Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the St Petersburg Dialogue Public Forum, Bonn, July 18, 2019
Mr Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to speak at the opening of the 18th St Petersburg Dialogue Forum. The forum’s theme is very important: Cooperation As the Keynote of a Peaceful Life in Europe: The Contributions of the Civil Societies of Russia and Germany.
Dialogue has always been the only civilised way of resolving problems while the ability to listen and to hear each other has always been regarded as the most important skill for diplomats and politicians. Overcoming the negative trends that we have seen in recent years – the growing military and political tensions, the narrowing area of cooperation and a decline in mutual confidence – requires systematic and scrupulous work. Depoliticised discussions between members of civil societies that seek to facilitate and enhance mutual understanding between people, can play an indispensable role.
The St Petersburg Dialogue Forum has been an illustration of successful public diplomacy for almost 20 years. It remains one of the influential and popular formats for promoting bilateral cooperation. It is good that the forum does not depend on the ups and downs of the political situation, offering a unique opportunity to hold trust-based discussions on current issues on the bilateral agenda and develop specific measures to promote cooperation between our countries. Mechanisms launched by the forum, like the Minerals and Energy Forum, the Koch and Mechnikov Medicine Forum, the Young Scientists School, and the Social and Youth forums have proven effective.
One of the forum’s priorities is facilitating progressive development of cooperation between Russia and Germany. Relations between our countries have a complicated history and on more than one occasion have been put to a severe test. Today, it is clear that the recession has given way to an upward trend. An intensive political dialogue is being maintained, including at the top and high levels, inter-parliamentary ties are gaining momentum and trade and economic relations have resumed steady growth. We enjoy dynamic cooperation in culture, the humanitarian area, science, education and the historical and commemorative areas. The two countries mark the Year of Russia in Germany and the Year of Germany in Russia, which involve young people, regional and municipal authorities and members of the academic community. All this helps strengthen bilateral relations.
Due to historical factors, power generation is one of the most important parts of Russian-German cooperation. We appreciate Berlin’s principled stand against politicising the purely commercial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project designed to strengthen the EU’s energy security through the diversification of gas supplies to member states via the shortest possible route.
Moscow-Berlin collaboration is not only important in the context of the bilateral agenda, but also when it comes to the key international topics, such as developments in Europe, problems with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as the settlement of the intra-Ukrainian conflict. As a member of the Normandy Four, Germany could work more energetically toward lifting the economic blockade of Donbass, encourage the official adoption of the Steinmeier Formula on the status of these territories and regional elections, as well as try to convince Kiev to fulfil its obligations under the Package of Measures adopted in Minsk in February 2015. Until recently, the implementation of these obligations was stymied by the administration of President Poroshenko.
The new Ukrainian authorities have declared willingness to open up to their citizens living in the southeastern regions and to set out on a path to fully fulfil the Minsk Agreements. It is essential that these intentions are really implemented. The outcome of the recent Minsk meeting of the Contact Group shows that there is hope for this. We will do everything within our power to promote this positive trend. In addition to this, energetic actions must be taken without delay, including by the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to cut short the gross violation of the language, educational and religious rights of the national minorities initiated by the previous administration.
Positive changes in Russian-German relations and their cooperation plans stand out against the backdrop of unilateral and illegitimate sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in defence of the people of Crimea and Donbass, who refused to accept the radical nationalist rulers who staged a coup to seize power in Kiev. The new government promptly declared a war on the Russian language, culture and values as well as adopted Nazi henchmen as their heroes.
Practice has shown that the efforts to hinder Russia’s economic and technological development have boomeranged at European businesses and consumers. Their losses have reached tens of billions of euros. As far as I know, the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations has conducted such surveys.
The Russian and German business communities have obviously had enough of politically motivated restrictions and would like to resume full-scale cooperation. It was a subject of discussions at President Putin’s meeting with the leading members of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations in November 2018, as well as during the meetings with the Russian and German business leaders, which we had together with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, plus during my recent meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Moscow.
Overall, we are concerned about the attempts to enforce a negative agenda on the public and to pursue a policy based on the relapse of the bloc mentality. Acting under its containment concept, NATO is moving its military infrastructure toward the Russian border and has accelerated the admission of new members. However, a mere glance at the defence budgets of Russia and the NATO members – NATO’s military budget is 20 times that of Russia – shows convincingly who threatens who.
Another sensitive problem relates to the agreements on strategic stability. We are especially concerned over the US administration’s efforts to destroy the international legal framework on the nuclear arms control. The withdrawal of the United States, which had pulled out of the ABM Treaty, from the INF Treaty may have far-reaching negative consequences for the entire system of international security, but above all for European security. We hope that Germany as the key state on the continent, as well as the other European countries will act pragmatically and will be guided by their own national interests rather than the misinterpreted principle of trans-Atlantic solidarity.
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes Russia and its allies in Europe and Central Asia, has recently adopted a special address to the NATO member states urging them to launch practical interaction on all matters of mutual concern. We are waiting for a response.
The world is rapidly changing. New centres of economic and political influence are emerging. The attempts to contain, draw dividing lines and outlaw states have been denounced by the overwhelming majority of international players.
I believe that it is much better to work constructively, looking for a balance of interests on Syria, Libya, and Yemen, the Middle East settlement, Kosovo or the preservation of the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme. In the economy, we can join forces to promote integration associations based on equality and mutual benefit. This is the mission of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The EAEU is extending its international ties, and the group of partner states numbers several dozen. We can achieve a great deal within the framework of the concept for the alignment of integration processes in Eurasia and President Putin’s initiative for a Greater Eurasian Partnership that will comprise the member states of the EAEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and will be open for the EU countries.
I am convinced that Germany should join the common efforts to create a broad contour of economic integration on our common continent, as well as a common economic and humanitarian space based on the principle of indivisible security on which many decisions have been taken, including at the OSCE summits.
The impressive format of the Petersburg Dialogue forum when it comes to delegates is an opportunity to air the opinions of our people. I am convinced that both Russians and Germans wholeheartedly want to improve our bilateral relations and to accelerate their development.
I am sure that your discussions will contribute to the general search for effective solutions to current problems.
Thank you. I wish you every success with your work.