Russia - Ghana relations/

SPEECH BY H.E. VALERY ORLOV, AMBASSADOR OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, AT THE RECEPTION ON THE OCCASION OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE GHANA-RUSSIA PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
(February 25, 2004)

Your Excellency Right Honourable Peter Ala Adjetey
     Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana

Honourable Members of the Parliament,

Distinguished Guests, Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all tonight on the occasion of the establishment of the Ghana - Russia Parliamentary Group. This event, as I had already told last December on the day of the inauguration of the Group, constitutes one more step of great importance in the path towards further development of traditionally friendly and cordial relations between our two countries and peoples.

I would like to mark with satisfaction that relations between the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana continue to develop. The leaders of the two Parliaments exchange congratulatory messages. The establishment of the Ghana - Russia Parliamentary Group was welcomed by the leadership of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. The formation of the Group of co-operation with the parliaments of African States in the Council of Federation (the upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament) creates new opportunities for inter-parliamentary dialogue. Our senators would also like to develop relations with Ghanaian Members of Parliament as do their colleagues in the State Duma. I wish to express my strong belief that the development of fruitful co-operation between the Parliament of Ghana and the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation will also open new opportunities for Russian parliamentarians in the field of interaction with the African Parliamentary Union and the ECOWAS Parliament.

Distinguished Guests,

Russian Federation is on the eve of the very important political event in its life. The presidential elections will take place in Russia on March 14. In this connection, I would like to brief you a little bit about today's Russia.

In the year 2000 Mr.V.Putin became the President of the Russian Federation. Four years have passed since then, four years of intense and difficult creative work.

First of all, constitutional law and order as well as the common legal space have been restored in the country. The vertical federal executive power structure has been strengthened and in fact, to a great extent, built anew. The Russian parliament became a professional law-making body.

Dangerous processes of the degradation of government power, the weakening of the army and destruction of the law enforcement bodies and other power structures have been stopped decisively. Changes of a cardinal nature in the judiciary system are underway.

The economic situation has changed in a fundamental way. The growth of the GDP since 1999 has amounted to almost 30 percent (29.9). Only in 2003 Russia has reached a GDP growth rate of 7.3 percent. We had industrial output growth of 3.7 percent in 2002, but the figure for the year 2003 is 6.7 percent - almost double last year's result. Inflation rate has fallen by three times and stands at 12 percent now. For the second year in a row medium-sized companies have been increasing their production. There are thousands of enterprises today in the country that work effectively.

This means that structural reforms have begun even though they are still hard and slow. They have already resulted in the growth of investments in fixed capital and, which is very important, in the development of the domestic market, in greater internal consumption.

One of the fundamental achievements of the last few years is the financial independence we have acquired and the stability of the national currency, the rouble.

The problem of foreign debt payments has been practically solved. Last year, just like in the years before that, we fulfilled all of our financial obligations. In 2003 alone we paid $17 billion, and the country did not even notice that.

At the same time the foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation are at their record high in the history of the country, including its Soviet period, at more than $88 billion.

The Russia's investment attractiveness also increased considerably.

These modest but obvious positive changes in the economy of the country have allowed Russian Government to take the necessary steps to solve social problems and to improve the quality of life of our citizens.

The minimal wage has been raised four times in three years. Strikes have stopped to be a mass phenomenon in the country. Since the year 2000 all major social indicators have been showing positive dynamics. The average pensions in real terms increased by almost 90 percent since 1999. The real disposable incomes of the population have grown by half in the same period. Real wages have been growing - since 1999 they have almost doubled. Unemployment has gone down by almost a third. The number of people with incomes below the living minimum although is still very high, but it, too, has dropped by a third.

A few words about the situation in the Chechen Republic.

A constitutional referendum was successfully held in the Republic last March, and democratic presidential elections took place in November. The overwhelming majority of the population of Chechnya and Chechens living in other parts of Russia participated in them. More than 80% of those voting spoke in support of the new constitution. The people of Chechnya elected for themselves a lawful president - Akhmad Kadyrov. Russian Government does everything to achieve a final and full-format return of the Republic to a normal, civilized life, to a life without fear and terror.

As for the Russian foreign policy outcome of the last four years, I would like to say that Russia's international positions have been greatly strengthened over this period. To a decisive extent this has occurred thanks to internal stabilization in the country and to our going into steady economic growth. At the same time the fact has played a vital role that we have generally managed to complete the period of formation of the foreign policy of the new Russia and to devise a course at the base of which lies a clear vision of our long-term national interests and which by the same token ensures our country the role of a constructive and predictable partner in the international arena.

These long-term interests are defined in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, approved by President Vladimir Putin. The pivot of this document is in the creation of the most favorable external conditions for the country's development, including the ensuring of reliable security, stable economic growth and enhancement of the well-being of citizens.

Another basic thesis is that we can only realize our national interests in today's interdependent world by due consideration for the broad interests of the world community; that is, via active cooperation with other states, bilaterally as well as multilaterally. Hence our efforts for integrating Russia into the system of global economic ties and for shaping a world order which to the greatest extent would meet our national interests.

Today our foreign partners see in Russia an important participant of the world processes, effectively contributing to equilibrium on the international scene.

It is in this capacity that our country has helped rally the international community in the fight against terrorism and other global challenges as well as around the idea of strengthening multilateralism in international relations, primarily based on the central role of the United Nations and international law. Russia is actively involved in the search for solutions to the most acute global and regional problems, including the strengthening of nonproliferation regimes, settlement of the Middle East and other regional conflicts, and many others.

Having become in 2002 a full-fledged member of the Group of Eight, our country has joined in the mechanism of collective response to the globalization processes. We are getting ready for the upcoming Russian G8 Presidency in 2006.

Definite results have been achieved in the development of the integration processes within the CIS. Russia's partnership with the European Union has tangibly advanced. Qualitative changes have taken place in Russian - US relations, which have become more stable and predictable. The multivector policy of Russia, in which the various geographical thrusts complement each other is yielding real and practical results. This is particularly noticeable in the Asian sector. In this respect I can cite the example of Russia's relations with China, India, Japan. But this trend also works in many other regions of the world, including the African Continent.

In conclusion I wish to express my strong belief that establishment of the Ghana - Russia parliamentary group as well as visit of the Russian parliamentary and business delegation to Ghana are among the good outcomes of the Russian foreign policy in the African Continent in 2003. I would like also to inform you that the last year the Government of the Russian Federation increased the number of scholarships for the Republic of Ghana by 10 and granted to the Ghanaian side 30 state scholarships for the academic year 2004/2005 at the expense of the Russian Federal Budget. We hope that these important developments will add new dimensions and give strong impetus to the relations between our two countries and that the traditional relationships of friendship and mutual understanding between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation will deepen consistently in the interests of our two nations and for the benefit of peaceful and sustainable development of the African Continent.

Thank you for your kind attention and I wish once more to congratulate you all with the establishment of the Ghana - Russia Parliamentary Group and to express belief that our today's meeting will provide a good opportunity to discuss in informal atmosphere specific ideas and suggestions regarding the prospects of its activities.

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