BULGARIAN PRESIDENT GEORGI PARVANOV: You have just witnessed the formal signing of a series of agreements between our two countries. I cannot remember another instance in which so many agreements were signed during a single visit. But the point is not so much the number of agreements signed as the fact that they provide a basis for further advances in the development of our bilateral relations.
Let me start with an assessment of our agreements in the field of energy. These are contracts which have been in preparation for many years. An example is the contract concerning the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. The plan to construct the Belene nuclear power station has been around even longer. We have really succeeded in the space of a few months in making provision for the signing of treaties that provide the basis for further development of the Bulgarian economy.
The preparation of these agreements has been far from easy. Each side defended its own interests, but the net result is clear, and we are all pleased with this development. We believe that these arrangements protect the interests of both sides equally.
Secondly, we are talking about projects with a European dimension: these are European projects. And today we have witnessed the participation of individual European countries in various projects. I believe that all of these projects will contribute to the diversification of energy projects. In particular, they represent a significant contribution to the security of energy supplies, not only for Bulgaria but for all the countries of the Balkan Peninsula.
In addition, let me inform you of a proposal that I made to President Putin, namely that the second version of the Zagreb forum be comprised of Balkan countries and those of the Black Sea economic region, as well as some European institutions. Bulgaria would be happy to organise such a forum.
Let me remind you that at one point we raised the issue of the economisation of our relationship, and, in my opinion, today we have made a successful start on this process. The implementation of a ferry project would reduce transport costs and affect favorably the prices of the products supplied.
We also discussed ways to promote the implementation of other major transport projects in our region. Personally, I would be very pleased if we could get on with solving the problems affecting other projects, problems that have gone unresolved for many years.
Let me mention our gratitude to the Russian side for responding favourably to our suggestion concerning the possible participation of Bulgarian construction companies in projects in Russia, not only in the capital, Moscow, but also at the sites of the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.
We also discussed the possibility of expanding trade in the area of new technologies, and we took this up with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitrii Medvedev during our conversation. We are already planning important projects and initiatives.
We also discussed other issues that have long been on the agenda of our relations. We have agreed to expedite the resolution of problems concerning a very small amount of debt Russia owes Bulgaria. I am confident that in the coming weeks this issue will be resolved.
On our side we made a commitment to speed up the work of the committee on licensing for special equipment. Of course, we discussed many other issues in which both sides have an interest.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear Mr President! Ladies and gentlemen!
The outcome of today's talks indicate that with respect to all the key issues Russian-Bulgarian relations are flourishing. Today, we managed to discuss and agree on some very important issues, on the solution of which our cooperation and the development of our economies depend heavily. Clearly, such results could not be achieved if we had not been such reliable partners.
Our meeting marked an outstanding event, the joint opening of the Year of Russia in Bulgaria, timed to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke and the re-establishment of Bulgarian statehood.
Of course we made the expansion of business cooperation a priority in the negotiations. In the list of Bulgariaĺs economic partners Russia confidently leads the field. And the steady growth of our joint trade confirms this. In the first ten months of last year, trade between our two countries increased by 22 percent and amounted to 3.4 billion dollars.
We know exactly what problems still exist: they are linked to certain imbalances caused by the fact that Russian exports are dominated by fuel and energy products. Everyone agrees on this point, and we will work together to ensure that this situation improves.
That said, Bulgarian exports to Russia look very good, as I pointed out to our colleagues during the wide-ranging negotiations today. Machinery and equipment make up more than 30 percent, and winemaking products 22 percent.
Of course improving the export structure is one of our key objectives. We believe that our joint efforts should be focused on promoting major bilateral projects. In this context. I would stress in particular the importance of the agreements signed today aimed at the practical implementation of the gas transportation construction project Southern Stream, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the Belene nuclear power station.
Let me point out to the press and the public in our countries that we have set aside 3.8 billion euros in the Russian Federation budget for the implementation of plans to construct a nuclear power station in Belene. Should it be required, we are prepared to extend credit to the Bulgarian side.
We are confident that the successful implementation of all these projects will bring not only tangible economic dividends, but greatly enhance energy security in the Balkans, Europe in general and of course Bulgaria. Carrying out projects in the energy sector of Bulgaria has indisputably become one of the key links in the European energy chain.
There are good prospects for bilateral cooperation open to us in other sectors of the economy: in the field of transport, tourism, investment cooperation and regional cooperation. There is also room to grow in the area of military-technical cooperation and small and medium businesses.
Russian-Bulgarian relations have traditionally been characterized by the very rich potential of our cultural links. Using this valuable capital to the maximum will facilitate intergovernmental agreements in the fields of culture, education and science.
In general, I would like to note that the substantial number of agreements signed during this visit constitutes an excellent basis for the sustained development of mutually beneficial relations between Russia and Bulgaria.
We discussed in detail today our cooperation in the international arena and strengthening security in the Black Sea region on a multilateral basis.
In conclusion, I want to thank the Bulgarian leadership, the entire Bulgarian people and the residents of Sofia for a very warm and genial reception.
We feel it and we are grateful to you for it.
QUESTION: Good afternoon! I have a question for both leaders. Today, an agreement was signed concerning the construction of the Southern Stream gas pipeline. How did you come to sign this agreement? What does this agreement mean for Russia, Bulgaria and Europe as a whole?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Expanding transport infrastructure for the supply of energy to Europe is an absolutely vital task. And our European partners have confirmed this. They have a vested interest in this.
I want to stress in particular that the construction of new infrastructure opportunities does not mean the reduction or phasing out of our cooperation with other transit states. Work on the new routes will provide security, enhance stability and create new transportation capacity for increasing amounts of energy supplies to European consumers.
I will say something that everyone in principle knows: there has been a bruising battle among European countries concerning Russiaĺs construction of such facilities. The existence of such infrastructure in the territory of another country, of course, increases its political and economic importance for Europe. And, among other things, it supplies revenues for the budget.
I want to thank all of our experts who worked on the preparation of this agreement. Today we created a special-purpose joint structure between Gazprom and Eni for the Southern Stream gas pipeline system and the construction of its marine component.
We understand that this is a major international project, and we will do everything to ensure that it is successfully implemented. For Russia, this of course means an increase in our capacity for the direct delivery of our products to consumers in major European countries.
PRESIDENT GEORGI PARVANOV: Let me add a few words of my own. It should be noted that each of these projects has a large economic and social dimension. I would also draw your attention to the issue of security. The project will greatly contribute to the security of the Balkans and of all European countries, especially our neighbours.
We greatly appreciate the position of the Russian side, which agreed with the Bulgarian proposal in connection with the ownership of the pipeline on Bulgarian territory. I personally believe that this decision will meet with public approval in our country. And the signing of the agreement between Gazprom and the Italian company Eni shows how fast the project is moving.
QUESTION: Mr Parvanov, will you will be able to succeed in pleasing your European partners and the Bulgarian public? And a question for the Russian side: Mr President, will you be able to convince other countries that the Southern Stream pipeline will not get bogged down on Bulgarian territory?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We do not need to convince anyone of this. We are asked about it every day, especially during the autumn and the winter. All of our core consumers have problems with deliveries.
Look at our good neighbours and friends, the Turkish Republic. Every year for the last, I think, five years, and this year too, our Turkish friends have come to us with a request to increase significantly the supply of gas to the Turkish market.
Because of the abnormally low temperatures in Central Asia, there have unfortunately been disruptions in supply from there. And Gazprom must meet the needs of Ukraine, other CIS countries and our major customers in Western Europe. Our joint efforts with partners in Central Asia will be designed to ensure that we meet our contractual obligations.
There has been an increase in economic growth in Italy, Greece and the countries of central and southern Europe. The Russian gas pipeline will always be competitive in this market. And there is absolutely no question of having to convince someone to buy this product. The question is how to deal with the growing demand. Russia and its leading company Gazprom are in a position to do this. And in this case, in cooperation with Bulgaria, I am confident we will address these issues effectively.
GEORGI PARVANOV: Let me add something. The presence here of representatives of various European countries testifies to their belief in the correctness of these decisions. And knowing well the enormous energy problems of our neighbors, I am convinced that they share our point of view.
QUESTION: Mr Parvanov, what is the position of Bulgaria as a member of the European Union on the issue of Kosovo? Do you understand, are you aware of the much discussed risks that exist in this region? Do you think your concerns will be heard in the European Union? I would also like to know the opinion of the President of Russia on this issue.
GEORGI PARVANOV: The Bulgarian position is well known. It is one of the active positions within the EU. For us it is very important to achieve unity on this issue in the European Union, to ensure that the problem does not become a new problem that divides the European Union. We are fully aware of and have repeatedly warned of the risks involved in premature decisions on this question. In order to coordinate efforts and protect the interests of all countries in addressing the problem, there was recently a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We believe that negotiations on the Kosovo settlement should be continued, with a view to finding a compromise, which would be agreeable to both the Albanian population of Kosovo and the Serbian population.
We believe that a unilateral declaration of independence and support for this on the part of other countries in the international community would be both unjust and immoral. Russia would not be able to support such a solution.
QUESTION: Mr Putin, concerning the access of Bulgarian researchers to Russian archives, in which there are documents relevant to Bulgarian history during the period of World War II and subsequent Cold War. What is your position on this issue?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I see no problem with granting access to researchers. The problem is rather the transfer of the archives to the Bulgarian side.
In this regard, I wish to inform you of the following: in 1958 a significant part of the archives was transferred to Bulgaria; in 2004, our Bulgarian friends called for the transfer of the remaining part. We asked them to make this request formally and put it on paper. We are still waiting.
Since then, we have received no formal request, but when we do, this application will of course be considered in accordance with the legislation in force in Russia, but in the most sympathetic way.
GEORGI PARVANOV: Allow me also to express my views on this issue, because it relates to my own profession, and I have a point of view on this issue.
There was an appeal, an offer by the Bulgarian Government and a Bulgarian non-governmental organization, that was supported by some prominent representatives of Bulgarian public opinion, especially historians. This request relates to the return of the archives, which were seized immediately after World War II.
We are talking about verbatim transcripts of Government meetings, some of the materials related to the activities of certain political leaders of Bulgaria at the time, in particular, Prince Cyril.
Of course, it is very important to clarify the object of our request. Yesterday and today we discussed this issue with President Putin, and I want to thank him for his patience. The Bulgarian side will prepare a written statement to make their request specific, and then the experts will meet to clarify which archives, which individual units, and which documents are involved.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have agreed with President Parvanovĺs proposal to begin work at the expert level.