Moscow is warning that EU enlargement will have a serious impact on its economy as Russian exporters lose markets in applicant countries which join the Union.
Russian president Vladimir Putin will raise Moscow’s concerns at the summit meeting with the EU tomorrow (22 October) and call for a special committee of experts to be set up to examine the effects of enlargement.
Officials have drawn up a 15-point list of areas where they believe that Russian trade will be hurt when the Union takes in up to ten former Communist countries which currently have major trading links with the former Soviet Union.
Russia claims the biggest threat to its exports stems from the requirement for the candidate countries to introduce EU technical standards which Russian companies will not be able to match. The worst-affected products will include machinery, pharmaceuticals and food products.
Moscow is also worried that enlargement will increase the cost of food imports from central and east European countries as prices rise to higher Union levels, and that EU export subsidies will mean more products from applicant countries being sold on the Russian market.
A European Commission spokesman said the impact of enlargement on Russia would depend on whether applicants had free-trade agreements with the country.
He pointed out that if Russia did lose out from enlargement, it would be entitled to compensation – but only if it was a member of the World Trade Organisation.
Moscow has also criticised the EU for failing to improve the treatment of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, arguing that language laws discriminate against Russian speakers.
Despite Russia’s concerns about the effects of enlargement, the country’s ambassador to the Union Vasily Likhachev said he expected the summit would be a “step forward in EU-Russia relations”.
At the meeting, which will be Javier Solana’s first official engagement as the Union’s High Representative for foreign policy, the two sides will discuss joint action in the fight against organised crime and drugs trafficking, progress under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the ‘northern dimension’, which aims at closer cooperation with Russia in a range of fields including the environment, human rights and regional projects. The EU also wants to clarify the situation regarding food aid, amid reports that Moscow is looking for more.
The war in Chechnya will be discussed over lunch, with the EU set to repeat its call for a negotiated settlement. Likhachev said Moscow was prepared to talk to “reasonable forces”, but insisted they must represent the region’s multinational population. He added that Russia would welcome EU humanitarian aid, but stressed it would have to be cleared by the federal government to ensure it reached refugees scattered throughout Russian territory./Politico/