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On October 22, 2018, Rossiya Segodnya hosted a roundtable “Prospects for Selective Engagement between the EU and Russia”. RIAC members together with experts from the EU presented the report “Selective Engagement between the EU and Russia”. According to experts, despite the current high level of distrust, EU and Russia still have opportunities to establish a dialog.

On October 22, 2018, Rossiya Segodnya hosted a roundtable “Prospects for Selective Engagement between the EU and Russia”. RIAC members together with experts from the EU presented the report “Selective Engagement between the EU and Russia”. According to experts, despite the current high level of distrust, EU and Russia still have opportunities to establish a dialog.

“The publication of a joint report by a unified Russia–EU group is an unconditional step forward,” noted Ivan Timofeev, one of the authors of the report, member of RIAC expert group. The so-called model of simultaneous partnership is quite viable. For example, Armenia and Kazakhstan, being EAEU members, are at the same time closely cooperating with the European Union. Cooperation between Brussels and Moscow is real, but in the conditions of the current political crisis, it is necessary to carefully designate the areas of cooperation. This approach was formulated by the EU with the help of “selective engagement” concept.

Sabine Fisсher, author of the report, Head of Research Division “Eastern Europe and Eurasia”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP, Berlin) underscored that the term “selective” should not focus only on the most attractive and convenient areas for the parties and ignore all the rest. “If we look at the discussion in Russia and Europe, it seems that both parties are not very interested in finding points of contact. Though we understand that both parties depend on each other and are interested in stable European security. I suggest that we jointly consider the changes occurring on our continent,” emphasized S. Fisher.

Experts identified nine areas of cooperation the progress in which is most necessary or real in the medium term: ceasefire in Donbass and full implementation of Minsk agreements; initiating summit negotiations between the EU, the EAEU, and the countries who signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA); initiating a high-level dialogue between the EU, the EAEU, China, and the Central Asian states to discuss One Belt and One Road Initiative; conducting joint actions by Russia and the EU to preserve and maintain the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; further discussion of the situation in Syria; search for less politicized areas for multilateral cooperation and studying opportunities for economic cooperation in areas that are not under sanctions of one of the parties; and, finally, creating conditions for more active and diversified civil interaction, as well as initiating an expert dialog on controversial issues.

Experts noted that the tension in relations between Russia and the EU had been growing even before 2013. What can be observed today is the consequence of the wrong perception of the situation by both parties. As noted by Alexander Aksenyonok, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, RIAC member: “Russia and the European Union failed to understand in time where the red lines pass.” On the Russian side, this misunderstanding was caused by the exaggeration of the damage caused by accession of Ukraine to the EU. Brussels, in turn, is more concerned about financial and institutional upheavals, Brexit, migration crisis, the growth of populist parties in many EU member states, and has lost interest in finding a way out of the impasse in relations with Russia.

Nevertheless, all the experts agreed on the opinion that relations between Russia and the EU are much better than relations between Russia and the United States. Brussels treats the relations with Moscow more carefully than Washington. This can be observed in the difference between the EU and US sanctions policy towards Russia. The EU sanctions are conditioned by the policy of Russia in Ukraine and exclude other areas. On the contrary, there is a constant escalation of restrictive measures on the part of the USA. Also, Russia is inclined to consider the EU as a more flexible and cooperative external partner than the United States.

Kadri Liik, Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted at the round table: “We should focus on discussing differences in the positions of the two parties. We should identify the nature of these very differences, analyze their background. Of course, this will not allow us to eliminate the difference in the vision of the EU and Russia entirely, but it will help reduce the level of its danger.”

Both Moscow and Brussels recognize that in the international arena they have common interests and common threats that require joint action. Both sides recommend focusing on European and Eurasian integration, develop cooperation in the least politicized areas, including climate change issues, and continue to advance the dialog between experts, showing that different views on the current situation do not exclude the possibility for analysis, that leads to the convergence of the positions of Russia and the EU.

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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
     12 (12%)
    Stonger deterrence on behalf of the U.S. through modernization of military infrastructure in the region  
     4 (4%)
    Toughening economic sanctions against North Korea  
     2 (2%)
 
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