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Alexander Romanovich: Jean-Claude Juncker is one of the western leaders who have an open mind and long-term thinking

31 мая 2016

There has been some confusion recently in western media in connection with a probable trip of European Commission President Jean-Claud Juncker to the Petersburg Economic Forum. And then there was Dmitry Peskov who ‘fueled to the fire’ when he informed about a separate meeting to be held between Vladimir Putin and Jean-Claud Juncker within the framework of the forum.

Why does an intrigue emerge around this? Firstly, it is natural, that any meeting of the Russian Leader with a foreign official arouses interest, and secondly, his interlocutor is the most experienced politician, with practical experience as Prime-Minister of Luxembourg for twenty years, and the European Commission President for a year and a half. But what a year and a half that was!

The European Parliament confirmed Jean-Claud Juncker as the EU Commission President on 15 July 2014, just in a few weeks after the very first restrictive sanctions had been imposed against Russia which means that he had to be ex-officio in the midst of the sanction confrontation between the European Union and Russia.

I am sure it was a real burden for the professional who has been practicing an integrative approach throughout his career, for the one who has been looking for the ways of solution to the European problems on the ground of joining efforts of all member states of the entire European community. So, here is no coincidence that Mr. Juncker is considered to be one of the framers of the Maastricht Treaty that laid the foundations of the current European Union.

Therefore, there is nothing illogical about our President’s readiness to meet with Mr. Juncker as Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about Moscow’s interest to hold and expand a dialogue with the European Union. A different matter is that the conversation is flagging, but it is not Russia’s fault.

On the other hand, Jean-Claud Juncker is one of the western leaders who have an open mind and long-term thinking. He is sure to have something to discuss with the Russian Leader, and I appreciate his decision to come to the Petersburg Forum as a victory of this man’s professionalism and experience over the obstacles of EU bureaucracy and even resistance to the USA.

Let’s remember the fact that after a brief meeting with Mr Putin at the G20 Antalya summit in autumn 2015, Mr. Juncker wrote our President a letter which I consider to be an important signal about admitting the fact that there is no strategic alternative to the continent-wide cooperation in Europe.

In particular, Mr. Juncker wrote the following: "I have always thought the idea of integrated trade spanning from Lisbon to Vladivostok is an important and worthwhile goal. Trade not only encourages the growth of business and development of the links between business and citizens but it also allows them to exchange common interests. That’s why I will ask my services to consider possible alternatives that might bring closer the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union."

And now, such a challenging step for Mr. Juncker, i.e. his visit to Russia. The EC President’s intention to participate in the Petersburg forum has already provoked dissatisfaction of the USA, some EU countries and even among the EC structures. There are voiced some concerns that Juncker’s visit might strengthen President Putin’s positions right before the decision to renew the sanctions against Moscow will be made, especially that the Petersburg forum to be visited by authoritative politicians, businessmen and experts is treated as a counterbalance to the economic forum in Davos.

See how the events will unfold, but the very confirmation of the meeting between Juncker and Putin made by the press-secretary of the RF President means a deep analysis of the issue.

Let’s wait, there is little time left. In any case, in Moscow they are waiting for the Europeans’ responsive movement in relation to the idea about a dialogue between the EU and the EAEC which the Russian side has been advancing for a very long time and thinks to be vital for building our trade and economic relations. It is natural that the sanction confrontation initiated by the West is far from being the best accelerator for cooperation in foreign trade.

Maybe, Jean-Claude Juncker realizes it quite well. As for us, his arrival to the Petersburg forum is a sign of revival of common sense even among the top European bureaucracy, in particular, in spite of the pressure made by Washington. I think you will agree that it’s not too bad at all. It is possible that Jean-Claude Juncker will turn out to be the first head of a big European structure to visit Russia since March 2014, i.e. when the sanctions were imposed against Moscow.

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