26 april, 2010 17:42  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi hold a joint news conference following talks in Milan


Silvio Berlusconi (as translated):

Relations between Russia and Italy are based on many years of respect and friendship. I am always glad to see Vladimir Putin. This morning we discussed international political issues that involve us, and we will continue this discussion during our working lunch. We are on the same wavelength on all these issues.

We also discussed the future of the world's energy. And one of the projects that we have signed agreements for today is truly very important, because it could represent a new frontier in nuclear energy, where energy is produced at incredible temperatures.

This will perhaps become an important step towards the creation of spectacularly complicated facilities, which is being researched in Italy and Russia. In Italy, this work will be lead by Bruno Campi, an Italian scientist who is working at American universities, and who we hope will return to Italy to implement this project.

Either way, this project will change the way that future generations produce power. This is only one of the agreements that we signed. As you have all heard, the first agreement [we signed] is proof of our close relations and friendship, and a significant contribution to the restoration of a church and an important palace in L'Aquila.

I would like to express my gratitude for your willingness to support us. I visited L'Aquila with President Dmitry Medvedev. It was then that he told me that he intended to make this contribution. We agreed on the St. Gregory the Great Church. These funds will make it possible to fully reconstruct and restore the church, making it even more beautiful than before.

I told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that he absolutely must come and attend the first service in the church when it is reopened, thanks to your contribution. He replied he would be glad to.

We have also signed agreements involving Enel today, which pertain to both conventional and nuclear energy. The construction of a nuclear power station in the Kaliningrad Region will concern East European countries as well as Russia. And it is very important that Enel, our leading energy company, has the opportunity to expand its presence and bolster the significance of its presence in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe.

We discussed many issues earlier today. I truly admire Prime Minister Putin and the fact he attends to all these projects. He has been personally involved in all the projects we discussed today, including the South Stream pipeline. As you know, this is a joint project by Gazprom and Eni. Moreover, Eni is working through its subsidiary Saipem on the Nord Stream project, a very forward-looking project to build a pipeline along the bottom of the sea. The first natural gas will be delivered via the pipeline in literally just a few months.

The South Stream is also very important, since it guarantees the supply of Russian natural gas if difficulties arise similar to those that, due to a series of issues, unfortunately, recently occurred in Ukraine, a country where there is a lack of political stability. So the South Stream pipeline ensures that countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Italy will not be left without natural gas.

We currently import 30% of our natural gas from the Russian Federation, which is also true of oil. Therefore, Russia is a very important supplier for us. And we will continue the cooperation between Gazprom and Eni. I also believe that there will be a number of other ways in which the two companies can cooperate. We will discuss this during our working lunch, when we will talk about the problems facing the Russian, Italian and non-European markets.

Africa, an entire continent, is ready and looking for companies to develop the natural gas and oil on its continental shelf. We do not want China, though cooperation with this country is of course very important for our future, to be the only country developing these fields.

Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in tourism between Russian and Italy due to the economic crisis. The decline was at approximately 30%, and we hope that with economic revival both here and in Russia, we will be able to climb back up to the 2008 trade levels.

These were the most important points. Now I'm happy to give the floor to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin's speech:

First of all, I'd like to thank the Prime Minister for his invitation. Our multifaceted partnership with Italy involves many different issues.

Our partnership is, of course, primarily political. In this context, I have reaffirmed the invitation by both the Russian government and President Dmitry Medvedev for Mr Berlusconi to come to Moscow on May 9 to attend the celebrations of the defeat of Nazism in World War II. The 65th anniversary of this victory is a shared landmark event for all of us, including in Europe and the rest of the world. We hope to see Mr Berlusconi at the celebration.

As for the economy, I've already spoken about it at the beginning of our meeting today. As a result of the global financial and economic crisis, trade between our countries has declined considerably, by 38%. This is a serious sign that we must take aggressive measures to restore trade to its previous level.

I must say, we have everything what we need to accomplish this, most importantly a desire to work together, a successful history of cooperation, with the necessary tools in place to facilitate cooperation and the economic ties diversified to a large degree.

It is commonly assumed that our cooperation revolves around energy, and this is true to a great extent. Our Italian partners are closely involved in the Russian market, including in the extraction of hydrocarbons. Russian companies have also entered the Italian market and purchased oil refineries. Moreover, the Italian company Enel is one of the biggest investors in the Russian energy industry, having invested a total of between seven and eight billion euros.

Nevertheless, our two countries cooperate in much more than energy. Take, for example, machine manufacturing. Or look at how Russian company Sollers and the Italian company Fiat have been working ever more closely together.

The same applies to the chemical industry: for example, today we spoke with representatives of Pirelli about projects the company plans to launch or has already launched in Russia. And aircraft manufacturing, in which the Italian company Finmeccanica is famously involved. We are in the final stages of commissioning the Superjet 100, an excellent aircraft that meets European quality standards and which we plan to promote in the European market, especially since it is an Italian, French and Russian product.

And we continue our cooperation in space. I have reminded the Prime Minister of the projects we have already carried out, as well as the projects we will implement in the near future.

Russian investors are buying shares in Italian electronic companies and already have controlling interest in many major Italian metal-processing companies.

We are also working more closely in advanced technology and science. Today we witnessed the signing of one such document.

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that all these projects are of major practical importance, both for the economy and the social situation in our two countries. Especially now, when the world has not yet fully recovered from the global financial downturn. All the projects keep our plants busy and are just a small part of what we do together.

The Prime Minister mentioned that Italian companies are involved in the North Stream project. In fact, they have received two billion Euros worth of contracts through just one project, which involves the construction of the pipeline along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. And that is not all. If we carry out other major infrastructure projects like the South Stream, and this is very likely since we have no reason to doubt that we will complete this ambitious project, then there will be additional contracts.

If Sollers and Fiat implement their programmes, Fiat plants will be busy for quite some time to come. The same applies to the chemical industry, where cooperation will lead to contracts for both Russian and Italian companies. We have a great interest in these sorts of projects, because they give us access to new knowledge and technology. This is cooperation in the broadest and most direct sense of the word.

We are also paying special attention to cultural cooperation. We plan to celebrate the Year of the Italian Language and Culture in Russia and the Year of the Russian Language and Culture in Italy in concert next year. I've asked the Prime Minister to help organise a number of exhibitions from Italian museums in Russia. We are ready to do the same in Italy.

In conclusion, our relations are making progress and reaching new heights. Credit for this largely goes to Mr Berlusconi, and so on behalf of the Russian government, I'd like to thank him for his attention to Russian-Italian partnership. And finally, I'd like to express my hope that we will continue moving in the same direction.

Many thanks for your attention.

* * *

Silvio Berlusconi: Many thanks, Vladimir. I'd also like to remind you that Pirelli may increase its presence in Russia. We have recently discussed the possibility of buying several factories, which could employ 2,500 people. Mr Tronchetti Provera (president of the company) explained to us how this could happen. We'd like to express our hope that this plan will be implemented before long.

Any other questions?

Question (as translated): Good afternoon. Ida Colucci, Italian State Television, Channel 2 News. I have one question for both Mr Putin and Mr Berlusconi. You have credited Mr Berlusconi with building good relations with Russia, and your personal ties seem to be the catalyst for these relations. Here's my question: Mr Putin, you are a perfect example of a long-term "political marriage". What is your recipe for such a happy political marriage? I'd also like to ask Mr Berlusconi the same question.

Vladimir Putin: You have described the situation using very fanciful language. I can assure you that Mr Dmitry Medvedev and I have a traditional orientation. And so by using the term marriage you have embellished a little. But we are friends, and have been for many years, as I have said before. I think we can be proud of the way we carry out our responsibilities today.

We act solely in the interests of the Russian nation. We have divided our responsibilities in line with the Constitution and the current Russian law.

If you remember, when I mentioned that Mr Berlusconi was invited to visit Russia on May 9, I didn't forget to say that he was invited by President Medvedev. The president is in charge of international affairs. They are his area of authority, as are some other issues pertaining to national defence and the economy.

The government has its own jurisdiction, the breadth of which is apparent in the Constitution. This breadth is so large that there is no need for our jurisdictions to overlap anywhere or for us to interfere with each other in any area that happens to be under both of our purviews. I enjoy very much what I'm doing today because this is real life, the real economy and social affairs. The life, social and economic living standards of millions of people in Russia depend on how effectively the government performs.

So, thank goodness, there are no problems in this area, and I hope there won't be any.

As for our relations with Mr Berlusconi, there is, of course, a personal aspect to them and this always helps, but I'd like to assure you that it is not our personal ties that dominate Russian-Italian relations. National interests take precedence. I've already said that our efforts to preserve jobs and to keep major enterprises in working order in Italy and Russia pay off tangibly in every aspect of our cooperation. Understanding each other's interests is more important than anything else.

In building our bilateral relations we are primarily guided by these considerations.

Silvio Berlusconi: Prime Minister Putin has already described how leaders should be guided in building the foundations of fruitful and long-term cooperation.

I am well versed in many things - urban development, publishing, sports, television and public service. But I'm not good at marriages and so I won't give you any advice.

Two days ago I said that it takes two to quarrel. And it is very difficult to quarrel with me. However, it just takes one to get a divorce.

Question: Good afternoon. Interfax News Agency. You've mentioned the issues regarding South Stream that you discussed at the talks. A number of publications have written that problems have developed between Eni and Gazprom that may impede the project's implementation. Is this true? Or do the Russian and Italian parties have no problems with regard to this project? Also, could you please explain what effect the South and North Stream projects could have on European energy security, considering that Mr Berlusconi mentioned Ukraine? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: First about South Stream. We have already completed one project. Together with our Italian partners we have built a gas pipeline along the bottom of the Black Sea to connect Russia with Turkey. This system is functioning smoothly. We pump 16 billion cubic metres of gas for Turkey's domestic consumption through this pipeline. We have discussed increasing the amount of gas with our Turkish partners in order to supply third-party countries through Turkey, a proposal in which Turkey has expressed interest. Everything is in order as far as the technology here.

Admittedly, when it comes to South Stream it is a slightly different matter, but nothing is entirely new. As you've just heard, we are working on North Stream together with our Italian partners. They do not have stock in this project, but technologically they are directly involved in its implementation. This is their technology, this is their work. We are building it together as well.

We have had no delays on South Stream so far. As you know, we signed an intergovernmental agreement with Austria to this effect and an agreement between the two business entities the day before yesterday, when I was in Vienna. In effect, by signing these agreements we have finalised the establishment of the legal foundation for South Stream. Now we must start the actual construction and finish it by the second half of 2015. And we will finish construction on North Stream by the second half of next year, 2011. It will be ready in June of next year, when we will begin the trial shipments of natural gas. North Stream will supply European consumers with gas by the end of 2011. When this pipeline reaches its full capacity, it will be able to pump 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas.

We can increase this capacity if need be, but I hope this won't be necessary if we complete the South Stream project on time. We have had no delays for the time being. Everything is being done in a timely manner. We have practically completed our work in Turkey's special economic zone and finished the studies of the seabed off the coast of Bulgaria. Everything is done according to plan.

Silvio Berlusconi: I have nothing to add. Our colleagues at Gazprom and Eni reviewed the work schedule for the near term this morning, and now, under the project, work should start in the first six months of 2012.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding security. Indeed, I haven't answered that question. Of course, the main objective of these projects is to make the supply of hydrocarbons to our consumers in Western Europe more secure.

As for South Stream, the main market is, obviously, northern Italy. That is why we are working so closely with the Italians. Let me remind you that we have agreed on this with the Prime Minister; this was done at his suggestion. We have also agreed that the French would join the project. Électricité de France has agreed and has said it would like to have a 20% stake. Agreements to this effect will be signed in Petersburg in June. Of course, this will also increase energy stability and security in Europe.

As you know, we have signed agreements with Ukraine and have guaranteed that we will transport hydrocarbons through Ukrainian territory for the next ten years. Because not only is the contract to supply consumers in Ukraine in place, but, most importantly for the Europeans, we have preserved the transit contract allowing the export of our gas to Europe via Ukraine for the next ten years.

But you see what is happening in Ukraine as a result: there is internal squabbling over these accords. Some members of the opposition have already said that if they come to power, they would immediately tear up these agreements. So, there should be no delay in implementing major infrastructure projects that increase Europe's energy security.

Question: ANSA agency. A question for Prime Minister Putin. Italy, or rather the Italian Government, has announced that it will return to nuclear energy by building new nuclear stations. Do Russian companies intend to invest in this project, or have they already done so? And I would like to ask Prime Minister Berlusconi when, in his opinion, Italy will build its first nuclear station and where?

Vladimir Putin: We in Russia have adopted an ambitious nuclear energy development programme. Nuclear energy accounts for about 15% to 16% of our total energy production. We want to increase that proportion to at least 25%.

In some European countries, for example, France, this proportion is 80%. So, there is nothing unusual about our plans. Indeed, in spite of the development of alternative types of energy - and we in Russia are paying increasingly more attention to this - we have to be realistic and proceed from the forecasts of international energy organisations. The forecasts commissioned by the United Nations.

The forecast is that worldwide energy consumption will grow, while the ways in which energy will be produced will hardly change in the next 15 to 25 years.

There is only one substantial, noticeable, real and practicable alternative to hydrocarbons, and that is nuclear energy. With this in mind, I would like you to note what services the Russian Federation offers its partners in the field of nuclear energy. What we offer is in fact unique, because we can offer an entire package. What does the package contain?

First. We provide credit resources, in keeping with world practice. We are ready to provide credit covering the entire cost of construction.

Second. In overseas projects, we give about 25% to 30% of contracts to local companies.

In Italy's case, if we manage to win the bid, if it is ever announced, then that percentage may be even higher. It will include not only construction work, but also high-tech work: electronics, special technology and so on.

We have good working relations with our German partners, especially with Siemens. We are happy to give our German partners contracts for the equipment in which Siemens is ranked as an undisputed global leader.

So, any projects that materialise in Italy will be the basis for broad European cooperation. In addition to credit and modern technology (which will be provided without a doubt), we also provide nuclear fuel. Moreover, and this is very important, we are ready to take the fuel back for disposal.

Russia, more than any other country, has the capacity to dispose of spent fuel using the most advanced technology.

All of this combined, including financial services, technical support, nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel disposal, allows us to be very confident in our work in third-party countries, and we have many foreign orders. If we ever agree on this issue with the Italian partners, we would be very pleased.

Silvio Berlusconi: I think, and this is evident, that nuclear energy is a source of energy that no country can do without. We used to be at the forefront in this field, and the scientist who made the biggest contribution to this was our man, Enrico Fermi. In 1967 we had three such stations in operation. But then there was a referendum led by environmental extremists, and we had to shut down the stations that were under construction.

Today it is unrealistic to renounce the opportunities for nuclear energy. Minister Scajola (Claudio Scajola, Italy's Minister of the Economy) took this project under his wing and is actively involved in it. We started with an agreement with the French, who meet more than 80% of their energy needs from nuclear power stations. We have increased our cooperation in all areas where experience can be gained and where we can get the kind of contribution that Prime Minister Putin has made.

Regarding the place where the first station can be built. Before determining the location, public opinion needs to be changed in Italy. Today, when Italians hear about nuclear power stations, first they get scared, and then say with one voice - at least 90%, according to recent polls - that of course it is necessary to build nuclear stations. But next comes the question, though: would you agree to having a nuclear power station built next door to you? Of course not. This means that we have to carry out a convincing campaign based on the French example. France knows about the safety of nuclear stations. In fact, local residents there organise demonstrations and protests in response to decisions not to build nuclear stations in their communities. This shows that they are absolutely sure their stations are safe. There has not been a single incident or accident at any of the numerous stations that operate in France. That creates many jobs.

Consequently, in present-day realities, when more jobs are needed, people want nuclear power in their communities.

I had a long discussion on this issue on our state television. We are already working on a project to study the experience of the French people who live in the vicinity of nuclear power stations, and disseminate it in Italy. This project will take more than a year, but it is preliminary work without which we won't be able to point a finger and say, ‘the station will be here.'

As for the start of the project, Minister Scajola is committed to embarking on this project before terms for the current parliament run out, that is, within the next three years. And, I think this has to be the last question. Thank you.

Question: Russia and Italy have just signed an agreement to restore a palace and a church in the Italian city of L'Aquila. Have you also considered involving Italian companies with experience from the construction of Olympic facilities in Turin in the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics?

Silvio Berlusconi: Yes, we discussed all the upcoming sporting events hosted by Russia, as well as the events Russia plans to submit bids to host, such as the Football World Cup. As far as the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are concerned, it is obvious that we gained experience by successfully hosting the skiing and other winter sports events, and we are certainly ready to share this experience with all technical specialists in Russia. We are absolutely ready to do so, and will be glad to be of help to Russia.

I would like to thank all of you once again. Good luck in your work. Let me also thank all our Russian guests present at this meeting, which is the first of its kind hosted at this villa. As you know, there are plans to establish the Freedom University here. And since successful young people from 27 countries will be educated here at the university, I have given an invitation to Vladimir Putin so that Russian students can also have an opportunity to hear many of the world's leading politicians of the past 20 years. All of them have agreed to participate, including renowned figures who have retired from politics. I have asked Mr. Putin to become the first professor to lecture at the university, and as I understand, he is not opposed to the idea.

I would like to thank Mr. Putin and all of you once again. Thank you.