Brussels is mulling a Eurasian project that would compete with China’s Silk Road project, and the EU’s new envoy to Russia has raised the prospect during a visit to Moscow.
The EU’s plans to boost economic ties with Asia are opening new opportunities to build up mutually-beneficial ties between Brussels and Moscow, the EU’s envoy to Russia, Markus Ederer told Izvestia.
Ederer said that despite the frozen process of political interaction between the EU and Russia, the past year has seen a clear rise in their technical cooperation, aimed at connecting Europe’s transport routes and digital and energy networks with a part of Asia accounting for 35 percent of European exports.
He also mentioned the growing role of European “soft power” such as cultural, educational and tourist exchanges as another means of boosting interaction with one of the world’s most important regions.
Markus Ederer also believes that this initiative will lead the way to closer cooperation between the EU and Russia as well as Central Asian countries.
“The strategy will create conditions when all interested parties of the Eurasian continent will come together as equal partners, present their ideas and discuss their possible implementation, proceeding from common interests,” Ederer told the newspaper.
“China has the “One Belt – One Road” initiative. Russia has its own ideas on economic cooperation. And this gives us a chance to discuss how all stakeholders view integration and how our concepts can overlap. This is a potentially new and very interesting field for cooperation, which could begin once the EU has presented a strategy of boosting interconnectivity between Europe and Asia at the Asia-Europe summit this fall. With this done, the discussion [with Russia] can become more substantive,” he added.
The 12th Europe-Asia Forum will be held in Brussels on October 18-19 and will bring together 51 heads of state and government from Europe and Asia, as well as the EU leadership and the ASEAN secretariat.
As expected, the discussion of interconnectedness on the Eurasian continent will be one of the main topics of the meeting.
However, without Russia, which has been actively promoting integration processes in recent years [for example, the 2015 agreement on conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Community with China’s “One Belt — One Road” project], the EU will have problems implementing its plans for closer cooperation with Asia for purely geographical reasons.
So far, due to the sanctions the EU imposed on Russia in 2014 and Moscow’s countersanctions, political and economic cooperation between Moscow and Brussels has been suspended.
Markus Ederer still admitted that at a technical level, dialogue on a number of pressing issues between Brussels and Moscow has recently been gaining momentum.
READ MORE: EU Envoy Says Russia’s Role to Continue Growing As Silk Road to Be Created
“Over the past year, we have stabilized relations, increasing and deepening a number of sectoral dialogues at the technical level. In the first six months of this year alone, two Russian deputy foreign ministers have visited Brussels, and Secretary General of the European External Relations Service Helga Schmidt and its political director Jean-Christophe Bellard have been to Moscow. We have expanded the list of topics for discussion by adding the Arctic and Afghanistan, and we are going to have consultations on Africa and Latin America too, “the European diplomat told Izvestia.
The deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Vladimir Dzhabarov told the newspaper that combining several integration projects — Eurasian, European and Chinese – would be beneficial to all.