Citing Europe's role in debates about political culture in Russia, its engagement with countries of the former Soviet Union, Russia's WTO accession and energy issues Mandelson warned: "unless we comprehend our different perceptions of what has happened since the end of the Soviet Union we risk getting the EU-Russia relationship badly wrong".
Mandelson called on European Member States to show greater unity in dealing with Russia. Mandelson said that the incoherence of European policy towards Russia over much of the past decade has been "frankly alarming… no other country reveals our differences as does Russia".
Europe, as seen from Moscow…
Mandelson noted that Russia often interprets Europe's engagement in the former Soviet Union "not as the concern of a friendly partner, but the encroachment of a self-interested neighbour". He argued that the EU needs to "recognise Russia's interests in the former Soviet Union and its sensitivities, even sense of vulnerability. But that is not the same as accepting spheres of influence or private reserves of power over parts of the European continent".
He said that Europe faces similar distrust intervening in Russia's internal political debate. He insisted: "on the key issues - pluralism, rule of law, freedom of speech, economic freedoms - I am sure that EU policies are correct and that we should say so (but)… effective engagement is surely as much about understanding how you will be perceived as choosing what to say".
Recognising Russia's long term interests…
Mandelson argued that Russia should see greater engagement and integration with the EU, and the global trading system, as serving its own interests, even where it creates some constraints on Russian action. This includes trade in energy. He insisted that clear, transparent rules could create a stable and open environment for diversifying Russian trade and attracting investment. This, he said, "will deliver greater strength for Russia's economy than any tightening of the government's control of the economy". They could also ensure that trade and trade disputes between the EU and Russia did not become heavily politicised.