Experts “Valdai” has called the sanctions a chance to “reset” with the EU

The new reality

On Thursday at the site of the international discussion club “Valdai” was a presentation of the report (is available) on the prospects of relations between Russia and the European Union. “The events of the last two years creating a fundamentally new context in relations between Russia and the EU”, — said in the opening speech of the main author of the report, the analyst and Director of the Eurasian program of the “Valdai” Timothy Bordachev. We are talking not only about political and military crisis in Eastern Europe, but also the shifts in trade relations.

Bordachev recalls that for the first time in a long time, the EU accounts for less than half the external trade turnover of Russia. In 2015 the external trade turnover of Russia amounted to $530 billion, the EU’s share in it amounted to only about 44.8% (data FCS). The weakening of mutual dependence with Europe, according to experts, gives Russia a chance at restoring the balance between Europe and China as two leading economic partners.

In April I wrote about that in Brussels also noted that the trade turnover between Russia and the EU is declining quite a long time: the peak was passed in 2012. The authors of an analytical report for the European Commission found that this is caused by protectionist policy of Moscow, which began to intensify after Russia’s accession to the WTO in summer 2012.

To restore the volume of trade with Europe, Moscow will need to avoid protectionism and radically change the economic policy, according to the compilers of the document. “But we do not see any preconditions for such a change of course, on the contrary,” they conclude. Accordingly, the possible lifting of sanctions, a very limited impact on trade relations.

Bordachev considers the root cause of the crisis in relations with Europe beginning of 2000-ies, when the EU enlargement to the East made Kaliningrad a Russian exclave within the EU. After Brussels in this matter was “defiantly neglect the interests of Russia,” the emphasis in negotiations has shifted to the question of WTO accession. “In these negotiations the position of the Europeans was contrary to their statements that they do not want to destroy the Russian industry, — says Bordachev. — Moreover, European negotiators firmly defended the national interests of the countries-members of EU”.

The balance of interests

Different interpretation of the reasons for the decline in trade reflects a deep crisis of understanding between Russia and Europe, as also mentioned by the experts of the Valdai club. Bordachev quoted a friend of the diplomat who once said: “With Russia, the EU spoke the language of values within himself — in the language of interest.” The transition from declarative, doctrinal fellowship to work on the basis of respect for mutual interests should be the basis of new relations EU-Russia, experts say “Valdai”.

The work on the report began at the end of 2015, but a great influence on the course of his training had publication Brussels in mid-March, “five principles” of relations with Russia, says the report’s co-author, scientific Director of the “Valdai club” Fyodor Lukyanov.

The head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini, the “five principles” is largely related to the current agenda. This need to respect the Minsk agreement on Ukraine, the EU’s intention to develop a program of “Eastern partnership”, strengthening the “internal stability” of the European Union in the face of external dangers, the dialogue with Russia on a number of selected areas and support to civil society.

Experts “Valdai” has supported the development of these principles as a step towards Moscow, but was critical of their narrow relation to certain topics. In response, the Russians invited the Brussels six more General, underlying principles of the new diplomacy.

These proposals are to establish a mechanism of open and free dialogue between Brussels and the EU on the one hand, Moscow and its allies in the EEU on the other. For example, Russia should not interfere with its allies to expand ties with the European Union, and Brussels should admit that a number of issues with Russian colleagues to optimally addressed at the national level, without the involvement of the European bodies. “It is necessary to adapt the institutions with the real needs of cooperation by reducing redundant formats of dialogue,” suggest the report’s authors.

The European Commission, by contrast, seeks to secure a greater weight in decision making. For example, in February, Brussels is proposing to give him control and coordination of energy transactions to national authorities of European countries.

A separate item among the proposals “the Valdai club” is the need to remove the “special” sanctions against the people of Crimea, which Russian experts have described as conflicting with the human rights. This, say the authors, is imperative.

After elimination of contradictions experts “Valdai” suggest to return to the idea of a framework agreement between Russia and the EU, after which will begin work in specific areas. As a result, the structure of the EU and the emerging EEU now must complement each other, but not to suppress: “the Future of Russia and the European Union are not together, but close,” reads the report.