ERIC HOESLI: Mr.President, let me on my behalf and on behalf of my colleagues to thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. We have prepared three sets of questions to discuss with you.
The first group of questions concerns relations between Switzerland and Russia in light of your forthcoming visit. The second set of questions relates to the current political events in Russia, and, in particular, the statements that you made during the Valday Club meeting and your article in Gazeta.ru. And the third group of questions concerns Russia’s foreign policy and its image abroad.
I would like to start with a question concerning your visit to Switzerland. You will be the first Head of Russian State to ever visit Switzerland. Tsars, Secretaries General, Presidents- none of your predecessors made such a visit. You and your predecessors visited almost every European country, except Switzerland. How does it happen that you are visiting us so late? How to explain the fact that Switzerland is in the very bottom of Russia’s priorities?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I can hardly speak about what has happened before me. I can say that Switzerland is not at the bottom of my priorities, just by the fact that it is not much time that I occupy my post but I already go to Switzerland on a state visit. I think everything is okay in this regard. As for me personally, I have visited Switzerland more than once. I love Switzerland, I like your State. It is very diverse and it has its historic place in the world and in Europe, it has its own position on most diverse issues, which, by the way, has always been the reason to respect it, because Swiss citizens- they are like other Europeans, but not quite as much, which is precisely the identity that we respect in each other. This is what, on the one hand, brings us closer, and, on the other hand, shows our peculiarities. I am very glad that this state visit will finally take place, and it is true that our relations have a centuries-long history, and we do have common pages in that history. By the way, my visit will be dedicated, among other things, to one of those common pages. I mean Suvorov’s march across the Alps, which happened already 210years ago.
Many citizens of Switzerland worked not only for their State but also for Russia. I am not going to enumerate all of them, you know pretty well who I am talking about. Of course, some of them, like, for instance Domenico Trezzini, form part of our common culture, including the culture of SaintPetersburg, where I come from. For me it is not just a name from a book, it is a person who created the image of SaintPetersburg. That is why I am preparing for this visit with a great interest. I am confident that it will be a busy visit, that we will discuss all the current issues with the President, and we will also talk about bilateral matters. We will discuss international and European affairs. Of course, we will discuss the crisis. It is impossible to omit this topic. We will discuss different problems related to that, both in Russia and in Switzerland. Thus, the agenda is quite busy.
Of course, despite the fact that I have visited Switzerland several times on business matters and just for vacation, I hope that I will be able to see a new small piece of Switzerland.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: Mr.President, you are going to visit Switzerland. The first question to you is what expectations do you have visiting our country, and where do you see a potential for further development of Russian-Swiss relations? One should also bear in mind the fact that Russian-Swiss relations were not always very easy, there were periods of tension, for instance, those provoked by the tragic air crash. Where could you see a potential for conflicts or complicated relations between Russia and Switzerland?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, difficulties may happen both in your life and in bilateral relations. But today I would not like to focus on some difficulties or conflict potential. Thanks God, we do not have such conflict zones or they do not exist actually. And all small problems that arise could always be settled. This is precisely what I am visiting your country for, and this is the reason why our Swiss colleagues visited the Russian Federation. This is an absolutely normal practice.
As for the potential I can see it in several areas, of course. First of all, as it usually happens in inter-state relations, it lies in business links. Russia is widely represented in Switzerland. We have diversified economic relations, and we have a structured and well-functioning interaction, including in the area of finance. I believe that it is fairly important. I can tell you frankly that I do not see anything bad in the fact that some times Russian business started to take advantage of the possibilities in Switzerland, because business always chooses a comfortable environment. The challenge of modern Russia is to create such environment here.
But we do understand that there are states with a traditionally very high level of financial services. I believe that it is perfectly normal when Switzerland is used for such purposes. That is why, I believe, this area of cooperation is very important. It does not mean that we should not develop business cooperation in other areas: production, services, or tourism. All those are good areas of cooperation, and I am confident that a certain impetus will be provided to their development, including during my state visit.
Another direction is, certainly, cultural and humanitarian relations. Ibelieve that this is another important issue, because it dictates the mood of the people, it determines how well we understand and feel each other, it also serves as a basis for our wish to visit some place for vacation. Therefore, we are always glad when Swiss citizens come to Russia, and we are always glad when our citizens visit Switzerland for vacation- for alpine skiing or for summer time.
Finally, there is another area which, in my view, is also very important. It is regional cooperation and pan-European cooperation. I have already mentioned that Switzerland has its own position in Europe, and it is good because it enables Switzerland to look at certain problems from its perspective and to avoid certain stereotypes. Everybody has stereotypes. Our European colleagues have them, we, perhaps, also have stereotypes. And when there is a state, which looks at the same thing from another angle, it may help in addressing some complicated issues.
Well, we are all concerned with the European security now. Russia has formulated its proposals. What do they include? They include establishing a universal forum where most diverse European issues would be addressed and all states would be present, since there are different kinds of states in Europe: NATO members and non-NATO members, EU members and non-EU members, there are Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members, there is the Collective Security Treaty of which Russia is a party, as well as the OSCE, which is indeed a universal forum, while it doesn’t solve all the problems dealing with, in my opinion, minor issues and it does not certainly solve security problems. Hence, the idea of international cooperation in the sphere of European security seems very urgent to me, and I would like to discuss this topic with my Swiss colleagues.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: Another question. Is there any evidence that you can obtain Swiss support for your initiative?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, there is evidence that we can obtain support for this initiative from different countries, I think Switzerland has direct reasons to support this initiative, because Switzerland is a unique country; it is not bound by bloc discipline. And as I see it, Switzerland finds it important to be entwined in the texture of European ties while preserving its neutral status. That’s why I’m positive in my hope.
MACUS ACKERET: Mr. President, you’ve already mentioned Switzerland as a financial center and its significance. Switzerland is one of the most important world financial centers without being a member of G20.
Does Russia support Switzerland joining the negotiations in G20 format?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think Switzerland should occupy its well-deserved place in a variety of formats just because Switzerland is one of the leading world financial centers. Switzerland is more than beautiful mountainous country or a country with the interesting history, it is a serious financial center after all.
As to participating or not participating in certain formats, it does not for sure depend on Russian position alone. This depends on the general consolidated position. But my personal position is as follows. I think we should seek for such forms of cooperation now that allow us to resolve issues. What do I exactly mean?
The G8, with all respect it deserves, has shown that it is unable to cope with the crisis on its own. It is already a fact. It was necessary to create a new format of G20. Is this format perfect and absolutely universal? Perhaps not, since not all the issues can be discussed among these twenty major states. Hence, we need to develop such formats where all the issues could be solved, including complex ones: tax jurisdictions, tax regimes, banking sector and every important item which is indeed being discussed now, from the one hand, and which is important for Switzerland, from the other hand. Therefore, I believe that all formats are excellent where existing issues can be resolved.
ERIC HOESLI: I would like to come over to today’s situation in Russia. Many Russians and also foreigners, by the way, read your article in “Gazeta.ru” with great interest. This week, at the “Valday Club” you also spoke, and there were a couple of clear and relatively tough phrases in relation to the present situation in Russia. I was there and I listened to your address. I would like to ask you the following question. What has changed today, why such words are used today (at least, you stated the situation, but many observers were shocked by the contrast between your tough, firm, resolute phrases and words today compared to your position a year ago)?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Everything is changing in this world. The position of a President should also change. It does not mean that the President should recoil from side to side. Every one of us should correspond to his place and assess the situation adequately. What I said this year, in the interview, in my new article in “Gazeta.ru” and other media, and also addressing the Forum, is the continuation of what was said last year. It does not mean, however, that Ishould use the same words. And certainly, the rethinking happened of some things. I can tell you about that sincerely, I have already told that. What do I mean? Our economy, notwithstanding everything what has been done lately to develop it, help it get on new rails, turn away from the hard past, first of all, the Soviet past and the 90s, it appeared, to put it mildy, non-competitive in the times of a crisis. And this is a hard test to stand. We all underestimated the impact of crises on the economy in our country. We should openly admit this and I have already said this. In the end of last year – beginning this year we forecast one or two percent recession, as well as many our European colleagues, by the way, they also underestimated many things. Now we are having a very considerable recession. And this makes us take a tougher attitude towards our priorities and take, perhaps, more radical and tougher decisions. And this concerns first of all the structure of the economy.
What’s the use of the crisis except for it is a colossal test? It allows us to rethink life. If it was not for this recession, we may have continued to develop inertially. Everything would have been calm, say, raw materials would have brought us considerable revenues, and it would have been fine. But, from the other hand, if it would have lasted some more years, the extent of a meltdown could have been much greater with such events, since we would have preserved our approaches to the economy, that is our backwardness, to a certain extent. And now we have to address it more substantially. Evidently, we are far from being successful in everything for the time being, and far from being done with everything. But here is a wish to rethink many perceptions which are traditional for us.
If we talk about other spheres: political, legal, anti-corruption measures, judicial system development, civil society and democratic institutions development, my ideas are being developed here also. What may have seemed not quite adequate just a year ago, is being implemented already. I already voiced several ideas in my last Address [to the Federal Assembly], which have already become laws. I believe I have to voice several ideas this year also. This is aimed at improving our political system. And I told sincerely that our political system was also developing and we had no illusions that we managed to create an efficient democracy which would have been an example to other countries and would have helped our people solve their problems. The piece of criticism which was voiced in my speech may be related to that.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: But in your critical statements you mention problems of corruption, significant challenges in the field of human rights, problems of energy resources and reliance on energy resources. This situation hasn’t improved over the recent years. What in your opinion could be the major steps to redress a situation in these areas?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: In certain areas we’ll be able to make such steps over quite a short period of time, however there are some challenges, and I’m not under illusion here, that will require a lot of time to address. As for our reliance on raw materials, on gas, oil and other kinds of raw materials that we export, this economic model was created not in the 90’s and not over this decade. This model goes back to the Soviet era. The Soviet economy was built on several pillars. This is first of all oil, gas and selling of a number of export commodities. It’s absolutely true. This situation has emerged over recent 40-50 years. It is our own defense industry, which provided for lots of work, orders and jobs. This is the structure of economy that we inherited. Thus there is nothing new about it.
The question is how to readjust this system in a short term. It will be hard. Because to achieve this, we will require large-scale investments. Nevertheless, I think that we will be able to reduce our reliance on raw materials over a certain number of years. That won’t be one or two years. But given that we act coherently, consistently, in about five-ten years we may be able to establish a separate cluster, let’s say, the cluster of high-technology industry. I’m not going to give you examples of other countries. But even in Europe there are some countries that managed to establish an IT-sector in the course of ten-fifteen years, for example Finland. It means that it is achievable over this period of time.
Not long ago I said that from my point of view it’s very important for our new economy to have the size comparable to that of the raw-material economy. It doesn’t mean that we should abandon oil and gas. We will certainly export these raw materials, develop cooperation in the energy sector with other countries. But our new economy should be of proportionate volume, at least to some extent. I think that this is a solvable problem and this problem can be solved in a relatively short period of time. There are tasks that are much more delicate and complicated.
You mentioned the fight against corruption. That is a truly eternal problem for Russia. I referred to it in my article. Unfortunately, it’s not the problem that can be addressed through simple solutions. More specifically: the problem of corruption can be resolved over a short period of time but only in a unique manner, as it is addressed in totalitarian societies. It goes without saying that in closed tough totalitarian regimes the corruption level can be relatively low. But it’s not the path we should follow. We cannot go back in the past. But just to be objective, we have to admit that, let’s say, in the tsarist period, when there was not a scintilla of democracy in our country, corruption was flourishing. In the Soviet period its level was, perhaps, lower than now. That is the objective truth, as everything was under tight control.
I’m not implying that we should go back to those times. We need new technologies, that will encourage people for sound, honest work. And that would be a different kind of education. It means creation of the new way of thinking. Unless it emerges, it would be hard to make people adopt it. But it doesn’t mean that we on the other hand should lose heart.
Last year the special anti-corruption plan was adopted. Besides, under this plan the law was passed. For the first time in history of the Russian Federation and the Russian state in general the law contains rules concerning definition of corruption crimes; special code of laws, including rules dealing with accountability of civil servants, their incomes declaring. We shouldn’t forget that there were no such laws before. On one part, we should get used to it and on the other part control observance of this law. Therefore we may require more time to solve this problem. It doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t undertake this task.
Once I mentioned that when we were formulating an overall approach to combating corruption, there were some people, who voiced their doubts concerning this undertaking, who thought that we wouldn’t achieve significant progress in the near future, that we would be accused of starting this fight against corruption and not obtaining results. I replied that we had to do it, even though we wouldn’t be able to overcome this situation in the next one-three years. No country is immune from corruption, crime, organized crime. In the 30’s – 40’s the level of organized crime in many developed European countries, I’m not speaking about the USA, was beyond any limits. However they coped with it and we should achieve the same results.
ERIC HOESLI: With your permission I’ll continue this topic. You used harsh words in you article in the Gazeta.ru and again during the Valday club meeting you were speaking about corrupted functionaries, who rule Russia. When I talk to your fellow countrymen, I can see that many of them fully agree with the diagnosis that you’ve made. They consider you a bold person, but very few people believe that something can be changed. There was a lot of talk about the reforms, the reforms didn’t yield any results. Is there a need, in your opinion, for any kind of a token gesture, let’s say, a symbolic arrest of an oligarch, a corrupted functionary that would give weight to your statements, infuse people with additional hope?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think I would trade-off my beliefs, if I told you that we need to arrest a functionary for the sake of the symbol. Because people should be arrested for a different reason, they should be arrested on the grounds of strong evidence of their guilt, their implication in a crime. Although sometimes high-profile cases lead to strengthening the credibility of authorities. But one shouldn’t just make advances, do politicking, run into populism, because risks are too high. At the same time, speaking about the real court cases there are many of them. Well, it means that corruption is a large-scale problem. However dozens of high-ranking civil servants are on trial in Russia. The problem is that sometimes it won’t form a one picture. Russia is a big country, thus the amount of adversity, of corruption, is very big too. Actually, I think that we are ranking first according to the number of people, being on trial.
The same holds true for dishonest entrepreneurs. Very often, speaking about legal proceedings concerning entrepreneurs people refer to the same list of names but only in terms of whether their conviction was justified or not, whether their conviction had to do with political issues. However it occurs to nobody that a significant number of entrepreneurs, who are on trail, violated the law. Not that I’m glad about it, on the contrary it’s sad. But that is the way of the world.
When the crisis began, serious measures were taken in many countries, and many businessmen lost their property, while some were prosecuted and jailed, sometimes they were sentenced to a whole century, in the sense that they literally would have to stay in prison up to 99 years. And no one questions this because their guilt has been proven.
Therefore I think that we should proceed from legal criteria even if somebody doesn’t like it.
MACUS ACKERET: In your article you did not once mention the United Russia party. Could it be that the current political system, in which one party holds a monopoly, is one of the greatest obstacles in modernizing the country?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I did not mention the United Russia Party not because I don’t like it, but because the United Russia party is just like any other party. Yet today it has gained popularity, and is holding the power. But from the viewpoint of law, it is just like any other party. This is the first point.
Second. I believe that the fact that today we have such a strong political force does not impede development of democracy, and on the contrary it helps developing the party system. I shall explain why. While the role of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union was once and for all determined by Article 6 of the Constitution, the role of United Russia is not determined by any normative acts. And if United Russia starts losing popularity, it will naturally loose its power. United Russia should think how to maintain this popularity.
Each political system has its features, and attributes. I do not believe that our political system will be developing, for example, according to the Japanese pattern, where one party, as you know, ruled for sixty years. And only recently the situation changed, and a representative of another party headed the government. Today, I actually had a telephone conversation with him. And for them this event has marked a fundamental change. But no one before that had claimed that the political system in Japan was not democratic. It is peculiar, and it is original. Yet it is democratic.
I do not know how long would such triumphant participation of United Russia in power last. I wish that it proved its right to run the country with its effectiveness. And then it will all be just fine. Yet it doesn’t mean that other parties should not develop. Moreover, I believe that competition among the parties should actually contribute to political system development. In the future I believe that we should get such a system where several parties will be competing on a continuous basis. This is absolutely normal. We should not create such a situation artificially though. We should not say that the party, despite its popularity, should get only half of votes. This would not be democratic. But in the future, I believe, that there will be a situation when several large political forces would compete for the electorate. And even today such parties exist in their prototype. They are not ideal, but they exist. We already have left-wing parties with their electorate, and right-wing parties that can get their electorate, but are not yet represented in the State Duma. We also have a centrist party that in the current situation more fully reflects the interests of the electorate, it is the United Russia. Therefore this is a question of developing party culture.
ERIC HOESLI: I would like to get back to the question that was widely discussed after your statement and the statement of the Prime Minister concerning your relationships. I was struck when I was listening to you and Mr.Putin, when you spoke about your relations, and the famous phrase that “we are of the same blood”. What does it mean, that people belong to one family or that one is father, the other – son. What does this phrase mean?
One more thing that also astonished me. During the discussion you spoke a lot about your ties with Barack Obama, the relations, hearty relations that were established, while the Prime Minister spoke more about his friendship with Bush. And therefore my question is the following. Can we say that you belong already to the next political generation?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Well, as regards any blood relations or blood type I have already said during our meeting at the Valday Forum. This is of course a figurative comparison, after all I did not make it, but rather my colleague Vladimir Putin. But I believe that it is interesting because of at least the following, which I shall try to describe.
The matter is that the educational code, those roots people get in youth, the roots on which their life attitudes are formed- that’s what is very important. And this is why in this sense we indeed have absolutely the same roots or the same blood type. Because we grew up in St.Petersburg, the then Leningrad, and received education at the same university department, we shared the same atmosphere during the Soviet period. While my colleague Vladimir Putin was a student in the 70s, which was one situation. I was a student during a period that began still in the Brezhnev times and finished my education under Gorbachev. There were certain specific conditions then. Nevertheless the level of education, professors’ qualifications, certain life values, abilities that were developed at the University, the desire to apply them in practice, the range of contacts- all this is very close. And therefore when we are painted all the time with different paints- one is a young liberal lawyer, the other – a spy, who returned from the “cold”, is incorrect because we indeed have similar perceptions concerning many things in life. Although all people are different, which is clear, it is ridiculous to say that we are similar in everything; this would also be an exaggeration.
As regards the question of generations, as you know, the matter is not just the fact that Vladimir is older than me, I am younger, but that he simply had a chance to work with Bush. This is an objective reason. I worked with Bush far less, although we also have met-– we have talked at the G-8 Summit as well as during bilateral meetings. I believe that perhaps my impressions of him are more fragmented. As for Obama we actually met in a full-fledged format and it was such, you may call it, a moment of truth, because by that time,- with all due respect for George W. Bush,- the relations between America and Russia had degraded to the limit, almost to the level of the Cold War. I shall not dwell on the reasons for this. It is not necessary now. There is no secret about the fact that Barack Obama, just as I, wished to overcome this situation. This is fine, this is for the benefit of all, for the benefit of our countries, and for the benefit of peace. If we succeed to achieve at least something, and we have laid the groundwork for this, it would be just fine.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: Mr. President, there is another question of the hour. The United States have allegedly made a decision not to deploy the ABM system in Eastern Europe. What is your reaction to that? And if it is really so, what steps will make Russia in relation to the United States in this case?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I am waiting for the definitive information. For the time being, when our interview is recorded, I have not yet received it. But the fact that such a signal was sent is a very good one. It shows that our American partners, as a minimum, are ready to listen to the arguments and position of the Russian side, to take part in the dialogue and make decisions aimed at damping down the situation.
I do not think that the third position area in Europe will allow somebody to draw some dividends, except a group of politicians interested in this decision and a group of companies which will be supplying the corresponding countermissiles and producing radars but they have their own interests. As for the situation in Europe, it would not be improved at all, but the relations between the United States and Russia and, unfortunately, as a result of it, between Europe and Russia would be substantially tensed. For this reason, from the very beginning we opposed this idea. And if this idea is not implemented in this way it will be very good for Europe and good for the American-Russian relations. But I have to take a final look at proposals made by the American side. This signal is a positive one. We will certainly study it.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: In this connection, I have one more question. Does it mean that Russia is going to meet the United States halfway and agree to some compromises in other areas?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We are both grown up and responsible persons. And when I was talking about my partner – Barack Obama – I mentioned that we are really trying to build new relations. It is very important that in fact we had the same education. It is good, too. I was saying this about my colleague – Vladimir Putin. I can tell the same thing in relation to Barack Obama. And when we have been studying, we have even used, to a certain extent, the same textbooks. This is true, too. Because when I was doing my postgraduate studies I could use American textbooks to study. It was useful.
Why I am talking about it? We are quite grown up and responsible persons not to condition a decision to another one. Well, indeed, there is always a score in politics. This is evident. And if our partners hear some our concerns we certainly will be paying more attention to their concerns. It does not mean primitive compromises and exchanges. But the fact that they defer to our opinion gives us a clear signal that we have to listen attentively to our partners, our American partners.
MACUS ACKERET: Twenty years after the Cold War was over the image of Russia in the West is partly different from the image that Russia should have from its point of view. The last year war in Caucasus, violations of human rights also in Russian Northern Caucasus influence time and again the image of Russia in the West. What can Russia do to change this bad image? What are reasons for this bad image of Russia in the West? And why it is sometimes difficult for Russia to find real friends even in the post-Soviet space, in the CIS space?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Image is a complex notion. It is formed from the most different elements. I would wish too that Russia has the most favorable image. But the image is not only how we are perceived but it also is how we identify, perceive ourselves. Who has the best image? Who is strong, efficient and rightful. This is a state, a society that we must build. What are, for example, the problems with the perception of us in the West and our communication problems with it? Because, unfortunately, beside our own problems which you have mentioned and mentioned correctly, there is a lot of stereotypes remaining from the times of the Cold War. I knew it before. But I can tell you honestly, when I became President I had, as they say, this experience first-hand and saw how many stereotypes weighed upon us. Probably, they weigh upon us, upon Russia, too. But also upon our partners from the West, from Europe, from the United States of America as well. Actually, they are still looking at us through the rifle sight, in a figurative sense, thinking that practically all our aspirations are based on the wish to obtain some results by military objectives, redivide the map of the world, and solve some economic problems by rough means. What are the reasons for such an approach? These reasons are connected with the visions of the past. And I do not say that Russia is sinless and does not do anything that can be perceived in different ways. Probably, every state makes mistakes, too. Or rather its leaders make mistakes. This is normal, sometimes it has to be admitted.
But in general the fact that there are some problems with the image that you mentioned may also be connected to a large extent with our perception of the West. Moreover, this problem has a reverse side, I fear, for the relations. Many Western countries are perceived very critically in Russia. The problem is not just that Russia is perceived somewhat wrongly, first of all, by the political establishment, business circles or by some intellectuals of the West. But it is also an issue that not all Western countries are perceived adequately by Russians. Many in our country feel offended by such attitude. This is the first point.
The second point. Certainly, there are stereotypes, this is also true, which remained from almost 80-year Soviet history.
For this reason we should not get angry with each other, boast of our own inherent merits, but we have to treat each other from the equal position, mutually educate, if necessary, each other. There are a lot of other areas where Russia could learn and we are not ashamed of admitting it, so we must speak right out about it. But this is not a pretext for self-flagellation and other conclusions.
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: One more very short question on Russia’s image. There are a lot of human rights violations that are brought to the European Court in Strasbourg, and that is an established fact.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: So, what is the question?
CHRISTOF FRANZEN: Why is there no progress on preventing human rights violations? And why are the reforms of the European Court in Strasbourg also blocked?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: As far as the situation around human rights is concerned, it is, of course, far from being sterile; the number of human rights violations is considerable, and they should be eliminated. We should protect human rights by all possible means, first of all, in court. And in this sense, there are so many of violations for the reason of absence of efficient state and efficient court. These are the institutions we need to develop. Up to a certain extent, this is also a question of people’s attitude, since not nearly all the problems today are solved in court.
As for the situation with human rights and court jurisdiction, in my opinion, it has partially to do with the imperfection of our judicial system. We should develop it, adjusting it according to our state interests and, most importantly, to the interest of our people. Since today our judicial system, perhaps, does not provide all the means for effective protection, for being able to go to a court of appropriate instance and have a just court decision made. Our judicial system is so organized that one can fairly quickly apply to Strasbourg. On the one hand, it is a good thing.
On the other hand, however, it impedes development of our judicial system. One can well set up a system when after a district court one goes directly to Strasbourg. But will it really help to deal with the issue? We should develop our own judicial system and not overload the Strasbourg court. This is, of course, not to say that Strasbourg is reviewing cases that deserve an effective response from the state. This is both our internal issue and, at the same time, an issue of improvement of our judicial system. That is why I think that as our judicial system develops, the number of cases in Strasbourg should decrease. Nevertheless, if our citizens view Strasbourg as the only place to apply, they have the right to do so.
As far as the so-called Protocol 14 is concerned, since you’re obviously referring to that, this question should be addressed to the Parliament, not to President. The President introduced the draft law, which was rejected by the Parliament because it considered the draft to contain several things that are against the interests of our country. But it does not mean that the process is haulted. Just yesterday I was reported on the updates. Now we are checking a number of things. The work in this area has resumed; our colleagues are working on this protocol, and we are thinking about how we can contribute to this process.
MACUS ACKERET: Last months, there have been several contradictory statements by the Russian authorities on the issue of Russia’s accession to the WTO. And for outside observers, Russia’s decision to accede the WTO as a member of the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan looks like an attempt to delay this process.
Do you support Russia’s decision to accede the WTO? And what do you think the Russian government has to do to ensure Russia’s accession to the WTO?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The government has to do nothing. We did want to accede the WTO, and we still want to do it now. The fact that we are not in the WTO has to do with the WTO itself, as well with a number of states that block our accession. Our position has no contradictions of any kind. The contradictions are as follows. We want to accede the WTO. At the same time, we want a stronger integration with Kazakhstan and Belarus. I can tell you very frankly that about a year ago, maybe a little earlier, President Nazarbayev and I agreed to speed up the creation of the Customs Union. What did we agree about? It was very simple: if we were still kept in the ante-chambre of the WTO, we would create the Customs Union very quickly and would accede the WTO as members of the Customs Union.
And if we acceded the WTO by then, we would configure our Customs Union somewhat differently. Nothing has changed since then, and it is very good. We have not, of course, given up the idea to accede the WTO and will be acting on it; moreover, we are willing to consider different ways of accession: either as a Customs Union or, in case it creates technical difficulties, as the separate countries. In the latter case, we of course, would coordinate our positions before the accession, and now such coordination is in progress. We will work out common positions with Kazakhstan and Belarus and will work from that, but will be acceding the WTO at different paces. This is my position, and I have given a relevant instruction to the government; naturally, the position of the government is the same, so there are no contradictions here.
ERIC HOESLI: The last question will be about the Northern Caucasus. We were saying that a lot of officials, journalists and human rights activists have been killed; that there have been terrorist attacks. If all this is left unpunished, doesn’t it undermine the authority of the state? Aren’t you afraid that this impunity creates a negative image of Russia?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: If these things are left unpunished, they, no doubt, undermine authority of the state, of the state’s officials, of the law enforcement agencies. I have nothing to add here. These things, however, should not be left unpunished, and this is not so. Although lately the Northern Caucasus has suffered from a new wave of terrorist attacks, we are combating terrorism. And anybody could become a victim of terrorists, including human rights activists, whose deaths have just a deeper social resonance. Law enforcement officials become victims, too. I regret to say, a lot of them have been killed lately. They are ordinary people with their own families. They are ordinary citizens that accidentally become victims of terrorists. So, if all these crimes are left unpunished, this cannot but undermine the state’s authority. But we should do all we can to prevent impunity.
And I understand that most attention is usually given to such an unpleasant, negative information; I, however, can tell you with all responsibility that lately, in spite of all those severe crimes, we have managed to solve a considerable number of criminal cases, prevent a considerable number of terrorist attacks (some details are yet even not to be disclosed), the possible consequences of which could have been simply disastrous. Several terrorist leaders have been terminated. The number of the terminated bandits by far extends the number of their victims. This means that the counter-measures in this area are in progress. But we should not only finish this battle, but also investigate the crimes that have been committed earlier, including those against murdered human rights activists, as well as against other people, and carry out all legal actions in full. That is not simple merely because our judicial system is yet working not so fast, perhaps, as we would like it to work. Generally, any judicial system is inert and not always capable of making decisions that immediately achieve tangible results.
A question is frequently asked about a jury trial. A jury trial is an absolutely humane institution. But one should say frankly that, first, we have established our jury court whose competence is much broader than that of European. This is a true fact, the competences could be compared. It is because under the European law and in America a jury court considers a rather limited number of offenses, but we expanded the jurisdiction of such a court to almost all offences. This is the first point.
The second point. Jurors themselves should be ready to make responsible decisions. And if jurors are freightened and if they are afraid of terrorists, they cannot make such decisions. That is why I have taken measures in order to make the consideration of such cases more impartial. Let professional judges consider them now. Moreover, at one of the latest meetings I decided that a draft law be prepared, under which these proceedings may take place not only in the Caucasus, but also in any other region, so that the case could be considered outside the Caucasus with no one afraid to try terrorists. This is a hard decision, but currently it is a critical one. You know that to try their own criminals some European countries also adopted such decisions so that judicial activities, judicial proceedings be undertaken not in places of crimes. And now we have to take that course. But I am sure that we will be a success.
I would like to thank you for our interview and I am looking forward to seeing you in Switzerland.