefore, it seems to me that the practical aspects of our partnership have been outlined. There is still much work to be done. Once again, I would like to say that Russia is very interested in this partnership and we are grateful to our European partners for their careful attention to this issue.
I don’t know if we will get any questions about visas today but this is a subject of great interest to Russian citizens and, consequently, to Russian journalists. Two things are clear: first, visas must be scrapped, and second, it must be done in such a way as not to unbalance the situation in the EU. How can we achieve this goal given these two conditions? That is what the discussion has been centred on. We must move forward. We should think about simplifying the visa regime and signing regional agreements. So I hope that this dialogue will be continued, including on the basis of the agreement on abolishing visas, which I put forward to my colleagues at our meeting in Rostov.
Energy and energy security is a traditional subject for discussion and we came back to it again today. We talked about major trans-European projects and improving the regulatory framework, which is another important aspect in this area because a number of previously adopted decisions in the European Union do not seem to us to promote a reconciliation of our positions. We hope that we will continue a meaningful dialogue, a discussion, so as not to destroy those multifaceted energy relations that bind Russia and the EU today. Those relations are very versatile, very extensive and in my opinion, absolutely advantageous for all the parties involved. Those relations are not political, despite the fact that they create a stream of political comments; those relations are pragmatic and, in my view, mutually beneficial.
I would like to confirm that we have reached an extremely important agreement, as my colleagues have said, the agreement on Russia’s accession to WTO. In fact, after our agreements with the United States and the European Union, Russia’s WTO entry is becoming reality. I am pleased with the progress we made in this field in the past year. In all the decades of negotiations, this year has been the most successful. I would like to thank all of my colleagues who participated in resolving this issue and our EU partners, as well as our teams, including those that took part in these negotiations.
We already have the basic outlines of a new agreement between Russia and the European Union; the 12th round of negotiations is taking place now. We are not forcing these negotiations because we understand that they will end one day with agreement on the relevant provisions. The most important articles of this agreement have been coordinated or confirmed by the parties ad referendum.
A number of important international events have taken place recently, which we certainly could not ignore. Incidentally, we will continue the discussion on this subject today because our talks are not finished. We will talk about international and economic issues.
Indeed, the recent Russia-NATO summits have taken place in a far more favourable atmosphere than the previous ones. It is important to preserve this spirit.
As for the OSCE summit, I can say that it demanded great organisational effort, which was provided by the President of Kazakhstan. Overall, it was a useful event, though I must admit that the summit revealed all of OSCE’s current flaws and the certain helplessness of the organisation in adopting important decisions.
Therefore, our task is to fill the OSCE with new content, provide new opportunities and possibly renounce the stereotypes that are sometimes used in the work of this organisation.
We would like to see our collaboration continue along the lines we have agreed on, including on a number of current initiatives, for example the Russian-German initiative to launch the Russia-EU Committee on foreign policy and security at the ministerial level. Other reliable channels could be used as well. In short, all of these projects must be implemented.
We reviewed a whole range of regional issues, namely Transdniester and Nagorno-Karabakh, and we must continue our frank discussion on these issues. I hope that this will contribute to the resolution of these complex frozen conflicts and will help achieve the relevant agreements.
Overall, I fully agree with my colleagues that the summit was conducted in a completely open, trusting and friendly atmosphere, and allowed us to move forward on a number of vital areas of our cooperation. I would like to thank my colleagues for very constructive and substantive work.
QUESTION (retranslated): For the European Presidents: in 2006 and 2007, the gas supplies were interrupted two times. Have you received assurances now that this will not happen in the future again?
And to the Russian President: what is the Russian view of the present situation in the euro zone with Ireland and Greece needing of financial support – can this influence Russia’s economic growth?
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Regarding energy, we had, as President Medvedev said, a very good discussion. In fact, recently, the President of Ukraine was here in Brussels, and he also gave us assurances that nothing will come negatively from Ukraine regarding the supply of gas to the European Union.
Today, we have not discussed this issue with President Medvedev in terms of guarantees, but of course I expect this not to happen again. Because when there was the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, it was not against the European Union. I was following that day and night, I can tell you, during the New Year. But in fact, the European customers were affected by what was indeed a bilateral issue between Russia and Ukraine, so I hope that it will not happen again.
We have established now a very good, constructive relationship with Russia in terms of energy. Now, Commissioner Oettinger, the commissioner responsible for energy, and his counterpart from Russia, the minister of energy, they are now looking at all those aspects very much in concrete terms, so I really hope that this kind of problem that happened in the past will not happen again, and I think that reflects the spirit of the talks we had today.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I cannot avoid mentioning gas, even though the question was about the euro zone.
Gas is part of Russia’s national wealth, and the President cannot refrain from reacting when gas is the topic of conversation.
And so – I also met with President Yanukovych just recently. And I’d like to say that, of course, our relations with Ukraine today are very different from what they were a short time ago. But we cannot talk about guarantees. The best kind of guarantee is money – money paid for supplies of gas. And so, if there’s money, there will be gas. That is an absolutely normal approach.
As for guarantees in general, it is very important to have a solid regulatory framework. What kind of framework? It can either be our idea on energy dialogue, based on the corresponding principles of energy cooperation, or – as I have said many times to my colleagues – we are ready to work on the basis of the Energy Charter, but not on the basis of its current version. Instead, we are willing to work under its new version, which has been supplemented and amended, taking into account Russia’s suggestions and suggestions by several other fuel-supplying nations. So if we can agree on this kind of regulatory framework, then I think everything will be done to give gas supplies operations a good legislative format.
Now, regarding the euro zone. Naturally, it is the EU heads, the heads of the European Central Bank and individual states that are making decisions. But I will say frankly that this topic is of great concern to us, because first of all, we do not want any more of the difficult events in the global economy to repeat themselves anytime soon. We want all the talk about the second or third waves of the financial crisis to remain purely theoretical.
And so, we are monitoring what is happening in individual euro zone states very carefully. I am referring to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and several other nations – today, Ireland is one of them. My colleagues told us about the steps being taken to resolve the existing problems and overcome these difficulties. It seems to me that these are absolutely reasonable and well-coordinated steps.
We are certain that the euro has demonstrated its viability as a global reserve currency. It is impossible to imagine today’s international commodities exchange or the existing financial system without the euro. Thus, we believe in the euro’s good prospects, and that the nations making decisions on the most difficult issues, as well as the procedures being conducted by the European Commission and the European Union, will generally lead to good results. This will not ultimately affect the overall economic situation in any way, because I think that a great deal is currently being done to address these issues.
QUESTION: I had the pleasure of asking you this question at the same summit last year, and the answer still hasn’t become clear. So, on WTO accession, how can Russia join the WTO as an individual country when it’s already joined a Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus? And for President Medvedev, if I can just follow up on your comments on energy. You said that some of the moves in the EU legislation had been worrying the last couple of years. Can you please specify exactly what the problems are and what you would like to see changed.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: The first question, from me, the answer is very clear. Yes, Russia can join the WTO, being a member of a Customs Union. And, by the way, we would expect the other members, one day, to join the WTO. But it is not indispensible that they join the WTO at the same time. So we expect Russia to join the WTO during next year.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I would like to say a couple words on this matter, but Jose Manuel has answered nearly everything. I would just like to say that we will be joining the WTO individually, but as members of the Customs Union – one thing does not contradict the other. And everyone needs to understand that this is an entirely normal situation. There can be many unions, but we only have one WTO.
QUESTION: I have a question to the heads of the European Union. You began this summit by congratulating Russia on winning the right to host the 2018 Football World Cup. But Russians would be made equally happy by the elimination of visas between Russia and the European Union. You said that you were able to make significant progress on this issue during this summit. What was this progress? And second, what must the European Union do so that the issue of the visa barrier between Russia and the EU is removed?
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: First of all, we are fully committed to pursuing our common objective, the Russian and European objective of establishing a visa-free regime. What was the progress? The progress was that our ministers have agreed how to achieve that goal – what is the process to do it. We are not saying that we are going to have a visa-free regime soon. We are saying that we have established and we have agreed on the process to reach it.
We are now starting work on drafting the common steps toward possible visa-free travel, and we will need to find an appropriate way to agree on this. The reciprocal abolishment of visas will be the object of a visa-waiver agreement, and what the ministers have agreed on is that process to achieve it. There can be no automaticity in this process. Progress on the fulfilment of each step will be closely examined. We see that possible visa-waiver agreement as the end of the process.
This is, of course, a very sensitive issue. I want to remind you that the European Union has to reach agreement on this based on the position of 27 member states, and we need to have the support of all of them; it’s a unanimous decision. That is why I think it was important that the ministers were able to agree to that process – that progress is setting some kind of benchmarks on several issues. I’m not going to detail all those points, but I believe it is a very credible process, and if we see the progress in each step, we will come to our shared goal, and the shared goal is precisely a visa-free regime. We believe it will be in the interests of the Russian citizens, and I think it can also be in the interest of European citizens, because it will facilitate very much trade, investment, more exchanges between Russia and all the member states of the European Union.
QUESTION: I also have a question for the EU representatives. I would like to return to the issues of the euro zone. Right now, it is clear to everyone around the world that the number of European nations in need of economic assistance from the EU may soon increase. In this context, do you feel it makes sense to develop systemic approaches to providing this kind of assistance? Is this issue currently under discussion?
HERMAN VAN ROMPUY: First of all, we established, in May and in March, huge safety nets: one for Greece and one for the whole of the euro zone and those who are members of the facility. The first one was 110 billion, and the second one was 750 billion. In the meantime, there was one country that requested help: that was Ireland. But it was a very small amount. So there was no problem with the amount available in the facility. And up to now, there is no need to increase the means available for the facility. For now, there is no problem at all. If needed, we will consider, but that is not a question today.