23 Feb 2011

Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov: EU must take into account other countries’ specifics and parameters

Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the visit by a governmental delegation led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Brussels.

Question: Vladimir Alexeyevich, a number of experts estimate that the energy issue will be the most poignant part of the EU-Russia negotiating process over the future basic agreement, as the third EU energy package is due to become effective. Is there any chance of a compromise on this issue?

Anwser: Certainly, there is. This has to be dealt with. This has to addressed. If you let everything drift away, there will be problems. Our energy companies, and not just Gazprom but others too, will have problems. There will be problems on the EU side as well. I can give you a specific example. Lithuania, an EU member, acting in the best traditions of revolutionary radicalism, is essentially heading towards the nationalization of its energy infrastructure. that is to say the gas pipeline owned by a consortium of Gazprom and a European company. They are expected to be left with just distribution networks. They say you can’t have both. Actually, this breaking down itself is quite debatable.
All this has to be addressed, and this is not just the energy sector. In principle, this is a reflection of a broader approach, in which I see a long-term problem both in our relations with the European Union and its relations with other countries. I am talking here not only to EU officials but to their other partners as well: Americans, the Chinese, Indians, the Japanese, the Norwegians, the Swiss and so on. The problem is that the European Union, apart from its conviction that everything it produces in this world represents the best global standard, also shows a persistent tendency to apply this standard to the rest of the world.
For instance, civil aircraft exhaust emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions in excess of the EU quotas will have to be acquired by airline companies for money. Well, this probably could be discussed in the context of global efforts to fight global warming, but not unilaterally. If the situation does not change, Russia will have to retaliate. Then the fees for Trans-Siberian flights of European aircraft will appear only half of the problem. Because then it will be a question of billions of euros for flights over the Russian airspace.
Or take another standard, wood packaging, which is due to become effective in the future. Any wooden object, including a wooden box, a crate, must have a certificate of conformity to ecological standards valid for two weeks. It might do for Europe. But if you pack something in a wooden box in Krasnoyarsk and send it to Germany, for example. It will take more than two weeks for this box just to reach the Russian border.
The specifics and parameters of other states must be taken into account. And there is work to be done on all that.

Q.: Recently the European Union has repeatedly voiced grievances over air transportation agreements signed between a number of EU member states and Russia.

A.: Most EU countries already have this problem. The majority of European Union member states were formally warned by the European Commission that unless they change bilateral agreements with third countries, not only with Russia, they will be sued at the European court. The European Commission would sometimes sue its member states. Sometimes it would win, sometimes it would lose.
In this particular case it is a problem of renouncing the notion of "national carrier" and switching to the notion of an "EU carrier." We agree to discuss this matter. But it should be a subject of negotiations and not unilateral decisions. These talks must be held with the member states and the European Commission under a unified European template. Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who is coming to Brussels as part of the Russian governmental delegation, is due to meet with his partner Siim Kallas, member of the European Transport Commission, on Wednesday evening. Their agenda includes precisely these problems.

Q.: There is also a foreign policy division in these consultations between the EU and Russian executive authorities. Has there been any progress in efforts to set up a foreign policy and security committee?

A.: I think the upcoming meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton as part of the visit by the Russian governmental delegation will facilitate progress in this matter.

Q.: Observers from the EU mission in Georgia are demanding access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A.: This is a matter for Abkhazians and South Ossetians, who have not been asked.

Q.: And how do you assess the work of the EU mission in Kosovo?

A.: This is not an easy question. First of all, the functions of this mission are not outlined quite clearly. Objectively, of course, this mission representing the whole European Union, in which five of the 27 members have not recognized Kosovo, has a limited space for maneuvering. Besides, we believe that attempts to oust the UN mission are counterproductive. Under the UN Security Council resolution N 1244 of 1999 that no one has repealed, Kosovo remains under the United Nations jurisdiction. The fact that today Kosovo is recognized by about 70 countries does not change the matter. They are still a minority within the international community. They are one third of UN members. As regards the efficiency of this mission, there are various points of view. The Serbian authorities have grievances against it and reprimands for a unilateral approach. There are problems with this mission.

Q.: What can you tell about EU sanctions against Belarus?

A.: From the point of view of international law, they are not sanctions. By international law, sanctions can only be imposed by the UN Security Council. Sanctions were imposed against Iran, but restrictive measures were adopted with regard to Belarus. This is counterproductive, in principle. Any measures aimed at isolating a state, be it Belarus or any other country, are counterproductive, and certainly we do not support them. No, we do not like everything that is going on in Belarus either. And we are saying it openly, including in straightforward conversations with our Belarusian colleagues and friends. But restrictive measures are not the right path to follow.

Q.: European partners of the Russian governmental delegation as set to raise the issue about the second trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, as well as the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky case, as part of the legal agenda.

A.: I think these issues will be outlined, though not as urgent matters. I was asked before about the European Parliament resolution on Russia. The European Parliament is making very many resolutions. None of them is legally binding for enforcement structures. While the Lisbon Treaty has strengthened the competence of the European Parliament, their own ideas about their own competence have increased in a geometric progression.