European Union Enlargement Eastwards
The European Union (EU) is one of the Russian's key partners both in an economic and a geopolitical sense. EU-Russian relations are built on a partnership basis. Both sides acknowledge the importance of relations between the EU and the Russian Federation and express their mutual desire to strengthen and develop these relations further.
On September 5, 1998 the EU presidency issued an open-ended statement on Russia during the Salzburg informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers. The EU presidency statement expressed the importance of a politically stable and economically sound Russia as a "vital" partner for the EU at a global and regional level.
Most policy-makers in Russia see close relations with the EU as a most desirable aim. Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the council for foreign and defense policy, says Europe is replacing the US as "the most important partner for Russia. "
Russian external economic and political interests are Europe-oriented. The country's most densely populated and industrially advanced regions are adjacent to Europe. Russia and Europe also have centuries-old ties and complementary economic systems. Today the EU also represents potential capital, technologies, etc.
The European Union is equally interested in Russia, both from the point of view of maintaining security in Europe, and in terms of strengthening its own economic, scientific and technological standing in the world vis-à-vis the USA and Japan. The vast Russian market could boost EU economic development, thus reducing unemployment in the next century.
The EU market is attractive to Russian business because of its relative openness: an average customs duty on Russian import to the EU amounts to 1% and about 80% of goods are imported duty-free. Moreover, 10 percent of exports fall under the preferential system. The EU is one of the main investors in the Russian economy, and 80% of joint ventures are companies with EU capital. 2/3 of the total number of Russian companies with operations abroad also function in the EU.
EU exports to Russia in 1999 amounted to $20.8 billion, and Russian exports to the EU were worth approximately $21.5 million. The EU share in the total volume of capital investment, according to different calculations, ranges from 40%-60%.
For Russia, all this suggests an economic basis for closer partnership with the EU and for participating in the integration process in Europe. However, the form and the terms of such participation are not fully clear and in many respects will depend on the evolution of both Russia and the European Union.
The EU is presently facing important tasks. One of its main goals is to further the internal integration process and incorporate new members. The EU has become the core of a new economic structure embracing almost all European countries. For...