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The negative aspect of the matter however, is the limited breakthroughs made at the practical level, as most discussions end in declarative aims, yet no timeline for an actual implementation of them. On the one hand, the European Union did not present itself as very willing to offer economic incentives and aid to the ailing Russian Federation, and on the other hand, Russian opposition forces who argue against a westernization of the country encourage a limited enthusiasm towards an increased cooperation partnership. In this way, both parties, although are engaged in a partnership, act in such a manner as to discourage any advancements of talks.
The stalemate that has continuously characterized the Partnership was obvious in many instances. One moment that was of great importance for the European Union and to which the Russian Federation more or less opposed was the 2004 enlargement process. In that context, "Russia has transmitted an unpublished but much publicized list of 14 technical complaints in relation to EU enlargement, while Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov published an implicit reply to the Commission at a more strategic level" (Emerson and Kobrinskaya, 2004). On its part, the European Union is constantly reminding the Russian side of the latter's increasingly worrisome policy towards neighboring areas such as Moldova, Belarus, or the Ukraine. In this context, it is highly unlikely that the partnership as outlined in the 1997 Agreement could move forward.
There are other particular areas covered by the Partnership where cooperation has been more easily achieved. The economic aspect is traditionally seen as representing an area of easier cooperation due to the financial prospects both sides have in an economy that is globalised. In this sense, there are bilateral trade agreements concerning steel and textiles which are under constant observation. Moreover, at the Moscow Summit in 2005, leaders agreed on a full package of measures intended to complement the Agreement. The official statement agreed that "The overall objective of the CES is the creation of an open and integrated market between the EU and Russia. The aim is to put in place conditions which will increase opportunities for economic operators, promote trade and investment, facilitate the establishment and operation of companies on a reciprocal basis, strengthen cooperation in the field of energy, transport, agriculture and environment, reinforce economic cooperation and reforms and enhance the competitiveness of the EU and Russian economies" (the European Commission, 2005). From this perspective, the scope of the agreement was broadened and a new inceptive was given to a strengthened cooperation attitude.
The Common Economic Space includes actions meat at eventually integrate the Russian economic space, through the elimination of barriers, encouragement of non-discriminatory practices, free competition, transparency, and good governance. An area that has brought along aseries of important results in terms of cooperation and international collaboration is the Common Space on Research, Education, Culture which aimed at creating a framework of joint actions meant to increase cooperation in scientific programs, educational programs, and other cultural matters.
There are also areas that have failed to achieve the desired results due to the fact that cooperation is harder to achieve in matters concerning security issues and foreign policy aspects. The Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice took into account precisely the issue of visa requirements where progress was achieved, unlike other areas where discussions are ongoing such as the Russian Judicial Reform where the EU is constantly arguing an inefficient system. The Common Space on External Security also represents a sensitive issue in the bilateral relations. This is due to the fact that although the EU promotes a peaceful policy toward the conflicts adjacent to the Russian Federation such as Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia fails to take consistent actions in this sense, even more, through indirect activities, it encourages the violent nature of these conflicts.
Taking all these matters into consideration, it is rather obvious that the main issues under discussion, the ones on which agreement is harder, if not impossible to achieve, are related to the traditional aspects concerning foreign policy, defense, and in the end, political. These segments of policy are strictly interconnected and from the perspective of both sides, they are relevant both for their historical past and experience, as well as for the direction in which the current policies are conducted.
There are various possibilities in regard to the future developments of the EU-Russia relations. Indeed, neither of the two actors can chose to ignore each other taking into account the previous enlargements that have brought Europe increasingly closer to the Russian Federation. Moreover, the issue of energy has become a stringent matter, for the European Union as a consumer and for the Russian Federation as a provider. Also, in the matter of the security threats that are an issue more and more stringent for both parties, there needs to be a special attention paid. Despite these argument however, there are certain frictions that tend to slow down the process of cooperation that was so vividly announced in 1997. Even so, these prerequisites taken into account, the direction of the relations between the two sides can be two folded: it can either consider a limitation of the cooperation scope, or, on the contrary to include a more energetic approach and work to resolve the issues under debate. Either way, a regress from the current state of affairs would not be benefic for either side.
The first option would imply a reconsideration of policy by both sides. More precisely, it would mean that both sides agreed to see the negative aspects of their cooperation and the shortcomings of their efforts so far. Thus, to stop the process of cooperation at this point in time would partly annul the progress made in areas such as education, culture, and border cooperation. There have been made serious breakthroughs in these areas which represent perspectives that during the Cold War were not even a long-term idea. Still, as stated before, these areas of cooperation do not represent the main points of dialogue between the two sides and it is a matter of sensitive issues such as democracy, human rights, and security that pose difficulty in the bilateral dialogue.
A possible solution for eventual future reconsideration of the Partnership would be to release the tension from the Agreement in the sense of leaving aside issues that would ultimately address the core values of both sides. Thus, from the European point-of-view, it is rather clear that aspects such as a free market economy or the transparency of the competitive process has no direct correspondent in the Russian framework. This is largely due to the different historical experience of the two sides. The European Union has a long standing tradition in adopting and implementing liberal principles, whereas the Russian Federation represented the core of the communist and state planned economy. Moreover, corruption and state intervention have always been defining elements for the Russian business environment. Therefore, it can be said that from this point-of-view, there are limited points on which the two sides can agree.
These different views, especially from the Russian side, are obvious to most policy makers engaged in the Partnership process. They have been constantly identified in the different perceptions each of the two sides has on the other. Thus, it has been argued that Russia perceives itself in its relation with the European Union as constantly in inferiority due to the fact that it views the European ally as an essential advocate of its World Trade Organization membership (Baranovsky, 2000). Thus, its negotiation status, from the Russian perspective, is less favorable and from the point-of-view of the historical tradition of Russian politics this perception tends to stiff the dialogue channels and make the Russians less eager to cooperate. On the other hand, from the point-of-view of the European partner, the need for energy and security assurances for the member countries closest to the Russian border, the eagerness to move forward negotiations determines them to have high expectations and demands Russia cannot fulfill. In this sense, while Russia is reluctant to engage full speed in any democratization process the EU expects, the European Union is eager to achieve immediate results and fuels a rather strong negotiating attitude. The fact that the EU demands a restructuring of the Russian industry but fails to ensure strong financial assistance is relevant to the point (Baranovsky, 2000).
The current situation between Russia and the EU are far from moving forward. In this sense, the Trades Commissioner acknowledged in the spring of 2007 the fact that "since the Cold War we've had obviously very different, much better relations... nonetheless I think they're going through a very difficult period" (BBC, 2007). Moreover, he added that "Relations between the EU and Russia... contain a level of misunderstanding or even mistrust we have not seen since the end of the Cold War" (BBC, 2007). Therefore, aside from different sensitive issues, there…[continue]
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