Interview by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov to EurActiv. 7 October 2013
- Let’s talk about the forthcoming Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit, to be held on 28-29 November. There have been a number of statements by Russian politicians, basically threatening countries like Ukraine, Moldova. I think Armenia has already changed its mind and will not pursue European integration. Basically Russia looks like the villain. How would you comment?
- Well, politicians are there to make statements. And they are free to do that. Allow me not to comment on specific politicians’ statements. I can refer to the official position of the Russian Federation, as expressed by President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.
Russia is not threatening anybody in this world, on any issue. We haven’t been threatening Syria with cruise missiles strikes. We haven’t been threatening the US with reprisals should they launch cruise missile strikes. We believe in diplomacy.
As far as the upcoming Vilnius summit is concerned, we all know it is not the first Eastern Partnership summit, it is the third summit. But the first two were barely noticed by the wide circles of public opinion since they didn’t produce much.
There is a lot more attention now regarding the upcoming summit in Vilnius, for a simple reason: not that Eastern Partnership has suddenly become a very successful policy of the EU, or it has acquired a separate budget line in the EU budget, which is still not the case. But for a different reason: the EU is planning to sign one and perhaps initial two other association agreements (AA) with focus countries, as they are called. The list of six countries are now down to three: Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Armenia as you rightly mentioned has made a different choice, Azerbaijan was not interested from the outset, and Belarus was never offered one. Regarding the three draft agreements, one has been made public, the Ukrainian one, but there is no transparency on the other two, and the Ukrainian AA was only announced after it was initiated.
Therefore it’s difficult to me to judge the Moldovan and Georgian AAs, but I have read the draft Ukrainian AA which includes the so-called Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Frankly I have never heard of a shallow and incomprehensive FTA anywhere (laughs).
But the issue is that Ukraine will by signing and ratifying the AA, sign up to a number of contractual obligations which will be legally binding, vis-à-vis the EU. It will have to incorporate parts of the EU’s acquis communautaire into its legislation. Which signifies a point of no return.
Let’s look at the broader picture: Ukraine and other focus countries have been offered an alternative: the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, one that’s developing into an Eurasian Economic Union by the end of next year.
It may be an exciting game to try to sit on two chairs.