Interview by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov to New Europe

Submitted on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 20:11

Q: Last week in Strasbourg, the European Parliament passed a resolution warning Russia to respect the right of the EU’s eastern neighbours to choose whether to enter into association agreements with Brussels. How does Moscow view Ukraine’s plans to sign an association agreement with the EU? Is the Eurasian Union going to affect trade with the EU?

Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov: As far as the European Parliament is concerned, I regard the resolution adopted to be a political tool applying pressure on Ukraine. My country has never pulled Ukraine or any other country of the Eastern Partnership towards its side. It will be up to Ukrainians, Moldovans, Armenians, Georgians and others to make their decisions. Of the six countries of the Eastern Partnership, Armenia has said it is joining the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union, Azerbaijan, from what I know, has displayed no interest in an association agreement with the European Union, Belarus was actually never asked. So that leaves us with three countries: Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. I don’t know much about Georgia, we don’t even have diplomatic relations. Ukraine and Moldova will need to take a decision. It may be easy and comfortable to follow two parallel tracks, promoting co-operation with the EU and with the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Space. That’s all very good, but there comes a point where there are legal benchmarks along each track. So the single legal benchmark on the track of Eurasian integration is a country becoming a full member. On the EU track the situation is different. Nobody in the EU has ever promised to any of those countries full membership and, according to my understanding, does not intend to do that in any foreseeable future. In the meantime though, those countries, if they sign an association agreement, they will be obliged to take certain legal commitments, like aligning their national legislation with the acquis communautaire in various fields and that may create problems in their further relations with the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union for obvious reasons. I would like to stress there is no ideology in this, there’s hardly any politics. It’s only economics, it is calculation. If they proceed to establish what is described by a beautiful expression “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area” (though I have not heard of a shallow and incomprehensive one), then, of course, countries in the Customs Union would have to calculate the risks in their bilateral trade with any of these countries, namely Ukraine or Moldova. It’s pure arithmetic, and what the Russian Government is providing is giving a transparent view on this, showing the opportunities on the one hand, and the risks on the other hand.

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