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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

18.12.2019

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article Neighbours in Europe. Russia-EU: Thirty Years of Relations for Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 18, 2019

Thirty years ago, on December 18, 1989, Brussels hosted the signing of the Agreement on Trade and Commercial and Economic Cooperation between the USSR and the European communities. This date became the point of departure for official relations between Russia as the successor state of the USSR and the European Union.

Symbolically, the Agreement was signed slightly over a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that came down in history as a landmark signifying the end of the Cold War, a period, when the continent was divided into two opposing ideological blocs. The founders of the Russia-EU partnership knew that it would be impossible to erase the centuries-old divides on the continent unless a broad framework for cooperation was created in Europe. Both sides intended to make it mutually beneficial, long-term, and resistant to economic and political fluctuations.

The subsequent years were marked by painstaking efforts to create a multi-level architecture of collaboration between Russia and the EU. A solid legal infrastructure evolved based to this day on the 1994 Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. In May 2003, during the Russia-EU summit in St Petersburg, yet another step forward was taken in overcoming the division of Europe, with the parties reaching an agreement on establishing a strategic partnership based on four common spaces – economic; external security; freedom, security and justice; science and education, including cultural aspects. We worked together on long-term projects, which, had they been brought to a logical end, would have yielded tangible dividends to all those who live on our shared continent and substantially enhanced the level of their security, prosperity and comfort. Among other things, the case in point was easing the terms – up to a visa-free regime – of reciprocal travel of Russian and EU citizens, establishing close cooperation between the law enforcement agencies in fighting the terrorist and organised crime threats, coordinating efforts to settle regional crises and conflicts, and forming an energy union. But the sides failed to ensure stability of the declared partnership between Russia and the EU.

Regrettably, many people in the West looked at the prospects of a common European future exclusively from the viewpoint of “winners” in the Cold War. The principles of equal cooperation have given way to the illusion that Euro-Atlantic security can only be based on NATO, and that Europe can only be associated with the European Union, with everything else as nothing more than the concentric circles around these “centres of legitimacy.”

The practical aspects of our relations with Brussels included instances of increasing priority given to the EU’s supranational norms and attempts to apply them retroactively to all other countries. We were urged to accept off-the-shelf decisions made in the EU, which ruled out any discussion or respect for Russia’s interests. In other words, we were invited to join the mainstream and follow the lead, as well as to accept the interpretation of “common values,” many of which contradict the traditions of the European civilisation based on Christianity.

Our Brussels partners preferred to keep silent about the fact that their concept of four common spaces was based on the understanding that any attempts to force our neighbours to choose between Russia and the EU would be dangerous and counterproductive. Well before 2014, an alarming sign in the Russia-EU relations was the launch of the Eastern Partnership initiative, which was aimed, as it turned out later, at creating a distance between Russia and its closest neighbours connected by centuries-old ties. We are still feeling the negative impact of this egocentric policy.

In short, the EU was not prepared to have equal relations with Russia. In the Brussels vocabulary, Europe equalled the European Union, as if there is only one “real” Europe (the EU member states), and all the other countries must work hard to earn the “high title” of Europeans. They are creating artificial dividing line on the continent and distorting both geography and history. A glaring example of that is the numerous EU resolutions that equate the Nazis who sought to exterminate European nations with the Soviet soldiers who saved these nations from annihilation.

It is a deeply flawed approach, which is not benefitting the European integration project and contradicts its initial unification and peace-building spirit. Russia has always been and will remain an integral part of Europe geographically, historically and culturally. We have a unique identity of which we are proud, but we are part of the European civilisational space. Over a period of many centuries, Russia contributed to the expansion of that space all the way to the Pacific coast. The development of our identity was influenced by advanced European ideas. Likewise, modern European culture would have been different without the process of mutual enrichment with Russia.

Despite our differences, Russia and the EU are important trade and economic partners, as well as neighbours who can share their common responsibility for peace, prosperity and security in this part of Eurasia. By the way, if it were not for the EU’s biased position in the context of Ukrainian developments, Russia-EU trade would have reached $500 billion, becoming a global factor comparable to the EU’s trade with the United States or China.

There is increasing evidence of our EU partners’ realisation that the current situation is abnormal. Russia’s relations with the majority of EU states are being revitalised. We have made the first contacts with the new EU leadership, which assumed office in early December.

The new institutional cycle in the EU history offers an opportunity to relaunch relations with Russia. At the very least, we can ponder what we mean to each other in this rapidly changing world. We hope that the EU decision-makers will opt for strategic thinking and will act in the spirit of the great European politicians, such as Charles de Gaulle and Helmut Kohl, who thought in terms of a common European home. The artificial restrictions imposed on trade to suit someone’s geopolitical interests will not settle the existing problems but will only create more obstacles and will weaken Europe’s economic positions. There is no doubt that European cultures and economies can only protect their identities and competitive ability from the onslaught of globalisation by combining the relative competitive advantages of all countries and integration associations in the common Eurasian space.

Russia-EU relations are not developing in a vacuum. A multipolar world has become a reality. New centres of financial, economic, technological and military power have emerged in the Asia Pacific Region. We are taking this crucial factor into consideration during the process of shaping our foreign policy. The new realities not only entail additional trans-border challenges but also open opportunities for getting resources for our own development where previously we did not even look. In any case, combining efforts enhances our capabilities. Amid the persisting international turbulence, it is important to ensure the rule of international law. No attempts should be made to replace it with the “rules-based order” that the West has invented to promote its interests. It is only then that we will be able to assure the effectiveness of multilateral efforts.




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07.05.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a wreath laying ceremony at the memorial plaques in the Foreign Ministry building dedicated to the 77th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, Moscow, May 6, 2022

According to tradition, today we are conducting a ceremony dedicated to the most sacred holiday in the history of our country: Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War. By tradition, we honour everyone who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of our country and Europe and for delivering the entire world from the Nazi threat.


04.05.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Al Arabiya television channel, Moscow, April 29, 2022

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04.05.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the Xinhua News Agency (China), April 30, 2022

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28.04.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Channel One’s The Great Game political talk show, Moscow, April 25, 2022

What we deem necessary has been announced by President Vladimir Putin. I am referring to the need to destroyUkraine’s military infrastructure in the context of demilitarising it. To quote President Putin, Ukraine has been turned into an “anti-Russia” and a direct threat to this country. But the Russian military must meet very strict requirements to minimise damage to the civilian population.


20.04.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with India Today television channel, Moscow, April 19, 2022

The real reason is the complacency of most countries of the world after the end of World War II, when our Western colleagues, led by the United States, declared themselves winners and in violation of the promises to the Soviet and Russian leadership started moving NATO eastward.


13.04.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya television network, Moscow, April 11, 2022

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