Press Conferences

9 august, 2011 18:13

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen hold a joint news conference following bilateral talks

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen hold a joint news conference following bilateral talks
Vladimir Putin expressed his hope that the global economy will begin to recover. “Perhaps not as quickly as we would all like, but it will begin to gradually recover,” the prime minister said.


Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. During talks with my Finnish counterpart today we discussed all pressing bilateral issues in great detail and outlined plans for future cooperation.

I would like to highlight that Russian-Finnish cooperation is founded on solid traditions of neighbourliness and mutual respect. This is demonstrated by Finland’s decision to extend the lease of the Saimaa Canal – the Russian portion of the canal – for another 50 years. The agreement is to be ratified soon.

Russia has long been Finland’s largest trading partner. Last year, bilateral trade increased by 28%, totalling approximately $17 billion. It has grown by 24% in just the first five months of this year.  

We place special emphasis on our cooperation in the field of high technology. Last March, a declaration on a modernisation partnership between Russia and Finland was signed. We will continue our work in the fields of research, personnel training, power engineering, shipbuilding, information technology and transport, including rail transport. 

The United Shipbuilding Corporation and the Finnish company STX have established a joint venture that has already received its first order for the construction of two icebreakers for Russia. The work will take place both in Russia and in Finland.

Nokia is going to establish a Smart Lab in Skolkovo. A priority area that we are also paying particular attention to is infrastructure projects. As you know, this year we commissioned the first high-speed railway line between Finland and Russia.

We’ve discussed the development of border facilities, the road network and formal procedures concerning the transport of cargo across the Russian-Finnish border in both directions. We’ve talked about expanding opportunities for filing electronic customs declarations. The scale of mutual investment is also growing, and it amounts to billions of euros. The Finish company Fortum alone has invested €2.5 billion into Russian power engineering. Its total investment is €4 billion. We’ve discussed having regular meetings of our leading business people, and as my colleague and I have agreed, I will be happy to receive Finnish and Russian business people in Moscow to discuss our common problems.

We’ve also discussed our environmental projects in detail. I told my colleague about the construction of the Nord Stream. There is not a single complaint on this project regarding compliance with environmental standards. As we agreed before, we are continuously exchanging environmental information concerning this project. Russia is prepared to host a high-level meeting on the environmental protection of the Baltic in 2012.

Our talks have been intensive and I’d like to thank my colleague for making the decision to come to Russia today and take part in discussing all the issues that we are facing. In the first quarter of next year, Fortum will launch one of its facilities in Siberia, and I told the prime minister that we would be happy to see him in Russia at this event. Thank you for your attention.

Jyrki Katainen (via interpreter): Mr Prime Minister, representatives of the press. I’m very glad that our meeting could be organised so quickly. I’m very grateful to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for inviting me here, to the beautiful city of Sochi in the middle of the busy summer period.  We’ve had a very good, productive meeting in a very warm atmosphere, and we’ve discussed a broad range of issues. We’ve also talked about very specific issues connected with the economy, investment, investment terms and their improvement. Finland and Russia maintain very close economic cooperation at different levels, and not only at the level of our prime ministers or presidents. We are addressing current, routine issues of everyday life.

We are also considering new issues and new directions of cooperation in order to promote the development of our economies. I also told Mr Putin about the goals and objectives of our new Finnish government. They consist of three main points: consistency, activity and integration. Integration includes first of all, the common interests of companies and second of all, the economic interests of states. Mr Putin offered an extensive description of this last area. For example, both of our countries have vast experience in shipbuilding and Arctic development, and it would be very useful for both sides if we were to pool our efforts in these particular fields. Our common interests also include nanotechnology and other innovations that require intellectual resources.

The second major direction of integration is the free movement of people, which we’ve also discussed in detail today. Last year Finland issued one million visas to Russian citizens and this year this figure will be 1.2 million, which means our common state border will be crossed 10 million times.

Importantly, 80% of these are multiple entry visas, because our goal is to make travel between our two countries as simple and convenient as possible for our citizens.

Mr Putin mentioned the Allegro train that shuttles between Helsinki and St Petersburg. Last June it carried 30,000 passengers.

We are very pleased with the developments involving this train and we also appreciate that the Russian authorities have provided the opportunity for passengers travelling from Helsinki to St Petersburg to stay in Russia without a visa.

The prime minister mentioned that we have also discussed environmental issues. We have additionally discussed the need to continue improving the exchange of information concerning environmental issues that could affect several countries. The Espoo Convention will help to facilitate our common path in our environmental policies.

Question: I have a question for both prime ministers. The news that we are hearing today about the global economy is gloomy – that the situation is bad and that another economic downturn is imminent. Tell me please, what do you think can and should be done to improve the economic situation in Russia, Finland and in the world in general?

Jyrki Katainen (via interpreter): At this stage, it is difficult to predict how the current highly turbulent situation will develop. Everyone is nervous about the situation, and this nervousness is a result of a lack of trust towards certain nations, their leadership and their ability to cope with their debt. Another reason is of a technical nature. The financial markets are currently quite thin because August is the vacation season for the financial markets. This also contributes to the uncertainty about what will happen next.

I see two kinds of risk here. The first is a freezing of financial markets, which could result in serious problems for companies. The second is a long and slow growth in financial markets. As for the way out and what needs to be done, I believe we need to devise and adhere to a clear-cut, strict economic policy.

Vladimir Putin: In order not to make things worse, above all else we should stop scaring ourselves. I’m serious. As the prime minister just said, financial markets and markets in general are very sensitive, and a lot of this is based on psychology. By scaring each other you only invite the potential for negative consequences, which are otherwise not inevitable.

Secondly, as has been said here, we need to pursue a balanced macroeconomic policy. During our talks, we determined that there are only three members of the European Union that, let’s say, consistently adhere to all EU macroeconomic standards: Finland, Estonia and Luxembourg. However hard it was, the United States still managed to agree on extending the debt ceiling, and this is good. The European Central Bank decided to buy out Spanish and Italian government bonds. All this does not solve the problems, but does mitigate them. And this is good, too. I want to emphasise, this is not a solution to the problems but it does help to improve the situation. In Russia we believe that it is necessary to monitor liquidity. The Ministry of Finance and the Russian Central Bank are monitoring the situation closely. If necessary, the Central Bank and the ministry will inject the needed liquidity in the market. Today, for example, the Ministry of Finance offered to inject 40 billion roubles into the market from extra funds. The demand was higher than that, but the ministry and the Central Bank will be monitoring events, will decide on further action and promptly respond to the market’s needs in the near future.

We are consistently decreasing our budget deficit. It will be between 1% and 1.5% this year, perhaps even below 1%. Our labour market has almost reached its pre-crisis levels. Russia’s government debt currently stands at slightly above 10%, with foreign debt accounting for only 3% of that. Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves are on the rise. They currently amount to about $550 billion. I’m not sure about the exact status as of today, but I believe it's around $550 billion. I still hope that the global economy will recover. Perhaps not as quickly as we would all like, but it will begin to gradually recover.

Question: I have a question for the prime minister of Finland. Mr Putin commended you today for establishing a special interagency working group on cooperation with Russia within the Finnish government. But our two countries enjoyed fairly tranquil relations even before the establishment of the group. So why was it set up? Do you see any defects in Russian-Finnish relations, or on the contrary, do you expect new areas to emerge? Thank you.

Jyrki Katainen (via interpreter): We had no problems whatsoever before this. We simply want to work even better and more efficiently. We want to further advance our ties with Russia and also to improve our work in Finland. And so, this is a ministerial working group that focuses specifically on Russia.

As many as 20 minister-led delegations from Finland visited Russia last year, so we shouldn’t increase that burden on our Russian counterparts even further. Finland’s Foreign Ministry is not the only agency to shape the country’s policies vis-à-vis Russia. Our bilateral agenda also includes issues having to do with transport, environmental protection, industry, etc. And we hope we’ll be able to effectively coordinate related activities without unnecessary travel.

We’re certain that such an interdepartmental ministerial ad hoc group will let us better prioritise among various projects and areas of activity, especially when it comes to financing.

Improving or changing the status of border checkpoints often come under consideration. Thanks to this interdepartmental lineup, we’ll be able to identify our priorities better, both in terms of resources and performance. We also hope to make our efforts more prompt and to improve coordination with the Russia side. I believe the creation of such a ministerial ad hoc group speaks to how wide-ranging our cooperation is as well as to the importance we attach to our ties with Russia. Thank you.

Question: I have a question for the Russian prime minister about the tragedy in Norway. Mr Putin, we known that here, in Russia, there are far-right organisations that approve of Anders Breivik’s philosophy. And there are new websites that support that kind of ideology. What measures, if any, are being planned in Russia to bring such extremist far-right movements under control?

Vladimir Putin:  The important thing is to create a climate of zero tolerance and condemnation of any such extremist ideology. The terrorist acts committed in Norway have shaken the nation and the entire world. Such crimes are unpardonable.

As for extremism, it has many different sources. I won’t raise all related issues here, but extremism tends to breed in places where the state fails to respond to certain challenges timely and effectively. Law enforcement is another aspect of this problem. You are absolutely right in saying that extremism exists in many countries, including Russia. This implies that there is cross-border communication between extremist elements. And so law-enforcement agencies in various countries and regions must cooperate. Russia has a lot of good partners among law-enforcement agencies and special services in Europe, America and other regions of the world. The current level of cooperation with our Finnish colleagues is quite high, and we hope it will continue that way.

Question: A question to both prime ministers. As far as we understand, there’s complete harmony between the two countries on economic issues. Certain humanitarian issues do cause controversy, though. Suffice it to recall the story of Rimma Salonen. I wonder therefore if in the course of your talks, you considered any possible measures to facilitate the settlement of such disputes rapidly, peacefully, and in a civilised manner. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Such conflicts should be resolved primarily by those directly involved in them. Parents ought to think primarily about the interests of their children rather than their personal ambitions. And, of course, one must respect the rules of his or her country of residence. We need to consolidate the international regulatory framework. As you know, Russia and the United States recently signed a child adoption agreement that spells out many rules and regulations in detail, including oversight and the settlement of controversial issues. And we’re currently in negotiations with France over the possibility of concluding an agreement on the establishment of a council that would address such problems. I proposed to my Finnish counterpart that Russia and Finland also consider the possibility of setting up such a bilateral council.

Jyrki Katainen (via interpreter):Thanks for this question. Indeed, we discussed this issue during the talks. I agree with Mr Putin that disputes between parents are especially hard on the children. And it’s extremely important to find ways to minimise that impact.

Issues of this kind are not related to people’s citizenship, their country of residence or their country of birth, because such disputes occur in all-Finnish families as well. These are human problems, grievous moments in their lives, which have nothing to do with politics.

Finland follows three principles when handling such disputes. First of all, they concern private relationships and therefore should not be politicised. Secondly, they should not be discussed in public. And, thirdly, all married couples living in Finland should enjoy equal rights regardless of whether or not they include a non-Finnish spouse.  

International conventions are the best tool to deal with international marriages. Finland has joined the Hague Convention dealing with family-related aspects of international law. And we greatly appreciate that Russia also approves of this convention.

Vladimir Putin (speaking in Finnish): Kiitoksia.

Jyrki Katainen (speaking in Russian): Spasibo.