President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev answered to questions from Russian journalists after summit in Minsk, Belarus (Customs Union, CSTO, CIS, OSCE)

QUESTION: Mr President, first how would you assess the outcome of today's summit? And, secondly, given the negotiations and signed documents, everything seems to have clarified for Russia: how it will join the WTO, alone or with its partners? When could this happen?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The results of today's summit have been reviewed by the heads of delegations. I just want to say once again that I think the agreements that were signed today are very important.

In all seriousness, in effect we have been moving in this direction since the emergence of new countries from the former Soviet Union. What has been achieved is real economic integration not in word but in deed.

The Customs Union is a first step towards an integrated economic space. It is an opportunity to make concerted efforts on all fronts, using the same sorts of evaluative criteria, that is, a single customs tariff, pursuing a common policy in respect to goods, works and services, eliminating or preventing the creation of trade barriers, getting rid of the obstacles that exist between our two countries in order to promote the full development of mutual trade, and subsequently developing mutual investment and creating uniform rules of the game.

Let me remind you that the Customs Union should ultimately create the basis for a common economic space, and this is already the prototype of highly integrated economies, such as those that now exist in the European Union and other countries.

As far as the implications for our country, including those associated with our entry into the World Trade Organisation, you know, in principle nothing has really changed for us beyond what I said. Nothing new has happened.

We really have, as agreed, created not just a Customs Union but already signed the necessary documents. Now they will be ratified, and we'll get to work on opening up our economic spaces for the application of new tariffs and the application of a new unified Customs Code.

Of course now our negotiations with the WTO will take place in the light of this new situation - that is obvious. But this will hardly have a dire effect on the Customs Union or on the WTO, rather the reverse. It opens up additional opportunities to better understand each other.

I have repeatedly said that we have been sitting in the dressing room of the WTO. If we acknowledge that Russia needs WTO membership, then the World Trade Organisation should understand that the more countries participate in its activities, the more widespread the influence that the WTO has.

Incidentally, the WTO has a lot of problems. They are having a lot of discussions. And the more actively these discussions are conducted by various countries, the greater the likelihood of reaching an agreement. So as I was saying to my colleagues, as a matter of fact, the WTO is not the first and last goal.

Our goal is to develop our economy, so that our citizens can live in comfort. The WTO is a means to an end, an institution which helps to create a level playing field, removes trade barriers, and does not allow protectionism - that's what the WTO is. It's an important institution, but it is after all just an institution. We would like to participate in this institution.

Now, as to how we accede [to the WTO]. As we said, we can now join in the light of those documents that have been signed. According to these documents, by the way, most of the positions taken correspond to our negotiating position with the WTO.

The overall maximum tariff in this case, on which we have agreed, is even lower than the tariff that we were advocating in our negotiations with the WTO. So I think that this should accelerate the negotiation process.

If we're talking about how to join, there are the two options that I have already outlined. The first option, the first variant, means joining the WTO as the Customs Union, which already effectively exists, not just on paper but in the sense of a genuine, signed contract.

And the second option would involve the different countries - I mean Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia - joining the WTO separately but synchronising their positions with their Customs Union partners. Either option is absolutely fine with us. If we feel at some point that some sort of collective accession would be too complicated right now, in agreement with our partners we will do it separately, but ultimately we will synchronise our positions. Just who will be quicker to carry it out is more a technical question. We have the same mindset.

QUESTION: Mr President, please permit me a question about another summit, the European Union's. Just today they finally announced the governing bodies of the EU, a new agreement, new positions, new faces, including those responsible for energy and for security. In your opinion, could these changes in any way affect your initiative for a new European security architecture?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, we are pleased that our European partners have finally managed to overcome their internal problems and have created what is in essence already a modern union.

This is probably the model for which we ultimately must strive. They took a long time to achieve this, but the ultimate result seems a good one to me. This is despite the fact that I am convinced that the European Union is facing some serious challenges, because it is one thing when decisions are taken by consensus, and everyone is in favour. And if someone refuses to vote for something, then no decision can be made. It is quite another thing, when the decision is taken by majority vote. This means disagreement, this means resentments.

What does this signify? Simply that, even in an organisation as integrated as the European Union, there can be problems. What are we to make of the fact that in Europe there are other nations that do not belong to the EU and are not members of the North Atlantic bloc? So the initiative of signing the Treaty on European Security looks increasingly important in light of the new rules of the European Union.

We are ready to continue the promotion of this initiative in a variety of venues: at meetings of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organisation], the CIS, OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe], the European Union, and every other possible venue. Why do I say this? Because my partners often ask me the same question: you have come up with this initiative, we like it, but we do not understand what it means exactly.

And despite the fact that I answer this question every time, for various reasons - maybe my answer isn't clear enough, maybe they aren't listening - sooner or later I hear the same old question: what is your initiative exactly?

I have decided to lay it all out in black and white. And tomorrow or the day after the text of our draft treaty on European security will be published, which is based on the principle of the indivisibility of European security and the impossibility of resolving one's problems, the impossibility of guaranteeing one's security by reducing the safety of others.

The draft treaty will include procedures for conflict resolution - this is particularly important in the light of the events of August last year, and other procedures that, in my view, are capable of raising the level of European security to a fundamentally new level. Of course, this agreement is in keeping with the principles of the Helsinki Accord and other solutions that exist concerning security issues in Europe.

We will be ready to discuss this treaty in a wide range of versions, we are willing to listen attentively to our partners' suggestions, but now our partners will have a draft of this document that in my view can serve as the basis for further discussion.

I very much hope that European leaders will read this document carefully, and during bilateral and multilateral meetings with them we will continue discussing this issue. The final result will be a new and coherent treaty on European security.


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