Answers of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S. V. Lavrov to the questions of the representatives of the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation, Moscow, October 8, 2012
Question: What is the probability of appearance of a single currency within the Eurasian Economic Union?
S. V. Lavrov: The issue of monetary relations and monetary policy in the modern world is very important. At the time when not very favorable processes occur with the euro, and calculations in dollars are increasingly suffering from unilateral illegitimate sanctions from the point of view of international law imposed by the U.S. government, more attention is paid to the need for creation of sustainable pool of the world's reserve currencies.
This is supported by our partners on Eurasian integration. Of course, this is not the problem of this day, but it is precisely in the plan of discussion of further development of Eurasian integration.
Today on the agenda there is the transition to calculations in national currencies between Russia and our partners in Eurasian space, as well as our partners, both in Asia and in other regions of the world. This objective task is motivated by the actual processes taking place in the field of international monetary relations. I am convinced that there is a lot to do here.
Question: Could you comment on the current status of application of Russia for accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What is your vision for the future of the accession negotiations?
S. V. Lavrov: Current status of Russia a candidate for membership. We are already involved in a number of OECD countries. We presume that our country should become the full member. Also different dates are called by our representatives, and in the foreseeable future.
I am not directly involved in this work, so I do not dare to express the forecasts. But it is the fact that this course is defined by the Russian leadership. We are already taking a lot of measures to bring our laws in line with the requirements of the OECD and we will continue this work.
Question: Recently, very little is being done to ensure that Russian goods and services can penetrate on the European markets. At the same time for foreign goods it is much easier to get to the Russian market. Are there issues of facilitating of the penetration of goods and services produced in Russia in the framework of the WTO?
S. V. Lavrov: You see, there are areas, where we are ahead of our European partners in the field of creation of the favorable business environment. Before Russia became a member of the WTO, the European Commission had used all possible anti-dumping instruments to protect its market, so it was virtually impossible to start a business in a European country for the foreigners. In our contacts with European colleagues we have repeatedly cited the example, when a Russian businessman wanted to open the bakery production in Finland, and it did not work out. Many Finnish food producers are operating quite comfortable in Russia.
Russia entered to the WTO including that this situation has been radically changed. Let's see how our European partners will apply to Russian goods and services in their markets.
Question: What will be the mechanism of information and legal support to the Russian business in the event of any disputes? Will it be purely state or legal aid of private companies will be involved? Do you do anything right now to create such mechanism?
S. V. Lavrov: I did not negotiate on accession to the WTO, and I am not the expert in this area. But I know that within the WTO there is the whole system of mechanisms used in the event of the dispute arising, whether it is the antidumping procedure or anything else. Now when we are the full member of the Organization, our manufacturers and exporters will be able to use all these procedures. And the state, I assure you, will fully maintain them in accordance with existing regulations.
Question: Recently a lot of misinformation appeared regarding to Russian children living in Finland. According to Russian media, allegedly 16 000 children were taken from their families. In your opinion, what is the reason that Russia is covered by the false information?
S. V. Lavrov: I have not seen posts about 16000 children weaned from foster families. I saw more modest numbers from 36 to 50 children, but these indicators are slightly better. After all, te case is not in the quantity, but it is in what happens in nature.
Recently I was in Finland at the kind invitation of my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs E. Tuomioja, and I spoke to the ambassadors of the country at their annual meeting. I had the honor to be received by the President S. Niyniste and during the negotiations I touched on this topic. We are concerned, what the relations to the Russian children are in Finland.
European institutions, which are designed to ensure the protection of human rights, even saw the special bias in this respect to Russian children. I am not going to comment on it, but this conclusion was reached in the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe N. Muyzhnieks.
I do not know what kind of misinformation is involved. We address the specific situations. I do not know the principles of a civilized society comply with occasions, when the seven-day baby is weaned from a mother, who breast-feeds this baby, or when the mother was finally allowed to live with their four children restricted communication with the media. I do not think it meets the standards of the civilized society.
We want very much to strengthen cooperation and partnership in various fields with our good and longtime neighbor Finland. We do not want it is clouded by such cases. For years Russian side have suggested to create the special mechanism to deal with cases that arise in the «mixed» families, and discuss the problems of children of mixed marriages. Our Finnish friends absolutely do not want to create an intergovernmental commission.
Not form is important for us, but the fate of each child. In my visit to Finland in August 2012, the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country have agreed that it is important to discuss this topic. We agreed that such discussion will be conducted in the format of consultations on consular matters, which in principle should be devoted to the problems of Russian citizens in Finland and Finnish citizens in Russia. I see no reason, why you can not create the legal mechanism, as we have done it with the United States and several European countries.
If you mean only the figures by the misinformation, I have not heard about them. But each case is the child and the human life, so there is the need to approach not to the quantity, but to the nature of the problem.
Question: The theme of facilitating of the visa regime between Russia and the European Union has been discussed for at least five years. What are the obstacles on the part of Russia and the EU on the way of introduction of visa-free regime?
S. V. Lavrov: As to the time period, during which this topic is discussed, then, in my opinion, in 2003, in the course of one of the EU-Russia summit the then European Commission President R. Prodi said that in five years we will visit each other without visas. Nine years have passed, we have twice exceeded the forecast of Mr. R. Prodi, and, probably, each side had its reasons. I say «had», because they appeared on our side. Colleagues from the EU specifically pointed out the problems that need to be resolved from the Russian side. We have been doing all these for years. Finally, in May 2011 as part of the regular dialogue on the transition to the visa-free regime, we asked our partners from the European Commission to give the full list of the problems, which they see on our side, and the solution of which is necessary for the transition to the visa-free regime. They gave it to us. We asked them again, is everything recorded in the list. They said yes to us. Based on this comprehensive list the list of joint steps, which is necessary to take to ensuring of the mutual satisfaction, was prepared, approved and endorsed by Moscow and Brussels. After that there will be no obstacles to sit down and write a simple, clear agreement on the transition to the visa-free regime for short trips of citizens of Russia and countries of the Schengen area. The list has been endorsed and actively supported at the EU- Russia summit in Strelna on June 3-4 of this year. We have called on the authorities of Russia and the EU to do anything to report on the implementation of the list at next summit in December of this year in Brussels.
I hope that efforts taking by us now to restore order in a number of areas, on which the EU partners stated, will be appreciated. I hope that from the side of the European Union the reasons, why we have delayed this vital task, will also be seriously analyzed.
I do not want to go into details, but, according to our feelings, on the side of EU partners reasons are largely no technical and administrative matters. We have the problem of customs procedures, biometric passports, permits and registration for foreigners. All that we decide in regime close as possible to the wishes of the EU, on which we inform our partners.
On the EU side we are just said that it is premature, that there may be the difficulties with the ratification of the agreement taking into consideration the difficult situation in the societies of Europe in relation to migration and more other things. We get the information that the main reason is political. Under the current EU solidarity principle, but rather in conditions of perversely interpreted solidarity it is felt that it would be politically unacceptable to provide visa-free regime to Russia, before the visa-free regime will be provided to the countries of Eastern Partnership. If it is so, then this is the politicized approach that does not take into account what was really done in Russia to ensure the safe use of the visa-free regime, and which is dictated solely by considerations of political expediency.
On October 14 I will meet in Luxembourg with all twenty seven EU Ministers and also with C. Ashton. I want to talk about it and hear some reassurances that our suspicions are unfounded. I want to see some actions, which not in words, but in deeds dispel these suspicions.
Here is a simple example - I referred to it in the speech. As an intermediate step towards a visa-free regime, we will significantly liberalize the existing agreement between the EU and Russia on facilitation of the visa regime from 2007. It expands the categories of people, who can enjoy the preferential treatment of movement, the benefits relating to the duration, multiple entries. Now the only stumbling block is the proposition that the visa-free regime will be subject to the holders of service passports - we originally proposed it. Colleagues from the European Union said it had been difficult to do, because in Russia there were many such passports, had mentioned that official passports were used by our military personnel, who were serving in the Russian bases abroad. Then we proposed to reduce significantly this list and provide the visa-free regime only for holders of biometric passports explaining that the soldiers at military bases abroad will receive regular non-biometric passports and, by definition, they will not be subject to the visa-free regime. In our assessment, the owners of the service biometric passports are estimated as fifteen thousand people - it is almost comparable to the number of service biometric passports in Ukraine. With Ukraine we have recently signed the agreement on visa liberalization, which applies to the holders of biometric service passports and allows visa-free travel in the Schengen countries. When we present this argument, our colleagues say that Russia is not Ukraine. I would like to know: in this case what the difference is shown? Is in the fact that Russia has more criminality than Ukraine? There is no clear answer. In our estimation, this is again the biased relation towards our country by the absolute minority of the EU member states. I hope that the mind will prevail and till November 1 we will be able to sign this important agreement to further liberalize the visa regime as an interim step to a very rapid introduction of the visa-free regime.
Question: What are the horizons of Russia's integration into euro space? What is the level of integration, on which you expect?
S. V. Lavrov: As to the ultimate goals of the Eurasian economic integration, I would agree with the suggestion, which was made in your question that even in the EU does not represent the ultimate goal yet. It is too ambiguous to speak on the horizon, because the horizon is, by definition, something that you will never reach, it constantly pushes on us. Maybe it is good, maybe it is necessary to have the dream and aspire to it, make useful and good things on the way. But the fact that we definitely want to provide «four freedoms» (the movement of goods, services, capitals and people) – it perfectly fits into the logic, on which the EU was built, meets the criteria and rules of the WTO. I would once again draw attention to the proposal offered by the President V. V. Putin at the last EU-Russia summit in June that we have set the ambitious goal of creating of common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. We are not opposed that this space is developed not only from the East to the West, but from the West to East enveloping the North American continent. I have already talked about this including in the audience: we, the three branches of European civilization, people from the Old World spread the European civilization to the West. Russia, our great predecessors - the pioneers did the same in the East. When you visit Khabarovsk, Vladivostok or any other city in the Far East of the Russian Federation, you will feel yourselves in the same cultural background. Of course, combining of the efforts of the EU and Russia - we have complementary economies - will allow us to be more competitive. In the future we want to merge and we will do everything, so that our space will be ready for this, and you - business people – will be asked to influence to the politics that they for a variety guide not by politicized considerations, but the interests of economy and social development.
Question: How can you comment on the possibility of new EU sanctions against Iran?
S. V. Lavrov: Relations of Russia and the European Union encompasses not only the economy, but all that are provided by «Roadmaps» for the formation of the «four common spaces» including our foreign policy cooperation. We would very much like to see that in this area on both sides we act fairly, openly, in the interest of the case, and by political considerations, which are not hidden.
I mentioned this because two years ago German Chancellor A. Merkel during a meeting with D. A. Medvedev proposed the creation of the EU-Russia Committee on foreign security policy, which would be empowered to take coordinated decisions in foreign policy on key and other crisis situations in the international arena.
As first, pilot project it was proposed to try breaking of the deadlock of the «5+2» process on the Transnistrian regulation. The Russian side represented by the President of the Russian Federation supported this initiative. Since then, everything depended on us was done. The process of «5+2» was taken out of the deadlock, and it is developed rather actively. It is difficult to say what the results will be. But the process has begun, it was renewed. Everyone expressed satisfaction with this. The Committee between Russia and the EU on foreign security policy has not been created. Also there is no the providing of commitment, which was taken on behalf of the EU by J. Solana on the conclusion of the EU-Russia agreement on cooperation in crisis management, as the EU does not want to give the nod for making equal nature to this agreement. Somehow our colleagues say that for peacekeeping purposes there is only the single opportunity - when the EU itself will decide what and where to conduct the operation, and Russia will be invited to connect to these operations. We felt that, while retaining the right of choice in each case for each party, we on the basis of diplomatic traditions should provide equal cooperation in this area with the understanding that, I repeat, in each case, each party will choose whether to prefer one or some form of cooperation or it is not appropriate. We would like to deepen this cooperation. I recall that in our practical dealings with C. Ashton on the initiative of the Russian side we have several times taken the joint statement on these or other international events. This statement was made at the beginning of the «Arab Spring». I think this is the very important step. This statement set out our general approaches in regard to the need for respect of the right of people to determine their own destiny, do it in the constitutional field, in a peaceful manner, without interference. In the same statement C. Ashton and we stressed that Russia and the EU are convinced in the need to avoid that for the «Arab spring» the Palestinian problem goes in the shadow. I think that it is a very timely statement and its relevance remains.
We work closely with the European Union in the framework of the negotiation process between the group of the «5 +1» with Iran. C. Ashton is the coordinator of the group. The ministerial meeting was held in New York «in the margins» of the UN General Assembly. And a few days before the meeting, IAEA Board of Governors adopted the resolution, co-authors of which all members of the «six» were. The resolution stresses the critical importance of continuing of negotiations, resolving of all issues that have to do with Iran by political and diplomatic means. And it emphasizes the need that Iran and the IAEA leadership resume their contacts to clarify so called «alleged studies». We will also talk with the EU colleagues on this on October 14 in Luxembourg.
I have had the opportunity to comment on this fashion on unilateral sanctions. Earlier this United States was famous for this, now such instinct appeared in the European Union - react to certain events abruptly. More and more, the EU adopts the unilateral sanctions. So far, in my opinion, it causes no extraterritorial effect. But sanctions are serious in relation to Iran and Syria.
Our approach is simple. Three years ago, very tough UN Security Council resolution was agreed, in which we agreed then collective approaches to sanction regime against Iran. The negotiations had lasted several months. Reached agreement was recorded by the appropriate document. Once this happened, all the sanctions that have been proposed by our Western partners, but in the end were not included in the final text of the resolution, were introduced unilaterally. It turns out that they have obtained the consent from us in the UN Security Council. And what Russia and China did not agree, it was implemented in one-way mode. To put it in diplomatic language, this is, at least, not as partners do. I believe that when we are called upon to ensure that we maintain the unity of Iran, you have to be consistent. The unity of the international community means that if we collectively agreed on some position, it must be true and consistent. From a collective position nothing can be taken away in terms of violations of the agreed sanctions, and it is impossible to add anything in the form of unilateral sanctions. Otherwise, what then can be said in a multilateral format, if our partners still stretch all possible, then they can add anything impossible on the top.
The same thing happens with the sanctions against Syria: when the EU, the U.S. and a number of other Arab countries have taken unilateral sanctions on Syria, then no one has consulted with us. Moreover, we even were not informed about it. So now when we are called to do something in the Security Council, we say that we have the full confidence that such serious crisis needs to make as the subject of the collectively worked position. The first reaction to the Syrian crisis of our Western and some Arab partners was completely one-sided. In August 2011 Russia initiated the very first reaction of the Security Council on the Syrian events.
We will speak with our partners from the European Union in Luxembourg on October 14 in the context of our foreign policy cooperation on all this. We want it will be partner, equal, mutually respectful that in its framework attempts are not taken to impose its assessment to the other party.
Question: What is the role of the European Court on Human Rights in ensuring of the rule of law in Russia?
S. V. Lavrov: I think that the European Court on Human Rights was created not in order to ensure the rule of law in the Russian Federation, but to do it in all European countries. We appreciate all that were accumulated within the Council of Europe (including the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court on Human Rights) - the structures that provide a single legal and rights-based space of all Europe. We fulfill all the requirements, resolutions of the European Court on Human Rights, even when we are convinced in their politicization. Such cases were in our history.
We carry out the verdicts of the European Court on Human Rights. I note that if Russia is the leader in absolute number of complaints, but we are not the first relatively to the complaints per capita. In general, the Court must continue to pay attention to the events on throughout Europe objectively, impartially, non-politically. I wish speaking to representatives of European business, the EU could agree with such approach.
For many years there has been the discussion of the issue that the EU should accede to the European Convention on human rights and be the subject of the attention of the European Court on Human Rights. Negotiations are difficult, because the European Union in the course of these negotiations wants to negotiate the terms that would be put in the discriminated position of all the non-EU members of the Council of Europe, and that would allow the members of the European Union avoiding of responsibility under the ECHR with reference to the existing EU procedures.
If this line prevails, it will be the heavy blow to the European identity referring to all Europeans, all members of the Council of Europe. It will be the heavy blow to all the talk about the inadmissibility of creating of new dividing lines in Europe. It will be the serious problem in our relations with the EU. All shall be equal in front of the law. We are all members of the Council of Europe. It is counterproductive and unfair to build some «hothouse» conditions between members of the EU and the European Court on Human Rights.