I am happy to welcome the organizers and participants of the conference on cooperation of Russia and European Union in this era of globalization.
The present stage of global development characterized by a high degree of instability creates new challenges in the spheres of state security, economics and finance, ecology, and social environment; all of these affect to a certain degree every country, without exception. In the present circumstances, it is important both for Russia and the European Union to effectively use their considerable potential for cooperation in order to ensure stability, confidence in the future, a high level of well being of their citizens, and state security. As evidenced by the results of the Russia-EU Summit in Strelna in June 2012, this understanding is shared by the leaders of Russia and the European Union, and it shapes the nature and direction of our joint future efforts.
We have close contacts in many different fields. Our international and intercultural interconnections are constantly expanding. Russia and the EU actively cooperate in international affairs, coordinating approaches to a wide range of global and regional problems.
The European Union is the largest foreign trade partner of Russia, so we are interested in the speediest restoration of the financial and economic stability of the Euro-zone and are willing to contribute to this both in the framework of international institutions and through direct contacts. We see good opportunities for the development of economic cooperation in the context of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, promotion within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and implementation of joint projects through the Partnership for Modernization.
"We are open to it," emphasized Russian President Vladimir Putin at the International Investment Forum on the topic of "Russia Is Calling” that took place in Moscow on October 2 this year. It was the Russian leader who initiated the creation of an integrated economic sphere from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Here we proceed from understanding that the EU and Russia have a unique set of complementary advantages in today's highly competitive world.
We emphasize the importance of our interaction in the energy sphere. The energy security of the continent grew considerably after construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, the second branch of which recently became operational. Construction on the South Stream gas pipeline will start in the near future; it will allow problems related to transit of Russian gas to European consumers to be resolved.
The general context of Russian-EU economic exchange is rapidly changing. A new center of integration based on the Customs Union and the integrated economic sphere of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan has appeared. The goal is to transform this association into the Eurasian Economic Association by 2015. As the integration processes intensifies, Brussels will have to discuss an increasing number of issues not only bilaterally but also with the Eurasian Economic Commission.
In considering the EU a strategic partner with which we want to develop multifaceted relations to promote our interests, we have to state that on a number of crucial occasions we did not feel any willingness for reciprocal steps on their side. This has to do with issues connected with the implementation of the EU's Third Energy Packet, an anti-monopoly audit of the European branches of Russian energy companies, and the proliferation of the European system of trade emissions in civil aviation in the countries of the third world in the absence of relevant decisions by International Civil Aviation Organization, stalling negotiations on promoting a visa-free track for short-term travel, etc. We do not dramatize the problem points, but at the same time we would not like to have them suppressed; we will persistently work towards preserving our fundamental interests and resolving disputed issues on an equal, non-discriminatory basis.
Russia is open for dialogue on human rights, but, again, this should be a dialogue among equal partners who are willing to listen and hear the arguments of each other. It should be a dialogue free from bias, political preferences, and double standards. And then, in some European institutions there are many hot-tempered advocates for the instigators of the "Pussy Riot" that injured the religious feelings of all Orthodox believers of Russia, who at the same time show no interest in addressing egregious cases of heroization of Nazism and discrimination against national minorities in their own homeland. Such a position cannot evoke the sympathy of Russian citizens.
We aren't interested in teacher-pupil role playing. The realities of the modern world, due to global challenges and the emergence of strong new centers of power, demand a new type of relationship between Russia and the European Union that can overcome the absence of an overall vision for a strategic partnership. We are ready for this.
We are glad that representatives of international civil society who are gathered here today by efforts of the Universal Peace Federation, Women's Federation for World Peace, and the Academic Council of the UN systems, will give their attention to this topic. We will be glad if you inspire us with your ideas about the upcoming Russia - EU Summit in Brussels in December 2012.
I wish the conference participants successful work and fruitful discussions.
Author: Sergei Nechaev
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Austria