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Wednesday, 8 June 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

EU-Russia summit (debate)

  Knut Fleckenstein (S&D).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to mention two points because Mr Swoboda has already mentioned a number of points on behalf of our group. Russia is indeed at an important crossroads. Its internal political situation will be determined by the elections to the Duma in December and the question of who will continue the modernisation embarked upon as president from 2012.

One can also put a positive slant on this. There could be no better opportunity to strengthen international confidence in Russia’s development. This is conditional upon there being fair elections, fair opportunities for registration and access to the media for the candidates, to ensure at least an element of equal opportunity.

My second point concerns the Partnership for Modernisation between the EU and Russia. This opens up new opportunities for effective cooperation. We should therefore not miss the opportunity to support Russia vigorously in this modernisation – not just by investing in the modernisation of the economy, but also in its society. Governments put things down on paper and, as we all know, you can say what you like on paper. Citizens, however, become very restless if what is stated on paper is not implemented.

Civil participation and the involvement of civil society, entrepreneurs, researchers, young people and artists are essential to a self-determined society of solidarity. We can only successfully support such modernisation, however, if people can come together easily in order to learn from each other and exchange experiences. For these reasons, the EU and Russia should finally reach agreement on the common steps that need to be taken to achieve visa-free travel and how these can be implemented, in order to achieve results as quickly as possible.

We have been talking about people in the Kaliningrad region and thinking about facilitation. A month ago, this House decided that visa facilitation should be allowed for cultural purposes. We have been talking about whether perhaps particular consideration should be given to young people here. These are all good suggestions to get the ball rolling, but they are no substitute for an overall solution. I would therefore urge the Commission to step up the pace. You can count on our support in any case, including as regards some of the more hesitant certain Member States.


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