BRUSSELS, February 13, 5:22 /ITAR-TASS/. A new level of partnership in relations between Russia and the European Union can only be attained on the basis of equality and mutual respect, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in his feature “Russia-EU: Decision Time” posted on the Brussels-based New Europe news portal on Thursday.
“To develop our cooperation continuously and purposefully we should understand whether we want to proceed along the way of attaining ambitious goals of strategic partnership,” he wrote. “Otherwise we will go on stumbling at every step because of lack of clear sense of direction. Information wars won’t help, what we need is real leadership and political wisdom.” He stressed that Russia was taking effort to harmonize two integration projects in the Eurasian space - the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, which was only being formed. Moreover, it spoke in favour of creating a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region.
The Russian minister scrutinized relations between the European Union and Russia in the context of the Ukrainian crisis and the differences this crisis had revealed. “The developments are often depicted in a straightforward, even primitive way, as a standoff between Washington and Brussels, on one side, and Moscow on the other,” he noted. “It is being said that the strive of the Ukrainian people to join Europe is being blocked by the Russians, and thus there is need to “go to the end” and support the “democratic forces” in Ukraine.”
But the Western media, according to Lavrov, do not provide a complete picture of the situation. “This widespread media picture does not reflect the real situation. Ukraine is not invited into Europe, meaning it is not offered the prospect of full EU membership. The draft association agreement which was being prepared for signature at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius envisages extending EU standards to Ukraine and opening the Ukrainian market for European products. It was also drafted so as to hamper economic cooperation of Ukraine with its partners in the East, first of all Russia,” he wrote.
“Nevertheless, Russia believes that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide whether to accept or decline that offer,” he went on. “We have unswervingly proceeded from the premise that the people of Ukraine, and of any other country, have the sovereign right to choose in which direction they want to develop and in which integration structures they want to take part. Russia does not impose anything on anyone, understanding that an integration project will last only if it is based on mutual interests. All we did was to explain to our Ukrainian partners that changing the economic rules of the game on their side of the border would mean departure from arrangements reached within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area and would lead to a strictly adequate reaction from Russia in accordance with international standards, including WTO norms.”
But the United States and the European Union, according to the Russian minister “tended to see the situation differently.”
“Our Western partners have already made the choice for the Ukrainians and are not prepared to wait for the citizens of that country to solve the question of their future constitutionally, in a democratic way. The opinion of several thousand demonstrators who are trying to violently pressure the government passes for the voice of the people,” he noted.
“Destabilizing a nation in the centre of the European continent can hardly serve anyone’s interest. It is impossible not to see that the actions of antigovernment forces in Ukraine increasingly display nationalist, anti-Semitic, racist feelings. In the meantime the issue of participating in one or another integration project is overshadowed by radical slogans which have nothing to do with European culture,” Lavrov stressed.
Russia, in his words, is “against returning to the logic of zero-sum geopolitical games, be it in Ukraine or in Europe as a whole.”
“President Vladimir Putin came up with the initiative to a create common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and providing for free movement of people and free exchange of goods and services. The implementation of this idea would make it possible to unleash the huge potential of Russia-EU partnership. Uniting technologies, resources and human power would serve as a mighty catalyst of development of both EU and Russia while strengthening their positions in today’s world of intense competition,” he emphasized.