The parliamentary year is in motion. A steady flow of MEPs, assistants and staff fill the corridors of the European Parliament.
The Christmas break has served its purpose. I see happy faces and stretched belt-buckles.
This week we have a so-called group week, i.e. the political groups get together to discuss next week’s plenary in Strasbourg.
The day was mostly clear of meetings. I had a chance to catch up on some reading, do some writing and participate in a talk show on a Swedish-speaking radio station in Finland. The topic of the show was Russia and the EU.
A 20 minute talk show with two participants and a host is a luxury. Usually you get a maximum of three minutes. A couple of punch lines and it’s all over.
Today I stressed three things in the debate:
1. Russia wants to be a superpower and it needs to be treated as such. On the EU side we have a tendency to treat Russia as some sort of a developing country. The Russians hate that and it is precisely the reason why the so called Russia-strategy did not seem to work. Does anyone seriously think that a country holding the G8 Presidency is out looking for charitable hand-outs? Surely not. The new roadmap, which was signed last year, puts the EU and Russia on an equal footing, and can thus be seen as an improvement.
2. The energy tussle between Russia and the Ukraine will lead to closer cooperation on energy policy in the EU. It made many European leaders realise what excessive energy dependency from Russia can mean. The message from the Russian side was clear: mess with us and this is what you get. I think Putin has now made his point and we can move on. We should perhaps thank him if the EU gets a truly common energy policy in a few years time. Somehow I feel it is going to be an uphill battle. Most member states do not seem to be able to agree on an energy policy on a national level, let alone a European level.
3. EU-Russia relations have reached a new phase with enlargement. Many of the new EU countries were under Soviet influence for more than four decades. Scars take time to heal. The language, especially in the European Parliement, is much more aggressive than before. Former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers from Central and Eastern Europe are not shy to voice their opinions on Russian Victory Day celebrations or bilateral gaspipe agreements between Russia and Germany. And who can blame them?