The signing of a Joint Political Declaration on Partnership and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the European Union twenty years ago in Brussels had great significance for its time. This document laid the foundation for the further development of relations between Moscow and Brussels on key issues of European security, cooperation and development. In the following year, 1994, the parties signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) which took force on December 1, 1997 and was planned to last for ten years. But the parties have not been able to sign a new document which could make Russia and the EU strategic partners for the past six years…
It is as if the authors of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement foresaw the coming complications in relations between the parties; they built an automatic yearly renewal into it. Thus relations between Moscow and Brussels retain their legal basis, although the PCA expired in 2007.
For the past several years negotiators have been talking about the need for Russia and the European Union to sign a comprehensive Basic Strategic Partnership Agreement. However, at each Russia-EU summit this task is always put off, and always at Brussels' initiative.
In 2001, at an EU-Russia summit, then-president of the European Commission Romano Prodi suggested creating a Common European Economic Space (CEES) with the participation of both the European Union member countries and Russia. Its foundation was to be the creation of a free trade zone between Russia and the EU. This suggestion was also mentioned in the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. However, no free trade zone was created, much less the CEES.
A similar dead end arose with regard to another key issue in relations between Moscow and Brussels: the establishment of a visa-free regime. The EU Council raised the question of the possible establishment of visa-free relations with Russia in September 2002 as a «long-term perspective». Then in 2003 Romano Prodi stated that the existing system of visas for Russian citizens to enter the countries of the European Union could be eliminated «within the next five years». Since then, even the citizens of the volatile Balkan countries have received the right to visa-free travel to the European Union; these include residents of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia, the latter of which is under severe pressure from Brussels. But all visa procedures still apply to Russian citizens. Russia's permanent representative to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, feels with regard to this issue that «to continue speaking of long-term perspectives is even becoming somehow indecent».
Such «indecency» is typical of the relations between Russia and the European Union in many areas. In recent years relations have become more complicated. Many of Brussels' actions are directed not so much at expanding partnership with Russia as they are at squeezing it out of Europe and creating a belt of buffer states on its borders. The role of such buffers is being assigned to the republics of the former USSR included in the EU's Eastern Partnership program, especially Ukraine. Despite the failure of the Vilnius summit, Brussels has staked on making Kiev sign an association and free trade agreement with the European Union at any cost, regardless of the multibillion financial and economic losses which the Ukrainian economy, closely linked with that of the Russian Federation, will suffer in that case.
In essence, the West is conducting a subversive policy with regard to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. This is understood best of all by those who, like Egypt or Turkey, have experienced the impact of anti-government street demonstrations organized by outside forces over the past year. For example, Ibrahim Karagul, a commentator for the Turkish publication Yeni Safak, makes the comparison «Tahrir, Taksim, Kiev». «There is Germany, there is France, and there are other European countries. They are the ones who decide how long Ukraine's government has to live; they are the ones who threaten, they are the ones who punish,» emphasizes the Turkish expert.
Naturally under such conditions there is unlikely to be any question of the development of relations between the EU and Russia in the economic sphere. Take, for example, the field of energy cooperation. Here are European Commission data on the share of Russian gas in the structure of the national consumption of EU member countries: Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania – 100%, Slovakia – 98%, Bulgaria – 92%, Czech Republic – 78%, Greece – 76%, Hungary – 60%, Slovenia – 52%, Austria – 49%, Poland – 48%, Germany – 36%, Italy – 27%, Romania – 27%, France – 14%, Belgium – 5%. The dependence of the European Union as a whole on gas supplies from Russia is estimated at 39%. Furthermore, the countries of the European Union purchase around 33% of the petroleum they import from Russia.
However, rather than expanding cooperation, removing existing barriers and supporting Russian projects, including the South Stream gas pipeline, the European Commission is making demands of a completely different sort, trying to get Russia to accede to the so-called «Third Energy Package», which calls for Russia to essentially abandon participation in projects for the delivery and distribution of Russian gas to the countries of the EU and separates production and transportation of energy resources, i.e., it breaks down the existing mechanisms for interaction of the EU and Russia in the energy field.
On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the contradictory «partnership» between Russia and the EU, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz made a symptomatic statement. According to his data, the European Union's demand for natural gas is 500-525 billion cubic meters per year, while gas is extracted on a large scale in Europe only in Norway, which is not part of the European Union. That is why, in the words of the minister, «the Russian South Stream project is important to Europe from the standpoint of gas supply security». «We believe that making Russia's work easier in this respect is sensible,» emphasizes Yildiz. Unfortunately, the leadership of the European Union does not have such common sense.
Incidentally, the official statistics agency of the European Union, Eurostat, recently published its own data on price trends for gas in Europe. According to these statistics, prices in EU countries rose by 10.3% in the second half of 2012, and this tendency has every chance of continuing over the next few years. So the problem of satisfying the growing energy needs of the European Union will become even more acute over time.