Forthcoming EU-Russian summit
Delivered in Plenary - October 22nd 2003
The summit on 6 November will be different because not only is Russia currently the EU's fifth largest trading partner, but from next May it will be its neighbour. Already the acceding countries are flexing their muscles, as illustrated by Lithuania's concerns over the controversial D-6 oilfield in the Baltic Sea, and Latvia's objections to harsh criticism over its treatment of its Russian minorities, who will number almost one million between the Baltic republics in the EU next year.
The EU will shortly be importing Russian uranium. Plans are afoot to synchronise the two electricity grids. Pressure is mounting on Russian to ratify Kyoto, as otherwise the treaty is dead. In exchange, Russia will want EU support in its quest to join WTO, where there are many unresolved problems, from its dual pricing over gas to export duties and discriminatory transport fees paid to Aeroflot to overfly Siberia.
Recently, the issue of pricing Russian oil in euros was raised. Surely this is for the markets to decide, not governments.
I welcome formal cooperation with Europol and OLAF and hope that visa-free travel for Russians will be possible once the issue of a readmission agreement for illegal migrants is settled. We are used to the abuses levelled at President Putin over Chechnya, where the recent victory of President Kadyrov was described as lacking in pluralism, and human rights abuses still go on.
But what do the Russia-bashers want? A failed, rogue, independent state in the Caucasus with links to al-Quaida, exporting organised crime to the European Union? First we must see law and order restored. Only then can true democracy prevail. Only Russia can deliver that. Recently, Russia signed a controversial and, in my view, regrettable single economic space agreement with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, but at the same time we now see dangerous military posturing from Russia and threats to invade as a result of the dispute over Tuzla Island in the Black Sea. I hope that this can be resolved amicably. I hope that one day we will see arrangements for a single free-market- style economic space with the EU and Russia united as one big economic entity.