THE PRESIDENT – Mr President, I want to thank you for your invitation last June and for the welcome you’ve given me and my delegation.
I wanted – and you also wanted – to strengthen the relationship between Russia and France. It’s a long-standing, not to say historic relationship; it’s a major relationship insofar as it concerns two countries set to influence the world’s destiny, and a relationship that is still promising. In other words, it hasn’t yielded everything it can on the political, cultural and economic levels. So it’s our role to move successfully onto a new phase. And in the course of our discussions – which were frank, friendly and at the same time concrete – we wanted to illustrate what the relationship between France and Russia can be in the coming years.
Firstly, at political level, we share a vision of the world. We’re mindful of resolving conflicts through negotiation and we’d like to ensure that arguments of peace, but also arguments of counter-terrorism, prevail at the Security Council. I’ll come back to this.
At economic level (…) our trade has made considerable progress in recent years. It should be said that Russia’s development is impressive and that the opening up of her market provides opportunities. So French companies have taken their place, but they can further broaden this influence and this representation here in Russia.
I’m accompanied by a good number of bosses of companies: large ones, medium-sized ones too and small ones, because it’s also through SMEs that we’ll succeed in developing our trade. We also have a substantial investment stream, investment stocks representing around €10 billion, which we intend extending further.
You’ve mentioned the areas, Mr President: energy and gas; the automotive sector, with our two manufacturers; aeronautics, with EADS; the pharmaceutical industry – an agreement has been signed; railways, where we can illustrate the cooperation between France and Russia through high-speed lines and where we have exemplary technology; space – and there too, two agreements have been signed enabling us to ensure Soyuz has its full place in Kourou [spaceport in French Guiana] and to continue launching a number of satellites. Several projects are at the planning stage. But we can still also work on the nuclear field, the military field and the food industry and tourism fields.
We’re also interested in playing our part in the two great events Russia is preparing: namely, Sochi and the 2018 World Cup. We’ve been able to make progress in many of these areas, in order to broaden the role of French companies. I’d especially like to thank President Putin, because we’re well aware of the blockages that can sometimes exist, the obstacles in our respective administrations, and we’ve found ways to overcome them each time.
We also want to begin partnerships between our Russian and French companies, in order to be able to promote these technologies on external markets together. And there too, we have considerable opportunities for development.
There are French investments in Russia and Russian investments in France. President Putin told me a few months ago, “we must make a common effort to ensure these investments are welcomed”. This is what we’ve done today, through a joint fund which is going to be created by the Caisse des Dépôts [French state-owned financial institution acting on behalf of central, regional and local authorities] and the Russian sovereign fund, so that there can be investments. (…) I’m talking about investments in our economy that can be favourable to employment.
A short time ago, moreover, a Russian company was able to acquire a company in France, and this affects several thousand jobs. And there too, I’d like us to be able to facilitate these procedures. The Invest in France Agency must mobilize to give them the best welcome. I made a commitment to President Putin to facilitate the allocation of visas, because you can’t force people who want to invest in France to go through outdated administrative formalities. And we’ll also have to go much further, because along with the European Union we must remove a number of visa-related procedures, and the Interior Minister, who is present here, will be working on this. (…)
I made a commitment for Russian to be taught more in France, and President Putin will also ensure, with his government, that French can have its full place. We also have a number of events to be held.
Firstly, 2013 could be a year of live performance, theatre and cinema, and there too we’ll ensure many initiatives can be taken. The ministers worked on it. And we also have to organize two very important events in 2014 – in France but not only in France: the commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War, because I don’t forget what Russia did at that time; and also in 2014, the Liberation of France, and there too the French people haven’t forgotten the sacrifices by the Russian people to enable us to be what we are today. And we’ll have to take part in those events together. (…)
I want to thank President Putin for his support for France’s intervention in Mali, because he perfectly understood its purpose – that is, in the framework of the United Nations Charter. At the request of a country, Mali, we wanted to play our part in the fight against terrorism. And I gave him a precise update on our intervention. At this moment, we’re in contact with a number of groups that have taken refuge in a part of Mali. France, along with the Malian army and the [other] African armies, will do her duty. But we also discussed the transformation of this operation into a peacekeeping operation, and Russia will provide us with all her support on the Security Council.
Likewise, we share an analysis of the risks of nuclear proliferation, particularly in Iran. Everything must be done to persuade Iran to give up – to unconditionally give up acquiring a nuclear weapon. We prefer negotiation, because it’s the only valid method. If there’s progress, we’ll register it, but for the time being we observe that the negotiation hasn’t yet enabled us to reach a solution, despite the sanctions.
We also discussed Syria. We have the same objective, even if we differ on how to achieve it. We still differ, but there too, we may find a common path. We have the same objective, namely to prevent Syria breaking up and terrorists being allowed to exploit the chaos. We’d like political dialogue. We believe this dialogue must take on a new form, to enable all sides to come together so that a solution can be found.
Finally, I want to mention the preparation for the G8 summit – as well as for the G20 summit, for which Russia has responsibility. Two major subjects will be discussed there. The first is the more current and the more crucial for our economies. It’s that of growth, exchange stability and our capacity to facilitate trade so that the world can experience a cycle of growth and not – as in a number of European countries – of austerity, because everything is interrelated, and prosperity for Russia depends equally on Europe and the United States’ ability to have the highest level of growth.
But there’s a second subject on which we wanted to take action: namely, the fight against drug trafficking, that scourge that also maintains terrorism.
For all these reasons, we made progress in the course of today. (…)
Q. – According to human rights defenders, 2012 was the worst in Russia since 1991 in terms of respect for fundamental freedoms. How would you describe the state of freedoms in Russia?
THE PRESIDENT – The human rights dimension is present in all our foreign policy. Wherever I go, I have to discuss the issue, and I do so frankly and at the same time responsibly. It’s not for me to judge, it’s not for me to assess – simply to observe, and when there are failings, I do so. I do so in order for them to be resolved, not simply highlighted. France’s role is to ensure there can be progress everywhere. (…)./.