EU Remains Russia’s Strategic Partner

Cutting short long-term ties makes no sense for the vital interests of Europe, which is still in the process of overcoming a deep crisis, and European business is well aware of this. EU remains Russia’s key trade, economic and political partner.

Russia’s Permanent Envoy to the European Union (EU), Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Valdai Club expert Vladimir Chizhov believes that the results of the elections to the European Parliament were not difficult to predict. The leading parties preserved their positions. As for so-called “Euro skeptics,” they did receive more votes than before. Representatives of the political mainstream are reassuring themselves with the hope that “Euro skeptics” will find it difficult to come to terms with each other. To obtain the status of a parliamentary party in the European Parliament, it is necessary to have 25 deputies from seven countries.

Chizhov said that a small increase in the voter turnout compared to 2009 (by 9/100 of a percent) is being presented as the main positive result of the elections. Some Euro integration optimists hastened to interpret this fact as a “reversal” of the trend, because the number of voters at these elections has been going down consistently since 1979.

“The European Parliament has never been an easy partner for Russia, especially since the adoption of ten new members into the EU,” the Russian expert said. Moreover, the voices of those who disliked Russia have been louder than those of its sympathizers. Nevertheless Russia has had to work with those elected EU deputies, and will have to continue to do so now.

“I’d immediately like to refute the version of events that has taken hold in some media outlets, especially in the final weeks before the elections – notably, that in the new European Parliament, Russia will rely on the far right parties that ostensibly sympathize with it and its policy,” Chizhov said. “I won’t comment on likes and dislikes, but will just say that as before, Russia is ready to cooperate with all political forces represented in the European Parliament. Russia will hold constructive dialogue with all parliamentary parties and individual deputies that are interested in developing strategic partnership with it,” the expert said.

The 33rd regularly-scheduled Russia-EU summit was supposed to be held on June 3, but will not take place for obvious reasons. As for European sanctions against Russia, Chizhov said: “I’d like to emphasize that sanctions can only be imposed by the UN Security Council, and what is going under the name of sanctions are unilateral restrictions of dubious legitimacy.”

Needless to say, the cancellation of the summit and other events under the cooperation agreement does not facilitate our strategic partnership. The damage will be done not to Russia itself, but to our mutually advantageous cooperation. In Chizhov’s opinion, this has not radically changed the situation, because some of the areas of cooperation that are frozen now were not making any progress before either. This applies to dialogue on visa-free travel, which was not making any progress long before the Ukrainian crisis with all the ensuing emotions. Debates on WTO issues were not easy. Our political dialogue, in particular on crisis settlement issues, was not entirely positive either. Yet, all these facts do not mean that the EU has ceased being our strategic partner.

Chizhov believes that cutting short long-term ties makes no sense for the vital interests of Europe, which is still in the process of overcoming a deep crisis, and European business is well aware of this.

Much is written today about Russia’s turn to the East, just like much was said about the US turn to the Asia-Pacific Region. In general, all countries make such turns, but the world situation is far more complicated than such simplistic patterns. Chizhov is firmly convinced that the EU is our key trade, economic and political partner. Obviously, it will take more time and effort to overcome the current crisis. But it was not we who engineered it. Credit for this – from beginning to end – goes to our “valiant” partners, who had the wrong ideas about the situation in the region, what they call “our common neighborhood,” and about Russia’s motives and resolve.

As for Ukraine’s elections and Poroshenko’s victory, Europe’s official reaction is meticulously expressed in the same style as the final statement of the international monitoring mission. Alongside positive impulses directed toward the new Ukrainian president, EU leaders point, quite rightly, to the need for constitutional reform and the importance of dialogue with Russia. But surprisingly they said nothing about the need to stop violence and put an end to the so-called “counterterrorism operation.”

About international talks on Ukraine: The sides have a different perception of the situation. For the EU, and especially for the United States, Ukraine is a field for geopolitical battles. Both believe that Ukraine has a conflict with Russia. In Chizhov’s opinion, this is absolutely wrong because the events in Ukraine are a domestic conflict. He believes that seeing “Moscow’s hand” in everything won’t explain the roots of the conflict and will only lead to a deadlock. The idea of the Geneva process is to launch a dialogue in Ukraine. The expert believes that Russia, as well as the EU and the United States, have a role to play in this. Geneva-2 on Ukraine would make sense if all sides of the Ukrainian domestic conflict were represented at it. But for the time being, the Ukrainian authorities are rejecting this idea pointblank.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.