Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

EU Willing To Come To Terms with Russia


Friday’s summit conference of Russia and the EU, to be held in the French city of Nice, will cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in Russian-European relations. The Union of 27 European democracies have practically defined its position. The foreign ministers of its 27 member-nations decided earlier this week in Brussels that it should resume strategic partnership negotiations with Russia. It is up to the Nice summit to endorse their decision.

One has to admit, though, that some European countries held different positions on the eve of the Brussels conference. Two new members of the European Union, Lithuania and Poland, stubbornly refused to side with the majority. Finally, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said they had better share the common European point of view in relations with Russia. Poland closed ranks with the rest of Europe, but, Lithuania stood up to the European Commission and keeps holding its own view. The current chairman of the European Union, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, repeatedly said that there was no reason whatsoever to say Russia failed to meet its obligations in the agreement for an end to the hostilities with Georgia. Lithuania does not agree with the French co-author of that agreement.

But, let me brief those who don’t know much about the problem in question, to give you an idea on what it’s all about. The Russian-European cooperation agreement expired late last year, only to be extended into 2008. Russian and European emissaries were to have met, for the discussion of the finer points of a new agreement, in Brussels on 16 September. Their plans were thwarted by last August’s developments in the Caucasus and the EU’s subsequent decision to suspend the negotiating process. The suspension of the Russian-EU negotiations was explained by a desire to punish Russia for its alleged attack on Georgia.

Although not too much time has gone by, most European countries now see who was to blame for last August’s developments in the Caucasus. If anyone was an aggressor, that someone was Georgia, according to a documentary film recently released in London. It was released in London, even though the UK lashed out as ardently as anyone at Russia last August, which means that even though they are in no hurry to admit they were wrong, the Europeans are making what looks like a U-turn in their relations with Russia.

Furthermore, it is not because they have suddenly seen the light that they started to behave differently. Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian Ambassador to the EU, again said that Russia wants to sign a new partnership agreement with Europe as much as the EU does. In other words, any attempt to settle important political and economic problems doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell if it’s not approved by Russia. It must be because it came to see that, and thanks to the global financial crisis, that the EU decided early this week to resume negotiations with Russia. It is a shame, though, that so much time has been lost in a situation that’s crying out for an accommodation. But, better late than never.

A coordinated effort for an accommodation is on the agenda for the Nice summit between the European democracies and Russia. After that, a number of European leaders are expected to leave Nice for Washington, where another summit, that of the twenty most-developed countries on this planet, is due to open on Saturday. The G20 summit will be attended by emissaries of the UN and the EU. It will focus on worldwide action for an end to the current economic crisis.

12 November 2008

andrei-ptashnikovAndrei Ptashnikov

Voice of Russia World Service



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