- Mr. Logvinov, traditionally, EU countries celebrate Europe Day on 9 May. What was special about this year's festivities? Were representatives of the Russian Mission invited to any of the events?
- To begin with, celebrating Europe Day aims to raise public awareness of the EU and raise the profile of the European project. There are usually no protocol events organised for the local diplomatic corps. Perhaps because the diplomats accredited in Brussels have already got their own idea of the EU. However, the current leaders of the European institutions seem to have forgotten the objectives that were proclaimed when creating the economic integration association, including in the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950. Instead of the principles of the single market, Brussels promotes a policy of unilateral illegitimate measures; instead of maintaining peace, it contributes in every way possible to escalating the conflict in Ukraine. This year, Europe Day was highly politicised: Europeans were actually invited to associate it with Ukraine, rather than the European Union – as, on its eve, the former decided to "privatise" the date that commemorates European integration.
- Officials in Moscow, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, say there will be no "business as usual" with the EU. Do you think that Russia and the EU have lost each other for good?
- Russia has lost its trust in and respect for the European Union, as it has proved to be an unreliable partner one cannot deal with, an entity not ready to take our national interests into account. If it is not for good, it is obviously for a long time. We value equal and mutually respectful relations – let Brussels do “business’ with someone else.
- Some time ago, there was a lot of talk in the EU about reviewing the foreign policy framework towards Russia. How would you characterise the "six points" proposed by Josep Borrell, Head of European Diplomacy, and how different are they from his predecessor Federica Mogherini's "five principles"?
- The "six elements" of the approach to our country voiced by Borrell almost half a year ago have not brought any fundamental changes to the EU's policy towards Russia. Essentially, they have just reaffirmed the "Mogherini principles". “Deterrence” – which originally, long before the special military operation, implied "hybrid confrontation" with our country – has remained the key objective. Today one should already speak of a large-scale war being waged by the EU and its Member States against Russia. There is no other way to interpret the task at hand - to inflict a strategic defeat on us. It enjoys a consensus among the Member States. And, to put it straight, we see no grounds for a change in this course, at least in the short term.
- What the 11th package of anti-Russian sanctions will focus on? When can it be adopted?
- With every new “package”, the EU is finding it increasingly difficult to agree on new ones, as the European capitals realise that they are facing more and more challenges in coping with the negative consequences of the anti-Russian restrictions they have imposed. Therefore, the focus of the 11th "package" can be expected to shift to ensuring effective implementation of previously adopted sanctions. This refers both to rigorously enforcing them within the European Union and to counteracting the "circumvention" of restrictions by individuals and organisations in third countries. Brussels is already actively engaged in specific “explanatory activities”, let us call it this way, outside the EU. Well, we seem not to be alone in failing to understand why one should listen to Brussels at the expense of one's own trade and economic interests.
As far as timing is concerned, much, as usual, depends directly on the process of agreeing on the content of the "package". And this depends on the "sanctions appetite" of the Member States.
- Borrell called sanctions a “slow-acting poison”. How does this “poison” affect the EU itself?
- Clearly, in this way the head of the European diplomacy wanted to re-emphasise the task of sanctions, as seen in Brussels. Yet, it is obvious to all that this figure of speech most aptly describes the deplorable state of the European economy. The restrictions imposed by Brussels, for example on the Russian energy sector, which triggered an acute energy crisis, proved to be a very fast- and long-acting "poison" for the EU itself. The extremely high level of public debt in many European countries remains a serious concern (the eurozone average at the end of 2022 was 91.6%). Earlier, due to the pandemic, the EU had temporarily suspended general fiscal rules imposing a debt ceiling of 60%, but the huge costs of dealing with the energy crisis have so far impeded a return to their enforcement. Our economy has weathered the external pressure, it was back on the growth path as early as the second half of last year - which is not the case for the European economy. So it will be a long time for the European Union to deal with the consequences of the reckless sanctions decisions.
It is also worth noting that economists have not yet come up with an objective methodology for assessing the sanctions' effectiveness. Therefore, those in the EU asking logical questions about their expediency are left to be satisfied with political statements from Brussels.
- Don’t Europeans regret so easily sacrificing the energy cooperation with Russia, which to a large extent formed the basis of their prosperity?
- European political establishment made decisions to break energy ties with us for purely ideological reasons – disregarding the economic ones, largely under pressure from the United States. They did not consider the opinion of consumers - the population and businesses. Ordinary Europeans were told tales of the need for "a little patience", encouraged to take fewer showers and lower the temperature in their flats, all in the name of getting rid of dependence on Russia and an elusive "green" future. The negative implications for the economy, the state of public finances, and the long-term competitiveness of European industry and agriculture were deliberately silenced.
As a result, many European companies, affected by high energy prices, are forced to relocate production outside Europe, primarily to the US. Serious risks remain in terms of securing the EU's energy needs in the coming heating seasons. Some 700 billion euros have been spent to combat high energy prices and support households and businesses. It is a big question for how much longer EU countries will be able to continue pouring money into the energy crisis. In any case, the era of cheap energy, which largely contributed to the success of the European integration process, is over.
- What is the fate of the Russian assets "frozen" in the EU?
- Brussels has been frantically trying to invent some "legal" grounds for confiscating Russian property for many months. Existing international law and constitutional law of Member States do not provide a basis for alienating private property or sovereign assets of a foreign state for the reconstruction of another country – and this constitutes a problem for the EU. So far, they have only come up with the idea of investing our state assets in order to use the proceeds for Ukraine's needs. They have even calculated the interest on this investment - around 2.6%. At the same time, they have warned European taxpayers that there may be losses of up to 4 billion euros a year. One can only wonder whether investors will now regard EU Member States as a safe jurisdiction.
- Do you have the data on how fewer Russian citizens have travelled to EU countries due to the suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement and the increased complexity of transport logistics? Is a return to simplified issuance of Schengen visas possible?
- It is possible from a legal point of view as the agreement has been suspended - not terminated. The EU has taken this step, so the question about the prospect of a return to the simplified procedure should be addressed to Brussels. The EU's actions have not only hurt the interests of Russians, but also those of European citizens. This once again proves how local political establishment, which does not care about people-to-people contacts, is "far from the people".
- How strong is the interest in the EU for Russian social media pages in the context of the Russian media ban in most of the community?
- Social media has essentially remained one of the few ways for Europeans to get an alternative point of view. The mere fact that the EU is cleansing the media space of Russian media indicates that there is interest in our sources of information among the locals. They are popular, hence Brussels is trying so hard to combat them. And any piece, regardless of the topic, which in the slightest way questions the talking points promoted by the Western mainstream, is automatically labelled as disinformation. Moreover, it turned out that, as the European Commission's Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, recently stated, "freedom of speech in the EU is not unlimited". This is how she explained the proposals being discussed at the European institutions to regulate social media. It is crystal clear who the beneficiaries here will be. Of course, such a policy cannot but arouse the indignation of citizens, who would like to retain the right to receive information from diverse sources and draw their own conclusions.
- Why did French President Emmanuel Macron's remarks on the expediency of EU strategic autonomy provoke a strong reaction in both Europe and the US?
- I am convinced that had Europeans really aspired to "strategic autonomy" even a little bit, the EU would not have come to what it is now. Macron's statements and the outcome of his visit to China have led to claims that Paris is allegedly ready to lead a "European movement" in countering the US strategy of "deterring" China. Naturally, this immediately enraged Washington. The Americans in general do not want an independent Europe. All US actions are aimed at "subjugating" it: they have put the EU on American liquefied natural gas, are taking measures to lure European business to America, and the EU is being merged with NATO. The Member States unhappy with the French President are those who have been always worshipping the transatlantic link. It was they who immediately launched the thesis of the need to maintain euro-solidarity into the media space.
At this point it is safe to say that all talk of EU "strategic autonomy" - be it in foreign, energy or economic policy - has always remained largely empty words. Certainly, the whole world would benefit if the EU became a truly sovereign geopolitical player. However, its current political establishment does not seem to want this at all. No one takes into account that by adopting such stance, the EU could find itself on the sidelines of the ongoing transformation of international relations.