International Visits

10 february, 2010 15:30

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends 2010 Baltic Sea Action Summit during his working visit to the Republic of Finland

“When addressing any economic issues and goals, it is necessary to take into account both the interests of one’s own economy and people, and the interests of one’s neighbours, as well as assess possible environmental impact on the Baltic which unites all of us. This is Russia’s approach to implementing major infrastructure projects.”
Vladimir Putin
At a 2010 Baltic Sea Action Summit during his working visit to the Republic of Finland

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's address:

Ms President, participants of the summit, ladies and gentlemen,

This summit in Helsinki has brought together people for whom the Baltic is not merely a name or some abstract geographical notion. The Baltic has always united our peoples and nations, feeding the people who live in these countries. The Baltic is part of many countries in this part of Europe.

The Baltic is rightfully considered an extremely dynamic region. At the same time, experts assert that seven out of the ten largest marine dead zones are located in the Baltic. The contamination of the Baltic waters with chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful substances exceeds all acceptable levels.

This is why it is important not only to realise the scope of problems but also take actual steps to address them, as my Finnish counterpart has just said, and take joint responsibility for the fate and recovery of the Baltic Sea. When addressing any economic issues and goals, it is necessary to take into account both the interests of one's own economy and people, and the interests of one's neighbours, as well as assess possible environmental impact on the Baltic which unites all of us. This is Russia's approach to implementing major infrastructure projects.

I can't help but mention the project that has drawn so much public response recently. I am referring to Nord Stream, which would entail building a major gas pipeline from Russia to Europe across the Baltic seabed.

By the way, marine gas pipelines have proved very effective. I would like to stress that over a third of the gas supplied to Europe is distributed through pipelines that run under the North, Black and Mediterranean Seas. Over a third! And this system has functioned well. No problems have arisen so far, and no such emotions have been provoked.

From the very outset environmental protection has been a priority for Nord Stream. We were guided not only by economic expediency, but also by commitment to the strictest international environmental standards.

Some €100 million were spent on environmental impact assessments. Geophysical surveys were carried out over an unbelievable 40,000 square kilometres of seabed to find the optimal, safest route for the gas pipeline. The area of Denmark is 43,000 square kilometres, if I'm not mistaken. This is the area of a whole European country.

I can state with confidence that there has never been such massive environmental study in the history of the Baltic. Never has such a large amount of money been allocated for the environmental research on the Baltic.

This project has always been as open and transparent as possible. Dozens of consultations with officials and NGOs have been held over three years, which resulted in numerous changes to the technical plans for the project, increasing the project's environmental safety.

We even addressed scenarios that were extremely unlikely to happen and were in essence speculative. We were guided by a well-known Russian proverb: ‘measure seven times and cut once'.

A comprehensive international assessment of the project's effect on the environment found no environmental risks. I would like to emphasise that this assessment was approved by the Espoo Convention, in other words with public participation.

The project was authorised by the German, Danish, Swedish and Finnish governments. Finland is finalising the legal documents. Accordingly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to our colleagues for the constructive and sober approach to this task.

I have confidence that Nord Stream will become an eco-friendly, reliable and fail-safe route for hydrocarbon supplies to Europe, strengthening the energy stability on the European continent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In Russia we subject practically all of our major projects to such rigorous assessments and are actively improving our environmental legislation. The requirements of the afore-mentioned Espoo Convention for public assessment of economic projects are codified in the Russian law On the Protection of the Environment.

We are paying much attention to creating real economic incentives for private companies and organisations funded by the government to adopt environmentally safe technologies. Here I would cite the recently adopted law On Energy Conservation.

We are making significant progress in reducing waste and air and water pollution - by more than 1% per year. We will increase the area of nature reserves and national parks by 11 million hectares by 2012.

This is a colossal amount of land even for Russia, with its enormous territory. Today we have 55 million hectares of national nature reserves. We will increase this figure by 20% by 2012.

This directly concerns the Baltic Sea. In 2010 we are planning to pass a decision establishing the Ingermanland Nature Reserve, which will contain several islands in the Gulf of Finland. This is our real contribution to the fulfilment of our collective commitments to protect the Baltic Sea.

I would like to stress that we are willing to cooperate internationally on the broadest scale and engage in dialogue with all interested states. We see great potential in the initiative to establish the Partnership for Modernisation between Russia and the European Union (EU). Joint environmental projects will be an integral part of this partnership.

Allow me to say a few words about global climate problems in the context of the recent conference in Copenhagen. We should analyze the results of this conference soberly and fairly.

Regrettably, a two-year negotiating process and, without exaggeration, the almost dramatic developments at this conference prevented it from producing concrete results. Obviously, a simple extension of the Kyoto Protocol does not resolve the problem either.

In our opinion, it is necessary to formulate a single, universal agreement for the post-Kyoto period. Such an agreement would serve as a real catalyst for progress in protecting the environment. All of us should continue these efforts with the same zeal with which Denmark prepared the summit in Copenhagen.

* * *

The efforts of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) are an example of useful and effective cooperation in environmental protection. As the current HELCOM chairman, Russia is doing all it can to enhance the performance of this universal and one-of-a-kind international organisation.

Successful implementation of the HELCOM long-term plan of action, which was adopted in Krakow in 2007, should become a model for environmental protection policies in the region. The experience we gained may be used to protect other bodies of water along our borders.

All HELCOM countries must speed up the process of drafting and adopting national programmes for implementing this plan of action. Russia has finished drafting the framework for the said document. It is my pleasure to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that we are going to present our federal programme for improving the Baltic environment at the May HELCOM ministerial session in Moscow.

I would like to emphasize that we continue to repair and develop large-scale water supply and removal systems in the Baltic area. The Prime Minister has already spoken on the relevant programmes for St Petersburg. The measures we are taking will allow us to bring the level of wastewater purification to 98% in St Petersburg and its suburbs by 2015, as stipulated by HELCOM requirements. This requires consistent efforts and relevant funding. We will continue working on the issue until we meet the requirements.

We are planning to take similar measures in the Leningrad Region and reconstruct almost 200 water treatment plants in the next 10 years.

We are carrying out a targeted programme for the development of the Kaliningrad Region, which provides for far-reaching steps towards protecting the Baltic environment.

We have recently resolved all issues regarding the participation of international organisations in funding the reconstruction of the system of water supply and environmental protection in the Kaliningrad Region. I am very grateful to our neighbours in the Baltic for their readiness to help us carry out these major nature protection projects. For its part, our government has made all the required decisions on these projects' funding.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Baltic Sea, which was praised by our predecessors in sagas and epics, has served people for centuries, as I said at the outset of this summit. It has united them and allowed them to trade. This was all long ago, including during the time of the Hanseatic League, which united everything in this part of the world.

Helsinki and Kiel, Stockholm and Gdansk, St Petersburg and Copenhagen, to name but a few, largely owe their successful development to the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea literally feeds our peoples. Now it is time for us to repay our debts to it and to take care of its condition. This is our commitment to future generations.

I am convinced that this meeting will encourage the rapprochement of the Baltic nations and help them pool their efforts in the name of a common goal - the wellbeing of the Baltic.

I would like to thank our Finnish hosts for the idea of organising this meeting.

Thank you very much for your attention.