Message from HRVP Federica Mogherini

(delivered by Luc Devigne, Managing Director Russia, European Union External Action Service)

Mr President, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini would have very much liked personally to address the Forum. However, due to other engagements she could not be here today. She sends her sincere regrets and has asked me to deliver a few remarks on her behalf:

“The strongest tie between the European Union and Russia is built upon our own peoples. Our cultures are bound to one another, the connections between our societies transcend the political circumstances of the day. This gathering in Brussels of politicians, activists, experts and business people from our countries makes for a great opportunity to refresh and renew such a deep relationship.

You gather in the name of Boris Nemtsov, a symbol in the quest for a more modern, prosperous and democratic Russian Federation, open to the world. And the world truly needs an open and cooperative Russia.

Deeper cooperation between the peoples of the European Union and Russia is essential in the current global environment. We face many of the same challenges, from instability in the Middle East to the threat posed by terrorist groups. Yet it is no mystery that the European Union and the Russian authorities have fundamental disagreements on several crucial issues, starting from Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, that have violated international law and challenged the European security order. They have also damaged trust between us, which is necessary if we want to build and maintain a partnership.

At the same time, there are many issues of common concern where our cooperation has delivered important results. The nuclear deal with Iran – successfully negotiated and implemented – and the recent Report by the Middle East Quartet on the situation in Israel and Palestine represent the most outstanding outcomes of our cooperation. They show that the world truly needs the European Union and Russia to play on the same side when our interests converge.

Whether our relationship will evolve towards greater cooperation or greater disagreement is one of the key strategic issues we both face for the years ahead.

In March this year, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union agreed on five principles that guide our policy towards Russia and provide a clear framework for getting the EU-Russia relationship working in the right direction.

As reiterated in the Global Strategy, substantial changes in our relations are premised upon full respect for international law and the principles underpinning the European security order.

First and foremost, we need to resolve the immediate crisis, particularly in eastern Ukraine. The EU has a clear position on the illegal annexation of Crimea, which it does not recognise; as well as on the need for a complete implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

Second, the EU works for strengthening relations with its Eastern neighbours and calls on Russia to do the same in a complementary manner. We reject the notion that there must be a binary choice of good relations with one or the other. Cooperation is not only possible, but often necessary.

Third, our approach to Russia is clearly framed and made effective by efforts to reinforce the European Union’s own resilience, for instance in seeking our energy security through a stronger Energy Union; by undertaking efforts to counter hybrid threats; and in our work on strategic communications.

Fourth, with the EU’s interest as the determining factor, we do engage selectively with Russia in areas of foreign and global policy, such as counterterrorism, migration and climate change. Engaging with Russia on Syria or on other key regional crises is clearly essential. We are ready to cooperate with Russia, where we can constructively find peaceful and collective solutions.

Last but certainly not least, the EU maintains its strong support for Russian civil society and for people-to-people contacts as an indispensable element of our relations with Russia, particularly with an eye to the future of the next generations, in both Russia and in the European Union.

This is all the more necessary today. In particular, we remain fully dedicated to maintain our long-term commitment towards the Russian human rights defenders and advocacy groups in civil society with whom we have been cooperating for a long time.

In spite of all difficulties, Russia’s society is strong and lively. The country is home to one of the great cultures of our continent, and has contributed immensely to our shared European civilisation. It is only natural to invest as much as we can in exchanges among our peoples. And this is exactly what the European Union is doing, and is willing to do more.

Cooperation on research, culture, science, social issues or mobility, to name just a few, is having a positive impact on Russian citizens in their everyday lives. We have supported projects related to the orphanage system, improving the lives of disabled people and promoting a sustainable socio-economic development of rural communities.

Russia is the biggest beneficiary of our Erasmus+ programme. In 2016 alone, we will put over 12 million euro in projects for the mobility of Russian students and teachers. Investing in our youth is investing in the present and the future of our relationship.

We need to keep engaging not only with Russia’s authorities, but with its citizens and its society.

So let me thank the organisers for this opportunity to deepen our cooperation and mutual understanding. I look forward to keep working together with you all, as we have done so far.”

Thank you.

Download Full Report[/vc_column_text]