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#19 - JRL 7240
BBC Monitoring
Putin says Russia is part of Europe, invites UK businesses to cooperate
Source: RTR Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1300 gmt 25 Jun 03

[Presenter] Today's main event was Putin's meeting with representatives of Scotland's business and political circles at Signet Library in Edinburgh. Our special correspondent Margarita Simonyan, currently in a live linkup with the Vesti studio, has the latest news from Edinburgh.

[passage omitted: Simonyan says almost all sections of Scotland's population were represented at the meeting with Putin, Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell opened the meeting]

[Presenter] Vladimir Putin said he already visited Scotland eight years ago. He even mentioned this fact in conversation with Tony Blair yesterday. He told him that he was very much impressed by the nature and the people of Scotland.

[Putin] He is a man with whom I have established good private relations. The prime minister, Mr Blair, comes from these places. I asked him yesterday whether or not he could play the bagpipe. He said no, I can't but I recommend you to visit Scotland.

[Correspondent] Vladimir Putin then addressed Scottish business people. He spoke about Russia's economy. He said that our country was developing vigorously, and that he set the task to the government to double the GDP within the next 10 years. He urged Scottish and Russian businessmen to display initiative rather than be waiting for some special agreements and accords in order to implement joint business projects. Here is what the president said.

[Putin] Our country is developing quite dynamically, and I should say openly that real life is often lagging behind our plans. Vast opportunities are emerging in Russia for national businesses and for their foreign partners. Of course, businesses should display initiative, without waiting for any official agreements and even treaties. Naturally, the government and political leaders have their own role to play in strengthening contacts between our two countries, but the states can do little if such authoritative and influential people, like those who gathered here today, do not have the desire to cooperate, find mutual interests and exchange experience.

[Correspondent] Then they started putting questions to Vladimir Putin. One of these came from a student of Edinburgh University. He asked whether or not the Russian president hoped to see Russia being admitted to the European Union within his lifetime. Vladimir Putin replied that Russia did not face the task of becoming a fully fledged member of the European Union but, nonetheless, Russia was already part of Europe.

[Putin] As I have already mentioned, Russia is part [of Europe]. I said this earlier, and my counterpart [Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell], who spoke before me, also said this. I am sure that there is not a single person in this hall who doubts that Russia is part of the European culture. Moreover, European culture would not be complete without Russia. If this is true, Russia, undoubtedly, is part of Europe. And this Europe extends behind the Ural mountains. People who live in the [Russia's] Far East are hardly different from the Russian citizens who live in the European part of the country. As a matter of fact, this is a very good potential for Europe's development.

We are mutually interested in one another. Even from the point of view of their economic structures, Russia and Europe complement each other successfully. For example, we are going to discuss with the prime minister the construction of the northern route of a gas pipeline connecting Russia and Europe, Great Britain in particular. Specialists know that gas reserves in Europe, including those in the United Kingdom and Norway, are scarce. But we have it [gas]. We have large quantities of it [gas] and at acceptable prices for the European economy. This means that, if we do this, Europe will receive gas at acceptable prices, on a stable basis and for a historically long period of time - for decades. It will enjoy natural advantages in its competition with other parts of the world.

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