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Please enter the digits in the box below:  |  Interviews  |  Vygaudas Usackas: There is no link between Mediterranean sea-problems and EU...


May 23, 2015

Vygaudas Usackas: There is no link between Mediterranean sea-problems and EU sanctions on Russia

Head of the European Union delegation to Russia Vygaudas Usackas has given an interview to Interfax in which he said that the EUs Eastern Partnership policy is not directed against Moscow, expressed hope that Russias position on illegal immigration will be constructive and criticized Russias new law on unwelcome foreign organizations.

Question: Russia has repeatedly voiced a tough criticism over the EUs Eastern Partnership policy. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said he expected the EU to prove in deeds and not in words that the Eastern Partnership was not directed against Russia. How could the EU prove it?

Answer: In fact its simple: by helping make our common neighbors safer, more economically developed and promote reforms. I believe Russia should be interested in this as we are in the EU. How we do it practice? The Eastern Partnership is a joint initiative by the EU together with the six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine with purpose of helping the region develop and be more stable. The partnership is flexible. It works according to the individual wishes of the country - what it wants do to together with the EU. There are also possibilities to join regional programs for instance on environment, transport links or energy connections. Four focus areas are: democracy and the rule of law, economic integration and convergence with EU policies, energy security and contact between people.

Some concrete examples: When we help free trade between EU and Ukraine also Russian companies producing in Ukraine will able to promote their product in the EU; the worlds largest integrated marked. When customs procedures are helped by electronic procedures how can this be against Russia? When students and scholars are joining programs with EU partners how does this hurt Russia? Is it a problem for Russia that an extra [several] million Moldavians now visit the EU after the visa-free regime began last year? How can it be against that environment specialists and agencies engage in cross-border cooperation for cleaner surroundings?

Lets remember that Russia was also invited to join - but decided to decline, wanting another sort of partnership. The EaP was not, is not and will not be against Russia.

Q.: What is your overall assessment of the situation in Ukraine and of the progress in implementing the Minsk agreements? Arent you being worried over possible resumption of hostilities in the light of the recent statements by President Poroshenko about the so-called cease fire in Donbas and the necessity to fight for the country "until the last drop of blood"?

A.: Full implementation - by all concerned - of the Minsk agreement is of crucially importance. Its the best possible way ahead to secure de-escalation and see a political solution to the crises in Ukraine.

Q.: How would the EU perceive it if Russia recalls partly the sanctions against Greece, Cyprus and Hungary?

A.: The Russian authorities know very well that the EU operates as one entity. The decision by the Russian leadership last August introducing so-called anti-sanctions" has led to significant increase in inflation and hit Russian customers and thus the Russian economy. I dont want to speculate further.

Q.: When putting to a vote a draft UN Security Council resolution approving the operation in the Mediterranean sea aiming at fighting illegal migration, what position does the EU expect Russia would take? Would any bargaining be possible? For example, Russia votes in support the draft and in return the EU would review its sanctions against Russia at the end of June with a view to scale them down or lift them as both issues will be considered at the end of June as expected.

A.: The EU is preparing comprehensive actions regarding migration across the Mediterranean. This includes actions on the root causes as well as discussing handling refugees inside the EU. The problems at sea are a particular issue and we hope and expect Russia to play a constructive part. Its important to avoid or reduce the number of refugees being tempted onto dangerous ships destined for catastrophe at sea.

I dont see a connection between the Mediterranean sea-problems and the EU sanctions on Russia regarding her illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.

Q.: How would you comment the adoption of the law on undesirable foreign organizations? An undesirable organization poses threats to the foundations of the constitutional system, to defense and security.

A.: I think the law goes in the wrong direction and unfortunately promotes a climate of fear and suspicion: a sense "Them-against-us". Taken together with the law on so-called Foreign Agents it gives me an uncomfortable ring of former times. Is it to scare away people and organizations from doing their normal things? Cant people and organizations decide for themselves? It does not match my picture of a Russian society wanting to progress with a vibrant civil society tapping the creative resources of its individual members.

Im convinced that the strength of a society is measured by its ability to harbor difference and diversity and to allow its citizen to be at their best. Control, suspicion, and self-censorship kill peoples ambitions.


U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, who will leave his post in early October, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about exchanges at the highest level between Moscow and Washington, a possibility of Russias return to G8, as well as his vision of the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on that is expected on August 2, about Russia‘s response to the U.S. and NATO possible deployment of missiles banned by the treaty, and about whether the Cuban Missile Crisis may repeat itself.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold negotiations on the sidelines of the Petersburg Dialogue forum in Germany on Thursday. Maas has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the forum, in which he speaks about prospects of settling the conflict in Ukraine, Germanys preparations for ensuring security in the absence of the INF Treaty and attempts to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

German Ambassador to Russia Rudiger von Fritsch, who is leaving Moscow after a five-year mission, told Interfax about the state of affairs in bilateral relations, Germanys position on the Nord Stream 2 project amidst sanction risks, and assessed prospects for settling the crisis in Ukraine under the new authorities in Kyiv.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about results of the trilateral meeting on Afghanistan settlement that took place in Moscow on April 25, prospects of the intra-Afghan meeting in Doha, and Russia‘s role in the Afghan issue.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the Alliances 70th anniversary that is to be celebrated on April 4. He speaks in the interview about the NATOs vision of future relations with Russia, its attitude to the situation surrounding the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty and the New START Treaty, as well as further plans of expanding the Alliance.

British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the current situation in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia, the impact of the Skripal case on it, the restoration of the numbers of diplomatic staff, exchange of information on counter-terrorism, possible introduction of sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident, the INF Treaty, and British-Russian economic relations.


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