Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-05-09-Speech-3-042"

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". Mr President, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, honourable Members, before turning to our actual theme, I should like to say something quite brief about the preceding debate. The Council Presidency, and hence too the European Union, responded to the conflict, not least because it touched upon the sovereignty of a Member State of the European Union, while also showing solidarity and – as Mrs Zimmer pointed out – helping to cool the situation down, and both these things were done in good time. We shall, of course, have to carry on doing these things. Making Europe more secure calls for good and trusting cooperation between the EU and Russia. We are aware that talking to Russia about this issue has not always been a straightforward business in recent times, and we have noted with concern Russian utterances about a moratorium on the CSCE Treaty; like the discussion on the anti-missile system, this is where everything possible must be done to avoid a new spiral of mistrust, for it is only through mutual trust and practical cooperation that we will succeed in endowing Europe with long-term security. We will, then, continue to try to persuade Russia to support a solution for the future status of Kosovo on the basis of the Ahtisaari plan; for it to do so would be a crucial contribution to European security, as also would be its constructive cooperation in dealing with what are termed the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Moldova and the Southern Caucasus. Real partnership includes dialogue on contentious issues, and that is why I want to stress that one of the things we will be talking about in Samara will be Russia’s internal development, which, particularly recently, has been the subject of critical questioning and concern in the EU, especially where the condition of the media and of civil society has been concerned. The hard-hitting approach adopted by the Russian authorities to the demonstrations in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhni Novgorod is just one example of a trend that many see as problematic and cannot be accepted as it stands. At the fifth human rights consultations between the EU and Russia, which took place on 3 May in Berlin, the European Union voiced its particular misgivings with specific reference to the right of free expression of opinion and assembly, particularly in view of the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, and also expressed its unmistakable concern about the situation of Russian non-governmental organisations and civil society following the entry into force of the law on the activities of non-governmental organisation and the law on extremism. The issues raised did of course include reference to specific cases of human rights violations and the situation in Chechnya, as well as the combating of torture and mistreatment. Here too, it is also the case that we are not being critical for the sake of it, but because we care deeply about the way things are going in Russia and want the country to flourish. The EU has a pre-eminent interest in a stable and strong Russia that is guided in the way it develops by European values without denying its own traditions, which involves a flourishing relationship with its own neighbours, one characterised by frank dialogue and good cooperation rather than by pressure, and it is with that in mind that our Presidency of the Council has been working for successful de-escalation that will benefit not only us but also our Russian partners. It was our mediation that put an end to the intolerable state of affairs surrounding the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, and we will maintain this dialogue with Russia – a dialogue that does not always run smoothly where its Baltic neighbours are concerned. Ultimately, Russia will be successfully modernised only if those values and principles associated with democracy and the rule of law are entrenched – those values and principles to which both the EU and Russia have committed themselves in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Since it has been Europe’s experience that good governance is conditional upon the rule of law and the presence of a critical and living civil society, the future development of Europe as a whole depends to a crucial degree on the successful development of an all-embracing strategic partnership between the EU and Russia. This is an historic project, and one that will call for strategic patience and realism on both sides, and this realism will involve gaining an insight into what is feasible and working at chalking up triumphs step by step, which – in this area as in many others – will not be without its problems, yet neither the European Union nor Russia have any realistic alternative to going down this road of cooperation and partnership, and so it is a matter of our shared responsibility as Europeans that we should do just that. Today, the ninth day of May, we celebrate Europe Day, a day symbolic of European integration. Ever since Robert Schuman proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, Europe has had a long and difficult road to cover – and I believe it has done so successfully – in order for the present European Union of 27 Member States to come into being, a European Union that has now achieved a level of stability and prosperity that is the envy of the world, and that historic achievement would not have been possible without a far-sighted view of policymaking and a patient approach to strategy. Both of these are called for when it comes to developing relations between the European Union and Russia, which the European Union rightly sees as a partner and neighbour with which it is yoked through strategic cooperation. With scarcely any other country does the European Union maintain relations as wide-ranging and deep as with Russia. One of the fundamental lessons of European history is that Europe depends on Russia for long-term stability and prosperity; nor, indeed, in the final analysis, can we meet the great global challenges unless we do so together: challenges such as the war on international terrorism no less than the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the dangers of global climate change. Close cooperation between the European Union and Russia is indispensable, too, if we want to prevail in conflicts such as those in Kosovo, with Iran or in the Middle East. In an age of globalisation, both our common interests and the ways in which we are dependent on each other are far more important than that which divides us, in the sphere of energy, for example, where it is often forgotten that Russia is dependent on us, who consume 80% of its gas exports, and needs cooperation with the European Union if its economy is to get the modernisation it so urgently needs, and the European Union itself has a pre-eminent interest in fostering closer ties with Russia. Contrariwise, President Putin is right to constantly refer to the European Union as Russia’s ideal partner, and by ‘European Union’, he does of course mean all 27 Member States. Since our cooperation with Russia is characterised by interconnection and founded upon the ‘four areas’ policy that we agreed on with it, the German Presidency of the EU wants to use the EU/Russia summit in Samara on 18 May to further cement and extend the partnership with Russia. In so doing, we do not want to limit ourselves to a mere exchange of views, but rather the intention is that this summit should send out positive signals in favour of our greater partnership and cooperation with Russia, and so that is what we are continuing to push for. We know that this summit represents the last opportunity to begin, as we must, negotiations on a successor to the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The German Presidency of the Council is still, to the utmost of its abilities, working together with the Commission to find a solution to the outstanding issue of the Russian ban on the import of Polish agricultural products. After the many discussions that have been held involving the Commission, Poland and Russia, the time has now come for Russia to name a day for the end of the import ban. The commencement of negotiations on a new and strategic agreement would be an important political signal to the effect that both sides were continuing to be committed to working on the further development of their partnership, and, at the end of the day, that must not be allowed to be frustrated by a technical issue. Putting relations between the European Union and Russia on a new footing and defining new shared perspectives is in the interests of all of us; I am thinking here of such things as the development of an energy partnership between the EU and Russia on the basis of trustworthy rules and framework conditions. In Lahti, last October, President Putin gave an assurance that these principles would be incorporated into the new Treaty, and the EU/Russia summit presents us with a welcome early opportunity to talk with the Russian Government about how me might, in future, avoid points of friction in our dealings with them on energy and be able to prevent interruptions to the power supply, in which respect the establishment of an early-warning system would appear to be important. It is because policies on energy and climate are closely interconnected that climate change and security are among the issues that should be discussed at the summit. As you will be aware, the European Union is prepared to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, provided that other industrialised states enter into comparable undertakings, and so winning Russia over to this cause would be a major triumph. It has to be said, though, that partnership between the EU and Russia is about more than energy and economic matters. There is great potential for deeper relations between the EU and Russia in education, research and cultures, and that potential is far from having the fullest possible use made of it; it is in forward-looking fields such as these that both sides can benefit from becoming more enmeshed and interlinked, and it is because this represents a particular opportunity for the European Union to guide Russia’s transformation by helping it to adopt European values that we would like to use the summit to promote closer cooperation in these areas, through such things as more academic exchanges and cooperation in research."@en1

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