Will Russia Ever Join the European Union?
Dr. Yegor Gaidar (Former Russian Minister and Director, Institute for the Economy in Transition, Moscow) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)
Sean Curtin: How do you see Moscow's economic relationship with the European Union? Do you think that Russia will ever join the EU? If not, how will the economic relationship between Moscow and Brussels develop?
Yegor Gaidar: I have had the chance to participate in many debates about the strategy of European development. Although not a regular topic, I have discussed the possibility of Russia participating from the long-term perspective. Can we become a member? What would happen to Russia in such a case? What will happen to the Ukraine if everything goes smoothly for them?
While Ukraine is heading in the direction of EU membership, inside Russia we have not had one single serious discussion on the subject. So, this sets the backdrop for the political reality in which the idea is simply not on the agenda. If you want to seriously analyze politics, you have to keep within the realms of reality. So, we have to admit that in the foreseeable future Russia will not be applying to become a prospective EU member.
This means that Europe has two different boarders, one is the Atlantic Ocean, and the other is the western frontier of Russia. This will in effect mean that Russia will be the most important neighbour of the European Union. That means that for the European Union it is extremely important to understand that it cannot try to dictate policy to Russia the same way the EU has to those eastern European countries that are candidate members to join the Union.
Firstly, when you are in negotiations with those eastern European countries, you are speaking to people who want to join your family. So, they can let you know what they think of your proposals, whether they are satisfied or not, what should be the timing of their implementation, the need for any small special exemptions, and so on.
However, when you are speaking to your neighbour, the situation is not the same. They do not want to become a member of your family. Since your neighbour's house is not going to disappear, you have to understand each other. It is in the mutual interests of neighbours to accommodate one another and find out what is the best way to get along and avoid conflicts.
I think it is Brussels' lack of ability not to have tried to develop a framework from this perspective that is a problem. I am not going to discuss Russia's mistakes, but for the EU, there has been a lack of understanding about this issue for a long time.
I think that all EU policy started from the standpoint that Russian strategies should call for the long-term stability Europe. I hope the EU finds a way to solve this problem.
There are some problems between the EU and Russia that are extremely important for Russia. For instance there is the visa problem and arrangements with the Schengen Agreement.* I hope that we can find a solution that will be sensible for Europe and eliminate a lot of problems for Russia.
* For information on the Schengen agreement see here.
Profile: Yegor Gaidar
Dr. Yegor Gaidar is an economist, and from November 1991 to January 1994 he played a leading role in the transformation of the Russian economy after the fall of communism holding several senior posts including as that of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Finance, Advisor to the President, First Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Economy. Known as a "father of Russian reforms," besides his political career, he is a well-known economist and journalist.
He served under Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin and then under President Yeltsin.
Born Yegor Timurovich Gaidar in Moscow on 19 March 1956. After graduating from Moscow State University in 1978, he received a Ph.D. in economics in 1980 and in 1980-1987 was Research Fellow. In 1991, he became Director of the Institute of Economic Policy under the Academy of National Economy of the USSR.
Later in 1994, after leaving the government, he became a founding member and chairman of the Democratic Choice party. In 2000, he became a founding member and co-chairman, along with his longtime political ally Anatoly Chubais of the Union of Right Forces. In 2001 the Democratic Choice Party merged into the Union of Right Forces.
Since 1993 Mr. Gaidar is a Director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition (IET), Moscow.
The above comments were made at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 10 February 2005