EU Russia Summit
Delivered in Plenary - 18th June 2008
EU-Russia relations rank as one of the top challenges for the EU and opinions vary widely within this Parliament whether to wield the big stick and confront the bear or speak softly with a mixture of carrot and stick in dealing with Russia under its new President Medvedev, which rather aptly means ‘bear’ in Russian.
Nevertheless, we must give him the benefit of the doubt on his helpful comments about improving the rule of law, human rights and the fight against corruption – with the EU being more engaged in the strategic partnership and new PCA with what is still the largest country in the world, which now projects renewed confidence due to its mineral-resource-driven trillion-dollar economy.
Priorities for the summit must include energy security as a reliable trading partner for oil and gas but also, with Russia’s imminent accession to the WTO, legal certainty for Western natural resource companies in their foreign direct investments in Russia.
Russia must be leant on to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its near neighbours and within the UN help resolve the problems in the Middle East as well as nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.
Russia plays a key role in the Western Balkans, including resolving the Kosovo question, and should not fear expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia and could even help improve the repressive political climate in neighbouring Belarus.
There is much to talk about at the Khanty-Mansiysk summit. Let us hope that the new Putin-Medvedev double act will be coming in a genuine spirit of reconciliation with the European Union and not hoping that the ‘no’ vote in Ireland means an end to an EU common front for the 27 Member States vis-à-vis Russia.