EU-Russia relations put on hold?
The relations between European Union and Russia have always raised interest among citizens and politicians alike. However, the official framework within which the cooperation of the two giants takes place has been long outdated.
Since 2007 EU and Russia have been without a legal basis for their relationship.
In October 2012, the European Parliament's Committee of Foreign Affairs supported a recommendation for next concrete steps in EU-Russia relations, and in particular the negotiations of a new EU-Russia Agreement.
The European Parliament has many times expressed its view that any new agreement with Russia should take better into account respect for democracy, rule of law, human rights as well as respect for the principles of international law.
After all, the EU is a value-based community. EU's actions and relations should reflect its values. And maybe that is the reason why Russia seems to prefer cooperation with some member states directly, instead of the EU as a whole.
The currently negotiated new agreement is based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that was signed in 1994 but expired already in 2007. It was established to encourage trade and investment between the EU and Russia.
The need of having a new Agreement was yet again discussed at the EU-Russia summit in June 2012. However, Russia seems not to be in a hurry. The EU leaders supporting the idea of making more improvement and effort in negotiations have been left on cold.
In August 2012 the establishment of a free trade area between the EU and Russia was given a boost when Russia joined the WTO, with the support of the EU.
Russia is likely to contemplate with its new game, WTO membership. For a year or two their WTO accession makes them busy and less attention is paid to the EU, if any.
Among visa issues, gas, human rights and Russian WTO membership, also the new Agreement was on the agenda of the latest EU-Russia summit in December 2012. Yet, it is not apparent that the partnership will have any concrete next step anytime soon.
Europe is now more disappointed by the two.
It has taken Russia a good decade to realize that in Europe the EU is the number to dial when wanting to make business. Today the Russian foreign ministry follows the European Union activities with the close look and clear interest. While the EU may be the largest trading partner to Russia, in this game Russia leads the tango.
The EU has very often sent a clear message that it is ready and willing to discuss and further develop its cooperation with Russia. But it takes always two to dance tango, as both partners are equally important.
Member of the European Parliament
Member of the Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee
This article was published originally in Finnish in Savon Sanomat 31.1.2013
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