19 may, 2009 17:00  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg held a joint news conference following bilateral intergovernmental talks


"Today, it is important to adapt our cooperation to the current financial and economic crisis. Apparently, we have definite and considerable competitive advantages."

Vladimir Putin Joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,

My Norwegian counterpart and I have conducted fruitful and meaningful talks. We have discussed in detail the topical issues of bilateral cooperation in almost all directions. We have also talked about the prospects for our cooperation. Our current meeting has demonstrated a common desire to promote further our mutual advantageous cooperation and achieve concrete results.

Last year, our countries reached a record $2.3 billion in trade turnover, but this is far from our limit. Our potential is much bigger than that, and we consider the current level a springboard for reaching new frontiers.

Today, it is important to adapt our cooperation to the current financial and economic crisis. Apparently, we have definite and considerable competitive advantages.

We should pool our efforts in world markets. I am primarily referring to the energy industry, a key element in our bilateral strategic cooperation.

We have also noted generally successful progress on our cooperation in fishing, joint management of the Barents Sea's bioresources, and efforts to counter their illegal, uncontrolled and unregistered harvesting.

Promising directions for our cooperation include transport, and the entire range of Arctic technologies, including construction of drilling platforms and ice class ships, as well as a number of other spheres.

We have also discussed the Spitsbergen problems. In practical terms, the issues pertaining to the Russian presence on this Norwegian archipelago would be decided through close cooperation with the Norwegian authorities, and in line with the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty.

We have reached positive results in our cooperation on environmental protection, primarily in ensuring nuclear and radiation safety in the Russian North-West.

I would like to note our successes in cross border cooperation. Thus, restrictions on movement over the Mumansk-Kirkenes highway were lifted in 2008, and talks are currently underway on drafting an agreement for reciprocal trips of citizens residing in Russia and Norway's adjacent territories.

In other words, we have achieved much, and have good prospects.

I would also like to note the constructive character of the current meeting, and the businesslike and meaningful mood of its participants. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his cooperation.

Jens Stoltenberg (as translated): I would like to thank my Russian counterpart Mr Putin for our talks. Today, I also had an opportunity to meet President Dmitry Medvedev. At both meetings we have laid the foundations for expanding our close goodneighbourly relations.

We are cooperating in many fields. I must note that our cooperation is developing even better after the recent event in the Russian capital, that is, Eurovision. It was a magnificent event, which produced a positive result.

I can only agree with Mr Putin's statement on the subjects discussed. I would merely wish to add some details.

The energy sphere is the backbone of our bilateral cooperation. We are now taking practical steps in this sphere, primarily on the Shtokman deposit. It was mentioned at our talks that an investment decision on this issue is expected to be made in 2010.

As for fishing, we can tell the world about the joint undertaking of Russia and Norway because our countries have managed to do what others cannot accomplish - to jointly manage our common fishing stock. Our reserves of cod are in excellent condition owing to our close cooperation whereas fish reserves in other regions are being depleted because of overfishing. In addition, we have scored real success in countering what is called illegal, unregistered, and unregulated harvesting. It has dropped from 100,000 tons to 10,000 tons.

We have achieved impressive results in environmental protection. Thus, we are completing the scrapping process of five nuclear-powered submarines. We are also carrying out a project on decommissioning RITEGs along the coast.

We would like to continue promoting our trade and economic cooperation, and create the requisite conditions for expanding our cooperation in the fields of industry and trade. .

At today's meeting we have also discussed the differences between the Telenor and Alpha Group companies on Vympelkom. We share the opinion that the companies themselves should assume responsibility for reaching agreement on this issue. For my part, I would like to say that the company should not be forced to sell its assets and shares before this issue is finally considered by the Russian judicial system.

We welcome Russian economic activities on Spitsbergen in line with Norwegian legislation and the relevant treaty. Norway and Russia are advanced countries in the Arctic, and we share the opinion that our activities in the Arctic and the Arctic Ocean should be regulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In conclusion, I would like to note that we have also discussed questions pertaining to the climate change and expressed the hope that the Copenhagen summit will make a correct decision on reducing greenhouse emissions.

As good neighbours, we are conducting a productive dialogue.

* * *

Question: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. Norwegian TV, TV station TV-2. I have a question about Telenor. As has was mentioned, the Norwegian Government on several occasions asked your Government for help to stop the forced sale of Telenor's shares. What help are you willing to offer in this matter?

And my second question. As far as I am aware, this very case is unprecedented in Russian legal history. Do you think that it was fairly dealt with? Did the justice system make a fair decision, or was there an element of corruption present?

Vladimir Putin: Is your TV station state owned?

Response: No, it's not state owned.

Vladimir Putin: Why did I ask? Because the oil and gas sector is very strongly represented in the (Norwegian) Government. Moreover, Statoil Hydro is now a state oil company. The state is also strongly represented in the company Telenor; they have more than 25% or 29% of the shares, which is a golden (or blocking) share. The Russian Government has absolutely no interest in this company; we are not shareholders in it. Nor are we represented in Vimpelcom, Alfa-Group, or in Telenor. That is why we are able to be neutral, and independent. It is our job to ensure that the process to settle this dispute takes place within the letter of the law.

Regarding the suggestion relative to any elements of corruption, as far as we are aware, in Europe, as in other civilised legal systems, the principle of presumed innocence applies. This is why asking in public about the corruption of this or that official agency, in this case without any foundation, is in my view, simply inappropriate. If such evidence were to appear, we would respond to it accordingly. Nevertheless, we are interested in making foreign investors feel at ease in the Russian commercial environment, in whatever sector they may be working. And this does not always coincide with the interests of those businesses involved whether they are foreign or Russian. Nevertheless, everyone must obey the law, and in this case, the law of the Russian Federation.

Question: ITAR-TASS. Could you give us some details about the cooperation on the Shtokman gas fields, in particular, what decisions are to be made in 2010, and what are the long-term prospects for cooperation on this project? Both Prime Ministers spoke about future plans for joint projects, in particular in the energy sector. What projects are you referring to?

Vladimir Putin: Regarding Shtokman, this is indeed one of our biggest joint projects. It is one of the largest projects in the world. Remember that the deposits contain 3.5 trillion cubic metres of gas. That means that they can be exploited for fifty years. Together with the French company Total, Gazprom's Norwegian partners are one of its most important on this project.

This means that an LNG plant, a drilling platform and a transport system must be built. These are diverse activities, involving the machine building industry and other areas of cooperation, and will require many billions in investment. By the end of 2013, the first gas will be delivered to consumers. By 2014, the first supply of LNG will take place.

As for other areas, our Norwegian partners are in discussion, and in some cases are already participating in work with other companies: with Gazprom on the Kharyaginsk deposit, with Rosneft in the North of Russia and the Far East.

Today we also spoke about the possibility of joint projects in "third world" markets. I would very much like our partners in the telecoms sector to also agree on joint work in markets in third world countries, rather than be a spoke in each other's wheels. Only through a united effort, will it be possible to work and achieve great results.

The Prime Minister said that we are, of course, competitors in the European market, but at the same time, it is in our common interest to support each other, as we look to the future. I fully agree with him. Thank you very much.

Jens Stoltenberg: Regarding Shtokman, I would like to say that we consider it a very important project, a bankable project. We have been given an opportunity to participate in its implementation. We are very pleased to be able to do so. It is an important project for Russia because during its implementation major new deposits will be developed. It is important for Norway because Statoil Hydro will be able to use the technology, know-how and approaches that were developed when the Snohvit (Snow-white) deposits were developed. It is also a positive project for Europe and other areas because it will increase their access to gas.

It will ensure energy security, and possibly decrease greenhouse gas emissions. That is why from the Norwegian perspective, we only welcome an opportunity to cooperate with Russia and with Gazprom, on this project.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.