Russia could join the European Union within two decades despite the current worsening relations between Moscow and Europe, Czech President Milos Zeman said Tuesday. The European Union has been at odds with Russia for its March 2014 annexation of Crimea and its purported involvement in the conflict between Ukraine’s pro-West government and separatist rebels in the east.
“Russia could join the EU, because our economies complement each other. … Russia needs modern technology, while the EU needs energy resources,” Zeman told Russian outlet Sputnik News.
Despite President Vladimir Putin's nearly absolute power and repression of dissent, Russia’s government is still “essentially a democracy,” the Czech president said. “First, you have free elections. Second, you have political parties. There is opposition, not big, but it’s their problem, their responsibility,” Zeman added.
The European Union's dealings with Russia have been deteriorating since the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, followed by Russia's seizure of Crimea and support of the separatist revolt. The EU implemented economic sanctions last September against Moscow’s financial, arms and energy industries, the BBC reported.
European leaders opted not to lift the sanctions in March. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in April that the European Union would not remove the penalties when they expire in June unless evidence exists that Russia has abided by the terms of the much-violated February ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels. More than 6,000 people have died in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
“It’s completely clear that fulfilling the terms of this package will take longer than August or September,” Merkel said last month, according to Bloomberg. “We will take up this question in June and I think that, on the basis of the joint political decision in March, we will decide to extend the sanctions."