My highly esteemed associates,
I want to thank you all for being here this morning. I admire your dedication to openly discuss matters of the EU, the states that are involved in it and the citizens that reside in them.
A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I, President Barroso and President Van Rompuy, have just finished the EU – Russian Summit. We have discussed many avenues into deepening the relations between Russia and the EU. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 2008 with the EU has given us some improvement, and we would want to deepen economic integration and coöperation even more. Therefore, we are looking into the possibilities of enhancing and replacing this agreement. The Partnership for Modernisation is in implementation, and in due time we will see advancement in investment and trade, technical standards, and sustainable low-carbon economy promotion. The EU – Russia Energy Roadmap 2050, signed by the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Russian Minister for Energy Alexander Novak, is focused on ensuring energy security and fair energy distribution to both EU and Russia while maintaining a transparent and competitive market. Human Rights in Russia have always been aligned with the EU. The mobility of Russian and EU citizens, which I will go into detail later on, have been on negotiations for an upgraded visa. This might mean a complete upgrade of the Schengen Visa or something similar; why this does not happen now, I will discuss later on. Of course, the hot topic nowadays is the Syrian crisis and the steadfast willingness of the EU to participate, which I see as completely unnecessary.
Most of our discussion during the EU – Russian Summit was on the matter of the Syrian conflict. Russia has always sought for a political solution towards this conflict. Yes, it is true that we do send weapons to Syria, but these are for defensive purposes. The anti-missiles would give the Syrian air force the much defensive capability it has much-needed. Most of you also forget that Russia is the largest contributor of military aid to Syria and the refugees. There is no doubt that Syria is in a state of humanitarian catastrophe. In between March 2011 and end of April 2013, the UN has reported near 100,000 deaths and 6,000 of them are children. I will reiterate what I’ve said early, Russia does not sell or give weapons of offensive state; to say that we support the idea of killing 6,000 children is stupid. Russia and its colleagues have been planning on a Geneva 2 Convention, and we are in agreement that Syria should take part in the conference. The way we see it now is that there is one obstacle that prevents any sort of peaceful negotiations, and that is the Syrian opposition. Still, we must focus on politics to deal with the conflict, since more conflict will just make things worse. It is evident that Russia and the EU would want to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible, but the methods just don’t match. Although our plans do not align, I am sure that it will not affect the deep trade relations with the EU. Yet, the most noticeable complication of cross border transactions is citizen mobility between Russia and the EU.
The problem of traveling between Russia and the EU is still being prodded upon every single day. I still see no reason Russia cannot be a part of the Schengen Area. We share the same land, have similar histories, believe in a set of common human rights and have very deep economic ties with the EU, the EU being an area for easier economic trade. Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner, after US and China. It is the largest investor in the EU with $177 billion compared to $105 billion of total foreign investment. Russia exported 213 billion EUR in 2012 to the EU, making up 11.9% of all EU imports, and Russia receives 123 billion EUR or 7.3% of EU exported goods, making the EU the main supplier to Russia with 43% of the market share. Russia is the largest supplier of energy to the EU, with 76% of Russia’s exports to the EU that consisted of crude oil, oil products and natural gas. In turn, Russia consumes 29% of oil and gas of the EU, making EU the largest energy supplier to Russia. Russia invests, exports and imports most of EU has to offer so very easily, and yet they do not accept Russian citizens immediately. In fact, third countries, those are under Annex II under Article 1(2) of the Council Regulation, don’t need visas when visiting the Member States, like Australia, a country that is almost halfway across the world can step in easily as compared to Russia that lives right next door.
At the year 2009, Russia had 3.2 million Schengen visa applications and 4.2 million the succeeding year. In 2011, more than 5.2 million C visa applications were filed making up 39% of total C visa application. From 2009 – 2011, Russia has the most C visa applications. Ukraine and China follow with 1.1 million applications each, making up a total 16% of C visa application. Among the 10 Schengen States‘ consulates receiving most C visa applications in 2011, 8 are in Russia, 1 in Ukraine and 1 in China. These 10 consulates received 39% of all C visa applications. The average C visa refusal rate was 5.5% in 2011; Russia, along with Belarus and South Africa, has an average refusal rate of below 2%. Aside from the C visa issue, I have signed the “Federal Law On Ratification of the Agreement between the Russian Federation[,] the United States of America Federation [and the Government of Japan] on Simplifying Visa Procedures for Citizens of the Russian Federation[,] the United States of America [and Citizens of Japan.]”  I also signed “Federal Law On Amendments to Article 11 of the Federal Law On Organising and Hosting the XXII Olympic Winter Games and the XI Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi[…]” This law simplifies visa procedures for Olympic volunteers and personnel coming to Russia.
With these figures of economic investments, import and exports, and citizens applying for C visas, it is quite evident that Russia fully supports EU’s economy, citizens and progressions. Russia has more than shown and fulfilled its commitment to the EU; the EU should do the same for Russia. Negotiations are on their way to, what I wish to see, listing Russia under the Annex II category. I do not wish to see or hear Russian citizens say that they do not feel that they are European, that Russia is not a part of Europe, that we are not included in this “European identity” that the EU has pushed for-for many years. Europe is made up of many countries with many types of people, cultures and histories; Russia is part of this diversity.
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 Ian Black, Syria Deaths Near 100,000, Says Un – and 6,000 Are Children, Guardian, June 13, 2013, accessed June 22, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/13/death-toll-syrian-conflict-93000.
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