EU – Russia: friendship based on fear?

The end of May is more abundant in events on the international arena than previous months of the year. The aggravation of the India – Pakistan conflict, Bush’s tour of Europe, and the Russia – NATO summit in Rome really provide much food for reflection. It is certain that the Russia – EU summit being held in Moscow is to draw great attention. The event is really very important. Even Spainish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (Spain currently holds the EU chair) accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to come to Moscow before the earlier scheduled time.

Today, EU chairman Romano Prodi and Javier Solana, EU foreign policy and defense chief, also joined Aznar today.

Talks are focused mostly on making economic cooperation closer. In addtion, the unsettled problem of the status of Russia’s Kaliningrad region is also to be touched upon at the talks.

The European Union is Russia’s chief economic partner; the majority of investment comes from Germany, Italy, and other European states. Russia, in its turn, supplies gas and oil to Europe. The EU is interested in increasing its supply of of energy. Moreover, the countries already started working in this direction, for example, the construction of a new gas pipe branch through Poland can be mentioned here (although Poland is not yet a EU member). However, there are no more large-scale joint projects so far. Russia and the EU have many more problems in their relations than we can imagine.

Let us touch upon energy carriers once again. Europeans think that Russia’s domestic prices of energy carriers are much lower than European prices. Europe supposes this is because of governmental subsidies for oil and gas extraction and processing. Moscow says in response that nothing of this kind is done in Russia. Prices for energy carriers are low because of Russia’s rich natural resources. Nobody knows so far a way to find a compromise to the problem.

The problem connected with Russian-produced planes is not yet settled as well. On one hand, Europe says that the noise level of Russian planes is too high, but, on the other hand, if Russian planes give up flights to Europe, the majority of European tourism companies will have to close, especially Spanish companies.

Now comes the problem of Kaliningrad. The EU will not make a compromise concerning Kaliningrad’s status as a Russian enclave. At that, the European Union completely ignores the fact that the right of Russians for freedom of movement will be violated. Kaliningrad and its citizens are labeled with different names; the city is said to be a center of organized crime, also said that majority of people have AIDS, and number of drug addicts is too great. Indeed, if the EU has such an opinion of the city, it will hardly allow “such people” to enter Europe.

In fact, it seems that Europe is still afraid of Russia because of its foreign policy, which can hardly be predicted; of Russia’s notorious mafia; and, we may consider it strange, but Europe is afraid of competition from Russian companies. In addition, Brussels fears that Russia may move closer to the USA. If an alliance of this kind appears, the EU will lose its leadership in international politics. Certainly, such arguments are rather speculative under present-day conditions. However, even more unexpected and strange alliances appeared in the history.

On the whole, there are still enough problems in the relations between Russia and the European Union, but both sides have recently become more active in searching for more effective ways of cooperation. There are just few of them now, but they still exist. And this is even despite the fact that Russia will not be incorporated in the EU all the same.

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

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Translated by Maria Gousseva

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