Russia's Chizhov lashes out at EU in farewell speech – EURACTIV

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By Georgi Gotev | EURACTIV.com
09-09-2022 (updated: 09-09-2022 )
Chizhov delivers his farewell speech. [Georgi Gotev]
Languages: Deutsch

At a farewell reception boycotted by EU diplomats on Thursday (8 September), the long-time Russian ambassador Vladimir Chizhov blamed the EU for “destroying bridges” but failed to mention the main reason for the low point in relations – Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Chizhov, who leaves Brussels after 17 years as ambassador to the EU, hosted a reception attended mostly by diplomats from non-EU countries. As expected, there were no representatives of EU countries or the European External Action Service.
The ambassador of Russia to the EU Vladimir Chizhov is leaving Brussels for good after a record term in office, which marked the highest points of the relations between his country and the EU, as well as its lowest point.
An EU diplomat told EURACTIV off the record on Tuesday he was glad that Chizhov was leaving because, in his words, he had been “hostile and destructive” and caused much harm to the relations with the EU.
In a five-minute speech, Chizhov made sarcastic remarks about the EU but did not mention the issues which led to an all-time low in relations with his country, namely the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the aggression against Ukraine since 24 February this year.
“As one of the prominent European figures told me years ago, the European Union never fails to surprise”, Chizhov said in opening remarks.
He continued with illustrations from his experience.
“Seventeen years ago, one day after arriving in Brussels, I had to go to another place, which would sound strange today, to present my credentials, and the place was London. I arrived at such prehistoric days when there was such a thing as the British Presidency of the Council”, Chizhov said, hinting at Brexit.
He continued with reference to EU reform.
“We heard many times that the EU intends to speak with one voice. But the first thing they did was to create at least three new positions”, he said, obviously referring to the Lisbon Treaty, which created the posts of Council President and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in addition to the position of Commission President.
“And then I had to witness that the EU, after carefully constructing comprehensive structures of cooperation and partnership, was eager to demolish them in the matter of days or even seconds, without as much of a second thought”, said Chizhov, adding that while the EU has declared itself an entity eager to build bridges rather than walls, “what we witness today is indeed the opposite”.
Wooing his non-EU audience, he said:
“Those of you who represent non-EU countries will testify to that, the EU has never been an easy partner for anyone”.
Pointing at a visual showing the calendar of the 32 EU-Russia summits, Chizhov said that he could “claim an entry to the Guinness Book of Records”, as he has participated in all except the very first two.
Indeed, EU-Russia relations had their high points with 32 bi-annual summits starting from 1997, the last one held before Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. At the highest point of the relations, the EU and Russia were discussing visa liberalisation, which means abolishing the visa requirement for Russians to visit the EU as tourists for up to three months.
“It’s easy, and I said it this morning to EU representatives, to burn bridges. And much more difficult to rebuild them. This is something, I hope, that will be kept in mind here”, said Chizhov.
His last words were:
“So I’m leaving. With mixed feelings, with feelings of sorrow and a bit of frustration, I would say. But I leave with a clear conscience. I‘ve done my best to preserve and promote Russia-EU cooperation. But remaining as a living monument to a strategic partnership is not an easy job, I must admit.”
“So I leave you all to make the world, Europe, and the part of it which is the EU, a small part of Europe, even better. Or at least – more normal. Let me raise this glass to whatever is left of EU-Russia relations.”
Chizhov got applause from his non-EU audience. He is expected to run in the Russian regional elections on Sunday and is widely expected to become a member of the Federation Council from the Region of Karelia, bordering Finland.
Despite Chizhov’s bitter tone, the EU-Russia relations are not entirely frozen and he is expected to be replaced. The name of his successor remains confidential until all EU countries agree the appointment.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]
Languages: Deutsch

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