Excerpts from Reuters interview with Russian president: Part 1

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Following is the first of three sections giving translated excerpts from Reuters interview with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, conducted earlier this week at the Kremlin:

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev attends an interview with Reuters in Moscow June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

REUTERS: Could you set out your priorities for the EU-Russia summit ?


I think it should be a successful summit and I hope that we can make progress on the most complex problem of recent times - preparing a framework agreement between Russia and the European Union. Besides that, naturally, we will look at all those questions that have accumulated, in an absolutely amicable way, even though in some areas the work has perhaps not proceeded as intensively as we all would have liked.

Nonetheless, the time and place of the summit oblige us to look at all areas of the relationship between the Russian Federation and European Union.

We have many joint projects. I will mention just one figure that surprised even me: Russia is the third largest exporter to the countries of the European Union. The fourth most important market for EU products is the Russian Federation...


But is there any particular priority issue ?


You know, it seems to me that the main priority now is just to keep moving in all directions we have already set out. What do I mean? If we are now ready to sign a new framework agreement with the European Union, that is the main task. It must be a serious document but at the same time not burdened with absolutely concrete things; to a large degree it should be a framework agreement that will set out the basic positions for development in the years ahead.

From the legal and organization point of view, that is the main priority of the summit. In terms of priorities for the relationship between Russia and the European Union - this is a relationship between the Russian Federation, a major European state which defines itself and conducts itself as part of Europe, and the European Union, a community representing a significant number of European governments.

And there are priorities in the areas where we traditionally work together, which I have not mentioned yet...I mean energy cooperation including investment elements, I mean political cooperation, I mean cooperation in fighting international crime, I mean social contacts.


Do you think the European Union is a difficult partner? There are often disagreements among EU members, sometimes concerning Russia.


No, I think the European Union is a comfortable partner on the whole. The European Union is not a united body but a union of various governments and one of the key principles of the work of the European Union is the principle of European solidarity.

And EU solidarity can at times create problems for the functioning of EU mechanisms. Sometimes this creates problems for our relationship if we know, for example, that a significant number of EU government are ready to develop the relationship in a certain way, while one government, or a few governments, have the ability to block the move.

But this is the EU’s internal issue. This position is based on its internal documents. We respect it although we understand that it does not add flexibility in EU decision-making.

But sometimes this harms not only EU-Russian relations but damages the interests of the European Union itself. Look at the Lisbon treaty when one state can block the efforts of dozens of other states... So I don’t consider the European Union a hard or difficult partner. But it is a partner which periodically encounters difficulties.

REUTERS: During the presidency of Vladimir Putin some EU countries criticized Russian foreign policy. Will the situation change during your presidency? What are your foreign policy priorities ?


You know, I think it is quite normal for one country express ideas critical of others. There’s nothing wrong with that. From time to time we too take a critical view of certain actions. On the whole we are attentive and serious when we are criticized by our partners.

As far as our foreign policy is concerned, it will not be determined by the volume of criticism but by domestic considerations... Its essence is consistent - to preserve the national interests of Russia.

The defining values are freedom, democracy and the right to private property. And these are the values we will bring to our relations with our international partners. In this sense our foreign policy cannot be characterized as liberal or conservative or anything else. It must be a policy that supports and furthers our national interests. And that is its essence.


If the essence of foreign policy is to remain the same, will there be differences in nuance or tone?


You see, there are always nuances of tone, nuances of pronunciation and nuances of style - it’s obvious. Every individual is different. Politicians are also people and they should also have their own tone and their own style. But that does not change the basic tenets of policy. Of course sometimes stylistic details have meaning. But it is secondary.


We are approaching another summit - the G8. What proposals will Russia bring to this summit and what do you expect from it?


The summit in Japan comes at a difficult time for the global economy and for many people. It is obvious that the main issues are the global financial crisis, the food crisis and climate change. We view them as key for us too, and we are preparing our own proposals for discussion at the G8 summit.

The G8 countries have a special responsibility for the development of the world economy, for maintaining stability on the planet, and a fully fledged economic regime.

We and other members of the G8 could consider a range of new mechanisms to support a global economic and financial balance and form the basis for a new international financial system, to clear away the old, poorly functioning international mechanism, to think about how to guarantee food security in future and look at the practical realization of these topics.

This could include signing international conventions which would guarantee balanced distribution of food on this planet.

As for the climate, there are already many documents and many international agreements. We also need to consider how to respect the interests of those countries that are participating in the Kyoto protocol and those that don’t want to. Because it’s impossible to deal on the climate with just one group of governments when another group doesn’t take part in agreements. Either we all start to work on it or we need to give up these efforts all together. For that reason I think this must be a central issue at the G8.