Russia-EU Relations, Another Year of Pull and Push
    2010-12-19 10:10:32     Xinhua      Web Editor: Guo
 
In 2010, Russia seemed to repeat a historical cycle of the early 18th century, when Peter the Great similarly urged Europe to have a hand in Russia's modernization.

This year, Russia has been making gestures of goodwill towards the European Union (EU), hoping the latter helps its modernization. The EU, hard hit by the financial crisis and still struggling with sovereign debt troubles, is willing to accept Russia's goodwill to support its own fragile economic recovery.

By mutual needs, relations between Russia and the EU have been visibly improved this year after hitting their lowest point in 2008 when the two argued over the conflict between Russia and Georgia. However, inveterate mistrust and divergence left over by history still shadow the road of Russia-EU cooperation and linger in their bilateral ties.

As two big powers on the world stage, their relations are hardly serious setbacks nor quick boosts. Russia and the EU will continue to pull and push each other, experts said.

MUTUAL NEED IN URGENT

With the "reset" of Russia-U.S. relations, Russia and the EU also achieved further detente in their ties and witnessed several high-level meetings this year.

In June, the 25th Russia-EU summit was held in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, with the adoption of a joint statement launching the Partnership for Modernization Initiative.

In November, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, discussing the initiative of creating the Free Trade Area (FTA) with Europe and setting forth a long-term program to develop bilateral economic cooperation.

In December's Russia-EU summit in Brussels, the two parties reached consensus on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization and developed a concrete plan on how to establish their Partnership for Modernization.

During the Brussels summit, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said candidly that "our mutual interdependence is a reality."

Currently, Russia's supply of natural gas accounts for 31 percent of EU's entire natural gas imports, along with 27 percent of crude oil imports and 24 percent of coal imports.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of Russia's imports and 75 percent of its foreign investment comes from the EU, the largest trade partner of Russia.

"Russia wants Europe to help her in modernization, while Europe eyes Russia as a prospective market and a source of energy," Yuri Rubinsky of the Institute of Europe of Russian Academy of Sciences told Xinhua.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said European technology is needed to wean his country's economy off its reliance on energy exports. The EU, which is facing a nervous financial market, sluggish investment and weak private consumption, has also pinned its hopes for economic growth on outside demand.

PARTIALLY IMPROVED WITHOUT BREAKTHROUGH

However, this year didn't witness a breakthrough in relations between Russia and the EU, as their bilateral ties mostly laid in the realm of declarations or the planning of future actions rather than in the practically applicable dimension, experts said.

"By all means, 2010 can be hardly called a year of breakthrough, the improved Russia-EU relations is partly due to the so-called 'low start effect'," Rubinsky told Xinhua.

Konstantin Simonov, head of the Center of Political Technologies and director of the National Energy Security Foundation echoed Rubinsky's words.

"Perhaps Russia-EU relations should thank the 'low start effect.' Bilateral ties improved after their rows over the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008 and a gas spat between Russia and Ukraine in 2009," Simonov told Xinhua.

Currently, EU members in different development levels still hold different stances on Russia's approach, he said.

Accordingly, Russia has been taking a strategy of single-targeting, relying on big countries and breaching Eastern Europe by "funeral diplomacy" in an attempt to promote the comprehensive development of relations with the EU.
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