Russia and the European Union: Cooperation Prospects

News conference with Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union, Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov.

Rossiya Segodnya hosted a video conference with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov.

During the news conference Mr. Chizhov summed up the results of the EU summit that took place in Brussels on March 19−20. The EU leaders discussed, in part, further steps concerning Russia regarding the situation in Ukraine, including sanctions.

Mr. Chizhov pointed out that this was a regular EU summit with an extensive agenda. There were issues on the formation of the EU energy union, and the situation in different regions (of special concern were the developments in Libya, which is understandable). They also discussed relations with Russia both in the context of the Ukrainian crisis and with respect to general issues.

Mr. Chizhov believes that there is no consensus in the EU on expanding or lifting sanctions against Russia. EU members are increasingly realizing the futility of these sanctions, which are unable to change Russia’s position on Crimea or the situation in Ukraine as a whole. The EU is ready not to make the wrong decisions, but it is not ready to make the right ones. It's inevitable that Russia and the EU will restore their strategic partnership, but not in its previous form, which failed to pass the test of the Ukrainian crisis. He believes it is worth paying attention to the substance of things rather than catchy slogans.

Mr. Chizhov pointed out that Moscow insists that the OSCE present objective facts regarding the events in Ukraine, including the violation of the Minsk agreements by Kiev. As for violations, they are reported to Germany and France as co-sponsors of the Normandy process via diplomatic channels. The diplomat emphasized the need for objective reporting by the OSCE mission.

He recalled that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with head of EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini. Preparations are underway for her visit to Moscow. EU and Russia’s policy directors will meet in April. Russia is taking part in the talks with the Six on the Iranian nuclear program, and in joint efforts to achieve settlement in the Middle East. Expert consultations are being held.

Mr. Chizhov spoke about gas supplies and energy security in Europe. Following a decision by the EU summit, the European Commission hopes for higher transparency of all contracts on gas imports to the EU, but Moscow believes the EU leaders were referring only to intergovernmental agreements.

At the recent summit EU leaders called for greater transparency of all agreements on the purchase of foreign gas and their complete conformity with EU legislation. Mr. Chizhov observed that the summit’s decisions do not make it clear whether the European Commission will be given the authority to approve private contracts on gas imports.

The diplomat insists that the EU leaders did not include a provision on the need to endorse all commercial contracts into the summit’s final decisions. He said: “although President of the European Council Donald Tusk said at a news conference that this provision was included, this does not follow from the summit’s final decisions.”

Mr. Chizhov assumes that the EU does not have the money to supply Ukraine with gas. Under the circumstances the European Council may lobby for cash resources from other sources, such as the IMF.

Russia-Ukraine-EU trilateral talks became possible owing to the current situation and the active position of the European Commission. The latter’s priority is to ensure failsafe gas transit via Ukraine. For over 40 years a considerable part of this transit went through pipes on Ukrainian territory.

The diplomat recalled that there were interruptions in this transit in 2006 and 2009. There were none during the past year because gas came from underground deposits on Ukrainian territory and was pumped out in bigger amounts than was technically admissible. Little is left in these deposits now.

Mr. Chizhov said that under the circumstances Naftogaz Ukrainy is purchasing minimal amounts of fuel: for no more than four days at a time. It is necessary to pump in gas for winter, so talk about a summer package of gas supplies is not quite appropriate. However, Ukraine is not doing this, probably hoping for a better price, but it can get too caught up in playing this game.

As for the supply of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia by France, the diplomat said there are no developments on this issue, although the second Mistral ship has already been launched. As of today the French Government has not made any new statements on this score. This suggests that Russia and France are probably in contact.

Speaking about the Ukrainian crisis, the diplomat emphasized the fact that the EU itself is not a participant in the Normandy format, though it is taking an active part in the relevant discussions. President Pyotr Poroshenko's initiative on introducing UN peacekeepers or the EU police mission are well known, but these ideas failed to meet with support in the UN or the EU. The EU summit did not mention them in its final decisions.

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