global problem can be solved without Russia." With this statement,
former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stressed on March 11, 2010 at a meeting of
the German-Russian Forum in Moscow that Russia
constitutes a sine qua non in world politics. At the same time, he also noted
that "the conclusion of an Association Agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation
as a strategic goal is now clearly in view." Fortunately, Gerhard Schröder
repeated this view in public both in Germany
Meanwhile, this argument has been taken up by German Foreign Minister Guido
Westerwelle and his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov. Both men have called for a
Partnership for Modernization with Russia,
an idea which was taken up at the recent EU-Russia summit in Rostov on Don. The Partnership for
Modernization is supposed to create "an area of stability and security without
dividing lines and divisions" and serve a Europe, "which is based on broad
cooperation without dividing lines, a community of democratic, constitutional
societies with diversified market economies and a high standard of living."
However, this modernization project is still in its formative stages. Both
politicians think obviously about a future Europe, in which the EU and the Russian Federation
once again find themselves as equal partners.
Russia and the States of the EU are historically, culturally, and economically inseparable. Together, they form a Europe that is clearly much more than the EU with its crushing bureaucracy. Since 1997 a "Partnership and Cooperation Agreement" for legal relations between the EU and Russia has existed. After the agreement expired in late 2007, and although it was extended, it is supposed to be replaced in the foreseeable future with a new agreement. Until now, the talk had always been of a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Why now is there a need for an "Association Agreement"?
A Partnership and Cooperation Agreement serves - as the term implies - to promote the partnership and cooperation between the EU and partner countries in various political and economic areas. This is the lowest common denominator for a prosperous collaboration. Yet, between the EU and the Russian Federation, the terms partnership and cooperation do not do justice to the relations between these two parties. The EU and Russia are more than just partners for one another. An Association Agreement would carry meaning in international law the participation of a state in an inter-state agreement.
It may seem like a terminological quibble to argue whether relations between the EU and Russia should be governed in the future by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement or by an Association Agreement. In the end, the important thing is to have a treaty and to be able to implement it. The various Partnership and Cooperation Agreements up to now have been limited in thematic scope and tended to be highly technical in content. An Association Agreement could address political relations on a far greater scale, to an extent demanded by the specificity and closeness of relations between the EU and Russia. It would open up new perspective on a Europe that goes beyond the EU - a Europe that will exist for the benefit of all Europeans - in the East as well as the West - and that will be able to hold its own in the competition with China, India, the United States and others.
The actual terms of the Association Agreement would have to be seamlessly integrated into the conceptual framework of the foreign relations of the EU and the Russian Federation. That also means, that the so-called Eastern Partnership of the EU likely needs to be reviewed. This is based primarily on the idea of strengthening the stability, security, and prosperity in the EU and avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the EU and her Eastern neighbors. The Eastern Partnership of the EU implemented this agenda with the Eastern European countries Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as with the South Caucasus countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia through association agreements.
An Association Agreement between EU and Russia would need to clearly go further than the Association Agreements with the previously named countries. It would need to keep the entirety of Europe in mind and make an important first step in this direction. Building on and going beyond the recent so-called four common areas of EU-Russia relations would need to finally create common standards without barriers between the EU and Russia. The areas of concern are: 1. economy, 2. freedom and social affairs, 3. law, 3. external security, 4. Education, research and culture.
The Association Agreement must agree on specific rules, so that the people from Eastern and Western Europe can join together faster than previously: through unconditional mutual investment in the fields of technology and energy, through the easing of trade restrictions, e.g. the removal of the customs duties, by removing the visa requirement for travel, by recognition of education, exams and so on, and last but not least, the rediscovery of the identity of Europe as a whole, that includes the EU and Russia and to which the Russian emperor Peter the Great already opened the doors 300 years ago.
It is important at this stage in the renegotiation of the relations between the EU and Russia to establish the legal relationship between these two European and global actors in such a way that values the particular nature of their relationship. Therefore, the Association Agreement between the EU and Russia should reflect the fact that Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine are historically and culturally sister countries.
The EU and Russia share more than a technical partnership and cooperation. The EU and Russia form the pillars of a united, whole Europe. The time is ripe for an Association Agreement between the EU and Russia!
Because of the special historical relations between Germany and Russia, Germany should assume responsibility for driving this Association Agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation and reunite the whole of Europe. Former Chancellor Schröder and Foreign Minister Westerwelle are obviously doing this already. The German-Russian Forum is also working hard in this direction. Europe is grateful to them. Above all, however the youth to whom the future belongs will thank them.
Dr.-Ing. Heinrich Bonnenberg is a member of The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of the atlantic-community.org article "Europe is More than the EU" based on his speech at the St. Petersberg University of the Humanities and Social Sciences on Nov. 18, 2009. The full speech is available in German, in English and in Russian.
Jakob Schirmer is a research assistant at the University of Goettingen, as well as the author of the atlantic-community.org article "The EU's Energy Security: Exclusion Is Not the Best Policy"