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Speech by President Barroso at the Russia-EU – Potential for Partnership conference: "Moving into a Partnership of Choice"

21.03.2013 Extracts: On EU-Russia partnership - "There is no doubt that Russia and the European Union are deeply intertwined. We share a continent, a history, a rich and diverse cultural heritage forged throughout the centuries. But our close relationship is not just based on our long and solid bonds of history, culture and kinship, crucial though they are."

"Over the years and in particular after the developments in Russia in the 90s, there is a hard and sustained effort to build a wide-ranging partnership for the sake of greater prosperity, predictability and security for the European Union and Russia, and for the world and also for the region at large."

"The case for European Union-Russia engagement is overwhelming. Clearly we have a strong interest in building upon our economic interdependence and working ever-closer together in so many areas from trade and investment to energy and mobility, to good governance, human rights, humanitarian and world security issues."

"The core question is whether we are doing as much as we can to ensure that our partnership delivers on its full promise. I think the honest answer is: not yet. The fact is that we should work closer together not only because we have to, but also because we want to. Not just because we are condemned to be neighbours but because we have chosen to be partners."

"In other words to realize the full potential of our relationship, we should add to our partnership of necessity a Partnership of Choice."

"We already share a vision for such a Partnership, the long-term vision, and I think it is important, even when we take concrete decisions be it in daily life, in politics or business, to have a long-term vision. The long term vision is a common economic and human space from Lisbon to Vladivostok with free travel of people, free exchange of goods and services, very close overall cooperation."

"But I think all of us agree that this genuine common objective will remain somehow conceptual unless we define together how we get there. Certainly not in one go. The gap is too broad between short-term issues and long-term consensus. So to help bridge this gap, we ought to adjust our political ambition and focus on the midterm with a set of credible and realistic objectives that we can achieve in the years to come. And indeed the meeting that I am going to have later today, with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev, and tomorrow, between the Commission and the Russian government, are part of this process."

"A key first step in this mid-term agenda should be to agree on a proper institutional framework. A new EU-Russia Agreement is intended to fulfil that task. It would be highly symbolic if we could conclude the negotiations on it by next year when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1994."

"An ambitious and comprehensive New Agreement, which includes a developed regulatory framework with common standards and norms, trade and energy provisions would help to create wider cooperative approaches with clear win-win situations."

"It would also underpin our common objective of bringing our peoples even closer together in a visa-free travel regime."

"Secondly, if we are serious about the deepening of our strategic partnership and establishing a partnership of choice, the sine qua non is certainly mutual trust. This entails that mutual commitments, be they bilateral or multilateral, have to be respected. A strategic relationship needs to be underpinned with strategic trust."

"The G20, currently under Russia's chairmanship, must certainly continue its fight against all forms of protectionism and in defence of open markets."

"Both of us also have binding commitments as members of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE: commitments to respect democracy and human rights, rule of law and freedom of expression and of assembly. The respect of these values is key for a solid and trusting relationship."

"An effective economic modernisation process can only rely on talented, innovative and dedicated people. A thriving, sustainable economy goes hand in hand with a thriving society. This requires respect of the rule of law and ensuring citizens' rights, fighting corruption and developing a level playing field for companies."

"Russia has recently embarked on a regional integration project which is leading to the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union. As a regional integration project itself the European Union can only support regional integration elsewhere."

"It is however important that these integration projects are constructed in a manner that enhances our bilateral relations instead of hampering them. That they serve the purpose of further opening up our countries to the rest of the world, instead of self-retrenchment. And that they are based on open regionalism instead of regional protectionism."

On Cyprus:

"Just a word on a matter that I know is of your interest: the Cyprus issue. I'm very concerned with the latest developments in Cyprus, namely because of the consequences for the citizens of Cyprus. Consequences that are the result of an unsustainable financial system that is basically eight times bigger than the GDP of that country - a system that certainly has to adapt. And as you know, there was not the possibility to implement the agreement reached unanimously in the Eurogroup between Cyprus and the other countries in the eurozone. The European Commission stands ready to assist finding an agreement, and in fact, as you know, consultations are going on between Cyprus and the other members of the Eurogroup to find a solution. We have in the past solved bigger problems; I hope that this time a solution can also be found."

The full speech is now available on RAPID: SPEECH/13/249

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  • Last update: 22 | 03 | 2013