15 may, 2009 20:46  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi addressed a news conference summarising their meeting in Sochi


Transcript of the news conference:

Question: What is your opinion of the role the South Stream gas pipeline will play in European energy security?

Vladimir Putin: The pipeline spectacularly enhances Russian hydrocarbon supplies to Europe, promising sizeable extra exports with our Italian partners' participation. Eni and Gazprom have agreed to increase the amount of pumped gas from 31 billion cubic metres a year to 63.

As I see it, this is a joint contribution of Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece to the cause of European energy security.

Silvio Berlusconi (as translated): I am sure this is a stride forward to energy security. I am glad to see major Italian companies taking part.

Voice: Europe does not depend on it so strongly-

Silvio Berlusconi: I think Italy is very lucky to get energy resources from a friendly country that has never broken its pledges. Now, what should Europe do? It should make its own steps for such relations with Russia that guarantee supplies and rule out problems.

Vladimir Putin: As we have said many times in reply to similar questions, it is interdependence, first of all. The current global market situation makes energy producers free to supply it to anyone they like. When we build gas pipelines worth several billion dollars, we become tied to our purchasers thus to promote the stability of the European market and economy in general. This does not prevent Europeans from extending the geography of their imports. Neither does it prevent Russia from extending the geography of its energy exports. It is much wiser not to politicise such matters. They demand mere calculation of economic benefits, which are evident in such projects.

Question: There was a problem of South Stream gas sales according to the Eni-Gazprom contract. How was it settled?

Vladimir Putin: Sales are determined not by Eni and Gazprom alone but also by Greece, Bulgaria and all countries taking part in the project.

Question: What about Nabucco?

Vladimir Putin: Better ask those involved in the project. I think you should pay attention to its two basic aspects. Guaranteed supplies-that is, the availability of gas-are the first and most essential aspect. Economic expediency is the other. Our project possesses both gas and economic expediency.

As for Nabucco, calculations are up to those who want to implement the project. We have no objections to whatever alternative projects.

Before investing billions of dollars in a pipe to be buried in the ground, one should first see where to take the gas to be pumped through the pipe.

If the project is certain to be implemented, they are welcome to work on it. We have no objections, and we will not interfere.

Mr Berlusconi has again and again posed the question of diversifying gas transport routes. We have done so.

Question: The European Union is meeting with Russia in Khabarovsk next week. What part can Italy play there? As we know, it is a mediator between the European Union and the United States, and we want to ask Mr Putin what he thinks about its role.

Vladimir Putin: We have touched the entire agenda of our economic contacts only in passing now. Mr Berlusconi and I have discussed the following:

Energy implies not only hydrocarbons but also nuclear energy and electricity. Certain Italian companies have invested billions of dollars into the Russian energy industry. We are developing contacts in high technologies. In particular, we are implementing Project Superjet-100 for a very promising medium-range aircraft.

We have even amended a relevant federal law and got it through Parliament to make Italian partnership possible. Now, a Finmeccanica subsidiary is taking part in Project Superjet-100 with a block of 25% plus one share, and has contributed to registered capital. This is another transnational project involving French and US companies.

We are also partners in the transport sphere, including railways, and in engineering. A company based on the Volga bank in Russia is already assembling cars from parts supplied by Fiat. Another Italian company is in partnership with the Russian KAMAZ automotive company to assemble tractors for agriculture.

I want you to notice that all this promotes employment in Italy during the economic crisis. This is not all we are doing together. Such partnership is lucrative to the Russian economy. We have close confidential contacts at the corporate and political levels alike.

As I see it, we owe many of our achievements to Mr Berlusconi personally. To have similar contacts with all EU countries is a fine prospect.

If Mr Berlusconi could do it at the bilateral level, we hope he will do the same for Russian relations with the European Union in general. We, on our part, will do everything we can.

Silvio Berlusconi: I have always worked at it because I am firmly convinced that the European Union needs Russia just as Russia needs the European Union. I am sure about it, and I work for the sake of those links.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.