21 november 2012

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev holds talks with Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov


Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Azarov, let me welcome you on this rapidly organised and, hopefully, productive visit and proceed to point out that the relations between our two countries are so wide-ranging that even if we decided to meet every week, there would still remain issues to be discussed. The general trajectory of our relationship is quite positive, though. In our conversation today, I’d like to bring up some of the economic and trade issues we discussed by phone a short while ago. You have a number of ideas to share on this front, isn’t that right? I’ll be very glad to hear you expand on them. And, of course, we’ll have ministers and advisers join us in discussing the prospects of our relations in the years to come.

To me it’s highly important to understand which way Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian ruling elites are looking, because the possibility of Ukraine joining the Customs Union, for example, has been on our agenda ever since that alliance was set up. This issue is among those we should focus on, I think. One of your deputies has said Ukraine’s accession to the Customs Union would be unlawful. Literally. So I’m curious to know where you stand on this and whether your stance is any different from that of your other colleagues in your Cabinet. If you do see Customs Union accession as unlawful, there’s nothing to discuss, of course. But if you believe this is a possibility Ukraine could examine, then I suggest we pay some attention to this modest issue. Welcome, Mr Azarov.

Mykola Azarov: For my part, I’d like to thank you for the rapid arrangements. The issues we raised in our recent phone conversation should be discussed in detail today. We do have proposals to make, and your colleagues know what they concern. We can reach consensus on all those initiatives, I think.

As you are well aware, the Ukrainian leadership – the president, the Cabinet, and the ruling Party of the Regions – are oriented toward a meaningful dialogue with Russia and a normal relationship, including with the Customs Union. This is why at today’s government meeting I could not help commenting on a Ukrainian minister’s statement that there was nothing wrong with a 300% fine on housing and utility arrears. I interrupted him, saying: “Please mind what you say and, most importantly, never try to pass off a personal opinion held by some particular minister as a viewpoint of the entire Cabinet.”

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, that’s just what I wanted you to clarify.

Mykola Azarov: Okay. But I have no idea which minister you were referring to.

Dmitry Medvedev: I was referring to Mr Khoroshkovsky, a deputy prime minister.

Mykola Azarov: Well, I can say the same with regard to this particular minister. Each member of the Cabinet has the right to express his or her own opinion, of course, as we adhere to the principle of pluralism, but that opinion does not necessarily agrees with the Ukrainian Cabinet’s stance. Well, I think we’ve spoken extensively on the topic already…

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s good.

Mykola Azarov: We’ve said quite a lot to the press. So we could call it a night, perhaps, given the late hour.

Dmitry Medvedev: I completely agree. But the two of us have more things to discuss. And things to snack on, of course.

Mykola Azarov: All right then.

Dmitry Medvedev: I suggest we grab something to eat later on.