Interfax (Link) (November 17, 2009)
Question: The Lisbon Treaty is going to enter into force very soon now. What is in your opinion the decisive importance of this document? If its benefit so evident - why this long and difficult process of ratification?
Answer: An European Union with 27 Member States cannot work the same way as an EU with fifteen Member States, like we were only five years ago. The Lisbon Treaty will from December 1 allow the EU to work in a much more efficient and coherent manner. There were indeed some obstacles in the ratification process. Taking decisions with 27 Member States is not an easy thing and the Lisbon Treaty will precisely improve the decision making process. I am very happy that the treaty has been ratified. This is a very important moment for the EU.
Q.: Evaluating the past decade, what kind of authority, what kind of powers were you short of as High Representative (HR), what new levers is getting your successor under the Lisbon Treaty?
A.: Let me say that I am very proud of what the EU has achieved on the international scene in the last decade. This year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Over that period of time, we have deployed 23 EU missions or operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia to help solving difficult crisis and to contribute to stabilization in tension areas.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the High Representative will have under his authority tools that were - up to now - under the responsibility of different parts of the EU. It will be much easier for my successor to use the full range of EU tools that are adequate for each specific situation. The incoming HR will also have the support of an External Action Service that we are now putting in place and that will be among the biggest diplomatic services in the world. With this new setup, I am confident that the EU will be a in a better position to work with its partners on the international scene, for a more stable, more prosperous and safer world.
Q.: I understand, in a few days you are going to participate in the EU-Russia summit in Stockholm. What new momentum will give the fact of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty to the EU-Russia relations? Is there any obstacle in these relations which can be removed thanks to the treaty?
A.: As I told you, the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will bring greater coherence to the EU's external action. Besides the changes concerning the High Representative, the creation of a full-time President of the European Council will replace the current system where the President of the European Council rotates every six months. This change should provide greater continuity. Whether this will lead to fresh momentum in EU-Russia relations will depend on the political will on both sides to move our relations forward. Let me in any case thank Russia for its very positive attitude towards the Lisbon Treaty from the very beginning. As a strategic partner of the EU, it will no doubt be among the main beneficiaries of the improvements that the Lisbon Treaty brings. I am happy also that this change coincides with a marked improvement in the atmosphere of our relations, which I think results from a very pragmatic, business-like approach on both sides and among the many actors involved.
Q.: What is the state of play at the EU-Russia talks on a new cooperation agreement? Which knots have negotiators managed to untie, which issues seem now most difficult? If imagine the whole distance as 100 km, in which point are we now?
A.: We now had six rounds of negotiations, with the seventh round due to take place before the end of the year. Throughout these rounds, we have managed to get a good view of each others' positions and expectations. Russia being one of our main partners on the international scene, we have a deep, multi-faceted, far-reaching relationship. Given that the new agreement is to cover all the aspects of our relationship - ranging from trade and energy to external relations, from visa questions and fight against terrorism to education and culture, one needs to be realistic and expect the negotiations to take some time.
Progress has so far been made at various speeds in the working groups covering the different aspects of our relationship, depending on the complexity of the issues at hand, so your question of the 100 km scale is hard to answer. I dare say that it is not a matter of distance, but of the speed at which you advance. Obviously, progress has so far been quicker on culture and education than, say, on energy or trade matters. But we evidently share the feeling this is an important negotiation for our relationship, and we share the political will to reach the 100 km-point at the fastest possible speed.
Q.: Does the Lisbon Treaty open new prospects for Common Energy Policy, and what, in your opinion, must this policy change in relation with Russia in energy sector?
A.: The Lisbon Treaty creates a new legal basis for energy cooperation but the underlying decision-making procedures remain the same. Under the Lisbon Treaty, EU policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to ensure the functioning of the energy market; ensure security of energy supply in the Union; promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy; and promote the interconnection of energy networks.
Russia will continue to be the EU's key energy partner. While good work is underway, there is still a need to rebuild trust in our energy relations after the gas crisis in January of this year. In our view, our cooperation must be based on open markets, on the rule of law being enforced in a transparent manner and on a stable and predictable business climate. Furthermore, the new EU-Russia agreement should set out legally-binding provisions based on a relationship of interdependence. We hope Russia will remain engaged in the work of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), as it is the best regulatory framework for energy available in Europe and most European countries have ratified it. We hope we can continue to work on this basis and believe that the ECT principles should be enshrined in the new agreement.
Q.: How, in your opinion, new European security architecture must look out? What is to be changed in its present state? What roles could Russia, EU and NATO play in this new scenario?
A.: We welcome the proposals of President Medvedev and a frank and honest debate on European security with Russia. If one of the key players in Europe does not feel comfortable with the way things stand, this is certainly a cause for concern for all of us. We see the OSCE as the main forum for this debate, especially the Corfu process. Discussions elsewhere are also useful and I look forward to reverting to this issue in the upcoming summit in Stockholm.
Our view from the outset has been that we think that the current security architecture in Europe is fundamentally sound. We have good institutions, which we have built up over a long period of time. They have served us well, making important contributions to peace, stability and security in our part of the world.
This is not to say that there is no scope for improvement. But our efforts should focus on making the existing institutions more effective, and ensuring that the principles and commitments that we have all signed are respected and implemented. The "new European security architecture" should therefore build on what we have, and make it work better.
Q.: What lessons have you learned from the last year's war in Georgia? And what is your appraisal of ten years of Western policy in Kosovo? Can we reveal a common base for resolving regional conflicts in Europe including the post-Soviet area?
A.: It is true that Kosovo, and the Balkans more generally, represented a major challenge for the international community, and for Europe in particular, during the 1990s. Now, after many years of intensive engagement by the EU and our international partners, including Russia, the situation in the region is much better. The biggest challenges now are the economy and how to move forward rapidly towards EU membership.
The lessons we have learned from this experience is that solving conflicts is a long-term task that requires commitment, patience, and trust. But we have also learnt that it can succeed.
As a response to events in the Balkans, the EU has developed a number of specific tools, notably in the framework of the European Security and Defense Policy, that we are now able to use to help resolve conflicts elsewhere. The EUMM mission in Georgia is a very good example of this; the first EUMM mission was launched in the Balkans in 1992.
A specific lesson from the Georgia conflict last year is the importance of reacting immediately, before the situation deteriorates. When the conflict broke out in August 2008, the EU brokered the ceasefire and managed to dispatch a civilian monitoring mission to Georgia in less than two weeks. Our strong commitment and our role as a constructive mediator shows a clear evolution of the EU role as a respected and trusted partner for peace and stability.
Q.: If I may, a personal question: What plans do you have for the time after you cede the place to your successor?
A.: In a day or two, the EU heads of state or government will designate my successor. I do not want to say more before that moment, but you may be sure I will remain actively engaged on all the matters on which I have been working up to now. I am not yet ready for retirement!