EU and Russia need to shake off ‘zero-sum thinking’ and false perceptions of each other in order to capitalise on common interests. Speaking at a high-level conference in Moscow today on “Russia in the 21st Century”, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will argue that the EU and Russia need to build an enduring trust in order to manage growing regional and global interdependence. He suggests that the two sides need “new mechanisms” to encourage economic forces, and that a high level economic dialogue similar to that of the EU and China should be considered.
Mandelson will note that Russia is now emerging as a major power on the world stage, on the basis of economic reforms that have raised incomes by 80% and lowered poverty levels by half. He will argue that the EU-Russia relationship will play an important role in furthering that progress, but that the challenge for Russia is “to find a new footing in its relationship to the European Union.” He will also
Mandelson will make the case that:
The EU and Russia need to think clearly about the strategic importance of common interests. He will say: “Managing challenges as complex as the regional questions in the South Caucasus, Iran or Kosovo, is much more difficult in the absence of enduring trust in the relationship. The same can be said in the economic sphere, whether we look at the EU’s increasing dependence on imports of energy, or Russia’s wish to re-structure and modernise its industrial base, services sector and infrastructure.”
The renewed impetus and positive outlook of the new Russian government should be welcomed. He will say: “On Russia’s side, I welcome President Medvedev’s statement last week that in order to address the issues facing the European continent, we need a stronger sense of shared identity and unity between all of its component parts including the Russian Federation…I am also encouraged by the early statements from the President and members of the government on economic policy. They have confirmed that a free market and openness to the outside world are the best guarantees for ordinary Russians that the positive changes of the last decade will not be reversed.”
Russia is still facing structural weaknesses in its economy. He will note that Russia’s economy has not sufficiently diversified, that there is insufficient investment in critical infrastructure and that education and research are under-resourced.
The EU is a vital partner in the drive to harness innovation and drive productivity and growth. In the coming 2022s, “…the technology, management know-how and foreign investment coming out of Europe will be important elements of Russia’s success.”
The immediate priority for Russia in the international economic field is to conclude its negotiations to enter the WTO, in order to fully integrate into the global trading system and protect its growing interests on world markets. Russia’s position as the only economy of its size outside the WTO “…is more and more at odds with Russia’s own professed strategy of integration with the wider global economy, and its wish to be considered a functioning market economy like any other. “
For more information on EU Trade policy see: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/