​Supporting closer ties between the EU and Eurasian Economic Union

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
(Reuters/Maxim Shemetov/Francois Lenoir)
As Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, we have always proposed a serious relationship to Europe. For a long time we have been talking about the need to deepen Russia-EU ties. It seems today nobody objects.

In practice, we face many obstacles created by our European partners and EU bureaucracy. For us it is absolutely clear that the relationship should be built on a long-term basis, not in an atmosphere of confrontation, but in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Being the largest geopolitical entities on the European continent, the Russian Federation and the European Union are naturally interdependent in many ways, linked by their common civilizational roots, culture, history and future. Russia and the EU are two major political and economic power centers on the continent. The development of a strategic partnership with the EU has always been one of Russia's foreign policy priorities.

It’s true that Russia and the EU now have different positions on some international issues, including the Ukrainian crisis. But that does not mean that the sides should limit their political dialogue, diplomatic contacts and practical cooperation.

READ MORE: India to sign free trade deal with Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union

We believe that the "point of no return" has not been passed yet and will never be, and we are ready to work together with the EU and all of its member states on topical international issues, provided that the principles of equality, respect for each other’s interests and truly collective action are observed.

Traditionally, the EU has been our main economic partner. Bilateral trade exceeds €300 billion a year. Russia is the third biggest trading partner of the EU. The EU is the largest consumer of our energy exports. Russia firmly holds the position of EU’s No. 1 supplier of natural gas, satisfying one-quarter of the EU’s overall demand. It also remains the second most important exporter of crude oil and oil products to Europe. European businesses are broadly represented virtually in all areas of Russian economy. For instance, we make new high-speed trains in partnership with Siemens, build cars with BMW, VW and Renault, make agricultural machinery with Fiat, open pharmaceutical factories with AstraZeneca, and so on.

Moscow is ready for an even closer cooperation with Brussels and other European capitals. This is why Russia strongly supports eventual economic integration between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the EU. That will be an integration of the two blocs’ integration processes. We believe that there are no contradictions between the two models of cooperation, since both of them are based on similar principles and norms, including those of the WTO. The two unions could effectively complement each other. Direct dialogue and practical cooperation between the EEU and the EU would contribute to the resolution of many urgent global and regional issues. In a volatile world with uncertain global development scenarios, regional integration based on the pragmatic principles of trade, customs and a common market presents a most prudent and successful way to promote our shared interests in the new global environment.

The state of the European integration project is also a case in point. Current difficulties will take time to sort out. It is obvious, too, that the expansion of the EU as a chief vehicle of regional integration has its limits. To move forward, we have to use this pause and need for adjustment in a creative way.

The idea of integration between the EU and the EEU reflects an initiative, expressed by President Putin, concerning the creation of a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok – a continental market worth trillions of euros, based on the principles of equal and indivisible security, which would encompass both members of integration unions and nations that do not make part of them. Common goals, such as political stability, social justice and economic prosperity, make the EEU and EU natural partners. The EEU is open and inclusive, and fully in line with the concept of a pan-European economic space. We welcome the emerging diplomatic support for closer ties between the EEU and EU on the part of some European leaders, in particular, those of Germany and France, and hope that the rest will follow suit.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.