EU considers deterioration of relations with Russia “most likely” scenario
Europe does not seem to have too many illusions about the success of the Geneva summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. On the same day that the presidents of the United States and Russia met to attempt a rapprochement, the European Commission released a report which anticipates further turmoil between the EU and its gigantic neighbor to the east. “The EU must be realistic and prepare for a further deterioration in our relations,” said the institution’s high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, during the presentation of the report which will be transferred to the European summit this week. next and in which a whole memory of accusations against Moscow is collected.
“The Russian leaders use various instruments to influence, interfere, weaken or even attempt to destabilize the EU and its member states,” said the document, commissioned by the European Council from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. , and to Borrell, in his capacity as head of European diplomacy. The report lists “increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks orchestrated from Russia, information manipulation campaigns, chemical weapons attacks on European soil or explosions at a military center in the Czech Republic.
Borrell admitted that relations between the EU and Russia “are at their lowest.” And he thinks “continued deterioration is the most likely scenario at the moment.”
The Commission’s report, which will be analyzed and probably endorsed by the 27 EU governments next week, sets out a three-way path for dealing with a neighbor that it defines as “a key strategic issue”. Von der Leyen and Borrell suggest tackling the ‘downward spiral’ with response measures, such as sanctions, against human rights violations by the Kremlin and with a closed defense of the international order against territorial aggression against Ukraine, Georgia or others. neighbors to the east. “The EU strongly rejects Russia’s goal of having a privileged sphere of influence. The Eastern partners have the full and sovereign right to decide freely on the form and depth of their relations with the EU and other international actors, ”the document said.
“In certain areas, Russia is a necessary partner, even unavoidable”
Josep Borrell, Head of European Diplomacy
The second track points to harnessing Russia’s attempts to undermine EU interests. In this area, it is committed to improving defense capabilities, cybersecurity and resistance to hybrid threats, in cooperation with NATO. And, to reach Russian interests, it is necessary to “take better advantage of the leverage effect offered by our energy transition and the full application of European energy market regulations”. The idea of Brussels is to exploit Russia’s dependence on the European market, to which it allocates two-thirds of its oil and gas exports, while in China it sells only respectively. 27% and 2%.
The report underlines that “Russia suffers from serious and growing structural weaknesses”, with a 10% drop in disposable income since 2013. Under these conditions, Brussels believes that limiting access to the European energy market could do a lot of harm. wrong to a country. in that oil, gas and coal account for 60% of its exports, 40% of budget revenues and 25% of its gross domestic product. The Commission estimates that in 10 to 20 years Russia will be affected by the EU’s energy transition, which aims to drastically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
The third Brussels proposal, the most desirable but considered distant and complicated, is the development of a “positive agenda”, based on cooperation in the fight against climate change or on global scenarios where the EU and Russia have interests (from Libya to the Middle East). East or Arctic). “In some areas, Russia is a necessary, if not inevitable, partner,” Borrell acknowledged during the presentation of his report.
The promotion of contact between the respective populations is also indicated as a way towards a better understanding. Russia is already the country in the world where the most visas for the Schengen area are issued (4.1 million in 2019, before the pandemic) and it is the non-EU country with the most students in the program of Erasmus + grants. But so far, it doesn’t appear that this whole move has stopped the aggressive stance of Putin’s team towards the EU.
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