EU membership next step for Russia after NATO
ROME: Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has hailed the new NATO-Russia joint council to be established at an historic summit here Tuesday as a “formidable instrument” for global security.
The next step in Russia’s growing integration with the West should be membership of the European Union, said Berlusconi in an article released late Sunday to Italian media. “The summit in Rome will inaugurate a new NATO council of 20 with Russia, a formidable instrument for security and peace in the world,” the prime minister said.
“This pact confers a new global status on Russia and commits the West and its military alliance to a partnership with Moscow.” “But all that is only a first step.”
“The Italian government is in favour of an expanded and more pressing opening of the European Union to Russia, well beyond the kind of association which exists today,” he said. This would necessarily have to be a gradual step, he said, “but on the direction to take and the strategic ends we feel unreservedly committed.”
Without a new partnership with Russia “European policies and ideals will be cut off from their main ambition: the construction of a common house of Europeans in order to guarantee peace and international cooperation.”
Rome declarations: Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the 19 NATO allies, including US President George W. Bush, will be putting their names to the Rome Declaration, the product of five months of intense negotiations. Final details of the pact — which replaces one signed in Paris five years ago this week — were hammered out by Russian and NATO foreign ministers in Icelandnd’s capital Reykjavik on May 14.
The agreement will, for the first time, enable Russia and NATO to take joint decisions on specific issues as a group of 20 nations, although the Kremlin will not be able to veto any positions that the NATO allies take on their own.
Like its predecessor, signed on May 27, 1997 at the Elysee Palace in Paris, when Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton were in power in Moscow and Washington, the Rome Declaration is being talked up as “historic.”
But notwithstanding its symbolic importance, international security analysts are asking themselves how Russia and NATO will turn their good intentions into concrete action.
“One of the great difficulties will be to find substantive things to talk about,” said William Hopkinson of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a London think-tank. For early results, Hopkinson said, Russia and NATO could look at the “interoperability” of their armed forces when it comes to peacekeeping tasks. —AFP