Question: Could you please comment on the publication made by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell following his visit to Moscow?
Sergey Lavrov: I noted that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell published a number of posts on his blog following his visit to Moscow on 4–6 February 2021. One of them presents the case as if “Russia is progressively disconnecting itself from Europe”.
During our Moscow talks with Josep Borrell I emphasised the importance of building Russia-EU relations on a systematic basis. I recalled that in 2014 it was the EU that brought down the architecture of multidimensional ties with our country that had been meticulously developed over the years. The primary reason was, I would remind you, the EU's support for the anti-constitutional coup d'état in Ukraine of a distinctly anti-Russian character. This resulted in the suspension of biannual Russia-EU summits and meetings between the Russian Government and the European Commission. The formats of the Russia-EU Permanent Partnership Council and two dozen sectoral dialogues were "frozen". Earlier – long before the coup d'état in Ukraine – work on the almost finalised draft agreement on visa-free short-term travel for Russian and EU citizens was interrupted at the insistence of certain EU Member States. Why? Russia could not, they said, have visa-free travel until the EU grants it to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. So here too we see direct politicisation and explicit anti-Russian overtones.
Since 2004, when the Baltic states joined the EU, their Russian-speaking population has been overtly and consistently discriminated against. The attack on the Russian media is advancing. The shameful phenomenon of "non-citizenship" remains in Latvia and Estonia to this day. These developments run directly counter to the provisions of the Joint Statement on EU Enlargement and Russia-EU Relations of 27 April 2004. First of all, to the commitment made by the EU Brussels to the protection of persons belonging to national minorities.
A reasonable question arises – who is drifting apart from whom? Maybe it is the European Union that disconnects Russia, the Russian language and culture from itself?
As far as the Russian side is concerned, during our Moscow talks we reaffirmed our willingness to normalise the whole framework of relations with the European Union – on the basis of mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests rather than unilateral demands. With this approach, we are also ready to interact in certain areas where our interests coincide. In Moscow, by the way, an agreement was reached to deepen cooperation in such areas as healthcare, science and technology, and climate change. If you add the key traditional energy area, you will get quite a solid mutually beneficial agenda – unless it is sacrificed to geopolitical games.