On July 11, Brussels will host talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. This is their second meeting in recent times and will be held three days after President Vladimir Putin’s talks with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.
The officials will consider certain aspects of bilateral relations in the context of the April agreements on stepping up a dialogue on topics of mutual interest and current international issues.
The Russia-EU relations are passing through a difficult phase, with sanctions that benefit neither side persisting as the main irritant. By once again extending the anti-Russian sectoral sanctions and approving a package of restrictions against Crimea and Sevastopol, the EU has missed the chance to emerge from the vicious circle of sanctions that are poisoning the atmosphere of Russia-EU relations. Many important areas of cooperation remain frozen. During our contacts with European partners, we point out that it is absurd to link the sanctions against Russia to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, something that only helps Kiev to openly sabotage its commitments.
The Russian Federation’s position on these unilateral measures remains unchanged. We do not intend to hold any discussions on their cancellation. He who has initiated all this, the EU, should be the first to renounce them.
Although our relations are facing hard times, the EU and Russia remain the biggest trade partners for each other. The EU accounts for 45% of Russian foreign trade. Russia, in turn, is the EU’s fourth most important trade partner.
Regrettably, our trade has declined by more than 50% over the last three years – from a record $417.7 billion in 2013 to $200.4 billion in 2016 – against the background of a drop in energy prices, the general slowing down of the growth of world trade and the restrictions that have been introduced. But this negative tendency is beginning to improve. For example, bilateral trade grew by 32.3% between January and April of this year by comparison with the same period of last year. However, much is yet to be done to reach the pre-crisis indicators.
In the current situation characterised by increased international tension, there is no alternative to maintaining multi-level Russia-EU contacts. One of our priorities is to establish and maintain contacts in the security area, primarily where counteraction to international terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal migration and organised crime is involved.
Russia’s policy remains unchanged. We are prepared to promote mutually beneficial relations with the EU based on equality, respect for national interests and the objective interdependence of the economies determined by territorial proximity and mutual complementarity. We are ready to go along such a path as far as Brussels is ready to go.
Progress towards forming a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok could be an effective tool helping to lead Russia-EU relations out of the present crisis. We see promoting cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the EU as the economic basis of this long-term project. Joint efforts by these two integration unions would facilitate the emergence of a broad stability and peace zone in Eurasia.