Parliamentary diplomacy: the Latin American vector

3:24 30.05.2013 • Andrey Davydenko , International Affairs



From 14th to 17th May, an official delegation of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation headed by Chairman V. I. Matviyenko visited Mexico and Cuba. They were an integral part of the parliamentary dimension of the whole multi-vectored foreign policy, which modern Russia effectively applies based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation between the multipolar systems of international relations.

The meetings and negotiations of the Russian parliamentarians in the capitals of the two Latin American countries have not only confirmed the fact that Moscow, Mexico City and Havana have similar views on the global challenges of the XXI century, but also showed a great interest in the partnership to fully maximize the use of the potential cooperation to the benefit the people of their countries, and also in the interests of a stable and secure world.

As for the United States of Mexico, "the visit of such a high level delegation of is a demonstration and proof that we are seriously interested in developing a dialogue with Mexico as an important partner," the head of the Russian delegation, V. I. Matviyenko, told “International Affairs” magazine. "Mexico is playing an increasingly important role in world politics. Today it is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. Mexico and has its own independent position on a number of issues. For example, Mexico has supported Russia over the major issues in the UN General Assembly, which is very important. This applies to confidence-building measures on space exploration, transparency, information security, and our resolution on actions to counteract the legalization of Nazism. Mexico has been an active supporter for the adoption of these resolutions. Not all countries have taken such a strong position. We and Mexico are united in common approaches to world order. Our views and positions on major global issues are either similar or the same," said the chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

Innovative technologies, investment in major infrastructure projects, scientific, technical, economic and trade cooperation, medicine, education, student and cultural exchanges, the environment: these are just some of the areas of common interest in which our countries have already successfully cooperated, but we are capable of much more.

"We consider it appropriate to give a new impetus to business partnerships in areas such as energy, including nuclear power, metallurgical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, oil and gas, tourism, agriculture, and the space program. The actual promotion is by bilateral investment, and the development of direct contacts between the business communities of our countries," said V. I. Matviyenko, speaking to members of the Mexican Parliament.

"There is significant potential for cooperation in the areas of science and technology. This is reflected in the implementation of joint projects in such areas as the development of satellite technology and space exploration. Inter-regional relations are an important resource for the development of economic cooperation. I am convinced that the parliamentarians of our countries should and must make a substantial contribution to strengthening them," said V. I. Matviyenko. The Speaker of the Federation Council also called for a transition to a visa-free regime between Russia and Mexico. She recalled that Mexico is among the three most visited countries by Russians in Latin America. "We believe it is time to reconsider the matter and reach the signing of an agreement on the abolition of visas," V. I. Matviyenko said, referring to the Mexican parliamentarians.

In the address by the head of the Russian delegation, special attention was paid to the growing dynamics of the Russian-Mexican dialogue. An important component of it is a meaningful and multifaceted cooperation at regional and international levels to effectively tackle global challenges such as terrorism, illegal arms trafficking, drug trafficking, cyber crime, and corruption.

Russia and Mexico have repeatedly demonstrated a consolidated position on global security issues, including finance, energy, and food security. They have spoken jointly at prestigious international venues, including the UN, the "Big Twenty", APEC, and its parliamentary dimension - APPF. In Los Cabos, Mexico handed over the chairmanship of the "Big Twenty" Russia, which will meet in September this year in St. Petersburg. Russia, in turn, handed over to Mexico the reins for the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum for next year, the 22nd session of which will be held this autumn in Mexico City.

The solemn ceremony of the handing over of the flag of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum from the Russian side to the Mexican parliament, and also the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation between the Federation Council and the Senate of the National Congress of Mexico, was held at the House of Senators before a large gathering of representatives of the printing and electronic media.

"We see the APPF as an important instrument of parliamentary diplomacy and international cooperation," said V.I. Matviyenko. “The activities of the Forum are subject to the interests of peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The Vladivostok session, held in late January of this year, clearly reaffirmed this. It is gratifying to note the activity of the Mexican delegation which put forward a number of important resolutions.”

The decision to hold the next session of the APPF in Mexico is another success for parliamentary diplomacy, the recognition of the international community, and the high credibility of Mexico and Mexican parliamentarians.

“I sincerely congratulate you on the chairmanship of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum. I wish you, dear colleagues, success in the preparation and hosting of the 22nd session of the APPF," said V.I. Matviyenko in conclusion.

The Chairman of the Senate, Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, in turn, noted the critical importance of Mexican-Russian cooperation, expressing confidence that its development will continue to expand. "Today, Russia and Mexico play a very important role in the global economy. Both our nations are rich in natural resources and developed industrial resources. Russia and Mexico are also members of the "Big Twenty", which unites the world's largest economies, and, no doubt, will play a decisive role in shaping the global economic system, as well as in the future world order in the XXI century. " The head of the Mexican Senate emphasized the important role of parliamentarians in building the Mexican-Russian dialogue both bilaterally and on a multilateral level. Ernesto Cordero Arroyo thanked the head of the Russian delegation, V.I. Matviyenko, for passing over the chairmanship of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, and expressed confidence that cooperation between our countries in the format of the APPF will promote mutually beneficial cooperation and further rapprochement of the peoples, not only of both of our countries but of the entire region.

During a visit to Mexico City, the Chairman of the Federation Council also held a meeting with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Antonio Kuribrena. The topic of conversation was the prospects of signing agreements on cooperation in the military-technical sphere and in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation also called for the termination of anti-dumping measures against Russian steel products. "These limitations constrain the expansion of our bilateral trade. Also, there is no longer any reason for these measures, since in 2011 Mexico recognized the market status of Russia. In addition to this, our country has already joined the WTO. "

At the conclusion of her visit to the United Mexican States, the head of the Russian delegation, V.I. Matviyenko shared some of her preliminary findings with "International Affairs" magazine. "If we plan to develop multilateral relations with a particular country, it must take place at all levels. At the highest political level, at government level and at the parliamentary level. It is exactly this combination that creates an overall picture of the state of relations with certain countries. That is why the visit of the delegation of the Federation Council to Mexico and the signing of an agreement that established a legal basis for our further inter-parliamentary cooperation, is extremely important from this point of view. The fact of the handing over to Mexico of the presidency of the APPF is also important. Multilateral cooperation with Mexico in the Asia Pacific region, and also in a bilateral format is of particular value to us.  Also, the political component cannot be ignored. If parliaments will play an active role in fulfilling their oversight functions over the executive power, then that is another powerful incentive to promote our contacts and the implementation of the agreements.

We are successfully cooperating not only within the framework of the United Nations, within the framework of the "Troika", not only in the fields of the "Big Twenty", but also in other international organizations, and in this sense, Mexico as an extremely important partner for us," underlined V.I. Matviyenko.

The next destination on the Russian parliamentarians’ Latin American trip was Cuba.

The history of relations between our countries is in many ways unique and rich with remarkable events. It went through different stages: from the fraternal friendship in the Soviet period, the subsequent collapse of cooperation in many areas after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the current restoration of relations in a sustainable capacity of positive dynamics. Today we can definitely say: our relationship has not only withstood the test of time, but also experienced new highs. The modern history of Russian-Cuban relations is characterized by responsibility, mutual cooperation and coordination in international affairs. In the lexicon of Russian-Cuban dialogue in addition to the return of the phrase "the bonds of fraternal friendship" such definitions as "strategic partnership" and "permanently high level of bilateral contacts" have also become a part.

There was substantive discussion about that at the meeting of the Russian senators with their Cuban colleagues. The President of the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba, Esteban Lazo Hernandez, welcoming the head of the Russian delegation V.I. Matviyenko, in particular, said: "We are satisfied with the way Russian-Cuban relations are currently heading, and with great affection accept you in our country. Your visit not only serves to strengthen inter-parliamentary relations, but relations between the two countries and their peoples in a broader sense. We know about your attitude toward Cuba, which you call an old friend and reliable partner of Russia in Latin America. Lately, the relations between Russia and Cuba have significantly strengthened. We are pleased and encouraged by it. Not a week goes by that delegations of the two countries do not undertake friendly visits to each other. What is particularly gratifying is how successfully the connection between the regions is improving. This is direct evidence of the unprecedented intensification of bilateral contacts. I cannot help but notice the contents of an extensive bilateral agenda, which allows for the development of a communication strategy for the years to come." Esteban Lazo Hernandez recalled that during earlier visits of the Chairman of the State Council of Cuba to Russia and the Russian Prime Minister to Cuba, about 30 agreements in various fields were signed. This, according to the head of the Cuban Parliament, is an impressive result, indicating the revival of the historic friendship and partnership between the two countries.

The head of the Russian delegation, V.I. Matviyenko, in turn, stressed that for Russia Cuba is not only an important strategic partner, but also a reliable and good friend. "For a long time there have been truly brotherly relations between our countries and our peoples, filled with deep mutual respect and fellow feelings,” said V.I. Matviyenko. “It is a good base for a fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation. The basics of truly sincere and cordial relations between the peoples of our two nations, in many ways, were laid the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first visit to the USSR. Various exhibitions held both in Moscow and in other Russian cities were devoted to this memorable event. Russian-Cuban cooperation is today experiencing a new, and I would say, irreversible rise. Moreover, the development of contacts is going on at all levels. A serious impetus to the entire development of the package of bilateral relations was given at top-level talks held during the visit to Moscow in July last year, by the chairman of the State Council of Cuba, Raul Castro, and the talks held during the visit in January this year to Cuba, by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Significant agreements were achieved during these visits. In particular, the agreement signed on the settlement of financial issues. Now, from us, the Russian and Cuban legislators, will it depend on how soon this document will take effect. We attach great importance to the development of our inter-parliamentary relations, as we believe that regular contacts between the legislative bodies contributes to the strengthening of the whole range of Russian-Cuban relations. I would also like to stress that, despite the fact that the Russian parliament presents various parties across the whole political spectrum; there is a complete consensus in regard to the further strengthening of relations with our Cuban brothers. I agree totally agree with what you said about the need for the development of inter-regional relations. The Council of the Federation is a Regional Chamber, and we will give every assistance to the establishment and development of such relations. We already have good examples of such interaction, but, in our view, this direction still remains underdeveloped.”

“An important component of our bilateral relations is without doubt, commercial and economic cooperation,” continued V.I. Matviyenko. “The results are still modest. Last year, trade between the two countries amounted to $ 270 million. Although there is a considerable potential for the development and expansion of trade and economic ties, both sides should make efforts to realize this potential. In this sense, it is crucial that the two countries adopt an intergovernmental program of development of trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation before 2020. This is a kind of "road map" for the route of our cooperation, designed to ensure sustained development. I also think it is necessary to actively promote the establishment of direct contacts between Russian and Cuban economic operators. The Parliaments may also play an important role here, thinking about how to stimulate additional interest from Russian business in the Cuban market," said the head of the Russian delegation.

As a result of the negotiations, V.I. Matviyenko and Esteban Lazo Hernandez signed an agreement on cooperation between the Russian Federation and the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba, providing for an active inter-parliamentary cooperation in the development and strengthening of friendly relations between Russia and Cuba, as well as for the further expansion of political, economic, scientific and cultural relations between the two countries.

During their visit to Cuba the delegation of Russian senators visited the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), the largest scientific and production association in the country in the field of pharmacology and biotechnology, and laid flowers at the monument to the Soviet soldier-internationalists. The memorial was opened in the suburbs of Havana on February 23rd, 1978 for the 60th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the USSR at the burial site of 64 Soviet soldiers who were killed or died on the territory of the Republic of Cuba between the years 1962-1964.

The head of the Russian delegation, V.I. Matviyenko also held a two-hour meeting with the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro. As result of the meeting, the Chairman of the Federation Council said in an interview with reporters that the meeting had been exceptionally warm and honest. "Such a long meeting, obviously, is a token of respect to Russia. Raul Castro conveyed warm greetings to the President and the Prime Minister of Russia. He spoke about the ongoing social and economic reforms in Cuba, stressing that they are not carried out by way of administrative command, but through an active dialogue with the public. Referring to the current stage of Russian-Cuban relations, Raul Castro expressed his full agreement with the fact that they are experiencing a strong recovery, and in all spheres. He reiterated the commitment of Cuba in following a course to strengthen and expand bilateral relations in various fields, to further rapprochement between the two friendly countries and brotherly nations," said V.I. Matviyenko. Giving an overall assessment of the visit, the head of the Russian delegation drew attention to the fact that the meetings and talks in Havana not only demonstrated the seriousness of the two friendly countries for further diversification of bilateral cooperation, but also set new benchmarks important to Russian-Cuban cooperation on a wide range of issues , including international ones.

The final results of the Russian parliamentarians’ Latin American tour lie ahead. However, now you can with certainty say that Russia has returned to Latin America ... in seriousness and for the long haul. It returns as a partner and as a friend - responsible, reliable and sincere.



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