Jean-Claude Juncker: ‘We must talk with Russia’
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (right) meets Jean-Claude Juncker in Moscow on a visit in September, 2012 | Yuri Kochetkov/AFP via GettyImages
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday that the EU and Russia should work towards improving their political and economic relations, but also reminded Moscow that it must live up to its international obligations.
“We must not only talk about Russia … [but] also talk with Russia — its leadership, its people,” Juncker said, speaking at the 20th International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg. “If our relationship today is troubled and marked by mistrust, it is not broken beyond repair. We need to mend it, and I believe we can.”
If both sides were to agree and work together, “a vast region governed by the rule of law, trading freely and working together on common projects” could be created, he said.
However, Russia must first fulfill its international obligations, notably the full implementation of the Minsk agreement intended to settle the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. “This is the only way to lift the economic sanctions that we have imposed,” Juncker said. “On Minsk, the European Union is united. And so is the G7.”
Moreover, Juncker said Russia must follow the rules it has agreed to when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2012. The EU has filed a complaint at the WTO against Russia’s counter-sanctions that target the EU’s food exports, arguing that these measures are violating the trade organization’s rule framework.
He added that cooperation should go “far beyond” economics and trade, and touch upon education, science, research, and culture. “Together, the European Union and Russia — even with our differences — must share a commitment to the basic human values that underpin a free society,” he said.