By Lada Korotun
The EU countries’ closer cooperation with Russia could help resuscitate the economy of Europe, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said during the 14th session of the Association of European Senates in Paris on Friday.
Delivering her speech at the Luxemburg Palace, Matvienko called the current global economic crisis ‘a completely new phenomenon’ which she said could be resolved with the help of fresh ideas and approaches. She signaled Moscow’s readiness to help Europe grapple with the economic crisis.
“Russia was quick to join the international efforts, including initiatives by the IMF, to support crisis-stricken EU economies, Matviyenko says. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Putin said that Russia was prepared to render these countries direct financial assistance,” Matvienko recalled.
At the same time, she lamented the existing hurdles which hamper bilateral cultural and economic ties between the countries, which was something that Matviyenko said harmed the mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and the EU. She added that scrapping the current visa regime between Russia and the EU countries could promote European integration and expand cultural and business bonds, including those between small- and medium-sized businesses. Matvienko mentioned France, which she said was making significant steps forward in this direction.
“Russia’s efforts to promote visa-free travel are already yielding results, Matviyenko says. France already made the first serious step in this direction earlier this year when it decided to simplify the visa regime for those who had already visited the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry followed suit by introducing visa-free travel for those French nationals who intend to visit Russia. In this regard, France could become a good model for lifting visa requirements between Russia and the EU which would make a significant contribution to the development of business and cultural ties,” Matviyenko argued.
When in Paris, she met French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to specifically discuss the situation in Syria. On the whole, Russia and France share the same stance on the matter, Matviyenko said in an exclusive interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Friday.
“We want to see an immediate ceasefire in Syria and urge a fully fledged dialogue between all parties to the conflict – a position that is also supported by France, Matviyenko says. Moscow and Paris, however, remain at odds over the ways to halt the bloodshed in Syria: while France is only urging official Damascus to end the violence while Russia takes a more measured approach, appealing to both the government and the opposition to call a ceasefire and embark on a dialogue,” Matviyenko adds.
According to Ms Matviyenko, the Syrian crisis should be resolved by the Syrian people themselves without outside interference. Ms Matviyenko stressed the importance of adhering to the five points of the settlement plan hammered out by Russia and the Arab League and added that Russia would continue to promote them in the UN Security Council.