Stepashin and Oviir strengthen cooperation

Toomas Mattson | 6/26/2010 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 26 June 2010 - During a visit to Estonia, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Sergei Stepashin and his Estonian counterpart Auditor General Mihkel Oviir discussed cooperation between the two agencies and agreed on three joint projects due to be launched next year.

Joint audits will be conducted on the use of funds allocated to modernise border crossing checkpoints, the use of budgetary finances to improve the ecological status of Lake Peipus and the Estonia-Latvia-Russia cross-border cooperation programme within the European Union Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. In addition, the Russian side expressed interest in cooperation in the field of IT and e-government, for which the National Audit Office is also prepared.

Due to the fact that, like the Estonian National Audit Office, the Russian Accounts Chamber is an agency under parliamentary control, Sergei Stepashin also met with President of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma and former Auditor General and current Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts.

At the meeting in the Riigikogu, Ergma said that the good relations between the audit offices of the two countries could be a role model for the organisation of relations between the State Duma and the Riigikogu. Stepashin promised to take steps on his part to nudge relations between the legislators of the two countries from their current standstill to a normal footing.

It was noted at the meeting that professional and constructive relations exist between the two countries on a number of issues. At the same time, it was stated that there is room for growth in both economic relations and cooperation in the field of energy and environmental protection. Importance was attributed to developing cross-border cooperation and, in particular, improving organisation of work in resolving problems related to border crossing. Ergma emphasised that the relations between the two countries should be built on a pragmatic approach, in order to resolve any emerging problems rapidly and efficiently. This, she said, would be the basis for further multi-faceted cooperation.

At the meeting with Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts, the main focus was also on ways of developing bilateral economic cooperation, with a particular emphasis on Estonian-Russian border crossings, where queues are days long. Both parties agreed that the current situation at border checkpoints between the countries hinders transport between the EU and Russia and keeps tourism from functioning normally and that a solution should be found as soon as possible.

Parts said that Estonia is ready for all aspects of cooperation. He stressed that the border between Estonia and Russia is not just a bilateral boundary but that it concerns the normal functioning of the entire border between the European Union and Russia. Parts said that Estonia is ready in all respects to implement Russia’s proposals and said he thought a joint border-crossing audit was essential.
Also under discussion were bilateral cooperation in developing e-government and bolstering cooperation at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises.

After the official meetings, on the evening of 25 June Stepashin talked with reporters at the National Audit Office building, giving an overview of the meetings held that day. He emphasised the very good relations between the Russian Federation’s Accounts Chamber and the Estonian National Audit Office. In discussing political relations between the countries, Stepashin noted that a political breakthrough would require the will of both sides. “We have understanding at the professional level: we now need to take a step forward at the political level, and we think that now is the time,” said Stepashin. “We need to move on. We live in a common Europe; we are building a common Europe. The United States has driven us toward this even more with the financial crisis. We are neighbours – that’s an inescapable fact. We are not in Antarctica, after all. Not even in Iceland!”

On 26 June, Stepashin and Oviir took part in a ceremony remembering war dead, laying wreaths at the monument at Tallinn military cemetery honouring those killed in World War II and at the monument at Tallinn Upper Secondary School of Science erected in honour of the students and teachers killed in the War of Independence. Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Estonia Nikolai Uspenski and representatives of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, a delegation from the Russian Accounts Chamber and representatives from the Estonian National Audit Office also participated in the laying of wreaths and flowers.

In an interview with Estonian National Broadcasting, Stepashin said that he brought the flowers simply in memory of the people. “These were school children and their teachers who were defending their country, their homeland. This is probably the greatest act of heroism imaginable. I am glad that Mihkel and I did this together, both at the Bronze Soldier and here in the case of these boys.”

In addition, Stepashin met Metropolitan Kornelius at Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral and visited the construction site of an Orthodox church in the Tallinn district of Lasnamäe.

Stepashin and his delegation left Estonia on the evening of 26 June.

Stepashin is the highest Russian official to have made a working visit to Estonia in the framework of bilateral relations since Estonia’s restoration of independence. In the Russian government hierarchy, Stepashin is comparable to the deputy prime minister.

This was a return visit after a delegation from the Estonian National Audit Office visited Moscow in 2006.

Background:

Sergei Stepashin is a former Russian prime minister, preceded in his post by Yevgeni Primakov and succeeded by Vladimir Putin. Stepashin has also served as Minister of the Interior, Minister of Justice and director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Federal Counterintelligence Service. His military rank is Colonel-General.

Stepashin has a doctorate in law and is a professor. He is very active in social circles – alongside other duties he is the president of the Russian Book Association and the chairman of the board of trustees of F.C. Dynamo. He is the co-chairman of the Russian Bar Association. Stepashin is the chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society.

Stepashin was accompanied on his Estonian visit by Russian Accounts Chamber Auditor (equivalent to the Estonian Auditor General) Aleksandr Piskunov and Accounts Chamber foreign relations board director Nikolai Paruzin.

Piskunov holds a post-graduate degree in economics, and held a longstanding position with the space forces at Plessetsk Cosmodrome as an information technology specialist. His military rank is Major-General (reserve). Posts held by Piskunov include deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s national defence committee and deputy chief of staff of the Russian cabinet of ministers.

Paruzin is an experienced foreign relations specialist and diplomat and has served as 1st secretary of the Russian Embassy in the United States of America and as one of the Russian Parliament’s heads of foreign relations. Paruzin is a specialist on Asia and is fluent in both English and Arabic.
 

Toomas Mattson
Head of the Communication Service of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 513 4900
toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee

  • Posted: 6/26/2010 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 6:04 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 6:04 PM

Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Sergei Stepashin and his Estonian counterpart Auditor General Mihkel Oviir.

Sulev Sepp/National Audit Office

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