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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the EU-Russia Summit
Brussels, 28 January 2014
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
This Summit with President Putin was an important opportunity to reflect on the nature and direction of our Strategic Partnership.
As Dostoyevski once said “much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
It was in this spirit of saying things that sometimes we don't say that we have approached this meeting, held in a spirit of frankness and openness. And I believe, it was helpful to clarify some issues.
Our relationship and our common interests are too important to not address our differences. We need each other to ensure stability and prosperity throughout our shared continent and to produce solutions to the many challenges we face together.
To do this, we need mutual understanding and strategic trust.
We are of course not starting from scratch. We are working extensively together: within our Partnership for Modernization, in science, for instance; through our joint work in the G20 and G8, for example. We have supported the Russian chairmanships on many international issues like the fight against terrorism, as addressed in the joint declaration we adopted today on combating terrorism. Once again let me firmly condemn the recent barbaric attacks in Volgograd which deserve our strong and firm condemnation.
To move forward in our relationship, we need to address some outstanding issues, on which sometimes we have differences. And we also addressed some of these differences during our talks today:
The European Union has actively supported Russia's accession to the WTO, but since then a number of measures that we believe are trade-restrictive were introduced. We believe these obstruct our economic relationship. And we also need to find a definitive solution for longstanding pending issues, such as the Siberian overflights. Rule of law and fundamental freedoms, of course, are critically important also in our relationship.
Another way to reinforce our trust is to work jointly in one of our most important strategic and shared objectives: to create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. It may seem a dream, but dreams can become reality.
To achieve this, we should build on the principles of respect for sovereign decisions, democratic societies and open markets.
The integration of our continent will not be achieved overnight. It needs to go step by step. And the European Union's Eastern Partnership is key to achieve this strategic objective.
The Partnership is about extending and anchoring stability, rule-of-law, investment opportunities and growth beyond the European Union borders.
The Partnership is not against someone, it is for something – it is about making the countries in our neighbourhood more prosperous and giving their citizens better living conditions. This is something that can only benefit our other partners, and certainly will not harm Russia.
That's why today, also, we have agreed that we should pursue bilateral consultations at expert level on the Eastern Partnership Association Agreements and their possible economic consequences for both sides.
Our Eastern partners should be free to decide their own path. We therefore look forward to sign Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia later in the year.
We have naturally also discussed Ukraine. We expressed deep concern about the escalation of violence, casualties and reports of missing persons and violence against protesters and journalists.
The use of force is not the answer to the political situation. The authorities need to engage in a serious high level dialogue with the opposition and civil society and to repeal the laws approved by the Rada restricting civic freedoms.
I called President Yanukovych last week to pass these clear messages, Commissioner Füle has travelled twice to the country in the last 5 days and High Representative/Vice-President Cathy Ashton is travelling to Kiev today.
I think it is both in the European Union and Russia interest to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation, based on the rule of law and respect of human rights. No one stands to gain from the absence of law, order and freedom.
In this context, I want to take note of today's decision by the Rada to repeal the 16 of January laws restricting fundamental freedoms. If confirmed, this, together with the adoption of the amnesty law, will be important steps to de-escalate the situation and to facilitate further steps through political dialogue towards a political solution for the crisis.
We have been very clear in condemning violence in Ukraine.
To conclude, I think we need to change the perception that one region's gain is another region's pain. We in the European Union are against the mentality of block against block. We believe the European Union and Russia have all to gain from a cooperative attitude.
We should work on how to move our partnership from a partnership of need into a partnership of choice through a New Agreement. We expect, if the conditions are properly prepared, to launch the New Agreement negotiations in our next Summit in Sochi in June. Discussions will continue, in this respect, between the two sides.
I believe that this Summit was as useful as it was necessary. And I hope that we can achieve progress in the near future. In fact, I'm very much looking forward to our next meeting in Sochi, at the beginning of June.
Thank you for your attention.