Results of the Russia-European Union summit

European Union officials understand the need for relaxing visa requirements, but they constantly stress the need for an agreement on readmission. The Russian side does the reverse. President Putin admits that solving the readmission problem is a direct duty for Russia.

The Russia-European Union summit is over. For the Russian authorities, the problems of Russian-speaking minorities in the European Union, one of the strongholds of democracy, are no less important than any road maps. Having made sure of final drawing of all agreements on four common areas, the Russian delegation decided on a slight change of emphasis in the negotiations at the Russia-European Union summit.

European officials were radiating optimism and suddenly started talking about substantial rapprochement in views on “road maps” in general and disputed issues in particular. Speaking to Echo of Moscow Radio, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his hope that the meeting in the Kremlin would be successful despite the external flow of skepticism. Barroso said, “Of course, there are some details to be regulated but the main thing is to find important and necessary adequate formulations. It is also necessary to come to the agreements indicating the four main kinds of spaces.”

His colleague Benita Ferrero-Waldner, responsible for external relations, said that the parties would manage to reach an agreement on the package of measures aimed at creation of four spaces, which will allow beginning of work in these directions.

Really, yesterday, after two years of industrious work the full stop was placed after the text of the “road maps.” Complete mutual understanding on all issues was registered at the meeting of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with his colleague from Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, member of the European Commission Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Secretary General of the European Union Council Xavier Solana, preceding the summit. This understanding also deals with the issues of readmission, relaxing visa requirements, and introducing visa-free travel between Russia and Europe in the future, which have remained disputed for a long time. These topics will evidently be discussed yet, although already in the direction of understanding achieved in Moscow. The relevant documents will be signed later.

EU officials understand the need for relaxing visa requirements, but they constantly stress the need for an agreement on readmission. The Russian side does the reverse. In any case, President Vladimir Putin admitted yesterday that solving the readmission problem is a direct duty for Russia, along with finalizing borders and reaching agreements with neighbors and partners.

Cabinet ministers, Foreign Ministry officials and working consultation groups demonstrated at the beginning of the meeting that many days of their labor were not fruitless. President Putin expressed a special gratitude to everyone, “I would like to thank all colleagues. I know that on the high expert level work has not been easy for you but it is progressing.”

The President is convinced that adoption of the “road maps” for common areas of Russia and European Union will promote construction of common big Europe seriously. They actually outline the main directions of cooperation from combating of terrorism and drug threat to provision of free contacts among the people. The Russian President said, “I emphasize once again: we consider strategic partnership between the European Union and Russia to be a priority.” Experience of work on the “road maps” has shown once again that despite different points of view on some problems we manage to reach efficient and mutually acceptable solutions, concludes Putin.

The so-called “road maps” are nothing else than a joint plant of further systematic work on the main lines of bilateral cooperation. For Russia and European Union these are economy; freedom, security and justice; cooperation in external security; science and education including cultural aspects.

Henceforth it will be necessary to create working groups for all directions outlined in the “road maps.” These structures will have to prepare more detailed documents with plans of the measures and certain deadlines. Creation of common areas will not be a quick process. Two or three years are allocated for close approach of the economies but the deadlines may be corrected in the course of implementation of the plan.

For the summit Russian authorities prepared a list of issues less pleasant for officials of the European Union. The parties have been speaking about these issues for a sufficiently long time but every time Europe manages to evade certain obligations getting off with general worlds. Last April, in addition to the agreement on partnership and cooperation the parties adopted a joint statement on regulation of Russia’s concerns in the context of broadening of the European Union.

Thus, Putin once again spoke openly about the problems of Russian national minorities in Latvia and Estonia. Europeans had to speak about these problems again. Jean-Claude Junker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (now chairing the European Union) stated, “It is very easy to defeat the evil when it is well seen. However, a nationalist attitude is a hidden evil and we should not expect that it will be possible to defeat it in one day.” According to Junker, the European Union continues working on discrimination against Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states.

Externally it may seem that European officials once again got off with meaningless phrases. However, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky is convinced that after the summit colleagues from the European Union will work more persistently on condition of the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic republics, although not in public but in the hallways. Yastrzhembsky said, “There are some issues which public discussion does not help to solve. Publicly lecturing the Baltic states, by Russia or other countries, is not constructive.” And this time the Europeans failed to get away with the phrase that they should have rights equal to others.

Russia was aided by the fact that a few days before the visit of top-ranking guests to Moscow the conflict between official Moscow and Riga received a new momentum. This happened partially due to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, who tried to attract “heavy artillery” in the person of President George Bush to her side. Bush tried to preserve neutrality, although he did spoke about the problem of national minorities in Riga.

As a result a new battle, although not the whole war, ended with a victory of the Kremlin. The Latvian President left Moscow having failed to achieve a special support on the part of her new European colleagues. The two countries also did not sign the agreement on the state border, incidentally being the border of Russia with the European Union. It was planned that the document would be signed in the framework of the summit in presence of the top-ranking officials of the European Union. However, in a supplement to the agreement Riga unilaterally adopted a declaration on preserving of territorial claims against Russia. Naturally, Russian authorities could not sign the document in such form.

The process of resolving of the Kaliningrad problem due to the eastward expansion of the European Union was considered unsatisfactory by the Kremlin. Russia is concerned because after joining to the Schengen agreements Lithuania wants to tighten the rules of passenger and trading transit.

The parties also touched on the topic of bilateral cooperation after 2007, when agreement on partnership and cooperation expires, and discussed the current situation in various hot spots of the world.

Vladimir Putin expressed his attitude to political demands of the Baltic republics frequently. However, at a press conference after the end of the summit an Estonian journalist decided to once again inquiry why Russia did not which to apologize for occupation of the Baltic republics and to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

The President remarked, “You speak Russian so well that I am sure you read equally well” and recommended her to get acquainted with the resolution of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR of 1989 where the relevant document was condemned. Putin parried emotionally, “What else can we say more accurately and clearly on this issue? Or do you wish us to do this every year? We believe that this question is answered. We have said about this and this is enough.”

Putin also reminded that in 1918 on the basis of the Brest peaceful treaty that could also be considered conspiracy Russia actually reassigned the Baltic republics to Germany. Putin said, “Then Russia reassigned a part of its territories to under control of Germany. Another conspiracy occurred between Russia and Germany in 1939 and Germany returned these territories to Russia.” That is why it is impossible to speak about any occupation in 1941 because by that time Baltic territories were already within the USSR.

Vladimir Putin diluted his speech with a joke, “I did not study very well at the university because I drank too much beer. In any case, I remember something because we had good professors.”

With regard to the failed signing of the agreement on the state border with Latvia, at this point there are no problems on the part of Russia. Russian authorities are ready to sign the agreement but only if Latvia, as Putin put it, “do not accompany this with territorial claims being essentially stupid.” The former Soviet republic demanded reassigning of the Pytalovsky District of the Pskov Region referring to the agreement of 1920. Hence Putin reminded that as a result of breakup of the USSR our country lost tens of thousands of its native territories.

Putin said, “Do you propose us to start dividing everything anew? To return Crimea to us and a part of territories of other republics of the former Soviet Union? Let us return Klaipeda to us too. Let us divide everything anew in Europe. Do you wish this? Probably not” and called on Latvian politicians to stop the demagoguery.

Thus, two difficult years of coordination of the “road maps” are finally over. In any case, this does not mean that henceforth everything will be much easier for the parties. Already now European representatives speak about possible difficulties that will require more time for implementation of the documents. “But we will overcome them,” said Jean-Claude Junker. He also noted that in the person of Vladimir Putin he found a friend of Europe. Junker concluded, “I leave Moscow with a light hear.”

Putin remarked that judging by the experience of two years of negotiations the parties can find mutually acceptable solutions for the appearing problems. Putin concluded, “We all understand very well that the fate of building of a real strategic partnership between Russia and European Union depends on success of the decisions made today and on their practically payback.”