Russia and the EU: Not Together But Alongside

Russia and the EU: Not Together But Alongside

TV Debates of the Valdai Discussion Club and Russia 24 TV Channel on the topic ‘Russia and the EU: Not Together but Alongside’ took place on June 16, 2016 as part of SPIEF 2016.

The discussion was opened by Moderator Evelina Zakamskaya, Anchor of Russia 24 TV Channel, who pointed out that the topic is rather complicated and in fact some foreign colleagues refused to take part in the debates. This proves once again the validity of the point that we are no longer together but alongside.

Among speeches of foreign colleagues, it is worth mentioning the statement made by Piotr Dutkiewicz, Professor of Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). He pointed out that the EU–Russia relations are getting only worse. EC has set forth the 5 principles that they want to build their relations with Russia upon. But unfortunately there is nothing new in these principles; instead they just confirm the poor quality of relations. On the other hand, Mr. Dutkiewicz suggested, Russia should also consider how to respond to those five principles, or otherwise set forth its own principles for interaction with the EU. It is necessary to understand what Russia wants from Europe. “We end up with some sort of asymmetry,” Professor said, “we’ve got the five principles that don’t suit Russia but, again, no response to them. That is why I think that Russia and the EU are not even standing alongside but sidewards.”

The Debates were continued by Alexander Rahr, Director of Science of the German-Russian Forum. Mr. Rahr has a different view. He said: “Since we live on the same continent and are neighbors, this means we are still close although no longer together.” If put in the words of political analysts, we are on the verge of “world division” and Europe is currently losing its positions – both in military and economic terms. Europe wants to protect itself and has two options: either escape “under the wing” of the Americans or “set up a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. So far the American concept is gaining because it is more attractive for the European elite. The ball is on the European side, so Europe will have to make this decision by itself.

Arnaud Dubien, Director of the Observatoire Analytical Centre of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce argued that time has come to think of the future. The tone of the EU–Russia relations has already started to change. This was also mentioned at SPIEF by the EC Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, whose very presence at the Forum is a good sign of positive changes in relations. Europe should think over its strategy of behavior towards Russia (which has not been done in 25 years), but is expecting positive signals from Russia as well.

The First Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Alexey Likhachev also took part in the Debates. He shared his impression that the interest of European companies and businessmen to Russia has not actually faded away, however there is no economic or political dialogue with Brussels, investors’ problems are left unsolved and the trade turnover is shrinking. Mr. Likhachev operated the following figures: the EU has moved down from the peaking 51% to 42% in Russian trade turnover. Meanwhile, this is the real money lost by the real business. He concluded that new areas of common interest should be looked for – primarily among significant initiatives and projects.

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