Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The representative of the UK Conservative Party, the member of subcommittee of the House of Lords of UK Parliament concerning foreign policy of the EU Richard Balfe spoke to the correspondent of Izvestia Viktoria Kotsur about the problems in the relationship between Moscow and London, and also about how they can be solved.
Lord Richard Balfe is a lifelong peer in the House of Lords. In the past he worked in the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was a Deputy of the European Parliament. Now he actively deals with issues of international policy and the membership of the UK in the EU.
The Conservative party is the ruling party in the UK. It is the second largest in the House of Lords and the first in the lower house of the British Parliament. The Prime Minister of the country Theresa May came from this party. The Conservatives became the initiator of a referendum on an exit from the EU [in reality it was the UKIP party who put pressure on the government to stage the referendum – ed].
How do you assess the recent report of the UK Parliament on cooperation with Russia? What problems will the relationship between our countries face after the divorce of London and Brussels?
“Certainly, I see a number of problems in the relationship with Russia. Some are historical problems, and some are caused by the sanctions that the EU tries to restrain Moscow with.
Unfortunately, for a long time the UK was surrounded from all directions by opponents. The last several years of relations between Moscow and London were also very intense. In this regard such rhetoric remains to this day. However, I think that our countries should concentrate on what we can achieve in the relationship with each other, without concentrating at the same time on any controversial issues.”
What do you think about the anti-Russian sanctions?
“I think that the anti-Russian sanctions need to be weakened, for EU countries it definitely does not bring any benefits. In general many countries should update their relations with neighbors. In particular, we need a new understanding of the world system and order, new views are necessary. It is necessary to revitalize relations of the EU with the UK, as well as the EU with Russia.”
And what can you say about the status of Crimea?
“I consider that Crimea is a historical part of Russia. I was in Ukraine several times, and was in Crimea about 8-9 years ago when it was still a part of Ukraine. I already then was struck by the huge number of people, including representatives of the leadership, who consider Crimea a part of the Russian Federation. Already nearly ten years ago inhabitants of the peninsula said that they want to be a part of the Russian state. After a while Moscow fulfilled this wish and brough Crimea back.
And although on the peninsula there are still those opposed to the return of Crimea, the prevailing majority all the same considers themselves citizens of Russia.
Do you think that the UK will recognize the status of Crimea after Brexit?
“It seems to me that on this issue the UK over the next several years will adhere to the policy of the EU. To recognize Crimea would be a very friendly decision, however it is necessary to look also at the interests of the country. So it is too early to speak about it.
What is the attitude of London towards the EU? Does it see for itself the prospects of cooperation with this structure?
“I think London has to be pragmatic on issues of cooperation with other countries and organizations, and look first of all at the benefits. If for the UK the conditions of cooperation are suitable, then why not interact. However, now we first of all are concentrated on the divorce with Brussels. It is a priority task for us.”
How does the UK plan to build a relationship with the EU after Brexit?
“As a result of Brexit the relationship with the European Union really became complicated. It is difficult to talk about how relations will be before negotiations on the divorce with the European family begin. I think about two years are needed for the process of forming relationships. The agreement will show how long exactly, but so far it’s too early. And of course I hope for the best.”
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