For five years now, foreign economic relations of St. Petersburg have been an important sector of its economy, enjoying a separate line in the municipal budget and supported by an administrative structure, which interacts with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Development and the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation.
St.Petersburg hosts consular offices of 40 countries, an Information Bureau of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, representations of a number of federal structures, offices of a wide array of NGOs and some specially created structures, such as the Centre of International Co-operation and the non-profit partnership, Saint Petersburg–2003, which has a branch in London.
The legal base for the city’s external business relations is provided i.a. by the Russian Constitution and the Federal Law on co-ordination of international and foreign economic relations of subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as by the Statute of the city and the Law on agreements regulating international and foreign economic relations of St. Petersburg.
Recent examples of our external economic co-operation efforts include such programmes as the “Baltic Initiative”, the “Euro-Asian direction of the Baltic Sea Co-operation”, and the “EU Northern Dimension – a view from St.Petersburg”, which all make part of one strategic plan, where objectives are clearly defined, methods and relevant international structures identified, actions chosen and intermediate results achieved. The volume of external trade of St.Petersburg reached the level of almost USD 2 bln (export) and USD 4 bln (import) in 2001, whereas the volume of foreign direct investment in the city economy (see chart) has been stable at the level of some USD 1,2 bln for the past two years.
Every year St. Petersburg welcomes about 3 mln foreign guests – a number, which we expect to grow next year, when the city celebrates its 300th anniversary. The historical centre of St. Petersburg and its unique monuments, as well as the palace-park architecture of the city suburbs were included in the UNESCO List of World cultural heritage in 1990. The 300th anniversary of the foundation of our city was unanimously included by 31st session of the General Conference in the list of events marked by UNESCO as “world-wide jubilees”. Some of our foreign partners have already defined their plans to contribute to the anniversary of St. Petersburg: 300 apple trees from Finland and a Japanese garden from Japan will decorate the park dedicated to the 300th anniversary, whereas the government of Slovenia plans to construct an aqua centre. The cultural history of Latvia is closely connected to St.Petersburg – the great poet Janis Rajnis, like President Vladimir Putin, studied at the Faculty of Law of our University. During the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Riga last year we presented the bust of Rainis, and Riga will present an equestrian statue of Peter the Great for the anniversary of our city. The city of Turku – our old friend and partner – participates in building a street in St.Petersburg named after it, and Prime minister Mr. Lipponen will head the Finnish delegation at the 300th anniversary celebrations next year, which will also include the mayors of Helsinki and Turku. We are finalising negotiations with the Government of Sweden regarding reconstruction of the Swedish church in St. Petersburg.
Since 1996, St. Petersburg has noticeably raised its profile in Baltic Sea co-operation. Our efforts included i.a. promoting St. Petersburg’s Baltic Sea initiative, which is actually a cluster of international projects: “St. Petersburg – European gate of Russia”, transport corridor “Baltic bridge”, “Clean city”, “Ring highway”, “Southwest clearing constructions”, transport corridor “Northern Sea way”, etc. We have been actively involved in the discussion of the EU Northern Dimension and the ND Action Plan, take part in the CBSS, BSSSC and UBC activities, as well as in traditional meetings of the “Baltic Three” – the Mayors of St.Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.
In 2001-2002 Russia holds the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and our city has become the venue of a number of important regional events, including the 2nd Baltic Sea NGO Forum in April, the 4th Baltic Sea States Summit meeting in June, and the 11th BSPC annual conference in September. Our co-operation with partners in the Baltic Sea region develops in five main areas: culture, health and social affairs, environment, trade and economy, transport. In the field of culture, one could cite the good example of St.Petersburg days in Tallinn and Tallinn days in our city, days of Turku in St. Petersburg, erection of a monument to Pushkin in Narva and the journey of the sailing ship “Mir” to Portsmouth and Århus.
As regards the environment, great importance is attached to a major co-operation project on upgrading sewage treatment facilities in the South-West of St. Petersburg, building an industrial toxic waste recycling plant, creating an International centre of Baltic Sea region ecological security, fighting against oil pollution and enhancing the safety of nuclear power plants.
In the social sphere, the Government of St. Petersburg signed a co-operation agreement with Denmark in December 1998, which includes such projects as opening a Centre for war veterans, setting up a shelter for the homeless in Kolpino district, modernising the shelter for children of the Municipal Department of Internal Affairs on Sedov street, building housing for 125 families of officers withdrawn from the Baltic countries in Leningrad Oblast, etc.
In the field of economic development and transport St. Petersburg looks forward to the implementation of a number of projects within the framework of the ND Action Plan.
Our external ties are not limited to those with our closest neighbours, who account for only 40% of the city’s foreign trade turnover. In fact, China and India are the biggest consumers of our products, and, to a great extent, St. Petersburg views its role in the Baltic Sea region as a gateway to countries in the Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia and other Asian powers.