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How the U.S. under Obama Created Europe’s Refugee Crisis

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The current U.S. President, Donald Trump, claimed on June 18th, that Germany’s leadership, and the leadership in other EU nations, caused the refugee-crisis that Europe is facing:  “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

The U.S. Government is clearly lying about this. The U.S. Government itself caused this crisis that Europeans are struggling to deal with. Would the crisis even exist, at all, if the U.S. had not invaded and tried to overthrow (and in some instances actually overthrown) the governments in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere — the places from which these refugees are escaping? The U.S. Government, and a few of its allies in Europe (the ones who actually therefore really do share in some of the authentic blame for this crisis) caused this war and government-overthrow, etc., but Germany’s Government wasn’t among them, nor were many of the others in Europe. If the U.S. Government had not led these invasions, probably not even France would have participated in any of them. The U.S. Government, alone, is responsible for having caused these refugees. The U.S. Government itself created this enormous burden to Europe, and yet refuses to accept these refugees that it itself had produced, by its having invaded and bombed to overthrow (among others) Libya’s Government, and then Syria’s Government, and by its aiding Al Qaeda in organizing and leading and arming, jihadists from all over the world to come to Syria to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with one that would be selected by the U.S. regime’s key Middle Eastern ally, the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, including its Government, and who are determined to take over Syria. Trump blames Angela Merkel for — in essence — having been an ally of the U.S. regime, a regime of aggression which goes back decades, and which Trump himself now is leading, instead of his ending, and of his restoring democracy to the United States, and, finally, thus, his restoring freedom (from America), and peace, to other nations, in Europe, and elsewhere (such as in Syria, Yemen, etc.). He blames Merkel, not himself and his predecessor — not the people who actually caused these refugees.

Hypocrisy purer than that which Trump there expressed, cannot be imagined, and this hypocrisy comes from Trump now, no longer from Obama, who, in fact, caused the problem.

As the 2016 study, “An Overview of the Middle East Immigrants in the EU: Origin, Status Quo and Challenges” states in its Abstract:“EU has the most inhabited immigrant population; it has up to a population of 56 million foreign-born people. And due to the perennial war and chaos in the Middle East, the amount of relocated population in the region, especially the number of refugees, ranks the No.1 all over the world. … There are a large number of refugees and asylum seekers heading to EU countries; it can be divided into four stages. Since the Arab Spring, especially after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, and the rise of the “Islamic State” in 2013, the whole EU area have experienced the biggest wave of refugees since World War II.”

All of these invasions have been, and are, invasions of countries where the U.S. regime demands regime-change.

In order to understand the deeper source of this problem, one must understand, first, the U.S. regime’s continuing obsession to conquer Russia after its communism and Warsaw Pact military alliance, had ended (click onto that link to see the documentation); and, second, one needs to understand the U.S. regime’s consequent and consistent aim after the supposed end of the Cold War, to take over control of Russia’s allied countries, including not only those within the Soviet Union and its military Warsaw Pact, but also within the Middle East, especially Syria and Iran, and even countries such as Libya, where the leader was nominally Sunni but nonetheless friendly toward Russia. (The link there provides documentation not only of what’s said here, but it also documents that the alliance between the two aristocracies, of the U.S. and of Saudi Arabia, is essential to the U.S. aristocracy’s Middle-Eastern objective; and Israel’s aristocracy serves as an essential agent of the Sauds in this crucial regard, because the Sauds rely heavily upon the Israeli regime to do its lobbying in Washington

. In other words: America’s consistent objective is to isolate Russia so as for the U.S. regime to emerge ultimately in a position to take over Russia itself. That’s the deeper source of Europe’s refugee-crisis.)

Back at the start of the promised post-Cold-War period, in 1990, the U.S. regime, under its then-President, George Herbert Walker Bush, privately and repeatedly agreed with the U.S.S.R. regime, under its then-President Mikhail Gorbachev, to end the Cold War — agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east” — that there would be no expansion of the U.S. military alliance against the U.S.S.R. (soon to become against Russia alone). The U.S. regime’s promise was that NATO would not take in and add to NATO’s membership, any of the countries that then were either in the U.S.S.R’s military alliance the Warsaw Pact (Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania) or in U.S.S.R. itself other than Russia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgie, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan), except for the eastern part of Germany. The U.S. regime simply lied. But the Russian Government followed through on all of its commitments. Russia was now trapped, by Gorbachev’s having trusted liars, whose actual goal turned out to be world-conquest — not peace.

Currently, the membership of NATO includes all of the former Warsaw Pact nations, and now the U.S. regime aims to bring in also to “NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹ and Ukraine.” Georgia and Ukraine are the first parts of the former U.S.S.R. republics — not merely parts of the Warsaw Pact but parts now of the U.S.S.R. itself — to join the anti-Russian military alliance, if either of them gets allowed in. The very possibility of this happening, goes beyond anything that the naive, trusting, Mikhail Gorbachev, would ever have imagined. He hadn’t the slightest idea of how evil was (and still is) America’s Deep State (that which controls America). But now we all know. History is clear and unambiguous on the matter.

The NATO mouthpiece, Brookings Institution, headlined on 15 November 2001, “NATO Enlargement: Moving Forward; Expanding the Alliance and Completing Europe’s Integration” and pretended that this expansion is being done in order to help Europeans, instead of to conquer Russia.

Ukraine has the longest of all European borders with Russia and so has been America’s top target to seize. But before seizing it, the U.S. had tried in 2008 to turn Georgia against Russia, and the Georgian Mikheil Saakashvili was a key U.S. agent in that effort. Saakashvili subsequently became involved in the violent coup that overthrew Ukraine’s Government in February 2014. Saakashvili organized the Georgian contingent of the snipers that were sent to Ukraine to shoot into the crowds on the Maidan Square and kill both police and demonstrators there, in such a way so that the bullets would seem to have come from the police (Berkut) and/or other forces of Ukraine’s democratically elected Government. (Click on this link to see two of the Georgian snipers casually describing their participation in the coup, and referring tangentially to former Georgian President Saakashvili’s role in it. Here is a more comprehensive video compilation describing and showing the coup itself. As I have pointed out, the testimony of these two Georgian snipers is entirely consistent with what the investigation by the EU’s Foreign Ministry had found out on 26 February 2014 about the snipers, that “they were the same snipers, killing people from both sides” and that these snipers were “from the new coalition government” instead of from the government that was being overthrown — that it was a coup, no ‘revolution’ such as Obama’s people claimed, and Trump’s people now assert.) The U.S. regime has agents in all regions of the former Russia-affiliated bloc — not only in Western Europe.

Obama’s coup to grab Ukraine away from its previous neutrality and to make it immediately a neo-Nazi rabidly anti-Russian country, has destroyed Ukraine — not only from the standpoint of the EU, but (and click on the link if you don’t already know this) from the standpoint of the Ukrainian people themselves. Who wouldn’t want to leave there?

Europe has refugees from the Ukrainian operation too, not only (though mainly) from the Middle Eastern ones.

Europe’s enemy isn’t Russia’s aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. It’s the billionaires who control America’s international corporations — not the billionaires who control Russia’s international corporations — it is specifically America’s billionaires; it is the people who control the U.S. Government; these, and no Russians at all, are the actual decision-makers, who are behind bringing down Europe. In order for Europe to win, Europeans must know whom their real enemies are. The root of the problem is in the U.S., Europe’s now fake ‘ally’. Today’s America isn’t the America of the Marshall Plan. The U.S. Government has since been taken over by gangsters. And they want to take over the world. Europe’s refugee-crisis is simply one of the consequences.

In fact, Obama had started, by no later than 2011, to plan these regime-change operations, in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. But, in any case, none of the regime-change operations that caused the current unprecedented flood of refugees into Europe started because of what Europe’s leaders did (other than their cooperating with the U.S. regime). Today’s American Government is Europe’s enemy, no friend at all, to the peoples of Europe. Trump’s blaming this crisis on Europe’s leaders isn’t just a lie; it is a slanderous one.

And this fact is separate from Trump’s similar slanderous lie against the refugees themselves. On May 8th, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper had headlined “Number of crimes falls to lowest level since 1992” and reported that Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, announced the 2017 national crime statistics, and he said, “Germany has become safer,” the safest in the last 30 years. Seehofer happens to be a member of Chancellor Merkel’s Administration who is angling to replace her as Chancellor by appealing to the strong anti-immigrant portion of their own conservative party, but even he had to admit, essentially, that the anti-immigrant slur that Trump subsequently made on June 18th is a bald lie; it’s even the exact opposite of the truth. Trump’s tweeted comment then was a lying slander not only against Merkel and other European leaders, but also against the refugees that the U.S. regime itself had produced. How depraved is that? How depraved is Trump?

The refugee crisis isn’t due to the refugees themselves; and it’s not due to Europe’s leaders; it is due to the almost constantly lying U.S. regime — the people who actually control America’s Government and America’s international corporations.

On June 21st, Manlio Dinucci at Global Research headlined “The Circuit of Death in the ‘Enlarged Mediterranean’” and he opened by saying, “The politico-media projectors, focussed as they are on the migratory flow from South to North across the Mediterranean, are leaving other Mediterranean flows in the dark – those moving from North to South, comprised of military forces and weapons.” But the world’s biggest international seller of weapons is the U.S., not the EU; so, his placing the main focus on European billionaires was wrong. The main culprits are on Trump’s own side of the Atlantic, and this is what is being ignored, on both sides of the Atlantic. The real problem isn’t across the Mediterranean; it is across the Atlantic. That’s where Europe’s enemy is.

On 7 August 2015, I headlined “The U.S. Is Destroying Europe” and reported that: “In Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries at the periphery or edges of Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of destabilization, and even of bombings and other military assistance, that drives millions of refugees out of those peripheral areas and into Europe, thereby adding fuel to the far-rightwing fires of anti-immigrant rejectionism, and of resultant political destabilization, throughout Europe, not only on its peripheries, but even as far away as in northern Europe.”

It’s continuing under Trump.

Author’s note: first published at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Europe

Council of Europe fights for your Right to Know, too

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Authors: Eugene Matos de Lara and Audrey Beaulieu

“People have the right to know what those in power are doing” -Dunja Mijatovic Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights.

Access to information legislation was first seen in 1766 in Sweden, with parliamentary interest to access information held by the King. Finland in 1951, the United States in 1966, and Norwayin 1970 also adopted similar legislation. Today there are 98 states with access laws; of these, more than 50 incorporated in their constitution. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights 2006 and the European Court of Human Rights 2009 both ruled that access to information is a human right, confirmed in July 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a sine qua non of 21st-century democracy.

Global civil society movements have been promoting transparency, with activists and journalists reporting daily on successes in obtaining information and denouncing obstacles and frustrations in the implementation of this right. To this end, the Council of Europe was inspired by pluralistic and democratic ideals for greater European unity, adopted the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents recognising a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. It brings a minimum standard for the fair processing of requests for access to official documents with the obligation for member states to secure independent review for restricted documents unless with held if the protection of the documents is considered legitimate.

The right to freedom of information

Access to information is a government scrutiny tool. Without it, human rights violations, corruption cases, and anti-democratic practices would never be uncovered. Besides exposing demerits, the policy is also known to improve the quality of public debates while increasing participation in the decision making process. Indeed, transparency of authorities should be regarded as a fundamental precondition for the enjoyment of fundamental rights, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The policy equips citizens and NGOs with the necessary tool to counter refusal from authorities to provide information. The European Court of Human Rights recognized that withheld documents could be accessed in specific circumstances. In principle, all information should be available, and those upheld can also be accessed, particularly when access to that particular information is crucial for the individual or group to exercise their freedoms unless of course, the information is of national security or of private nature.

Access to information in times of crisis a first line weapon against fake news

The COVID pandemic has enabled us to test access policies and benchmark the effectiveness of the right to know during trivial times, as Dunja Mijatovic mentioned. In fact, having easy access to reliable information protects the population from being misled and misinformed, a first-line weapon dismantling popular fake news and conspiracies. Instead, during COVID, access to information has supported citizens in responding adequately to the crisis. Ultimately, transparency is also a trust-building exercise.

Corruption and environmental issues

Information is a weapon against corruption. The Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is looking at the specific issue of access to official documents in the context of its Fifth Evaluation Round, which focuses on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments and law enforcement agencies. In about a third of the reports published so far, GRECO has recommended the state to improve access to official documents. In regards to the environment, the United Nations Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, commonly referred to as the Aarhus Convention, expands the right of access to information on environmental matters thus complementing the Tromsø Convention. Declaring these policies as the primary tools that empower citizens and defenders to protect the environment we live in.

Good models exist

Most Council of Europe member states have adequate mechanisms regarding the right to information. For example, in Estonia, “the Public Information Act provides for broad disclosure of public information” states Mijatovic. Moreover, “in Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and several other countries there is an independent oversight body – such as an Information Commissioner – responsible for monitoring and enforcing the right to information, while some other countries entrust Parliamentary Ombudsmen with supervision of the right of access to information”. Finally, “the constitutions of several European countries do indeed guarantee the fundamental right to information.” Nonetheless, there are still in consistent levels of transparency among state institutions or a failure to meet the requirement for proactive disclosure. The entry into force of the Tromso Convention willbe an opportunity to bring back to the table the importance of the right to information and to read just European States practices regarding the enhancement.

Barriers and Challenges

Digitization is still recent, and authorities are not accustomed to dealing openly. There is a sentiment of reservation and caution. Before the advent of the internet, governments enjoyed a level of political efficiency and practical obscurity. Viewing public records required the time and effort of a visit to the records’ physical location and prevented easy access to details of individual files. Openness has made the policy cycle longer, with a more thorough consultation process and debates. The availability of digital documents has caused an unavoidable conflict.

One of the conflicts is a privacy protection and policy safeguards invoked against freedom of information requests. Requirements to provide transparency of activities must be mitigated with national security, individuals’ safety, corporate interests, and citizens’ right to privacy. Finding the right balance is essential to understand how local governments manage the dichotomy between providing open access to their records by maintaining the public’s privacy rights.

Several governments think twice before pursuing transparency policies. Access to information hasn’t been a priority for some of the European States. Mijatovic reported that “filtering of information and delays in responses to freedom of information requests have been observed in several member states”. Although there is a growth in these laws’ popularity, we are always a step behind meeting the supply and demand of information objectives in an era of digitization.

Legal perspectives

Tromso Convention has only been ratified by eleven countries, which are mostly located in Scandinavia (Finland, Norway and Sweden) or in Eastern Europe (Bosnia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldavia and Ukraine). Reading this statement, three questions should come to our minds:

1.    Why not all European states have ratified Tromso Convention?

2.    Why do Scandinavian countries have chosen to ratify the Convention?

3.    Why are most of the Member States from Eastern Europe?

Regarding the first question, the answer resides in the fact that the ones who haven’t taken part in the Convention already have strong national laws protecting freedom of information and don’t need to bother with extra protection and external surveillance. For instance, Germany passed a law in 2005, promoting the unconditional right to access information. Many other European states such as Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France &Poland have similar national law.

Regarding the second question, considering that all Scandinavian countries already have national laws assessing freedom of information, the most likely reason behind their ratification would be symbolic support to the cause or because the Convention’s framework is less restrictive than their national laws.

Finally, concerning the last question, we could suppose that most Eastern countries have an interest in demonstrating themselves as more transparent, more following the rule of law. For example, if we examine Montenegro’s case, we could assume that taking part in the Tromso Convention is a step closer to their accession to the EU in 2025.

As for the reservations that have been made, only Finland, Norway and Sweden have made some noticeable. Regarding Norway, the country declared that “communication with the reigning Family and its Household” will remain private in accordance with Article 3,paragraph 1 of the Convention. This limitation covers something interesting, considering that, as mentioned earlier, access to the data type of legislation was first adopted in order to get access to information held by the King. In parallel, Finland declared that “the provisions of Article 8 of the Convention concerning the review procedure [will] not apply to a decision made by the President of the Republic in response to a request for access to a document. Article 8 provides protection against arbitrary decisions and allows members of the population to assert their right to information. Sweden has made a similarreservation on Article 8 paragraph 1 regarding “decisions taken by the Government, ministers and the Parliamentary Ombudsmen”.

Thoughts towards better implementation

For smoother data access implementation, governments can act on transparency without waiting for legislation through internal bureaucratic policy. These voluntary provisions for openness can be an exercise towards a more organic cultural transformation.

Lengthy debates on open access are entertained by exceptions to access. To be sure, governments have enough legal and political tools to withhold information, regardless of how exemptions have been drafted. Instead, a more productive and efficient process is possible if we concentrate on positive implementation and enforcement, including the procedures for challenges on legal exemptions.

The implementation phase of access laws is challenging due to a lack of leadership motivation, inadequate support for those implementing these requests, especially since they require a long term social and political commitment. To do so, an overall dedication and government bureaucratic cultural shift should take place. Although the implementation of access to information should be included internally in all departments, considering a standardized centralized approach to lead the new regime with authority could send an important message. Record keeping and archiving should be updated to respond to requests with improved information management systems. As such, the goal would be to make a plethora of information immediately and unconditionally available.

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France’s Controversial ‘Separatism’ Bill

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In his very first days at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to detail his views on secularism and Islam in a wide-ranging speech. It took more than three years for this to happen, with the much awaited speech actually taking place in October a week after a teacher was violently killed for revealing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) during a lecture on freedom of expression. Macron said during his speech that “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, adding that there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”. Mr. Macron and his Parliament allies have described the bill as a reaction to the rise of Islamic separatism, which the President defines as a philosophy that seeks to create a parallel state in France where religious laws replace civil law.  Referring to the cartoons at a citizenship ceremony earlier and before the latest attacks, Macron defended the “right to blasphemy” as a fundamental freedom, even as he condemned “Islamic separatism.”

“To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticize, to mock, to caricature,” the president said. The proposed law allows religious associations and mosques to report more than €10,000 ($12,000) in international support and to sign a promise to uphold the French republican ideals in order to obtain state subsidies. The bill will also make it possible for the government to close down mosques, organizations and colleges that have been described as criticizing republican values.The controversial bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim people and enforcing limits on nearly every part of their lives. It allows government to oversee the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims. It also limits the schooling options of the Muslim community by prohibiting families from providing home education to children. The law also forbids people from selecting physicians on the grounds of gender for religious or other purposes and mandates a compulsory ‘secularism education’ on all elected officials. Physicians will either be charged or jailed under the law if they conduct a virginity test on girls. Critics argue the so-called “separatism law” is racist and threatens the 5.7 million-strong Muslim population in France, the highest in Europe. Its critics include the 100 imams, 50 teachers of Islamic sciences and 50 members of associations in France who signed an open letter against the “unacceptable” charter on 10 February.

A criminal act for online hate speech will make it easier to easily apprehend a person who shares sensitive information about public sector workers on social media with a view to hurting them and will be disciplined by up to three years in jail and a fine of EUR 45.000. The banning or deleting of pages spreading hate speech would now be made smoother and legal action accelerated. The bill expands what is known in France as the ‘neutrality clause,’ which forbids civil servants from displaying religious symbols such as the Muslim veil and holding political opinions, outside public sector workers to all commercial providers in public utilities, such as those working for transport firms.

French Members of Parliament held two weeks of heated debates in the National Assembly. People of Muslim faith interviewed outside the Paris Mosque and around Paris on the outdoor food market before the vote had hardly heard of the rule. “I don’t believe that the Muslims here in France are troublemakers or revolutionaries against France,” said Bahri Ayari, a taxi driver who spoke to AP after prayers inside Paris’ Grand Mosque. “I don’t understand, when one talks about radicalism, what does that mean — radicalism? It’s these people who go to jail, they find themselves with nothing to do, they discuss amongst themselves and they leave prison even more aggressive and then that gets put on the back of Islam. That’s not what a Muslim is,” he added.

Three bodies of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) have unilaterally denounced the “charter of principles” of Islam, which reaffirms the continuity of religion with France. The three parties said that the Charter was accepted without the full consensus of the other integral components of the CFCM, including the provincial and departmental councils and the imams concerned. “We believe that certain passages and formulations of the submitted text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation. In addition, certain statements undermine the honor of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character,” the Milli Görüş Islamic Confederation (CMIG) and the Faith and Practice movement said in a joint statement. The bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim community and enforcing limits on nearly any part of their lives. It allows for interference in mosques and organizations responsible for the operation of mosques, as well as for the oversight of the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

It is a difficult time for the nation, which has also accused its protection bill of containing the press freedom. The law introduced aims at making it unlawful to post photographs of police officers in which it is identifiable by “malicious intent” However, law enforcement has criticized the government after the declaration by Macron of the development of an online forum to flag police brutality.

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Why Is Europe Hostile Towards Russia?

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In his seminal 1871 work Russia and Europe, the famous Russian intellectual and Slavophile Nikolay Danilevsky set forth his theory that “Europe recognizes Russia as something alien to itself, and not only alien, but also hostile,” and that Russia’s fundamental interests should act as a “counterweight to Europe.”

One hundred and fifty years have passed since that work was published. The world has changed. No matter what anti-globalists might say, the rapid development of modern technologies and their use in our everyday lives has forced us to re-evaluate many of our beliefs about relations between states and people. The exchange of information, scientific discoveries and knowledge, and the sharing of our cultural wealth bring countries closer together and open up opportunities for development that did not exist before. Artificial intelligence does not know any boundaries and does not differentiate users by gender or nationality. Along with these new opportunities, the world is also faced with new problems that are increasingly supranational in nature and which require our combined efforts to overcome. The coronavirus pandemic is the latest example of this.

It is against the background of these rapid changes, which for obvious reasons cannot unfold without certain consequences, that we can occasionally hear this very same theory that “Europe is hostile towards Russia.” Although the arguments put forward to support this claim today seem far less nuanced than those of Nikolay Danilevsky.

Even so, ignoring this issue is not an option, as doing so would make it extremely difficult to build a serious long-term foreign policy given the prominent role that Europe plays in global affairs.

Before we dive in, I would like to say a few words about the question at hand. Why should Europe love or loathe Russia? Do we have any reason to believe that Russia has any strong feelings, positive or negative, towards another country? These are the kind of words that are used to describe relations between states in the modern, interdependent world. But they are, for the most part, simply unacceptable. Russia’s foreign policy concepts invariably focus on ensuring the country’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity and creating favourable external conditions for its progressive development.

Russia and Europe have a long history that dates back centuries. And there have been wars and periods of mutually beneficial cooperation along the way. No matter what anyone says, Russia is an inseparable part of Europe, just as Europe cannot be considered “complete” without Russia.

Thus, it is essential to direct intellectual potential not towards destruction, but rather towards the formation of a new kind of relationship, one that reflects modern realities.

At the dawn of the 21st century, it was clear to everyone that, due to objective reasons, Russia would not be able to become a full-fledged member of the military, political and economic associations that existed in Europe at the time, meaning the European Union and NATO. That is why mechanisms were put in place to help the sides build relations and cooperate in various fields. Bilateral relations developed significantly in just a few years as a result. The European Union became Russia’s main foreign economic partner, and channels for mutually beneficial cooperation in many spheres were built.

However, EU-Russia relations have stalled in recent years. In fact, much of the progress that had been made is now being undone. And positive or negative feelings towards one another have nothing to do with it. This is happening because the parties have lost a strategic vision of the future of bilateral relations in a rapidly changing world.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said that Russia is part of Europe, and that, culturally, Russia and Europe are one civilization. This is the basic premise—one that is not based on emotions—that should underlie Russia’s policy in its relations with Europe.

Russia and the European Union disagree on many things, but the only way to overcome misunderstandings and find opportunities to move forward is through dialogue. In this context, the recent visit of the EU High Representative to Moscow was a much-needed step in the right direction, despite the criticism that this move received from the European side. Nobody was expecting any “breakthroughs” from the visit, as the animosities and misunderstandings between the two sides cut too deep. Yet visits and contacts of this kind should become the norm, for without them we will never see any real progress in bilateral relations.

In addition to the issues that currently fill the agendas of the two sides, attention should be focused on developing a strategic vision of what EU-Russia relations should be in the future, as well as on areas of mutual interest. For example, it is high time that Europe and Russia broached the subject of the compatibility of their respective energy strategies, as well as the possible consequences of the introduction of “green energy” in Europe in terms of economic cooperation with Russia. Otherwise, it will be too late, and instead of a new area of mutually beneficial cooperation, we will have yet another irresolvable problem.

In his work Russia and Europe, Nikolay Danilevsky, while recognizing the good that Peter the Great had done for his country, reproached him for “wanting to make Russia Europe at all costs.” No one would make such accusations today. Russia is, was and always will be an independent actor on the international stage, with its own national interests and priorities. But the only way they can only be realized in full is if the country pursues an active foreign policy. And one of the priorities of that policy is relations with Europe.

From our partner RIAC

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