EU and Russia can face globalized world’s challenges united - Russian diplomat
The first Russia-EU summit since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty offers hope that the leadership in Europe will ensure a better dialogue between Russia and its European partners.
RT: What exactly has changed in the relations between Russia and the EU since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty?
Vladimir Chizhov: Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, may I correct you, because it was signed back in 2007. And it took quite a while to get approved, and ratified. So it only entered into force last December. What has changed? Well, firstly, it’s the composition of the EU delegation. There are no representatives of the current Spanish presidency at such a summit. There is only the new president of the EU Council, Mr. Van Rompuy. Also the president of the Commission Mr. Barroso, as usual, the new high representative for foreign relations and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and the current commissioner for trade, Karel De Gucht. So this will be, I would say, a precedent-setting summit in a way as compared to the previous ones because from now on, we will be seeing more or less the same people on the other side of the table.
RT: One of the most important issues on the agenda will be the pan-European security treaty proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. And you recently said that the EU acknowledges the flaws of the current security system in Europe. What progress do you think will be made on the talks about the new security treaty?
VC: Well, this will certainly be one of the issues. But let me start with a more global approach. We are living in a rather volatile period of time globally. The world economy is hopefully on its way out of the global financial economic crisis, but it’s not yet out. So this is an issue that will certainly be discussed.
Among other things, having in mind that the summit is taking place just a few weeks before the G8 and the G20 summits in Canada, and bearing in mind that the EU is de facto the 9th member of the G8 and is certainly an active participant of the G20, so on the global scale these will be the issues, also issues related to climate change, energy security. On the European scale, certainly the issues related to Euro-Atlantic Security. You’ve mentioned the proposed treaty on European security – this is certainly an issue that is already being discussed in various formats between Russia and the EU. This does not imply that the EU member states are ready and willing to sign the proposed draft treaty immediately. There will have to be a process of consensus building around that. And certainly this summit in Rostov-on-Don will be a major benchmark on that road.
RT: Moscow believes that there is no reason for deploying the U.S. anti-missile defense shield in Europe. However, last week we saw batteries of Patriots in Poland. Will this issue be raised at the summit?
VC: Well, it’s not the EU that’s placing those Patriots, they do not belong to Europe, you could say. They are being leased to Poland, actually, on a temporary basis for training. The current configuration of Patriots is more an anti-aircraft system than an anti-ballistic missile system. Of course it is subject to further improvement and development; it may evolve into something different. But for the time being there are of course on the Russian side very logical questions being asked: why does this have to be about 70 kilometers from the Russian border? Poland, of course, is much smaller than Russia, but it is big enough, if it wants to train its soldiers.
RT: Relations between Russia and the EU have been affected by the war in South Ossetia. But now it’s been almost a year since the Special Commission of the EU presented a report that said that Georgia was responsible for that war. Now do you think that Europeans have changed the initial assumptions of that?
VC: Well, by the time the Tagliavini Commission Report was made public, it was actually a commission described as independent, but of course launched and financed by the EU. So by the time the report came out, I think most people already understood what had really happened in that part of the Caucasus. And if anybody needed further confirmation, it was there in the Tagliavini Report.
So there is certainly a change of mood, I would say, in the EU. It is no longer a burning issue. And the EU, as you know, has dispatched a field mission to Georgia to monitor the areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian authorities are in close contact with that mission, and we are cooperating with them. The Geneva consultations are ongoing. So it’s not, I would say, an issue that is a point of discord between Russia and the EU.
RT: Well, the current European currency crisis is in full swing, and of course the economic security crisis is among the important issues on the agenda of this current summit. Could Russia, which overcame a similar crisis in the late 1990s, perhaps offer advice or maybe some help to its European partners?
VC: Every crisis is different. And of course Russia has not only lived through the crisis that you’ve mentioned in the late 1990s, it has also not been left untouched by the current crisis, since it’s the global one. The approaches of Russia and the EU toward both an optimal set of anti-crisis measures and also the exit strategies from the crisis, which are no less important, have many similarities. We closely monitor what is happening inside the EU, and in particular inside the euro zone for a simple reason: because the euro is one of the major currencies in today’s world and part of the Russian Central Bank reserves are in euro; it’s a well-known fact. And we certainly wish the EU can swiftly overcome the effects of this crisis, which of course goes well beyond Greece, which is only a small part of the euro zone’s economy.
RT: Russia and the EU are currently actively working on a partnership for the modernization program. What does the modernization program look like at the moment? And what progress do you expect to be made during the summit?
VC: Well, in the Russia-EU context this initiative was launched at the previous summit in Stockholm in November of last year. Since then the two sides appointed coordinators and exchanged their position papers, you could say, describing their approaches. We hope to see at this summit a thorough discussion on how to proceed further, and perhaps a joint statement may be coming out of our staff.
RT: You mentioned energy security as one of the important issues discussed during the summit. After quite a stable year with no gas cut offs or shortages, can you see a growing mutual trust between Russia and EU in terms of energy security?
VC: Yes, I could agree with that terminology. Well, it’s been another stable year out of more than 40, and indeed there is increased confidence. There is increased mutual understanding of what’s really going on, and closer coordination. The early-warning mechanism in energy dialogue is up and running, and it should not be perceived just as a red telephone or an emergency alarm button. It is a set of measures which include both mutual information and coordination of efforts should any disruption be evident or a threat of any disruption be evident.
That’s one part of it. The other part is, of course, advanced information on proposed legislative and administrative measures prepared by either side which could affect the increase of the other side. So this is a well-established mechanism and we certainly hope that it will continue to prove effective.
RT: Russian officials say that Moscow and Brussels are currently working on a new European project. What is that project, and what are the potential benefits for both?
VC: If we talk about modernization, we see it as a set of mutually beneficial, very pragmatic, very specific projects that would allow the EU and Russia to jointly address challenges which we both face in this evolving globalizing world of ours, because neither Russia nor the EU lives in a vacuum. There are other major economies rising up providing challenges at an increased rate in all spheres of economic activity, and in order to remain on the edge of technological development of innovation, we certainly need to join forces.