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MOSCOW, June 15. /TASS/. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) that kicks off on Thursday may become an important step toward reconsidering the relations between the European Union and Russia, but no one is talking about cancellation of anti-Russian sanctions yet, experts polled by TASS said on Wednesday. Analysts note the importance of President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s participation in the forum and his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. SPIEF will not likely to change anything dramatically but may serve as a sign that relations between Russia and EU will start changing, experts said.
Looking for way out
"Relations between Russia and the European Union have entered another transition phase - from deep crisis and almost freezing comprehensive contacts to searching for a way out, to attempts to return to some kind of cooperation and maybe even start discussing future ties," editor-in-chief of the "Russia in Global Policy" journal Fyodor Lukyanov said. "The atmosphere in Europe has definitely changed. Those who think that it is time to end sanctions can be heard more and more. This does not mean that they represent a majority but six months ago, let alone one year ago, their voices were not heard at all. And now they are heard," he added.
"Something is going on in relations between EU and Russia, and both sides in fact send small signals to each other," Tatyana Parkhalina, deputy director for scientific work and head of the Center for Researching Problems of European Security at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. She noted that economic war, sanctions and counter-sanctions inflict losses on both sides. "The volume of bilateral trade fell by 30% This is significant. It is already clear that there is no unity in EU," she stressed.
"That means that they make solidary decisions at a certain moment, and this solidarity, of course, works. But it is also a fact that there is no single position and that there are more and more countries talking about giving up the regime of sanctions against Russia," Parkhalina said.
"We have been witnessing lately a number of signs that there is serious dissatisfaction among European political elites with a tough line toward Russia, as well as certain resistance," Ekaterina Narochnitskaya, leading research fellow at the Department of Western Europe at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. "This is a number of decisions of deputies, including French and Italian, about the necessity of cancelling or at least easing sanctions. At the unofficial level you can see that a very large part of the elite is categorically against sanctions. However, this does not mean that there are no supporters of the opposite point of view," she noted.
Signs of easing
Experts polled by TASS agreed that Juncker’s visit to St. Petersburg serves as an important signal of possible changes.
"Juncker’s visit is a sign because he is not just a guest but a representative of the main European institution. The fact that he decided to come after all shows that some shifts are starting there (in Europe). They are starting but they have not been completed yet," Lukyanov noted.
Parkhalina said that Juncker’s participation in SPIEF serves as evidence that EU understands the importance of cooperation with Russia and represents a signal that EU is ready to lift sanctions under certain conditions. "These conditions are the Minsk Agreements. By the way, some changes are taking shape on this track as well though this is a difficult situation. For instance, peaceful life is relatively maintained in LPR (self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic)," she added.
Narochnitskaya in turn considers Juncker’s visit as "a small shift but still a shift" but warns against overestimating the importance of his participation in SPIEF. She said that SPIEF may bring "some symbolic results, some decisions and statements that may have a small but symbolic meaning." In general, the current situation "will most likely persist for a long time," she stressed. "Something extraordinary should happen in order for the situation to change drastically," the expert concluded.