Excerpts from the statement by Sergey Kopyrkin, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU, at a meeting of the Younger Generation Leaders Network on Euro-Atlantic Security. Brussels, 1 March 2016
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Russia and the EU are the two largest centres of economic and political gravity in Europe. Collectively we bear a special responsibility for the stability of the European continent and for the welfare of its peoples. I will not dwell on the numerous links that span our countries, from economic interdependence to civilizational proximity.
Suffice to say that, no matter what happens between Russia and the EU, we will continue to be of strategic importance to each other. And it is for this very reason that our relationship cannot be fashioned in an ad hoc manner. It needs to be underpinned by a shared and realistic long-term vision. Trendy slogans such as “strategic partnership” do not address the underlying differences, both conceptual and practical. Thus, twenty years after having signed the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, we have proven unable to overcome what Javier Solana termed “strategic mistrust”. The crisis in Ukraine has proven to be a decisive moment of truth in this regard.
We can debate at length who is to blame for this turn of events. Our view point on the origins and the culprits of the Ukraine crisis is well known. However, at this point we need to deal with the fallout from the crisis that has severely tested the fabric and climate of the Russia-EU relationship. I am speaking of the unilateral restrictive measures, the freezing of a substantial part of political dialogue and economic projects, as well as the wild accusatory propaganda campaign, unparalleled in modern history. All too often, it seems, our relations are defined by media-induced stereotypes rather than objective reality. This needs to change. We need to retain the ability to hear each other out and have faith, at the very least, in the reality of our interests and concerns. Otherwise there is a real risk of unintentionally creating an enduring rift across the European continent.
As for Russia, we stand ready to engage with the European Union. Today more and more voices inside the EU are calling for a constructive reappraisal of dialogue with Russia in areas where our interests intersect. Our only precondition for cooperation with the EU is that it proceeds in line with the principles of sovereign equality and respect for mutual interests.
It is beyond doubt that resuming “business as usual” will not suffice. Once the Ukraine crisis is firmly behind us we will need to jointly work on constructing a durable “common European house” – something we aimed for but never managed to complete at the dawn of the 90s. This will require us to think strategically about modernising and enhancing our mutually complementary economic potentials, as well as ways of synchronising European and Eurasian integration processes.