Interview with Andreus Romanos

Andreus Romanos, Chief Executive of the Association of European Businesses, joined Russia Today to comment on the business side of Russia-EU relations.

Russia Today: What current difficulties do Russia and the EU face at the moment business-wise?

A.R.: Business-wise – a lot less that would seem likely in terms of what we hear on the political side. My words surf through the Association, we base our activities on our working committees which look at industrial issues and the areas of professional interest. What serves through there are various irritants – we find it in pharmaceutical companies facing huge debt due to the running of a social medicine programme, we find it in general issues of public registration that is causing us some problems. There are irritants and the ones that we see being closer, in close working relationships with ministries and with the Duma, also affecting all of us again with more irritants. We have issues like new immigration rules and medical tests which abide through this week which again are the things which we can live through, business continues, what they do is they sound relationships, and their business may think that Russia does not care much about us being over here. So obviously in big issues Russia, has its right to protect its strategic industries. But we do need more clarity, we are waiting for clarity that has been promised for a long, long time – where can we invest, how much can we invest, and where the door is closed in order not to waste too much time for the areas which will be closed after with a later date. But in general those are working problems and you know when they talk about being a Cold War between Russia and Europe, that Cold War is not reflected in business.

RT: And what about the big issue – energy – because obviously over the period of 2005-2006 there were problems with Ukraine and energy supplies to Europe. On our front we saw Belarus this year. So do you think those concerns will also overshadow the relations between the two?

A.R.: I think they are overshadowed politically but I think its business people get it from a different angle. Basically, we have negotiated in Russia. We know it is a hard game. The same time it is a very straight game. I think that maybe on the issues of Ukraine last year it was a PR disaster. At the same time they actually have zero affect on European industry. So it could have been approached in a more subtle way by the Russian government, but looking from the pragmatic business point of view – no big issue.

RT: So you think that there is trust in terms of Russia carrying out its contract obligations?

A.R.: In terms of energy I believe so, nothing personal here.

RT: Interestingly, though, you mentioned about the energy issue being more political than economic. To what stand does political disagreement affect economic relations? Can you separate the two?

A.R.: I suppose there are some areas – something like energy which is obviously of strategic interest – they obviously have interlinks. In other areas again I think it should be viewed other way round – to what extent the economic ties, the business ties, will affect politics. I think that in economics, in a very good business situation, Russia has a leading role to play in trickling, maybe instead of downwards, upwards into politics and almost drawing politicians into the good relationships that business people have in this country.

RT: And what about transparency of the business transactions, banking and investments particularly? Because we see in the media concerns about that area.

A.R.: I guess it is not an issue of transparency. It is something that we see improving here. They certainly move towards greater co-operation with government in Russia. We see that happening. It is slow, it continues to be slow, and it is not being driven by the government as hard as it should be, but we have obviously a slowdown in the political change over the past couple of years for the reasons we all know about. But it is something that we live with and certainly when you see business people working here, they find ways of being certain enough of what they are doing and where they are putting their investments to be comfortable otherwise they wouldn't do it. We won't be boys here, we know what we are doing obviously.