Eastern European Markets

May, the 27th 2010

Primeminister Matti Vanhanen in The EU-Russia Innovation Forum

Esteemed Prime Minister Putin, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The global economic recession has starkly exposed the structural problems inherent in European countries. At the same time, the interdependence of our economies has been clearly demonstrated. While we benefit from the economic success of neighbouring countries, their economic woes correspondingly slow down our progress. Companies operating on the international market are more aware than ever of the importance of cross-border cooperation and strategic partnerships.

In an effort to strengthen the economic competitiveness of their countries, the governments of European Union member states and Russia are placing even more importance in the modernisation of their economic and commercial structures. Innovation plays a key role in such renewal. By innovation I mean doing things in new ways and making use of new competences.

This approach is also evident in the ‘Europe 2020’ growth strategy. In this strategy, innovations are not an end in themselves but a tool for improving economic modernisation and renewal. Innovations are needed not just for developing new technologies but on a more extensive basis for improving productivity. Examples of this include the creation of more efficient service models or of business concepts that make use of the latest know-how.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many companies based in EU countries work closely with Russian partners. This is a welcome development. Indeed, we should aim at increasing the number of strategic partnerships between private sector operators, in order to strengthen their competitiveness on the global market. The role of governments is to create the necessary conditions for this mutually beneficial economic integration.

In any discussion of modernisation partnership between the European Union and Russia, innovation-related cooperation takes centre stage. Many issues related to such cooperation cannot be resolved between individual member states and Russia alone but require Union level measures. Above all, these issues concern the creation of an enabling environment for innovation. In many cases, they overlap with the core issues involved in Russia’s WTO membership negotiations. I refer, for instance, to the harmonisation of technical regulations and standards and to

questions related to IPR statutes, customs clearance and workforce mobility.

In other words, fully realising the potential which is latent in innovation cooperation between EU member states and Russia is closely linked to whether we can create an operating environment that fosters supranational, networked innovation activity. While working in a decisive manner to resolve the demanding questions related to the operating environment, other measures are also available for increasing cooperation on innovation. For example, we can increase our understanding of each other’s innovation policy tools and practices. Above all, we can help partners with common interests to find each other. In a number of ways, for instance in relation to the European Enterprise Network, the EU and Russia have already been working towards this goal.

Between Finland and Russia we have conducted active innovation cooperation between the administrations and intermediary organisations. In addition to the dialogue on policy issues, we have sought concrete measures with an impact at corporate level. One of the most promising initiatives is an intended partnership between the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO) and Finnish Industrial Investment, for the purpose of making capital investments in companies using nanotechnology. Here in Lappeenranta, a related agreement will be signed today by the parties involved. I am delighted by this progress across national boundaries which will reinforce the competitiveness of high-tech business operations in both countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad that we are gathered here in Lappeenranta to consider cooperation on innovation between the EU and Russia. We are on the eastern border of the European Union, next door to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest economic area. Lappeenranta has long traditions in supranational and mutually beneficial cooperation, and its resources and opportunities have only increased thanks to Finland’s EU membership.

There are many examples of excellent cooperation between Lappeenranta, St. Petersburg and other neighbouring areas -- be that in research and education, university networks, or public and private sector (including a Finnish Innovation Center in St. Petersburg and work carried out in the framework of the EU-Russia Innovation Corridor ERICO).

The expert talks and debates held at the Lappeenranta Forum have provided welcome new ideas and materials for deepening cooperation between the EU and Russia in the area of innovation. I would like to thank the organisers of the Forum for their active efforts to promote this dialogue. I hope that the recommendations given by experts here will be considered carefully, already next week, in the context of the EU-Russia Summit in Rostov-on-Don and in the work to follow.

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