Abstracts from the opening panel discussion

“Getting back on track: policy and priorities for a new relationship”


Petras Austrevicius MEP, ALDE Vice-chair:

“I am more than convinced that everyone in this room and in the European Parliament wishes and is interested in having Russia and the European Union as true and effective partners. (…). Since the title of this plenary says: ‘Getting back on track,’ the question here is getting back with whom. Putin’s Kremlin has another strategy than partnership and sincere dialogue, opened partnership and effective exchange.  (…). Russian society has to become a new strategic partner to the European Union. Let’s use all our vision, energy and creativity to make it happen step by step and I believe we will build up a good result.”

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger Member of the Executive Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Federal Minister (ret.):

“I believe we need a policy of embracing containment towards Russia guided by liberal values and principles. These principles have been perfectly presented in the three baskets of the Helsinki process. First: security and trust-building measures; secondly, the cooperation in areas where possible – namely economic and scientific cooperation; and third, a humanitarian dimension dealing with civil society and human rights. The conditions of the Cold War were completely different from today, sure. But I think that the answer to the new challenges needs to follow the same three lines of action as outlined in Helsinki.”

Jerzy PomianowskiExecutive Director, European Endowment for Democracy:

“Good cooperation if we want to engage in good cooperation actually requires only one element to flourish. It is trust, can we have again trust with each other when propaganda is increasing hate and artificial fear? When Europe is all the time portrayed as the one aiming to kill and destroy, removing Russia from the map of the world? When the leadership is all the time feeding people with lies and false debates? That is not a good ground for trust. Can international media, independent journalists work freely and have their chance inside Russia? Of course, not. There is not an equal partnership in any sense and to restore trust it will take a lot of effort and a lot of time. But there are people in Russia and there are Russian activists whom we can trust, because they do share same values. And one politician said: ‘No fundamental social changes occur merely because of government acts, it is because of society, of civil society, the conscience of the country, which begins to rise up and demand change. This is the only way.’ And I have met many Russian people who share the values of democracy, good governance, honoured relations and partnership with international partners. They need to be given more of a voice and they need to be given support. (…) So, this summit, this meeting could be called a People-to-people Summit, because this is exactly what we are looking for: new openings, new changes or better dialogue between Europe and Russia. And I strongly believe there is room, there is a willingness of both sides, so we just need to do a little more in order to achieve it.”

Irina Prokhorova cultural historian, editor, publisher, activist:

“Whether we like it or not, Russia is a part of Europe and in many respects if we look at the 20th century and in the beginning of the 21st century, in a way my country is a kind of transit for many processes that are going on. So, what we can see now in Europe and Russia and the USA, this is a strange infatuation with authoritarian ideas, with nationalism and xenophobia. Of course as other speakers have said, you can partly explain as an aggressive propaganda. But I am afraid when we speak about the crisis of democratic ideas, it’s not the ideas themselves, but I think the discourse, the rhetoric. (…). So, I think in that respect, we’re all in the same boat. So what is really needed? We must reformulate democratic and liberal ideas. But this is very difficult, but quite a rewarding intellectual task. And we are at the beginning of the process. But I think, it is very important to realise that. There are quite a lot of people that compare the present situation with the 1930s, when democratic development was strangled by authoritarian ideas. So, but we have this historical memory and, probably, we will be more creative then our opponents.”

Lev Schlosbergpolitician, activist and journalist:

“The Russian and European dialogue today is at an impasse. This is not an accident; this is not a result of some strange circumstance. It is a result of fundamental differences in values, which are prevailing today in the Russian Federation, in contrast to the European Union, and forming foreign and domestic policies. The subject of dialogue today is not cooperation, is not a joint development, but rather conflict. (…) We have to involve a new agenda, an agenda for tomorrow for Russian – European dialogue and cooperation and joint development. If this agenda is not going to be involved today, we will be too late tomorrow. And this agenda can be build by European institutions in direct contact with European politicians and Russian politicians. This will address all political issues including human rights, economic institutions, conflicts, military operations in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria. It is time to do it today.”

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