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Brussels hosts forum to boost EU-Russian dialogue

Brussels will host a forum October 1-2 designed to foster dialogue between the EU and Russia, and stress the role of Europe’s ethnic Russian community, an organizing committee member said Monday.

The first European Russian Forum to address the role of Europe’s Russian-speaking community in European Union-Russia relations will feature reports by a range of diplomats, political scientists, lawmakers and journalists, as well as European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering. The forum, which is planned as an annual event, is expected to prepare recommendations to be presented to Russian and EU leaders ahead of a summit later in October.

The secretary of the organizing committee, Archpriest Antony Ilyin, told a European weekly in September that Russia’s post-Soviet revival and Europe’s ongoing unification were processes with a lot in common and required closer cooperation. “It is the maintenance of the spiritual, linguistic, cultural identity of ethnic Russians living abroad and their ties with Russia, as well as their full-scale social, economic and political integration in the countries they live in, that cements their consolidating role as subjects of such a dialogue,” the archpriest told New Europe. He also highlighted the absence of functioning mechanisms to encourage dialogue, adding that this “provided the forum with unparalleled opportunities” and expressing hope that the project would find a niche among annual pan-European events.

Russia-EU relations have been shadowed in recent years by Moscow’s concerns over EU enlargement and European worries about too much dependence on Russian energy supplies, as well as criticism of Russia’s democratic record. (