11 november, 2009 18:09  

Following Russian- Austrian talks, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann held a joint press conference


“Energy cooperation, in particular, the future of the South Stream project, was a major topic of our talks. Up until now, Russia and Austria have been reliable and long-standing energy partners.”

Vladimir Putin At a joint press conference following the meeting with Werner Faymann

Vladimir Putin's address:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

I have just finished a meeting with Werner Faymann, the Federal Chancellor of Austria.

I would like to say from the start that we had a very candid conversation on practically all the issues that affect our relations. I think this is very important. I was very pleased that our conversation was businesslike and based on mutual trust.

We both agreed in our positive assessment of the current level of cooperation between Russia and Austria. Indeed, we do not have any particular political problems or disagreements. Cultural ties between our two countries continue to develop, and our business ventures are successful.

Needless to say, we paid much attention to our plans for our future work together. The global crisis has led to a certain decrease in trade between our two countries. We must work together to overcome this problem, and not only restore the former level of bilateral trade, (which was high; almost $5.5 billion), but also increase it. The main point is that we have every opportunity to do this.

It is no less important to diversify Russia's exports to Austria. Here we intend to use the Mixed Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation to its full potential. We have agreed that the Commission's next meeting will be in spring.

The Russian-Austrian Business Council, established to develop direct contacts between businesses, should also play a major role. The Federal Chancellor suggested setting up a presidium, a working group consisting of several business leaders, within the council. I think this is a good proposal, and we will implement it.

I would like to note that despite the reduction in trade, Austrian investment in the Russian economy has remained steady. By the beginning of this year, it amounted to almost four billion dollars. We welcome the efforts of Austrian businessmen to continue to expand their presence in the Russian market.

Energy cooperation, in particular, the future of the South Stream project, was a major topic of our talks. Up until now, Russia and Austria have been reliable and long-standing energy partners.

The Baumgarten natural gas hub, through which our gas is delivered to Europe, is well known. It is one of the biggest in Europe.

Russia and Austria are convinced that this new route is very important for ensuring energy supplies for European consumers, and for making them even more reliable.

Representatives of our two countries are now preparing a special bilateral agreement to carry out this project. The Federal Chancellor and I want this work to be finished as soon as possible.

Extending the Druzhba (Friendship) Pipeline is also bound to promote our energy cooperation. We discussed this idea in detail today. I am referring to the branch of the pipeline from Bratislava to the oil refinery in Schwechat, near Vienna. Our Austrian and Slovakian partners will work together on this project. This will require a certain amount of effort on our part as well as additional study, but we are ready to work together.

We have also discussed how our two countries can work together on infrastructure projects, such as extending the railway from Koshice to Bratislava, with access to Vienna, and building a logistics centre on the Danube. This project would expand Europe's transport corridors considerably.

Relevant government agencies in Russia and Austria have been instructed to expedite the preparation of a number of major bilateral agreements in areas such as crime prevention, scientific and technological cooperation, and mutual aid during natural and man-made disasters.

We will also do all we can to facilitate regional ties - this is a significant resource for building up relations between our two countries. Austria is one of our key partners in our dialogue with the European Union, and it goes without saying that we also touched upon this it today's talks.

Austria is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2009 and 2010, and this month it is chairing the Council. All this gives us more opportunities for cooperation on international issues.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank the Federal Chancellor for our productive work and the friendly and honourable atmosphere of today's meeting. I am pleased to give him the floor.

Werner Faymann (as translated): Thank you very much. Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I agree with everything Prime Minister Putin has said. Thank you very much for your invitation and the opportunity to discuss these issues openly and in detail.

Prime Minister Putin has already mentioned that our mutual trade totalled over $5.5 billion in 2008. When speaking about their businesses in the Russian Federation, many companies and their representatives whom I met at the reception at the Austrian Embassy yesterday night pointed out the successful development of their businesses and progress of our economic cooperation in different sectors of the economy.

I would like to draw your attention to two or tree points. Mr Prime Minister, you have already touched on the first one: Russian natural gas accounts for 94% of Austrian gas imports. The Republic of Austria has abandoned the idea of building nuclear power plants and is betting on renewable energy sources, including hydroelectric, solar and wind energy. Therefore, we need a reliable partner to ensure stable energy supplies in the short and long term.

This applies to gas supplies. In this respect, energy security is critical to Austria. We believe that South Stream and other projects should not be mutually exclusive. This project's purpose is diversification of gas supplies, giving us a chance to increase energy security, ensuring reliable energy supplies.

Energy security is vital for manufacturing industries, since a lack of gas would mean we would have to make up for the missing energy. The European Union, Austria included, can last for a certain period using stored gas, for example while this issue is being negotiated. The gas from the Austrian reserves will suffice for three months. However, settling conflicts in advance is essential for us to ensure energy security and a stable economic development.

Another issue we discussed that I would like to highlight concerns Austrian Airlines. This company is very important for Austria, in particular Austrian business people. They need this airline to stay in close contact with their Russian partners, as well as with other foreign partners.

Railway projects are of great significance too, but we cannot do without airlines. Otherwise we'll be unable to ensure the long-term, dependable development of economic relations with our partners who use these airlines. This is a critical factor for us.

I am pleased to say that the current contract allowing Austrian Airlines to operate in the Russian Federation was extended to February 1. This will enable us to coordinate all the legal aspects and negotiate in a calm atmosphere.

This goes to show that we can always find solutions to questions raised during open and sincere discussions. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

I hope that in the future the existing institutions that foster cooperation between our two countries, and maybe the Business Council Presidium, will allow us to address and discuss issues on the bilateral agenda effectively, and resolve them openly and promptly.

I was happy to hear about your eagerness to accept our invitation to visit Lech in March. I know that a prime minister's schedule is very tight.

Lech will host a European forum that will be attended by EU leaders and members of European commissions. We have invited you, Mr Prime Minister, to participate, and we are happy that you have agreed to come. It will be my pleasure to welcome you to Austria next year.

* * *

Question: My question consists of two parts. In fact, I have two questions, one to Mr Faymann, and the other to Mr Putin.

Mr Faymann, Austria has repeatedly indicated interest in the South Stream project. Have you discussed it today? What is the Austrian Government's position on this project?

Mr Putin, Austrian media outlets are actively discussing the prospects for further Austrian Airlines flights over Russia. Was the matter on your agenda today, and how can it be settled? Thank you.

Werner Faymann: Yes, we have discussed the South Stream pipeline in terms of energy security, which demands reliable and diversified transit routes.

We consider all current gas supply projects to be beyond the realm of competition, and I do expect them to increase our energy security.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Faymann is the best expert on transport issues because he was the Transport Minister before taking the post of Federal Chancellor.

We certainly have had a detailed discussion today on the entire thematic range of infrastructural logistics, including oil and gas pipelines, railway transport-with prospects for a major logistics centre near Vienna, which I mentioned in my opening address-and air transport.

The agreement of 1993 envisages certain amendments with the change of proprietors. In connection with such changes and with the special relations between Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa, the Russian Transport Ministry requested further talks after it extended the agreement to the middle of November.

Mr Faymann does not think this delay will be enough to settle the problems, and we have agreed that the current agreement needs to be extended through February 2010, at least. I hope this will be enough for the parties to settle the corporate related matters.

At any rate, neither Austrian nor Russian authorities are happy about shrinking the transport schedule between Vienna and Moscow and other Russian cities. Today's schedule, five flights a day, if I am not mistaken, is necessary for ever closer business and cultural links.

Question: Mr Putin, Mr Faymann, my question concerns you both. Can you guarantee unbroken natural gas supplies to Austria this winter after today's talks? Will the Nabucco pipeline make gas supplies to Austria smoother?

Vladimir Putin: Russia is Austria's long-established and reliable energy supplier. Mr Faymann has said that it accounts for 94% of Austrian natural gas imports.

Our cooperation started in 1968 and had never experienced any setbacks before our new transit partners appeared.

I stress again that Russia has never and will never, I would like to draw your attention - will never - disrupt supplies. Transit country problems are alone to blame for whatever disruptions there are, but I rely on Ukraine-our partner, friend and main transiter-to comply with its contractual obligations in conformity with last January's agreement.

There is a contract for natural gas supplies to Ukraine and another, with a ten year term, for Russian natural gas transits to Europe. Every obligation is to be complied with. Russia will not be the cause of any problem if the transit countries are true to their pledges.

As for additional routes, we think they are necessary to diversify the supplies of Russian hydrocarbons to our main partners in Europe. The Federal Chancellor has said so, and I agree with him. Such diversity will ensure stable and reliable supplies, and will enhance the discipline of our transit partners and other involved parties.

Werner Faymann: Mr Putin has elaborated on the question. I only want to add that the additional route-I mean South Stream-will answer Austrian interests. The federal government determined two weeks ago to authorise the relevant negotiations.

This is why we think all routes promising to improve supplies and increase energy security are relevant and expedient.

Vladimir Putin: I just want to add something to make the matter clearer. Our Ukrainian partners will receive gas for domestic consumption if they pay for it, and will get none if they don't.

If they don't pay, they will most probably pump gas out of the export pipeline, reducing supplies as soon as they start. So, in reality we are the wrong people to address questions about the reliability of gas supplies.

Ukraine can afford gas payments presently, as the International Monetary Fund has confirmed. A presidential race is ongoing in Ukraine to add to its problems. As you know, the President and the Prime Minister represent mutually contending forces in the pre-election campaign, and each has his own domestic political interests. As I see it, we should, without interfering in Ukraine's domestic politics, promote its compliance with international obligations, including those that concern gas transit to Europe.