Basescu: Russia is most important – and most trying – EU neighbour

Romanian President Traian Basescu says the European Union should accept Russia as it is and ask for predictability and a minimum economic efficiency instead.
‘Russia is the biggest and the most important European Union neighbour, but also the most trying, since the list of disagreements is rather long. Russia is the EU’s third-biggest commercial partner, with the main component of the exchanges being the Russian shipments of gas and oil.
The bilateral cooperation is structured by four big chapters that contain economic and environmental issues, internationals security issues, research and education as well as justice and home affairs’, Basescu said on Tuesday in opening remarks to the Europe-Russia Economic Forum being held in the Romanian capital.
The president stressed that the international cooperation of the EU and Russia is two-levelled, with the first level including the issues of global importance such as Iran, the Middle East peace process, nuclear non-proliferation, climate changes, terrorism and drug trafficking.
‘Since the interests are largely common, the cooperation with Russia functions and there are reasons for satisfaction on both sides’, he said.
Basescu added, however, that the ‘big problems of the cooperation with Russia’ are on the second level, which is the common neighbourhood of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea.
‘It is here that we encounter the irreconcilable issues, such as Russia’s unilateral recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Here there also are the parallel energy projects and Moscow’s reserve towards the Black Sea Synergy and towards the Eastern Partnership more recently’, he explained.
The Romanian leader insisted that the EU, ‘faithful to its multilateral vocation’, will have to further try to persuade Russia to cooperate and to get it involved in common projects.
‘This will have to be done amid certain lack of trust. The massive military attack on Georgia in 2008 and the gas crisis in the beginning of this year shattered the trust in Moscow’s intentions and transparency.
The EU should accept Russia as it is and ask for predictability and minimum economic efficiency instead. The global crisis is increasingly pushing towards cooperation between the EU and Russia and it increasingly proves that the EU and Russia are interdependent’, he said.
Basescu insisted that ‘trust, not zones of influence’ should be built, so as to offer either side the required security guarantees.
‘Last but not least, together we can create the prerequisites for the continued and boosted economic cooperation, since both partners urgently need modernisation and economic development. After all, our main goal – that should be a common goal – is to raise our citizens’ living standards’, Basescu said.

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