Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Russia: Brussels Conference Calls for Closer Integration of Russia to Europe

SOURCE Institute of International Integration Studies

'Stability', brought by the re-election of Putin as President, important for the development of relations

A panel of European and Russian politicians has called for closer bilateral relations and cooperation between the EU and Russia, at an international conference in Brussels today.

The conference took place following an annual the EU-Russia Summit in Brussels on 15th December.

Russia's formal accession to the WTO, finally approved last Friday in Geneva, has presented an opportunity to put the EUs relationship with Russia on a new footing, the panel concluded. With Russia's membership likely to bring benefits to all parties involved, including Russian consumers, Russian industry and other WTO member states, through increased competition and standardised regulation, the panel argues that stability in Russia would help ensure a conducive framework for doing business.

Sven-Olav Carlsson, Deputy Head of Russia Division, European External Action Service, said: "Our partnership is already comprehensive, established and mature. We have achieved a lot but there is much more we can do, especially cooperation surrounding foreign policy and internal security. Russia is not only a strategic partner, it is a global partner and it is a neighbour. Russia's accession to the WTO is important to all her partners, especially the EU. But there is a feeling we must strengthen and further our relations."

The panel cited that with Vladimir Putin's likely return as President ensuring stability, now is the time to do so. Despite claims of vote rigging and corruption around the parliamentary election it is evident that Vladimir Putin remains the most popular politician in Russia, with Putin's United Russia party securing just under 50 per cent of the vote at the recent parliamentary election. The panel were in agreement that his return to the Presidency would ensure positive stability.

Riccardo Migliori, Vice-President of the PA OSCE, said: "Putin's return to the Presidency will bring stability and certainty and will help to address the economic and political disintegration in Europe…The European economy is going through a difficult period. And we understand that the European economy can't be separated from Russia. Putin has played his role in modern history by preventing a collapse of Russia and we hope, that he will play his role to stop a collapse of European Union."

Anthony Salvia, Director of the American Institute of Ukraine, also called for a "pan-European entente": "Under Putin, and his effective stewardship of the nation, the economy of Russia is growing, with the country seeing an increase in pensions, a reduction of poverty. There is an inherent importance of Russia to Europe. Without an expansive of cooperation with Russia there can be no European and US security."

The panel concluded that in light of the Eurozone crisis the EU needs to seek greater integration with Russia, its key neighbour and ally. The panel acknowledged that with the Russian economy continuing to see growth, and Europe's over-dependency on Russian energy supply, the EU needs Russia more than Russia needs the EU.

Migliori said: "Europe and Russia are distant neighbours, as if Russia was in Europe but not part of it. Therefore the only option when it comes to developing relations with Russia is to reduce this gap, otherwise we shall relegate Europe to the footnote of history. We are pan-European in business, energy and culture, exemplified by Europe's dependency on Russian energy, but we are not at a political level. This must be the objective now. Unless we want to hand Russia over to China, we must seek something between closer ties and integration. Europe would like to have Russia as a close friend than a threat."

Alexander Babakov, Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma, commented: "We welcome membership of the WTO as a positive step to improving bilateral relations, especially in the field of business, with our neighbours and global community. It has been the stated aim of the government to continue to seek closer ties and integration with CIS countries, the EU, and the world at large. I have no doubt that the newly elected President in 2012 will be committed to this cause yet further."

Organised by a Russian think tank The Institute of International Integration Studies and a Spanish media holding Mediasiete, the conference, entitled '"Relations between the European Union and Russia - Economic Cooperation after the 2012 Presidential Election', was held at Renaissance Hotel, Brussels.

Speakers included Riccardo Migliori, Italy, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly OSCE; Sven-Olav Carlsson, Deputy Head of Russia Division, European External Action Service; Alexander Babakov, Vice Speaker of the Russian State Duma; Mikhail Starshinov, Member of the Russian State Duma; as well as members of the European Parliament.


The IIIS is a Russian think tank, based in Moscow and set-up in 2008 as a non-governmental, non-commercial public organisation to discuss and promote closer relations between the Federal Republic of Russia and its neighbours, through round table discussions, seminars and conferences in and around Europe and the world. The Institute's main aim is to carry out studies of integration processes in the post-Soviet space, Europe and other parts of the world in the fields of politics, economy, defence and security.