Balance human rights & energy with Russia says Knut Fleckenstein MEP

External relations - 23-06-2010 - 14:52
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  • "EU sees Russia as a strategic partner"
  • EU must stress role of civil society

The European Union's relationship with Russia is one of its most important and most complicated. Strong trade and energy ties bind both although many in the EU are concerned about Moscow's human rights record. We spoke to Socialist MEP Knut Fleckenstein - head of Parliament's delegation with relations with Russia - about where the Union's relationship with Moscow is headed. It comes in the week Parliament's President Jerzy Buzek held talks with President Dmitri Medvedev.

The relationship between EU and Russia are far from easy. Russia is a major partner regarding energy supply, but at the same time the EU is still worried about human rights there. How can we overcome this major dilemma?
KF: Russia is an important partner for the EU, not only because it is our biggest gas supplier. We are tied to Russia by history but also by many painful experiences, especially during the 20th century.
The EU sees Russia as a strategic partner with whom she can work to resolve international problems, such as reform of the financial system, the fight against climate change, conflicts in neighbouring countries, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the crisis in the Middle East or Iran's nuclear program.
In dialogue with Russia, our goal must be to convey our vision of a civic society in which citizens are free, responsible and caring. Because of our experience, a strong civil society also strengthens the state.
The joint purchase of energy resources could be the aim of a European energy community (to aid lower prices). Does it mean the EU can't rely on Russia as a partner and has to be as independent as possible?
KF: The idea of President Buzek - a European Energy strategy - aims to strengthen solidarity among EU states in the gas supply. It is a great challenge. Member states are differentiated by their energy, their dependence on imports from third countries and their energy mix.
I remain convinced that we have negotiate with our energy suppliers as one. As we also fight against climate change, our goal is to consume less energy to reduce our dependence.
What's your vision of Russia in 10 years?
KF: I hope that Russia will become a trusted partner in all major international issues. This does not mean that we will not have differences of opinion, but through extensive consultations, we can overcome them constructively.
Russia will be a state with a strong civil society, whose rights will be respected by the state, civil society support and which takes responsibility for his contemporaries. The ability to travel without a visa will enable entrepreneurs, researchers, engaged citizens, students or young people curious and interested in travelling to develop contacts between our societies. That is how we manage to establish a true partnership between Russia and the EU.
REF.: 20100618STO76329