Russia: Anyone for a Trans-Siberian EU?
26 November 2010
“Russia wants integration with the EU,” writes Rzeczpospolita, referring to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin’s letter published by Suddeutsche Zeitung. Painting a vision of an “harmonious economic community from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” Putin calls for the establishment of a free-trade zone in the area and closer economic ties between the EU and Russia. For the Russian leader’s dream to come true several conditions have to be met. Firstly, Russia has to be admitted to the WTO, after which the Russia-EU visa regime needs to be scrapped and wide-ranging cooperation to be enhanced in the fields of science, technology and energy. “The plan marks a genuine shift in Putin’s thinking,” enthuses an expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation, pointing out the Russian leader was previously more in favour of economic ties with the Far East and the post-Soviet area. Nevertheless, a member of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs tones down the enthusiasm: “Putin is hoping that the EU will bend its rules for the sake of cooperation with Russia, but this is unrealistic, even if it is a good sign that for the first time Russia is beginning to take the EU seriously as a whole”.