Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 36th Meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, June 15, 2021
Today we are holding the first in-person meeting in a long time. It’s good that life is returning to normal.
I would like to welcome all participants of a regular meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation.
Last time we discussed a package of issues related to the youth dimension of interregional cooperation. A number of the recommendations we adopted have formed the basis of programmes to implement the state youth policies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, specifically in the Novosibirsk, Ulyanovsk, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod and Leningrad regions and in the Republic of Karelia. I hope that further energetic actions will be taken towards this goal.
Today we will be discussing the involvement of the Russian regions in the activities of international organisations. Our clear priority is to work in multilateral Eurasian associations. We have achieved certain results in this sphere. For example, interregional cooperation is developing within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with Russia’s leading role: a Programme for the Development of Interregional Cooperation and the Regulations of the SCO Member States’ Heads of Regions Forum have been drafted and adopted. The first Forum was held successfully under the chairmanship of the Chelyabinsk Region in October 2020. We are now preparing for a second meeting.
As you are aware, President Vladimir Putin has put forth the idea of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which provides for aligning the potential of all states and integration associations on our common huge continent. We hope that the constituent entities of the Russian Federation will energetically contribute to this project, especially the regions across which major transport and logistics corridors run, namely the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur rail lines, the Primorye-1 and Primorye-2 international transport corridors, the Northern Sea Route, the Europe – Western China Expressway, the North-South route and the Russia-Mongolia-China economic corridor.
The dialogue at the level of regions and municipalities is complementing our diverse interaction within the framework of BRICS. In 2020, St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Ulyanovsk and Saransk hosted the events of Russia’s BRICS Chairmanship. This coming August Ulyanovsk will be the venue of the first BRICS Youth Camp. The BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum, which our Indian colleagues will organise this year, already has a good track record. The activities of the BRICS International Municipal Forum are highly commendable as well. Its third meeting will be held in St Petersburg in November 2021.
We welcome the Russian regions’ involvement in the projects and programmes of UN bodies, specifically the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN-Habitat.
Our dialogue with UNESCO is developing successfully. It has become an effective tool of humanitarian diplomacy providing an impetus to tourism. I would like to point out an especially energetic participation of Bashkortostan, Altai, Dagestan, Tatarstan, Yugra and Yakutia.
Inspired by the success of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, held at Russia’s initiative in 2019, the UN General Assembly has declared an International Decade of Indigenous Languages in 2022-2032. A related comprehensive action plan is being drafted by the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs. I have no doubt that the Russian regions, given their considerable experience in the preservation and further development of our cultural, historic and linguistic heritage, should energetically join in these efforts. We will provide the necessary assistance.
International cooperation is developing dynamically in the Far North within the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and the Barents Regional Council, which operates under its aegis. In October, the Nenets Autonomous Area will take over the chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council until 2023. I hope that this will enhance the prestige of Russia’s regions within the Barents cooperation system and will help address the large-scale tasks involved in the development of the Russian North. Hopefully this will also contribute to preparations for the Russian chairmanship of the BEAC, which will last from 2023 to 2025.
We attach much importance to strengthening collaboration between regions in the Baltic area, primarily within the formats of the Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation, where this country is represented by the Kaliningrad Region, as well as in the Union of the Baltic Cities, in which St Petersburg participates on behalf of Russia.
We have come up with an initiative to study the possibility of expanding regional collaboration within the Arctic Council, which Russia will chair between 2021 and 2023. Eighty Russia-directed events have been planned, with most of these due to take place in Russia’s Arctic regions. There is no doubt that this will promote their socioeconomic development and incentivise foreign partners’ interest.
Fruitful cooperation within the Northern Forum, a non-governmental organisation, deserves a positive assessment. This organisation includes all the Arctic regions of the Far North.
Russia’s Eastern regions are making a significant contribution to the Association of Northeast Asia Regional Governments. There are possibilities for building up their participation in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
In the latter half of 2022, Russia will assume Chairmanship of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). We plan to use the infrastructure of the Rostov Region and the Krasnodar Territory to hold a number of multilateral events under the aegis of this organisation.
There is an ongoing effective dialogue through the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. Importantly, the Congress, unlike some other Council of Europe structures, remains a venue with a unifying agenda that avoids excessive politicisation. Successful work by the Russian delegation led by the Governor of the Leningrad Region makes it possible to maintain a constructive, de-politicised dialogue with the heads of regions and cities of European states.
Despite the Brussels-launched sanctions spiral, there is continued collaboration under border cooperation programmes with the EU countries and Norway. The combined budget of these projects has exceeded 300 million euros. Let me mention separately the Association of European Border Regions, whose operations involve Russia’s Kursk and Kaliningrad regions and the Republic of Karelia.
We are interested in establishing new regional organisations, including the Bering/Pacific-Arctic Council, which implies the participation of a number of Russian Arctic regions and Alaska. So far, our US partners have been thinking over this proposal. To be sure, we are still open to developing inter-regional cooperation with the United States within the framework of the Russian American Pacific Partnership.
These are truly major tasks. I want to reaffirm the interest of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the consistent and progressive development of inter-regional ties and the enhancement of the Russian regions’ profile at various international venues. Today’s meeting enables us to discuss in detail the existing projects and draw up useful recommendations for the future.
I hope we will all work fruitfully. Thank you for your attention.