The biggest step towards the normalisation of European-Russian relations has been taken today by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Speaking at the 20th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016, Juncker underlined the importance of his presence in Russia, the first by the leader of an EU institution since 2014, when the the EU bloc adopted sanctions against Russia.
“I have always believed in the power of dialogue. When our relations are tense, we must keep talking. Even when economic sanctions are in place, we must keep the door open. And if I am here with you today, it is because I want to build a bridge,” he said.
The head of the EU Commission also replied to the criticisms of some member states, especially Baltics and Poland who were against his visit to St. Petersburg: “We have those who like the idea I am here and those who do not like the idea that I am here. But I like the idea that I am here.”
He set limits to continue the dialogue saying: “Russia is party to the Minsk agreements. It has made commitments and put them on paper, as have the other signatories. Therefore, the next step is clear: full implementation of the agreements. No more, no less. This is the only way to begin our conversation, and the only way to lift the economic sanctions that have been imposed.”
Other speakers at the forum include the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. Crimea’s leader, Sergei Aksyonov, was also in attendance.
Read full Juncker’s speech here
Watch full interventions here: