Dmitry Medvedev held talks with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel.
Dmitry Medvedev’s talks with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel
Excerpt from the transcript:
Since our future has been outlined for us, I suggest we move to more mundane issues pertinent to the current state of our bilateral relations.
We met in 2015 during your visit to Sochi and in Ulan-Bator, which we have recently reminisced about, and we discussed the development of bilateral relations concluding that all was going rather well.
I want to thank you once again for having come to Russia’s Open Innovations Forum. I think it was an interesting event. They gave us a little scare there, of course, but we won’t give up that easily. Artificial intelligence is all right, but we are still capable of making an extra effort to make sure that the relationship between our countries is on the rise in the most favourable of conditions.
Xavier Bettel (via interpreter): First of all I would like to thank Prime Minister Medvedev for inviting me to take part in the Open Innovations Forum. I think it is very important for us to share the aspirations that drive our governments. We met in Sochi and Ulan-Bator, and this is our third meeting and we have a chance to hold a bilateral meeting. This speaks volumes about the bilateral relations between our countries.
I’ve come here, first, to take part in the Skolkovo forum and second, for the sake of our bilateral relations and also in order to go to Tambov tomorrow. I am heading for Tambov to pay tribute to the young Luxembourg men who 75 years ago were forcibly recruited into the Nazi army. 167 men were shot dead. For us 167 dead is a very significant number.
I am glad that today we signed an agreement with the Russian State Military Archive to get the copies of personal files and identification cards of Luxembourg citizens who were in captivity in Tambov. There is a Luxembourg citizen among our delegation who is 93 years old and who was in his time forced into the army and became a prisoner in Tambov. I am very glad that our agreement with the Archive will enable us to know more about this story that our two countries share.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is indeed very important that you are paying so much attention to history and the lessons taught by the Second World War. We appreciate that and think it is very useful. We will now talk one-on-one and then we will have a meeting in a larger format.
Excerpts from the transcript:
Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, members of the media, I have just concluded talks with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel. We discussed in detail our cooperation and touched on our future plans. We discussed them back in 2015, when Mr Bettel visited Sochi, then met at the international event in Ulan-Bator, and now I would like to thank my colleague for having come to Russia’s Open Innovations Forum. I hope you have enjoyed it; we will be happy to see you again.
Russia-Luxembourg relations have deep and old roots, as we know. Last year we celebrated the 125th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. We cooperate actively in trade and finance. If we are talking about the finance sector, everybody knows that Luxembourg is one of the biggest financial investors in Russia’ economy. According to our estimates, the total volume of investments surpassed $45 billion as of 1 April 2017. If we are talking about trade volume, it also shows some growth despite the difficult economic environment. Last year it increased by about 15% and grew another 6% during the first seven months of this year, which is not bad.
Luxembourg companies are developing their business in Russia.
We have been cooperating in metallurgy for three decades. This is one of the leading industries of our partners. We have built several large plants for the production of batteries, high-tech glass – so-called float glass and building structures.
By and large, these are good examples of cooperation but we don’t want to be satisfied with what we have achieved. We have agreed that our intergovernmental commission will analyse the current agenda and think about where we can enhance our cooperation.
Incidentally, it is clear where we can focus our attention. This is cooperation in the digital economy, IT, and outer space. These are absolutely new niches and our countries have good opportunities for making their contribution. But such work requires concentrated efforts, so we have just agreed to draft proposals on specific areas of cooperation, find research teams that are addressing them and compile a fairly detailed roadmap.
We have wonderful experience in humanitarian cooperation. I would like to thank Mr Bettel for assistance and support of different humanitarian projects in the areas of culture and education, scientific events and university contacts. We are making impressive progress on these projects and this is a good example of what can be done even in this far from easy period in Russia-EU relations. I would like to thank Mr Bettel once again for this meaningful dialogue.
Xavier Bettel (via interpreter): Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister. Thank you for the invitation to take part in the Open Innovations forum. I had an opportunity to take part in a round table discussion and tried to present the pluses of Luxembourg’s digital technology market. We also had an opportunity to discuss all the challenges and problems we are facing. It is necessary at the national level to prepare our future generations for the challenges they will face tomorrow.
Today we discussed issues of bilateral cooperation. Tomorrow I will go to Tambov to honour the memory of Luxembourgers who were recruited by force into the Nazi army 75 years ago. We lost 167 of them in Tambov. This is an important figure for us and we will never forget the horrors of the war that befell the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. I would like to thank the workers of the Russian military archives. We signed an agreement with them, which will help us analyse documents and learn more about the fates of these prisoners. For us this is a very important opportunity to return to our history and learn more about it.
Bilateral relations are developing well. Last year we celebrated the 125th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Our bilateral relations are developing well and are fairly dynamic. We have stable relations in all areas, be it investment or outer space (our SES cooperates with Roscosmos), aviation or shipping.
As the Prime Minister said, we want to move forward. We want to carry out concrete projects. This is exactly why we have a commission that will hold its next meeting in February. Our ministries of healthcare and social support will meet for a conference at the end of this year. Let’s hope that by the summer of next year we will prepare and sign a package of documents that will be based on the 2011 agreement and will reflect a new level in our cooperation. However, this agreement is a bit outdated and should be upgraded. I explained to the Prime Minister that if there were direct flights from Luxembourg to Moscow, it would be easier for me to make such trips, in particular, for signing documents. Let’s hope we will sign this package of documents in the interests of both countries and will thus move forward in all areas.
In the financial sector, our trade is fairly stable. The figures are stable. I would also like to mention Luxembourg’s desire to cooperate in fintech. Indeed, this will be one of the biggest challenges to the banking and financial sectors in the near future.
We are also cooperating at university level and want to continue this cooperation.
The whole of Europe is facing the problems of digitalisation. Now Europe is squeezed between Asia and the United States and so we must develop our common strategy. This is in our common interests. Mr Prime Minister, you mentioned the visit of Ms Mogherini to Russia several months ago. We welcome this visit because all this facilitates dialogue.
This dialogue is the most important thing for me – dialogue that allows us to work together on international issues and elaborate common approaches. We are facing common challenges that are a concern for all of us. It is nice when we have an opportunity to talk. I already had an opportunity to talk with you in Ulan Bator and Sochi and I met with the President. It seems to me our nations want us to sit down at the negotiating table, discuss problems and find solutions.
Even if some problems expand beyond our territory (for instance, the situation in Syria), they are still very important and we must find solutions to them as well. This is why dialogue is required. This is what Luxembourg stands for. Instead of speaking about each other, we must speak with each other.
Question: Could you comment on the current condition of bilateral ties between Russia and Luxembourg against the background of the European Union’s policy of sanctions? Do reciprocal sanctions influence trade and investment cooperation between countries? If so, what influence do they have?
Dmitry Medvedev: It would probably be a fib if we said that sanctions do not influence anything. Of course, they do and there is nothing good about sanctions. I discussed this with my colleague today. What is the problem with such restrictions? Nobody stands to win anything, while the economy, enterprises and entrepreneurs lose substantial funds. I always quote a figure that seems devastating to me. Before the restrictions were imposed, our trade with the EU was about $430-450 billion per year (according to various estimates). Now it is about $200 billion. Hydrocarbon prices also had some influence but mostly this is the result of sanctions. Everyone lost because of them – fewer jobs, less profit, and hence, less budget revenue. What’s good about this? Nothing. Is it possible to make up for these losses? No, it is not. These are pure losses and nothing can be done about them.
Clearly, this affects our relations one way or another. However, Luxembourg is a state with which we continue to cooperate quite successfully in a number of areas even amid the current fairly complicated circumstances. Of course, we are fully aware of Luxembourg’s place in the EU structure.
The Prime Minister and I have just gone over these areas, which are truly important traditional areas of cooperation. We have even increased the volume of our trade cooperation and outlined new areas to promote this kind of cooperation today.
For example, space is one such area. For obvious reasons, outer space does not belong to anyone in particular, but this doesn’t mean that it will always be the case. Clearly, humankind will make a breakthrough in the coming decades and start developing objects that exist in the solar system, by which I mean asteroids and planets. One way or another, the development of natural resources that exist there will become part of the global agenda some day. This subject remains totally unexplored.
We covered such topics as well. Perhaps, they will not be on our agenda even tomorrow, but they still exist, and I believe they are quite interesting. However, we will continue to deal with other issues which are already under consideration or being worked on.
Xavier Bettel: I shall respond briefly. First of all, I would like to thank my deputy, who is also in charge of economic issues, and deals with mineral development and mining on asteroids. I am glad to hear that we have found allies and like-minded people in our dialogue with the Prime Minister and Mr Rogozin, who are willing to go ahead and join us in our quest for opportunities and new ways to develop such minerals. We came to this conclusion and hope that we will be able to continue this work next year.
Of course, there are many other spheres. Digital technology is also an area where we must act together. Today, this sphere has gained currency. I wouldn’t want sanctions or counter-sanctions to become a rule or something inevitable. No, we do not want to reconcile ourselves to such a situation. We must overcome it, as it harms everyone. This must be done by sitting down and talking to each other, rather than imposing one's will on anyone. We can’t have our citizens suffer from these sanctions. They bear the brunt of this political situation between Europe and Russia, as our budgets are shrinking. That is why we need to find a solution as soon as possible.
To reiterate, the European Union maintains a common position. However, this should be a position of a dialogue which leaves the door open so that we could sit down and overcome the conflict to prevent it from becoming stagnant, and perpetuating this situation.
Question: One more question for Mr Medvedev. You said that the political climate in the international arena is not too favourable. What do you think can unblock this situation? What needs to be done to return to normalcy?
Dmitry Medvedev: We must get together and talk. We must try to discuss the most difficult issues and find solutions to them the way it is done by my colleague, Mr Bettel. Of course, we can sulk and say: you know, we don’t understand what our partners are doing, we are unhappy. There will always be many reasons to be unhappy. That’s life. It is complicated. But this will lead us nowhere. However, the more contacts we have, the better the mutual understanding and the better the atmosphere of trust.
We discussed digital technology today and said that this technology should be based on trust between states and businesses and, ultimately, on trust in the technology itself. The same applies to relations between states and people, only on a larger scale. Therefore, there is no alternative to continuing to discuss the most complex issues, including the ones on the international and European agenda. You can rest assured that our country is willing to do so. And we are pleased to hear our dialogue partners stick to the same position. We are always ready to meet and discuss the most difficult political and economic issues. I believe this is the only path to overcoming these complicated challenges.
Xavier Bettel: I think the answer was exhaustive. Indeed, we must sit down and find formats for dialogue. Currently, the Normandy format and the Minsk agreements are the cornerstone, the backbone, if you will, the only element which we can rely on. I think that it is really important to do a kind of review of the progress made, to see what has been done and what remains to be done. However, in any case, if we want to regulate and stabilise relations between Russia and Europe, we need to sit down and decide together what both sides need to do.
Today, France and Germany are important players. I think that we must discuss relations between the European Union and Russia before the end of the year. This is more than just important.