Russia’s Chizhov: ‘I’m sure we will witness a new beginning under this EU cycle’

Chizov delivers his speech. [Georgi Gotev]

Russia’s long-serving EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov expects ‘a new beginning” in EU-Russia relations during the new EU institutional cycle, he told a reception he hosted on Tuesday (10 December) to mark 30 years since the then USSR started relations with the European Communities.

Chizhov, who started his Brussels stint in 2005, embodies much of the history of the relations between the EU and Russia, having attended most of the 32 summits held since 1998 (he has missed only the first two).

However, the last EU-Russia summit was held in January 2014, almost five years ago. After Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the political relations have reached an all-time low, and sanctions and counter-sanctions have been imposed.

Good times, bad times

Speaking at the reception he hosted in the Russian representation to the EU, Chizhov recalled the better years in relations, with the establishment of 17 sectorial dialogues.

He drew special attention to the most successful of the 32 summits: the one held in Saint Petersburg in May 2003, when the EU and Russia agreed on building Russia-EU strategic partnership based on the establishment of four common spaces, and the Moscow summit in May 2005 when Roadmaps were signed for strengthening relations in all fields.

Ten years ago, the Russian ambassador had hosted a similar anniversary reception, and the backdrop was already negative. In 2008, Russia and Georgia fought a brief war, and Georgia lost 25% of its territory. Abkhazia and South Ossetia still remain under Russian control.

Until five years ago, the EU was still referring to Russia as a “strategic partner” and then the freshly appointed EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said this phrase no longer accurately described the state of relations.

Mogherini: Russia is no longer the EU’s strategic partner

Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister appointed to become the next EU foreign affairs chief, said in the European Parliament today (2 September) that Russia was no longer the EU’s “strategic partner”, referring to the phrase which describes the relationship between the Union and its largest neighbour in hundreds of official documents.

But in the more recent period French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken in favour of rethinking the strategy vis-à-vis Russia, and some influential EU countries, namely Italy and Germany, have powerful lobbies pushing for better relations with Moscow.

Said Chizhov:

“I believe it is short-sighted to continue remaining at a “semi-frozen interaction” stage on the Russia-EU track while a bilateral dialogue between Moscow and a whole range of European capitals is gaining momentum.” He continued:

“Make no mistake: no significant international problem can be resolved without Russia, and our tasks on the international arena are converging in many aspects, far beyond the so-called “selective engagement” strategy. Besides, our economies are mutually complementary, common transport and energy infrastructure has long existed and continues to expand. A synergy of human, scientific, technical and resource capacities of Russia and the EU, and of the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union, in broader terms, would open new horizons to develop our countries and facilitate defending our positions within growing global competition.”

The diplomat said he remembers numerous milestones Moscow and Brussels have gone through, many difficult situations, but also joint successes and achievements.

“I am one hundred percent sure: in the course of another EU institutional cycle that started just ten days ago, we may witness a “new beginning” of our relations that, given the experience we have had, will be mature, wise and mutually respectful”, he said.

Few EU representatives were present at the reception, which was otherwise very generous in food and drinks.

Peter Stano, the spokesperson to the new EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said that EU-Russia relations are guided by certain principles and the EU was abiding by them. He said there would be no specific statement on the anniversary, and regarding Russia, the main focus was the implementation of the Minsk peace agreement regarding Ukraine.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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