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EU’s new key senior officials set to settle Ukrainian crisis - Russian expert

September 01, 2014, 17:26 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, September 01. /ITAR-TASS/. Recent reshuffles in the European Union’s key governing bodies demonstrate that the EU attaches top significance to at least two areas of its activity - further course towards European integration and more vigorous efforts to settle the Ukrainian crisis, Nadezhda Arbatova, the head of the European political studies department of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told ITAR-TASS.

At a Saturday summit of the European Union in Brussels, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk was elected the new President of the Council of Europe, the EU’s top political body. Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was appointed the new EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. Earlier, in July, leaders of 26 European Union countries approved Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s former Prime Minister, as the President of the European Commission. Thus, the rotation of presidents of the EU’s three most influential structures is over.

“Jean-Claude Juncker is an influential politician who once headed the Eurogroup (an informal governing body of the eurozone). He is a staunch federalist and supporter of European integration, first of all, within the eurozone. This was why British and Hungarian Prime Ministers, David Cameron and Viktor Orban, eurosceptics both, voted against Juncker. All the same, an experienced politician, Juncker understands it only too well that federalism in current conditions is possible only on the basis of flexible integration,” Nadezhda Arbatova said.

“Juncker has been traditionally well-disposed towards Russia. Amidst the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, he called on the West not to sever relations with Russia. He recognizes the importance of cooperation between the European Union and its biggest eastern neighbor. But in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, Juncker has taken a tougher stance towards Moscow and sees it as one of his tasks to achieve energy independence from Russia,” she said.

“Donald Tusk’s appointment as the President of the Council of Europe can be seen as the recognition of Poland’s growing role in the European Union and the Polish prime minister’s personal qualities. Tusk is a smart and energetic politician, a strong supporter of closer European integration. He belongs to the school of political realism founded by US former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,” Arbatova noted.

“Tusk is free from political prejudice so typical of many Polish and especially of American politicians. Unlike Hawks from the United States, who seek to press the Ukrainian president to continue combat operations in the country’s eastern regions, Tusk is upholding a more balanced position. He used to be an active supporter of a reset in the Polish-Russian relations. Bearing in mind this fact and taking into account special relations with Kiev, it would be right to say that he has big possibilities in terms of looking for a solution to the Ukrainian crisis,” she said.

“As for Federica Mogherini, her political views are a far cry from those of her predecessor at the position of the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton of Great Britain, a mouthpiece of the European Unions’ conservative wing. Mogherini is a relatively new personage on the European political horizon. Her appointment enhances the role of Italy as the current chair in the European Union and can also serve as another possibility to speed up the crisis settlement in Ukraine,” Arbatova noted.

“Catherine Ashton had no good feelings towards Russia, whereas relations between Russia and Italy can be described as privileged partnership. From this point of view, Federica Mogherini has more possibilities in terms of negotiating a compromise solution to the Ukrainian problem with Moscow. Shortly after she was appointed to her current position, Mogherini said that the European Union must leave the door to a diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis open even in conditions of ongoing work on further sanctions against Russia,” she said.

“The three new top EU officials complement each other perfectly well to be able to act boldly, resolutely but wisely in key areas of the EU policy,” Arbatova said in conclusion.

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