Interview With EU Ambassador to Russia: Part 2

February 5, 2014
Wikipedia: User:Siekierki

A pro-Kremlin Russian media outlet, Kommersant, has held a question and answer session with the EU’s ambassador to Russia, Vygaudas Ušackas, in which they discuss relations between Moscow and Brussels. This is thesecond part of the interview. The first can be found here. – Ed.

Why is the EU completely dependent on the US and doesn’t have its own policy? If that is not the case, name at least three points where the EU’s international policy differs from the foreign policy of the US?

The EU’s approach consists of finding not differences, but similarities. We are glad to be working with the US in concert on a wide range of issues concerning international policy. We are working toward having the same mutual relations established between the EU and Russia, to be built on trust, common values and a common vision.

We have had a good start. The EU, in the person of Catherine Ashton, and Russia, represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are closely cooperating on such urgent international problems such as Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. We are interested in going further and more dynamically. A new stimulus and new direction for joint work between the EU and Russia can be provided by Russia’s chairmanship of the G8. I am certain that these questions will also be discussed during the coming summit in Brussels.

Hello! To what extent has the EU adopted a policy of assimilation of immigrants? Does it not turn out that immigrants begin to dictate their rules to the EU authorities? And another question: is there a consolidated policy to oppose illegal migration? There is an opinion that it will be hard for the EU to preserve their value bearings if people for whom European society is alien will land in these countries that are members of the EU. Do you agree with that? In conclusion, I would like to wish wisdom and vitality to the EU, which has substantially changed world politics and provided the highest social standards of living.

Immigration is a fact with which not only the EU deals, but Russia as well. First, it is important that the migration be legal. We have our rules, which are applied in the countries of the EU. And Russia has shown interest in how we resolve the issues of migration. For example, we just had a meeting with the leaders of the Russian Migration Service.

Second. It is important to create tolerant living and work conditions for representatives of different confessions, religious, and peoples. After all, we live in a global world, based on the understanding that respect for various religions and nations is one of the fundamentals.

Third, and especially important: I would like for the EU and Russia to work more closely in the area of providing assistance to those countries from which migrants are fleeing. They must be assisted economically, helped to create systems of governance, helped in the area of respect for human rights and law as such. We have to have ways for the residents of these countries to find work themselves. Thus we eliminate the source of migration to our countries. The EU is the largest donor in the world – we provide financial and humanitarian help to needy countries. Russia, with its resources, could be one of the most important partners in creating the necessary conditions in those countries that are still economically less developed.

Mr. Ambassador, what is the EU’s position regarding the project South Stream [gas pipeline] and how will the dispute on this issue be resolved?

The EU is now creating a common energy market, based on certain rules, including the well-known Third Energy Package. It is founded on such principles as transparency, diversification and the possibility for choice in the interests of the citizens of the EU. We passed these rules and we must adhere to them. This concerns both European companies as well as any foreign companies, whether Gazprom, Statoil, Exxon or companies from Qatar.

In that connection, we are conducting negotiations (with the Russian leadership—ed.) and literally yesterday (January 24—ed.) a meeting of the Russian deputy minister of energy Anatoly Yanovsky and Dominique Ristori, general director of the Eurocommission on Energy. During this meeting, the statutes of our new working group were discussed which must be achieved in order that the implementation of South Stream is done with compliance of European standards. We see South Stream as having great potential, but it is important that all countries that work on this very important project observe the EU’s regulations.

The transition from Western Europe to Russia is gradual according to many characteristics, whether the economy, the way of life, the historical legacy, cultural values, the current aspirations of various segments of society and so on. Both Eastern Europe and the Baltics as well as Southern Europe differ greatly from “Brussels’ Europe.” How do you understand your role as representative of a united Europe regarding Russia, which itself is a united world of numerous different cultures and legacies?

I am very happy to be representing a united Europe. Thanks to the Lisbon Agreement, the competencies of the Eurocommission and other institutions of Brussels have significantly grown. All countries have their historical experience; they often have different opinions. But the fact that we have different peoples with different experience – that is the beauty and uniqueness and power of the EU. Even so, always, no matter what difficult questions we have discussed (the meetings sometimes last until midnight or until morning), in the end we reach agreements.

The EU bases its diplomatic and political culture on the principle of the search for compromises. We also expect this from our strategic partner, Russia.

What did you do during the era of the USSR and were you a member of the CPSU or Komsomol?

I was not a member of the CPSU. I was a Pioneer and a Komsomol as we all were. I was born and raised in Lithuania. But the family of my father and grandfather were exiled to Siberia in 1940. I was in Krasnoyarsk with my son, we also traveled to Reshety – that was where the NKVD camp was located where my grandfather was imprisoned for five years.

Despite the fact that Lithuania was occupied by the USSR, in my family we always had the best attitude toward Russians. We all went through the Stalinist repressions. No one suffered as much as did the Russians.

I also served in the Soviet army, and went through the school of manhood. I have kept the best memories about the friends that I made then. And then I was one of the leaders of the student movement for Lithuanian’s independence. I traveled a lot around Russia, I was in various universities and tried to understand better why we wanted to be independent. I will note that if we had not had understanding of the situation by such leaders as Boris Yeltsin, it would have been far more difficult for us to achieve the independence of the Baltic countries.

But that is the past. The most important thing now is that we acknowledge the lessons of the past and on such firm foundations of common values and mutual respect we create a common future, that is, a common space between the EU and Russia. I hope that the coming summit will enable us not only to discuss issues over where there are differences but also (most importantly) provide an impulse for removal from our agenda of trade or other irritants. After all, from my perspective, in this global economic and political world, we are the most natural and inseparable partners.