+ -
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union

Submitted on 2023-08-25 12:23:54

Interview by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Russian Mission to the EU Kirill Logvinov for the Interfax news agency, 25 August 2023

- The start of a new political season is approaching in Brussels. What are your expectations from the EU's policy on Russia in the short and medium term?

- Our expectations are realistic, based on an analysis of the ongoing processes in the European Union. These include a reliance on trade and economic protectionist measures, a policy of militarization of the economy and strengthening of military-political component, widespread artificial imposition of "liberal values", cleansing of information space from alternative media sources, and building a dialogue with the world on the principle "who is not with us is against us". These and other trends, which seriously hinder the further development of the once successful integration community, have a direct projection on the EU's policy towards third countries, including Russia.

However, our country has a special place in the European Union's system of coordinates - the so-called "Russian threat" has been made an absolute. The European Union has formed politicians who successfully parasitise on this myth. Nothing fundamentally new has been invented in the West: let us remember how, after the Second World War, voters were frightened by the "Soviet boot". Today, everything is exactly the same. It reaches, pardon me, the point of outright madness: the idea that Russia is to blame for all the problems is drilled into the common citizen's head almost daily, in all seriousness. In other words, if it weren't for Russia, everyone would live happily here. Moreover, in an environment where the EU members are unable to find solutions or come to a common ground on many really vital issues, the opposition to our country (in the old days this would have been called a "Crusade") has turned into a consolidating factor. Therefore, I think the answer to your question is obvious: in the short term, Brussels will inertially stick to its current course towards Russia. As for the medium-term perspective, it rather depends on how severely life will punish the EU for the policy it is pursuing today.

- It is expected that next year the European Parliament and the European Commission will be renewed, and a new President of the European Council will be appointed. In your opinion, can this be a factor that will either help to bring Russia-EU relations out of the unprecedented crisis situation or, on the contrary, make them even more complicated? With the course of the current political leadership of the EU towards Russia, do we see any sense in raising the level of our representation in Brussels?

- It is not about personalities, I believe. And after all, there are no people on the European political scene who are able to assess the situation soberly instead of following the mainstream. Another important thing: the EU leaders are political appointees, the result of a compromise between member states. They are not elected, so in fact they do not bear any personal responsibility for the decisions they make during their term at the EU helm. Besides, it should be clearly understood: the overwhelming majority of politicians here have long, not even for the first decade, been irritated by the very fact that we are not what the West would like us to be. In other words, the Western reaction to the Special Military Operation is not some kind of opportunistic overreaction. Yes, EU tactics may be adjusted, but not the goal of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. And not only in the context of Ukraine. Russia's presidential elections are ahead, and there is no other way to explain the rhetoric that the EU needs to prepare for changes in our country than by attempting to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

And I cannot but say the main thing: this is not just a crisis situation, but a genuine hybrid war against us. I am stressing this because, even when the security situation on the European continent stabilises and the question of how to rebuild relations with the EU and its member states arises, it is impossible not to take into account the ease with which the EU overnight abandoned any cooperation with us. It is not a coincidence that I am talking about this: you will not believe it, but already today some people here - with historical references - are expecting us to forgive everything and everyone.

As for the level of representation in Brussels, in the current situation with regard to unfriendly countries, there is probably no such direct correlation. Otherwise a similar statement of the question would be quite justified not only for the Permanent Mission. If Russia has taken decisions to downgrade the level of its diplomatic representation, such measures have been of a retaliatory nature. In our particular case, the expulsion of the staff of the EU diplomatic mission in Moscow in response to the declaration of persona non grata of Russian diplomats in April last year was such a step.

- For many years, the European Union has been Russia's largest trade and investment partner. According to your estimations, what is the volume of reduction in our trade turnover with the EU countries over the last year and a half?

Indeed, the EU was Russia's number one trading partner as recently as last year. We in turn have been consistently listed among the EU's top five largest counterparties for a number of years.

At the end of 2022, during which Brussels adopted nine sanctions packages against our country, Russia managed to retain its fifth place in the list of key trade partners of the European Union. According to the Eurostat, the volume of EU-Russian trade turnover was 258.6 billion euros last year, even increasing by 2.3% compared to 2021. At the same time, mutual trade during 2022 showed growth mainly due to the increase in Russian supplies to Europe. Thus, in value terms, the export of domestic products to the EU market increased by 24.3% to 203.4 billion euros. On the contrary, counter deliveries of goods from the EU to Russia decreased by 38.1% to 55.2 billion euros. In 2022, our country's trade surplus with the European Union totalled 148.2 billion euros, increasing by 73.8 billion euros compared to 2021.

However, as expected, since the beginning of this year there has been a tangible decline in trade between the EU and Russia, as the "delayed" effect of the eleven packages of EU restrictions on key Russian exports began to kick in. As a result of the corresponding sharp decline in trade turnover in the first half of 2023, our country has fallen to tenth place among the EU's largest counterparties.

EU-Russia trade turnover in the first six months of 2023 totalled €49.8bn, having fallen by 67.2% as compared to the same period last year. This was primarily due to a 76% drop in the supply of Russian products to the EU (in value terms, it fell to 29.3bn euros). Exports of goods from the EU to Russia fell by 31% to 20.5 billion euros. Our country still has a surplus in trade with the EU (8.8 billion euros), but its size decreased by 83.3 billion euros compared to the first half of 2022.

- Is the Russian side interested in maintaining humanitarian ties with the EU countries, in keeping contacts in the field of culture and education? Are they currently being conducted and to what extent?

There is no doubt that we are interested in maintaining humanitarian contacts with EU countries. Cooperation in the fields of culture and education has been objectively demanded by both our compatriots and ordinary Europeans.

However, it should be clear that the task of inflicting a strategic defeat on us means, among other things, punishing the Russians for not "taking to the streets" in a difficult moment for the country, as they openly hoped for here. In fact, the denial of cultural and educational exchanges, including the complete unilateral cessation of cooperation with Russian government agencies under the EU's Erasmus Plus academic mobility programme, should be regarded as an instrument of additional pressure on our citizens.

At the same time, we must not forget that throughout the ages humanitarian ties between Moscow and the West have contributed to historical reconciliation and the rapprochement of nations. In the context of the unleashed campaign to demonise Russia and its population, Brussels is objectively not interested in maintaining people-to-people contacts at the previous level, which, by the way, was much higher than even between some member states.

- What is the situation regarding visas? According to the Russian side's estimates, how much has the tourist flow from the EU countries to Russia and vice versa decreased recently?

The visa policy of the European Union is a part of the course towards the breakdown of interpersonal ties. Despite the fact that there is no ban on issuing Schengen visas, including tourist visas, to Russians at the EU level, it is extremely difficult to obtain them. Last September, the European Commission published guidelines for member states on the implementation of the EU Council's decision to suspend the 2006 Agreement on Visa Facilitation between the Russian Federation and the EU. The document strongly suggests that visa applications from Russians should be treated with special partiality. In addition, in December 2022, they adopted a decision instructing European capitals not to accept for visas travel documents of millions of Russian citizens who live in the new regions of the Russian Federation, as well as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. At the same time, Brussels is not confused by the fact that it is thereby violating the right to free movement while demonstrating a discriminatory policy.

As for the flow of tourists from EU countries to Russia, we are not creating any obstacles for ordinary Europeans in terms of visas. The EU is rather creating barriers itself, in particular by cancelling direct air links with the Russian Federation. All this is accompanied by massive anti-Russian propaganda aimed at creating an enemy image of our country. However, EU disinformation is unlikely to influence those European tourists for whom the desire to travel to Russia today, as before, does not depend on the Western political conjuncture.


Source URL: https://russiaeu.ru/en/node/7760