‘From sea to shining sea’…
Russian membership in the European Union within 30 years would benefit both sides by combining the trading bloc’s diversified economy with its eastern neighbor’s energy resources, Czech President Milos Zeman said.
“I support, in the very long-term point of view, the entrance of the Russian Federation into the European Union, maybe after 20 years, after 30 years,” Zeman, 69, said in an interview in Prague yesterday. “On the one side, there’s the very modern, very productive economy of western Europe. On the other side,” there’s a “country with enormous energy resources, but not a diversified economic structure.”
Almost 25 years after overthrowing communism, eastern Europe’s leaders are seeking to balance their investment needs with the memory of decades under Soviet economic, military and political dominance. President Vladimir Putin is using Russia’s energy and financial resources to expand the country’s sway over the former Soviet sphere of influence.
The two sides need to work to remove obstacles hindering the exchange of goods and capital to enhance economic cooperation, said Zeman, whose country is one of 11 post-communist nations to have joined the EU since 2004. Russia has come a long way from an “autocratic system” to “relatively free elections,” and the “first signs” of a free press, he said.
“This is a very long, very gradual process, which will have many, many phases,” Zeman said. “Deep in my heart, I still believe that the democratization of Russia and the democratization of Ukraine will proceed. In such a case, there is no reason against the project” to create a “Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.”
Europe shouldn’t create new lines of division and rather aspire “to larger goals, including an overall European-Eurasian process of integration,” Putin said.
“We need to set more ambitious goals,” he said. “One is uniting the European and Eurasian integration processes. I’m sure that there aren’t contradictions in these processes. Both integration models are built on similar principles.”
Full article: Russia EU Entry Favored by Czech President Zeman (Bloomberg)