29th Mar 2020

Germany wants to bind Russia to EU

Germany is considering a revamp of the bloc's policy towards the east with Berlin looking at how Russia can be "irreversibly" bound to the EU.

It wants to push the new policy when it takes over the presidency of the EU in January - the six-month stint at the helm of the bloc allows the country to promote particular themes.

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  • Europe is bigger than the EU, but EU-Russia relations have not always been easy (Photo: Wikipedia)

"The goal must be to make the political, economic and cultural ties between the EU and Russia – its anchor in a wider Europe – irreversible", says a foreign ministry paper seen by German daily Handelsblatt.

The ministry paper also refers to the "window of opportunity" brought about by having a Finnish presidency followed by a German presidency as both countries want to foster contacts with Moscow.

"A complete European peace regime and the resolution of important security and political problems from the Balkans to the Middle East can only be attained with Russia and not without it," the paper says.

Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is set to raise this idea when he meets his counterparts in Finland today for informal discussions.

But Mr Steinmeier already alluded to Berlin's thinking on a eastern Europe policy during a speech before the Heinz Schwarzkopf foundation on Wednesday.

"In the EU we need attractive and credible offers for our neighbours," he said.

He said Romania and Bulgaria - due to join the bloc in January - will certainly not be the last countries to join the EU but that the way for other countries interested in joining the bloc would be "sometimes longer and sometimes stonier."

At the moment the EU has signed a series of neighbourhood agreements with the countries that surround it. A carrot and stick approach, these agreements offer a range of trade-related incentives in return for progress on democracy reform.

The bloc's relations with Russia itself are more complex with Moscow seeing Brussels as interfering in its sphere of influence over former Soviet bloc countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.

In 2003, both sides agreed to set up in the long-term an EU-Russia common space covering the economy, justice and home affairs, external security and research.

However relations are often clouded by geopolitical issues - including energy - which have seen harsh rhetoric traded between Brussels and Moscow in the past year.

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