Medvedev: Poverty and corruption biggest challenges for Russia
Sip by sip Dmitry Medvedev's getting a taste of political life. He admits so far it's been sweetened by Russia's sports victories, but in the next couple of weeks there are at least two high profile challenges in store for him. First, there’s the EU-Russia summit in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansyisk, then the G8 in Japan.
Russia at times is the subject of criticism from both groups.
“It's normal for countries to speak out with criticism of other states. There is nothing wrong with that. We sometimes offer critical evaluation of this or that development. The point is that this criticism should be constructive,” believes Medvedev.
Topping the agenda in Khanty-Mansyisk will be the EU-Russia strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement – or PCA.
The talks over a new PCA were blocked for sometime, first by Poland then by Lithuania, but Medvedev stresses the EU is not a difficult partner.
“The EU is not a homogeneous entity, but a union of different states. Solidarity is one of the key principles of the European Union. This can cause problems in itself. For instance, when the majority of European countries are ready for a new development in our relations or other steps, one or more other countries can block these steps. This is an internal issue of the European Union though, and we respect it,” said Medvedev.
The environment is expected to take centre stage at the G8, together with the Kyoto protocol. The treaty was signed in 1997 to reduce greenhouse gases, but some of the world's largest polluters are still not part of Kyoto, and the question remains if it's still feasible.
“Climate problems can't be tackled within one group of countries, when the other group doesn't want to participate. Either we all deal with this or we abandon all attempts. I think this problem should also be one of the main points at the G8 summit,” Medvedev believes.
The financial and food crises will be considered in Japan. Medvedev promises Russia will bring its own proposals to the table.
As for the financial crisis, once again, Medvedev mentions the drawbacks of U.S. global domination.
“The dollar has turned into an international problem. Its fate can only be decided by the country whose currency it is. At the same time, the entire international financial system depends on the dollar. Besides defining the best policy for their own country, our American partners should consider how this policy will affect the international financial system. Also, the international financial system should be based on several currencies. This way, the problems of the dollar won't affect the situation in other countries.”
In recent weeks the dispute within the oil company TNK-BP has dominated business headlines. The company is involved in a corporate row pitting British and Russian shareholders against each other.
Medvedev says the government will not meddle in the company's infighting.
“This is quite a comical situation. We are sometimes told that the state is interfering in the activities of private companies too much. Now, in this situation, we are being called on to get involved. They say ‘Look, they've got into a real mess there, so could you please do something.’ The state shouldn't get involved in these disputes,” said Medvedev.
One of the questions was whether Medvedev will have a different view of the media.
Medvedev was quick to answer – he doesn't see a problem.
“You know, every country has political losers, who say the mass media are not free, just because they themselves don't figure in the media every day. But this is actually their problem, not the mass media's,” Medvedev stressed.
As for Medvedev's priorities, there are two devils he's eager to fight, just like any other Russian leader: poverty and corruption.
He's no optimist. To root out the latter, he says, one has to change people's way of thinking.
“This is the same situation as with a safety belt in a car. If the need to buckle up is not there in the mind, no laws will make it appear. Unfortunately, not everybody buckles up in our country,” said Medvedev.
With the EU-Russia and the G8 summits ahead, the Russian president admits it won't be an easy ride.