Russia not planning to forcibly drag anyone to Customs Union – diplomat

Map of Western CIS/FSU and European Environs

(Interfax – BRUSSELS, September 13, 2013) Russia is not planning to put pressure on any state or drag it forcibly into any association because of its relations with the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Russian envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told Interfax on Friday.

“Our partners, primarily European parliamentarians, are unfortunately deeply misled on this. It is not about Russia’s political pressure. It is about purely practical matters,” Chizhov said in commenting on debates and the European Parliament resolution “on the pressure exerted by Russia on Eastern Partnership countries (in the context of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius)” adopted earlier this week.

Chizhov noted that “the matter is simply about explaining the real picture” rather than about what some of Russia’s partners are trying to present “as a kind of confrontation between the European and Eurasian civilization.”

“If you – no matter whether it is Ukraine, Moldova or others – want to enter association relations with the European Union, mind that this blocks your way toward full Customs Union membership, and it (the Customs Union) will have to pursue its line respectively, including as regards customs and tariff issues,” Chizhov said.

“The European Union has not promised full membership to either of these countries either now, or earlier, and according to our information, is not going to do this in the foreseeable future, while the Customs Union is offering them full membership,” he said.

“The moment has come for these countries to find where they stand,” Chizhov said. “Of course the matter is not about membership of the Belarusian-Kazakh-Russian Customs Union implying that relations with the EU must be severed or cooperation halted, including economic. Of course not. But you can keep sitting on these two stools until the matter of customs tariffs arises. If, in line with the association agreement, the countries signing it have to follow some European Union requirements and these requirements go against their commitments under the Customs Union, a conflict is inevitable,” Chizhov said.

The Russian diplomat pointed out that Stefan Fule, the European commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood policy, acknowledged while speaking at the European Parliament on the European Commission’s behalf that “simultaneous membership of the Customs Union is incompatible with participation in what is called here a deep and comprehensive free trade area and with the relevant obligations under the association agreement with the European Union.”

“And he is right in saying this. We are saying the same,” he said.

Russia is studying certain technical standards of its foreign partners, Chizhov said. “We adopt those that we find suitable both from the European Union and other countries,” Chizhov said, noting that he implied regulatory issues not related to a tariff policy.