Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to say a few words about the results of our plenary meeting.
We have discussed topical issues of cooperation on protecting the Baltic Sea environment. This is an issue that unites all of us. There are some issues that we aren't on the same page about at times because of differing views, but we are doing a good job on the Baltic Sea. This is a very useful forum. We are conducting a productive exchange of opinions, not only with the participation of the heads of state and of delegations, but also scientists, entrepreneurs, civil societies and international environmental organisations.
We picked up the torch from Helsinki, which hosted the Baltic Sea Action Summit in February 2010. This forum is also a landmark, and it is taking place during the Year of the Environment in this country. We have noted that the Baltic Sea region is making rapid progress. It is conducting many modern economic projects and is implementing the latest technological solutions, but it is also ridden with many problems, which we must resolve together. Naturally, we must do everything we can to preserve the Baltic Sea's unique environment.
We have discussed the need to develop joint solutions, both within HELCOM and through public-private partnership. This was the objective of the St. Petersburg initiative, prepared by Russia. It is aimed at drafting specific proposals to improve the Baltic marine environment on the basis of public-private partnership and broad public involvement. Hopefully, this initiative will also ensure independent oversight of the decisions adopted at the conference in Helsinki and this conference in St. Petersburg.
This April, St Petersburg will host the 11th Baltic Sea NGO Forum, which has traditionally addressed environmental issues. We are pleased with the fact that these state-sponsored and non-governmental events will be held one after another. Once again, I believe it extremely important to focus all our efforts and resources on preserving the Baltic Sea marine environment.
At the end of our very long discussion, I said that, contrary to the popular belief that environmental summits and meetings on complex environmental issues such as climate change usually end without reaching any concrete results or with abstract declarations on the need to meet again in the future, this forum has ended with a special statement by the host country, Russia. It contains a very specific action plan, including measures to attract financial resources, which will hopefully contribute to the success of all our endeavours.
So the participant states are satisfied with the results, and I want to thank all those who have come to this forum to discuss issues related to preserving environmental standards of the Baltic countries. The forum will continue its work tomorrow. I hope all participating sides will have a frank and interesting discussion. Thank you.
Question: Today we are discussing interstate cooperation as an initiative coming from above. There are very many initiatives coming from the bottom up: various organisations are doing radical things like seizing oil derricks in the Arctic – some people do not like these organisations. What is your view on such actions? Will Greenpeace and similar organisations be able to participate in the work we are discussing? By the way, today we got news that a Greenpeace representative gave a letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister requesting that Norway give up oil extraction in the Arctic under the Statoil and Rosneft project. Have your received a similar letter? Can you help Greenpeace?...
Dmitry Medvedev: …Give this letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister?
Question: No. Have you received such a letter?
Dmitry Medvedev: I see. First, I’ll explain my view on seizing oil derricks. Such acts are akin to taking hostages. I believe that this is not a very good practice, because it is always desirable to obey the laws. Regarding voluntary initiatives, this is an absolutely necessary topic, an absolutely necessary thing. And perhaps it is not bad that our colleagues from non-profit organisations behave more emotionally or more radically. Sometimes it is necessary to dramatise the situation to urge governments to act – this is probably the social mission of the environmental organisations. I repeat, unless this activity violates the law. This refers to all environmental organisations including Greenpeace, with whom all countries and governments should engage in dialogue, in my view. On the one hand, the state should attentively listen to the environmentalists; on the other hand, the environmentalists should be reasonable, they should not request that the state and the government take rapid decisions that would be in violation of existing international rules or agreements. In other words, any dialogue, including the dialogue between the state and the environmentalists, is always a search for a compromise. If they reach a compromise, they will produce a good result as a rule.
Regarding the last part of your question – the letter. I have not received any letter about a project concerned as yet.
Question: Mr Medvedev, Matthias Warning (Managing Director of the Nord Stream AG) has just reminded everyone that the environmental permits for building the first and the second lines of the Nord Stream pipeline took four years. This week work began on environmental approval of the Nord Stream’s expansion. Have they resolved all issues, including on environmental risks related to the construction and use of Nord Stream in its current and possibly future form? What countries can take the most extensive participation in building new Nord Stream lines?
Dmitry Medvedev: First, I want to state again that, from an environmental standpoint, the Nord Stream is operating normally; it has not caused any damage or any significant effect on the Baltic ecosystem. Russia conducts constant monitoring and this proves that the project is absolutely valid and environmentally safe. But this does not mean that everyone should relax and feel reassured that everything will be fine. The environment requires constant testing and constant monitoring. I hope that this will continue in the future. And this is a strict position of the Russian side which has initiated the relevant idea.
Regarding the future. Naturally the development of the Nord Stream, building new lines – potentially the third and the fourth lines – is possible under two conditions. The first condition is economic. It lies in the fact that there will be consumption and there will be customers willing to buy gas. This will spur the development of new fields and new volumes of pipeline gas will be supplied to Europe. No construction will be possible without this. The gas will be supplied only if it is purchased. Negotiations are underway. Let’s wait and see what happens next. Who can participate? Just about anyone who has an interest in it. This may be a traditional set of partners, including Germany, although it’s too early to talk about it. Or, it could be other states, such as the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. The question is: who will take an interest in it and who is ready to pay for it. In fact, it's a financial and economic issue.
The second, no less important condition, is related to environmental standards and safety. The construction of new pipelines should comply with all environmental requirements. Indeed, compliance with environmental standards during the first and the second phase took a while, but I believe that, first, it wasn’t a waste of time, and second, it was our first time and, of course, there were more concerns. Perhaps we will need less time now, and our position is that this effort is not a waste of time. We need to reassure everyone, especially in our country and other countries that are interested in preserving the unique ecosystem of the Baltic Sea.
Question: My question relates to the source of hazardous waste at the Krasny Bor landfill which is close to St Petersburg. Why wasn’t it discussed here? What is Russia going to do to resolve this problem? Can this landfill be part of the cooperation?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it’s an environmental issue that is decades in the making. Frankly, we discussed it back at a time when I worked in St Petersburg in the 1990s. Unfortunately, it has not been solved as quickly as we would like. However, it is being addressed, and the first phase of the work is underway. It was funded from the federal budget through environmental departments, such as Rosprirodnadzor and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The funds have been transferred to the St Petersburg authorities. We have crunched the numbers in order to see how much money we will need to bring relief to the damaged area. Estimates vary, but we are talking about hundreds of millions anyway. That’s a lot of money. We will try to plan our expenses in order to start the second phase of work and bring this issue to a close.
Finally, we are open to the international cooperation, including with our partners, if there are such proposals.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr Prime Minister. Mr Medvedev, you said we may have disagreements on other issues but the environment is one of the areas where we stand united.
Dmitry Medvedev: Absolutely.
Question: But I would like to remind you that when the Nord Stream was under construction, Estonia wouldn’t even allow an environmental study to be conducted, and the pipeline had to bypass Estonia. You see, even here we have some problems, some hangnails and so on. The three Baltic countries’ prime ministers are now in St Petersburg. Can the event we are attending be used to somehow promote not only environmental cooperation but also our general bilateral relations, which oftentimes leave much to be desired compared to the Russian-Finnish relations that are often held up as an example for Estonians?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is not only possible but also necessary. I am going to have a meeting with my colleague Mr Ansip shortly. After this meeting with you, there will be lunch with heads of the Baltic countries, and then we will talk, including with the Estonian prime minister.
I cannot refute you statement that unfortunately our relations in many respects are not at a high level: some issues are frozen, and on others we cannot find common ground. Although, let me reiterate, the environment is an exception despite the fact that we were not given permission to lay the pipeline. It is ultimately an economic issue. If you don’t want it, that’s OK, the money will go to others. We should do all we can for sustainable development of these relations so that our people could enjoy the fruits of our cooperation. Although if we look at our economic relations, we will see that they are not so complicated, because trade cooperation is growing. Before meeting with Prime Minister Ansip I looked at some statistics, and the trade figures are fairly significant: it is measured in billions of US dollars, which is not bad in general, and it is of a clearly bilateral nature.
Basically, if we leave the boundaries of certain ideological stereotypes in our relations, we will be able to give a boost to economic cooperation and inter-personal relationships. I hope this will happen.
Question: Mr Medvedev, a question from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Will the Russian Academy of Sciences, the geologists and biologists, be invited to become involved in the Baltic issues? Next year the Kunstkammer is going to be 300 years old, the Academy of Sciences Library is 300 years old, and my Zoology Institute has been working on the Baltic coast for 300 years already. So we have been involved for 300 years. Will we be commissioned in the future as well? Because there are different rumours about the Academy of Sciences. Yesterday we nominated Mr Alferov (Zhores Alferov, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics) for the post of President of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Dmitry Medvedev: My best regards to Mr Alfereov. I last spoke to him when I wished him a happy birthday.
Large-scale cooperation will continue with the Academy of Sciences on all issues, including the environment of the Baltic Sea. There is no doubt about it.
Question: We have been hearing a lot in the past year about the lack of trust in international politics. Russia and Norway have been managing bio resources in the Barents Sea for forty years. You and Mr Stoltenberg (Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway) have come a long way from your cold coffee in Copenhagen to the Murmansk treaty of September 2010. What sort of a guy is he, do you think?
Dmitry Medvedev: Good question. He is a good guy, the right sort of guy, as we say. I feel comfortable when I work with him. We are going to have a meeting today. We exchanged remarks as we were sitting on the stage earlier about what different forums looked like. I didn’t mean to offend anyone but you are the one who brought up Copenhagen. What matters is not the venue, of course, but the results achieved. The result there was zero. There was a lot of work, a lot of walking about, a lot of cold coffee and dry sandwiches yet the result was zero. We tried to bring closer the positions of countries that could not stand united at that time. A little step forward was made but it was a tiny step. But in terms of our relations, it was highly beneficial. Because, judging by my personal experience, if you have a long contact with your colleague, if you discuss complicated matters, there appears what they call “chemistry” which is important not only among friends and colleagues but also heads of state and government. That’s why I am glad that we had that meeting, it helped us to address the most complicated problems including the one we resolved in Murmansk. And I am very happy that this cooperation goes on. In just one hour, Jens Stoltenberg and I will continue our discussion of various issues, ranging from our bilateral ties to environmental concerns and humanitarian cooperation. So I feel comfortable working with my colleague.
Thank you very much, everyone. Good-bye.