The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine - European Union Committee Contents


APPENDIX 4: EVIDENCE TAKEN DURING VISIT TO BRUSSELS


On 27 and 28 October 2014, five Members of the Committee (accompanied by the Clerk and Policy Analyst) visited Brussels in order to take evidence from EU institutions, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union, and academics.

Members attending: Lord Tugendhat (Chairman), Baroness Billingham, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, Lord Trimble.

In attendance: Miss Sarah Jones (Clerk) and Miss Roshani Palamakumbura (Policy Analyst).

Day One: Monday 27 October

Academic Roundtable

The Committee took evidence from Dr Tom Casier, Jean Monnet Chair, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Kent, Mr Josef Janning, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations, and Dr Marat Terterov, Executive Director and Co-founder, Brussels Energy Club.

A transcript was taken and is published in the evidence volume accompanying this report.

Briefing with UK Government officials

The Committee held a private discussion with His Excellency Sir Adam Thomson, UK Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council, and His Excellency Julian Braithwaite, UK Representative to the EU's Political and Security Committee.

Day Two: Tuesday 28 October

Briefing with UK Government official

The Committee held a private discussion with Mr Ivan Rogers, UK Permanent Representative to the EU.

Directorate General for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, European Commission

The Committee held a private discussion with Mrs Iwona Piorko, Cabinet of Commissioner Füle.

Political and Security Committee Ambassadors

The Committee held a private discussion with Ambassador Michel Tilemans, Belgian Representative to the EU's Political and Security Committee, and Ambassador Dainius Kamaitis, Lithuanian Representative to the EU's Political and Security Committee.

European Endowment for Democracy

The Committee took evidence from Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP, Chairman of Executive Committee, European Endowment for Democracy, Dr Alastair Rabagliati, Director of Operations, European Endowment for Democracy, and Mr Peter Sondergaard, Director of Programmes, European Endowment for Democracy.

A transcript was taken and is published in the evidence volume accompanying this report.

His Excellency Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union

Four Members of the Committee took evidence from His Excellency Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union, at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation in Brussels.

A note of the meeting is below.

Members present: Lord Tugendhat (Chairman), Baroness Billingham, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, Lord Maclennan of Rogart.

In attendance: Miss Sarah Jones (Clerk), Miss Roshani Palamakumbura (Policy Analyst).

EU-Russia relationship

Ambassador Chizhov began by noting that Russia's relationship with the EU had its ups and downs, but that this was the case for many countries' relationships with the EU. He felt that the EU was not an easy partner to deal with and that many countries would feel the same way.

However, Russia did have numerous ties with the EU. The Ambassador stated that Russia's trade with the EU was worth approximately €1billion per day, which was 12 times the value of Russia's trade with the US. There were international issues on which Russia and the EU could work together—for example, in tackling the threats posed by ISIL. There were also many cultural and historical ties between Russia and European countries.

The EU's formal relationship with Russia was based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) agreed between the Russian Federation and the EU in 1994. This agreement was based around trade and had been automatically renewed annually since 2007. In 2008, negotiations were launched to develop a new EU-Russia Agreement, to replace the PCA. These negotiations stalled in 2010 for a number of reasons, including:

·  The talks were put on hold while Russia was expected to join the World Trade Organization (WTO);

·  The EU wanted further liberalisation of trade between the EU and Russia, which Russia could not offer while it was still adapting to WTO obligations; and

·  At around the same time, the Eurasian Union initiative was being developed.

Negotiations regarding a new agreement were currently on hold and there was no timeline for resumption.

Ukraine

In Ambassador Chizhov's view, the crisis in Ukraine was not the ultimate cause of the decline in current relations between the EU and Russia, but a trigger which caused other problems to be exposed.

One of the problems was visa liberalisation: Russia was keen to agree greater visa liberalisation with EU countries, but the EU had taken a long time to consider and negotiate this. In the Ambassador's view, EU Member States and the Commission all seemed to be blaming each other for the delay in negotiating visa liberalisation.

A further problem was international security issues, where there had not been enough co-operation. In 2010, Chancellor Merkel had proposed the Meseberg Process, for an EU-Russia Security Council. Russia had agreed to this, but then other Member States did not support the proposal and so it fell by the wayside.

Turning to the sequencing of events in Ukraine, Ambassador Chizhov felt that, over the last five years, successive Ukrainian governments had fed propaganda to young people in Ukraine which promised that as soon as the Association Agreement was signed then Ukraine would de facto become a member of the EU. Members of the Ukrainian public therefore looked forward to the benefits that would accompany EU membership, such as visa abolition, the right to travel and work in the EU, etc. When President Yanukovych announced that he needed more time to reflect on the agreement, it therefore led to the initial protests. The EU had a part to play in the crisis as it had been supporting Ukraine's enthusiasm for signing the Association Agreement, without making it clear that the agreement would not automatically lead to EU membership.

In February, the German, French and Polish foreign ministries had signed up to a number of commitments regarding Ukraine. Ambassador Chizhov noted that at that time President Yanukovych agreed to withdraw forces and start constitutional reforms, all of which had been delivered before he fled the country. The then opposition undertook to stop the violence but the protestors declared themselves victorious and made declarations which caused obvious concern to people in eastern Ukraine, such as declarations banning the Russian language. Although the ban on the Russian language was never implemented, it had a great psychological impact on people in eastern Ukraine.

The local population in Crimea were also very concerned about the events in Ukraine and felt that it was a golden opportunity to rectify past injustices. In Ambassador Chizhov's opinion, the population in Crimea would not have forgiven President Putin if he had not acted to protect them. However, Russia had acted within international laws.

Despite the current situation, the Ambassador felt that there was still a window of opportunity to stop the conflict and to launch a political process to end the dispute. He hoped that Russia and the EU could continue to facilitate dialogue in order to achieve that.

Security

Ambassador Chizhov felt that positive relations between the EU and Russia could be built around security co-operation. President Putin had proposed a treaty on European security co-operation to include OSCE and NATO countries, the US and Canada. In general, Russia preferred international obligations, rather than commitments, but Russia had invited all the major players to be a part of the process. Russia had been disappointed by NATO's response, which was that it could only guarantee security to its members, without any flexibility to share it with partners. In Russia's view, this was tantamount to recreating dividing lines.

In Ambassador Chizhov's view, as NATO's borders had moved closer to Russia, further work was therefore needed on a new security architecture.

Shared neighbourhood

With regard to relations within the shared neighbourhood, the Ambassador acknowledged that NATO membership was one of Russia's 'red lines'. NATO membership for countries such as Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia would not be acceptable to Russia.

Russia did not have a problem with those countries having free trade agreements with the EU but there were other, more detailed, aspects of Association Agreements which could cause difficulties, not just for Russia, but for the countries themselves. For example, the Association Agreement with Ukraine would place certain obligations on Ukraine to ensure that products met specific regulations, and those standards would not necessarily be compatible with the regulations required for products in the CIS region, or the Eurasian Economic Union. The Ambassador gave two examples of potential problems for Ukraine when the Association Agreement came into effect:

·  At the moment, most of the engines for Russian helicopters were produced in Ukraine. If Ukraine started to produce engines to EU standards then Russia would no longer buy them. Although it would take time, within a couple of years Russia could produce its own helicopter engines instead. However, the Ukrainian market would then be destroyed as EU countries would not necessarily want helicopter engines produced in Ukraine.

·  Some EU Member States had recorded cases of African swine fever in pigs and Russia had therefore agreed veterinary controls which meant that pork from EU countries could not be imported into Russia. The ban did not currently apply to Ukraine, but if Ukraine became a part of the single EU phytosanitary and veterinary space then Russia would have to extend the ban to Ukrainian pork products as well.

It was for these reasons that Russia had wanted a part in the negotiation process regarding the Association Agreement with Ukraine. The Ambassador felt that Russia had not wanted a veto, but had wanted a chance to discuss the issues, which had not been accepted by the EU until after the Association Agreement was signed and ratified.

He stressed that the Association Agreement would have a negative impact on Ukraine, as well as for Russia and other countries in the Eurasian Customs Union. In terms of the compatibility between the Eurasian Customs Union and the EU, the Ambassador felt that membership of the Eurasian Customs Union would not prevent countries from signing trade agreements with the EU, as long as they had compatible regulations.

Energy

Ambassador Chizhov noted that Russia was not satisfied with the Third Energy Package. Russia had been critical of the legislative proposals from the beginning and while the EU's intentions to liberalise its energy market may have been good, the proposals were impractical for a number of reasons. First, it would not be appropriate to extend EU legislation to companies in Russia. Secondly, the retrospective nature of the proposals was not acceptable to Russia. Russia was currently constructing the South Stream pipeline to transport Russian natural gas through the Black Sea and other countries to Austria. Russia had agreements with eight countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia) regarding the pipeline, six of which were EU Members. The EU was now applying pressure in order to change these agreements, even though they had been signed, before the Third Energy Package took effect. Construction was continuing though the negotiations were ongoing.

Future relations between the EU and Russia

Ambassador Chizhov felt that, in general, Russia preferred legal obligations for countries rather than political commitments. He felt that international agreements between Russia and EU Member States should be based on the following principles:

·  No interference in the domestic policies of other countries

·  No pressure for regime change in other countries

·  No extension of international legislation onto other countries

There was also an information war between Russia and the West which, if continued, would cause misperceptions to increase and spread. Ambassador Chizhov noted that Russia was open to dialogue with all international actors, including the EU, OSCE and the Council of Europe. Russia was willing to engage and the G20 summit in November 2014 would be the next opportunity for President Putin to discuss international issues with other world leaders.

Directorate General for Trade, European Commission

The Committee took evidence from Mr Jean-Luc Demarty, Director-General, and Mr Luc Pierre Devigne, Head of Unit.

A transcript was taken and is published in the evidence volume accompanying this report.

European External Action Service

The Committee took evidence from Mr Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary-General, Mr Luis Felipe Fernández-de-la-Peña, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, and Mr Gunnar Wiegand, Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE.

A transcript was taken and is published in the evidence volume accompanying this report.

European Council

The Committee took evidence from Mr Pedro Serrano, Adviser on External Affairs, Cabinet of the President of the European Council.

A transcript was taken and is published in the evidence volume accompanying this report.


 
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