Sweden: Moscow and Brussels Must Be Pressured into Integrating Russia into Europe

'Public pressure needs to be exerted on Moscow and Brussels if Russia is to successfully integrate into Europe,' believes Urban Ahlin, the chairman of the Swedish parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

Speaking on Saturday, March 1 at a session of the Baltic Club at the Rosbalt News Agency, Ahlin said that in the process of Russia's integration into Europe it is necessary to overcome a number stereotypes. He added that in Brussels 'there are powers who do not want Russia to integrate into Europe.'

'I am very concerned that new dividing lines might appear, and although this will not be a new Berlin Wall, it might be a line between rich and poor countries,' said Ahlin. He also said that there are a number of evident unsolved problems in Russia's relations with EU countries. For example, the Swedish Consulate General in Kaliningrad has still not been opened, and extensive cooperation between Sweden and Arkhangelsk and Murmansk on environmental issues has yet to be established, despite preliminary agreements.

Ahlin stressed that problems are caused both by Russian bureaucracy and by the EU's visa regime. He said that the problem with the integration process was that its participants 'are trying to take responsibility for every step they each take, which results in the appearance of barriers.' 'It is important to realise that visa barriers stop not the mafia and bandits, but ordinary people,' said Ahlin. He also expressed the hope that on May 31 in St. Petersburg Vladimir Putin would ask his EU counterparts whether they want to introduce a visa-free regime with Russia and, on receiving a positive reply, would ask them to create a plan of action for achieving this aim. Then, according to Ahlin, 'we must simply implement this plan, which will mean Russia and the EU doing their own 'homework'.'