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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

Former Foreign Minister and President of the Russian International Affairs Council, Igor Ivanov, told RIA Novosti where the mistrust in the EU-Russia relationship comes from and what needs to be done to improve the relations.

RIA Novosti: Considering the obvious differences between Russia and the EU, are we not returning to the times of the Cold War?

Igor Ivanov: [In March] we organized the conference as a way of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the May 2003 Russia-EU Summit. Why do we consider this to be a reference point? I attended that summit. President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of all the EU member states were present, as were the leaders of 10 EU candidate countries.

I remember the immense enthusiasm that prevailed 10 years ago. The meetings felt like we celebrating something – celebrating unity. A lot of people felt that we had left the Cold War behind and were opening a new chapter of Greater Europe.

Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens in politics for various reasons – and let us not blame anyone – that process, instead of gathering momentum, began to fade.

RIA Novosti: What happened?

I.I.: We are in a situation where trade and economic relations are developing. Business – both European business in Russia and Russian business in Europe – is increasingly looking for opportunities to work together.

Europe is our main trading partner. Trade with Europe is so important to us that no one could replace it in the near future – not China, not Asia – because what we get from Europe we cannot get from Asia. And what we supply to Europe we are not going to supply to Asian countries in such quantities.

What happened was that economies developed and economic ties were moving forward. We joined the World Trade Organization, but politics stayed behind.

Today there is an obvious gap between economic ties, long-term interests and the political form that should ensure further development. That is why many speakers at the conference spoke about the lack of confidence between us.

RIA Novosti: What needs to be done to restore confidence?

I.I.: During the Cold War, mistrust came about because of ideological incompatibility, which is not the case today. Today, mistrust stems from unpredictability, with neither side not knowing what the other will do.

I remember the immense enthusiasm that prevailed 10 years ago. The meetings felt like we celebrating something – celebrating unity. A lot of people felt that we had left the Cold War behind and were opening a new chapter of Greater Europe.

Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens in politics for various reasons – and let us not blame anyone – that process, instead of gathering momentum, began to fade.

RIA Novosti: What happened?

I.I.: We are in a situation where trade and economic relations are developing. Business – both European business in Russia and Russian business in Europe – is increasingly looking for opportunities to work together.

Europe is our main trading partner. Trade with Europe is so important to us that no one could replace it in the near future – not China, not Asia – because what we get from Europe we cannot get from Asia. And what we supply to Europe we are not going to supply to Asian countries in such quantities.

What happened was that economies developed and economic ties were moving forward. We joined the World Trade Organization, but politics stayed behind.

Today there is an obvious gap between economic ties, long-term interests and the political form that should ensure further development. That is why many speakers at the conference spoke about the lack of confidence between us.

RIA Novosti: What needs to be done to restore confidence?

I.I.: During the Cold War, mistrust came about because of ideological incompatibility, which is not the case today. Today, mistrust stems from unpredictability, with neither side not knowing what the other will do.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines

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