Toward a Europe Whole and Free
Keynote Conversation: Testing Europe’s Unity

Frances Burwell, Vice President and Director, Transatlantic Relations, Atlantic Council
H.E. João Vale de Almeida, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States of America

Moderator: Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council
Speaker: José Manuel Durão Barroso, President, European Commission

Toward a Europe Whole & Free

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

FRANCES BURWELL:  Good morning, everybody, if I could ask you to take your seats, please.  I’m Fran Burwell.  I’m one of the vice presidents here at the Atlantic Council.  Welcome back to our conference on Europe, whole and free.  I wanted to first say a couple of housekeeping notes.  This session is on the record.  And also if you are tweeting please use hashtag #ewf2014 – hashtag #ewf2014. 

Yesterday and today we have been looking back at some of the key events in the reconstruction and enlargement of Europe and the building of the trans-Atlantic partnership.  We are also looking forward to the challenges we face, both now and in the future.  We have a stellar program for you today.  And to kick us off and introduce the first speaker, it’s my great pleasure to call to the podium the European Union ambassador to the United States, Joao Vale de Almeida.

JOAO VALE DE ALMEIDA:  Thank you, Fran. 

MS. BURWELL:  Thank you.

AMB. DE ALMEIDA:  Well, good morning.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Fran.  Thank you, Fed, Governor, for the exceptional work done by the Atlantic Council in favor of trans-Atlantic relations.  It’s been a great cooperation.  Thank you for this successful conference.  So I thank you for that.

But I’m not sure I will thank you for inviting me to do what you ask me to do here today because having worked five intense years with Chairman Barroso, and him being one of the leaders I represent here in Washington, it’s not an easy task.  If I’m too nice, you will not believe me.  If I’m not nice enough, I will have other kinds of problems.  (Laughter.)  So it’s not the easiest of tasks.  But I think I can provide you, in particular to our American friends, a few insights into the president of European Commission.

Three points – the first one, his job is a tough one.  It’s also an important one.  I may dare to say that it is the toughest job in Europe.  It’s more daring to say it’s the most important one.  But it’s certainly an extremely difficult one.  I mean, his main job – like any president of the commission – is to keep the union united.  That’s the theme of our debate today – keep the union united.  Very different member states, different geographic locations, different histories – sometimes conflicting histories, but we decided to be together.  Someone has to contribute particularly to that unity.

Take the enlargement.  Union started with six countries.  We are now 28 – in 2004, 10 new countries, ’7 another two, recently Croatia.  Chairman Barroso was the first president of the commission of an enlarged European Union, but also an enlarged European Commission – 28 commissioners, bringing all them together, not an easy task.  Take the financial crisis.  It hit all of us – America and the European Union. 

It created some particular problems for the European Union, for the euro area – for some countries inside euro area.  The person at the helm of the commission has to address these issues, provide solutions and, again, keep people together.  Take the Lisbon Treaty.  We had three negative referenda before we were able to agree on a new, let’s say, constitution of the European Union.  Again, the central stage was occupied by the president of the commission. 

I think the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 somehow symbolizing and summarizes the importance of this function.  Continue to ensure peace, stability, prosperity for the European Union, citizens around the 28 countries, half a billion people.  So a very important job, certainly, but a very tough one.  And I sometimes wonder if all the candidates that are now campaigning for this job, if they really knew how tough it is, would they still want to campaign for it and to take the job?  But that’s their problem, not mine.

Second point:  In spite of his very young age, and he’s only one year older than me, he’s already one of the most senior leaders in Europe.  Some people don’t know this, and he’s very modest – or modest enough not to talk too much about it – but he’s the dean of the former G-8, now G-7.  He’s the dean of the European Council.  As former minister, prime minister and president of the commission, he’s been in the European Council, which is the summit of European leaders, for all together 15 years. 

He’s also founder of the G-20, was born here in Washington.  I happened to be the Sherpa, and we did it together.  It was born here in Washington in late 2008.  He’s the father of that as well.

And of course, in this function, he has traveled around the world.  He has met numerous leaders.  Given recent news, interesting to notice that he met at least two times a year on the bilateral – (inaudible) – if not three or four, including multilateral forum, President Putin and President Medvedev in their different incarnations.  So there is a lot of knowledge about this particular country and many other countries around the world.

The third point is to say very clearly that J. Manual Barroso is an Atlanticist.  He’s very keen about the role of NATO.  He’s very keen to promote cooperation between the EU and NATO.  And of course, he’s totally committed to the strengthening of trans-Atlantic ties between the EU and the United States.

I couldn’t think of a better supporter for my activity in the last four years here.  I don’t think the Atlantic Council could think of a better advocate for Atlantic relations than (J. ?) Manuel Barroso.

And I think I could say that he’s an Atlanticist for all kinds of weather, including the – today’s tropical Brussels whether that you presented us with.  He’s been there all the time, in difficult and bad times, supporting trans-Atlantic ties.  And I think in the Atlantic Council this is something I would like to stress particularly.

So as you have seen, I have developed a number of common views with (J. ?) Manuel Barroso.  I think I’ve developed also a good friendship.  And we share views on many things, with one exception, a very important one.  We support different soccer teams in Portugal.  (Laughter.)  And my team has just won the Portuguese league.  (Laughter.)  So as you can see, at least in one area, (J. ?) Manuel Barroso can still do better.

So it’s my privilege and my honor and my pleasure to introduce you for a conversation with Fred Kempe, my very good friend, (J. ?) Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission.  (Applause.)

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Ambassador, thank you so much for those introductory remarks.  And President Barroso, I think it wouldn’t be right for me not to salute your ambassador, who is one of the most gifted diplomats I’ve come across in my many years of dealing with ambassadors and diplomats, so you’re very lucky to have him here.  Thank you very much.

On behalf of our chairman, Governor Huntsman, and all of the Atlantic Council, we wanted to welcome you most warmly, not only to the Atlantic Council for this very important conference, “Toward a Europe Whole and Free,” but we’re also delighted that we’ll be presenting you tonight after an introduction by Governor Huntsman and also a video introduction by Chancellor Merkel with our Distinguished International Leadership award.  And it’s not the Nobel Peace Prize, but we’re proud to be able to honor you for your – for your service.

As the ambassador said, it’s a difficult time.  I’ll get to Ukraine.  We had 20 million – 20 million Twitter impressions yesterday, which is, for those who know Twitter, is a pretty remarkable thing.  Twitter impressions are – seem insufficient tool in the face of what we’re facing with predatory Russia at the moment.  On the other hand, it does underscore that so many leaders are using this conference as a platform to make significant statements and as a testament to our engaged followers.

So let me – before we get to Ukraine, which is I think what’s really been driving the conversation yesterday, let me start with what this conference is recognizing, which is the enlargements.  And I’d like to get a feeling from you of what sort of impact you think the Ukraine crisis has on the EU already reduced appetite for enlargement, and what do you think the course ahead is there.

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO:  Yeah.  I’ll do it immediately, but first of all, let me thank you for invitation.  Let me thank you, Fred, for your kind remarks and also the very kind and friendly remarks of my friend, Joao Vale de Almeida.  Joao Vale de Almeida has been a great Sherpa for the G-8 and G-20.  He’s been my head of Cabinet, a great head of Cabinet.  But I believe he’s even a better ambassador of the European Union to the United Nations – United States.  And so I really wanted to tell you how much we appreciate the good work he has been doing here with you.

I mean, to your question, the Ukrainian crisis, or let’s say the Russia-Ukrainian crisis, I think is the biggest challenge to peace in Europe at least since fall of the Berlin Wall, if not even to – after the second world war.  Of course we had other difficult moments, namely the Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia crisis.  But in terms of the possible implications for a global peace, this is certainly biggest challenge we are facing.

And why did it happen?  It happened precisely because the European Union offered Ukraine, an association and Russia did not accept it.  That’s point.  The Russian position was, we have nothing against Ukraine even joining the European Union.  That was their official position.  We don’t want Ukraine to join NATO, but we have nothing against a closer association of Ukraine to the European Union.  And we offered them at that time not membership but an association agreement that includes a DCFTA, a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement.  They have initialed the agreement.  Different governments were very committed to it, including, by the way, former President Yanukovych.  I spoke with him hours and hours and hours.  As Joao just said, I mean, if there are leaders outside Europe that I’ve been speaking with – (inaudible) – I mean, the number one has been President Putin for more than 20 bilateral meetings.  That’s why it’s really pity because – pity because I’ve invest a lot in the relation with Russia.  Now, Russia is putting that in question but also the Ukrainians.

And they wanted to have the agreement.  But at the last minute or very close to the last minute, they did not sign the agreement they have initialed, and that provoked the upheaval of so many Ukrainians waving European flags by freezing temperatures in Kiev – and not only in Kiev, by the way.  So this is the point.  They were not allowed to choose their future by the Kremlin.  This was exactly what happened.

Now, I –

MR. KEMPE:  And why did this happen?  Were you surprised?  Because the line was drawn at NATO.  And what this shows is that for Putin, he’s expanded this no-go area to the European Union.  What was behind that?  Why do you this (happened ?).

MR. BARROSO:  We are not completely surprised.  In fact, we have been discussing this with Putin himself for some time before.

President Putin has created the concept of the customs union, and he needed the Eurasian Union.  As you know, today the customs union comprise not only Russia but Kazakhstan and Belarusia.  But he made no secrets – in fact, he said it to us, myself and the president of the European Council and sometimes bilateral with – to me – that his goal was basically Ukraine, that he wanted Ukraine to be part of that customs union and Eurasian union.

We said we have nothing against Ukraine having good relations with Russia.  We understand it it’s very important also for Ukraine to have good relations with Russia.  And our position was not antagonistic regarding Russia.  But we said that Ukraine has the right if they so wish to be associated with Europe, including by free trade agreement.  And that’s when in fact the problems started because simply Russia or the Russian leadership believes that Ukraine has not the right to decide on their own future.

MR. KEMPE:  And if you were looking back 20/20 self-criticism, is there a way that the European Union could have handled this differently?  Or was this collision inevitable and really –

MR. BARROSO:  It was unavoidable.  I find it sometimes interesting that we have this idea of criticizing ourselves we’re not doing the right things.  I mean, someone behaved not right was of course Russia.  (Chuckles.)  They did not allow a country to decide on their own future.

Look, Armenia, they decided not to go for it.  European Union has respected that.  And Ukraine respected that.  But it was popular movement in Ukraine that was, in fact, not accepting the diktat from Russia.

The problem is indeed more profound.  The problem is that I would say, intellectually and emotionally, the leadership in Russia, certainly President Putin, they have not accepted the independence of Ukraine.  They believe – or at least President Putin believes that Ukraine should be part of Russia.  And this is of course an important issue because Russia recognizes Ukraine, there was an agreement – international agreements protecting, let’s say, even the borders of Ukraine.  There was agreements between Ukraine and Russia, for instance, regarding the Russian bases in Crimea.  So it’s a very, very, let’s say, hard violation of international law that has to be resisted, because also it sets a terrible precedent for global peace and order.  If we accept the doctrine that now because of ethnicity or language we can change borders, I mean, Russia, I don’t know, they have more than 80 regions or ethnic groups.  And so – and also, I mean, we can’t accept that, the idea that one country has the right to go inside the others to protect those who speak its language – I mean, where are we going from here.  So it’s indeed a very, very serious challenge, and I think we have to understand what’s going on because to some extent the Russian propaganda is very effective.  They are trying to say Crimea’s a special case and this was a special historic – and there are always arguments for those who want to violate international law, but the question is if we stand or not by the respect of our values. 

MR. KEMPE:  Well, let’s talk about that.  You call it unacceptable.  Also as Zbig Brzezinski yesterday said it, it’s the biggest test of the international system, echoing your words, since the end of the Cold War.  But what do you do about it?  If I look at the strengths of the European Union, versus the strengths of Russia, this is an asymmetrical warfare situation, if you will.  And to a certain extent it looks as though the European Union and the United States are adopting a new approach, which is sanctions not as punishment but almost as military deterrence.  So you have had these many meetings with Vladimir Putin.  What do you think is at the heart of what he’s doing right now, and can he be dissuaded by these economic actions?

MR. BARROSO:  I have no doubts that the goal of Mr. Putin is to have full control of Ukraine.  I’m not saying that his goal is necessarily to occupy all Ukraine.  But to have full control of Ukraine, that’s his goal.  I have absolutely no doubts.  In fact, he said it to me.

MR. KEMPE:  Yeah.

MR. BARROSO:  He said several times that Ukraine was – an independent Ukraine was an artificial creation of the West.  And so that’s what I think he believes.  There are also probably emotional reasons for that regarding what he perceives as the worst moment of the 21st century (sic), it was in fact the dismantling of the Soviet Union.  There was also reasons of humiliation.  To be honest, probably not always the West or what’s usually called the West, including United States, have managed the Russians’ sensitivities well.  That’s – I have to say honestly and objectively, trying to be objective, I bet that this is this goal.  The goal is not Crimea.  Crimea came as an accident in the strategic objective, that is, to have control of this, and in fact, to rebuild the area of influence around what was former Soviet Union.  And of course, with all respect for Russia, Ukraine is much more important than Uzbekistan.  The goal is Ukraine. 

Now, they started with Crimea.  Now they are putting a lot of pressure in eastern Ukraine, but the goal is Ukraine.  That’s why when – (inaudible) – like Yanukovych – (inaudible) – that wanted to come closer to the European Union because he understood also that it was important for that country to be closer to European Union and not to be under the influence of Russia, started to make these movements and then (yet to fell ?), and now of course they will try to regain control of the situation.  So I think the best way to respond to Mr. Putin, first of all, he’s to make it clear that you can have an independent, sovereign, stable, democratic, and if possible, prosperous Ukraine.  This is (the real/the rare ?) thing.  That is basically – after all, our sanctions are an instrument.  They are not an end in themselves, as you said.

MR. KEMPE:  Right.

MR. BARROSO:  Our sanctions are a way of trying to show the leadership in Russia that there will be serious consequences if they continue this kind of behavior.  But at least in the European Union our goal is not to have a confrontation with Russia.  We – why should we?  Russia is an important country also for the European Union, and a country and civilization that you respect.  What we do not agree with this kind of behavior, so we are trying to show the Russians that it’s better for them, also in terms of the price they are going to pay, that they come to a negotiation – (inaudible) – that there is a de-escalation and that we can of course, why not, you know, when they have Ukraine as a good – a good example of cooperation between the European Union and Russia and not, as to the ’80s, a kind of terrain for problems that risk becoming global.

MR. KEMPE:  Well, talk about that then.  What is the goal of the sanctions?  Is it the negotiation mode?  And then the second part of this, I’d really – I think it’d be very instructive for the audience for you to compare the EU both attitude and real execution of sanctions and willingness to do more sanctions, versus the U.S.  What are the differences there?

MR. BARROSO:  Yeah.  There I want to be absolutely precise.  First of all, we have been coordinating very closely with Americans and Europeans.  I have been (the voice ?) in these G-7 meeting – now it’s no longer G-8, it’s G-7 – in The Hague with President Obama, and we are trying to make it as a gentle movement to show Russia that they have consequences.  Much has been done already also by us.  We have suspended – we have canceled negotiations for a new agreement that we are preparing with the Russians.  We have suspended negotiations for a – (inaudible) – that was going on.  We have canceled our bilateral summits. We have also excluded Russia, or Russia has excluded itself from the G-8, and we are going to have the G-8 meeting that was supposed to take place in June, in Sochi, to being in Brussels as a G-7 meeting.  And we also have stopped Russia’s accession to the OECD. 

Regarding the target – the sanctions to persons, we have already blocked 48 people that we deemed responsible for recent events.  Part of this is overlapping with what U.S. has been doing.  We have targeted deputy prime minister, Kremlin advisers, heads of Duma chambers, several members of parliament and the top player of the military system, so it – (inaudible) – be said that this was soft.

But there is a difference between us and United States, is that our legal basis is to – allows us to target those responsible for putting in question Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and we need to be very careful so that we don’t have anyone challenging these decisions in our legal system.  U.S. has a more loose system targeting associations or people supporting the Russian government.  Our target is those that have contributed directly to Ukrainian – to put in question Ukrainian territorial integrity.

But we are standing ready to do more, as we have decided in (a Hague ?) summit of the G-7, and I – (we said ?) there to intensify actions, including coordinated sectoral sanctions, that we’ll have an increasingly significant impact on Russian economy if Russia continues to escalate the situation, and that’s now what we are considering.

European Commission was asked by the member states in the last European (Council summit ?) to prepare a set of sanctions, and we have been doing it.  I will not go now into details because I think it would be counterproductive, but what I can tell you is that we have this ready, and we are now consulting member states on this.  I can tell you that whatever we do, it will have a greater impact than what United States can do – for an important reason.  We are – European – we are – Russia’s first trading partner.

MR. KEMPE:  Yeah.

MR. BARROSO:  United States, I think it’s 28th trading partner of Russia.  Our trade with Russia is 10 times more than the trade of the United States.  So even if lowering scale, any measure taken by us has a much bigger impact on Russia.  But even before those sectoral sanctions can be adopted, it is important that – already to note that already now they are having an important economic cost for Russia.  Sixty billion dollars in outflow of capital, investment decisions have been stopped.  Gross will fall probably less than 1 percent – a probable recession.  Today the IMF said that they will have recession in Russia this year.  And it’s – I mean, if they are considered as a growing – emerging economy as they are, they should be around 6 (percent), that would be the ideal figure for their growth – the expected figure.  They are now at a recession.  And the credit rating agencies are also downgrading Russia’s rating.  And the 10-year yield bonds are now – went from seven to nine. 

So this is an important point.  We are doing a lot.  I think it’s important to have this idea because sometimes I see the media as always – I mean, that’s natural – to kind of a competition between United States and Europe.  That’s not the point.  That’s – the point is not between us – the conflict between us and the United States.  The problem is – or the issues created by Russia and the need to have a strong reaction to that, but a reaction that fulfills a purpose.  And the purpose, I would say, is peace and not to go for more difficult scenarios.

MR. KEMPE:  I’m going to go to the audience in a second, but let me ask one follow-up on that.  Europe has much more at stake economically, so you can be hurt as well.  You can shoot yourself in the foot through this.  So it’s understandable that Europe would be somewhat more reluctant.  Can you talk about – you’ve been a master at managing the 28 in moments of crisis – what is like right now?  Your own country, if I’m not mistaken, gets none of its energy from Russia, while the Baltics, it may be 100 percent in this situation.  So how do you manage these diverse interests?  And how do you actually implement sanctions that don’t backfire against Europe’s own growth and jobs?

MR. BARROSO:  Yeah.  Yes.  This is the issue, in fact.  And we have to be honest about it, of course.  You have 28 independent countries in Europe.  It’s a union, but we have 28 sovereign states.  And so the impact of any measure is felt differently.  Just to give an example, we have four countries in Europe that are zero dependent on gas from Russia, including mine, Portugal, Spain, Britain and Ireland.  We have six countries that are 100 percent dependent on gas from Russia.  All the gas they receive is coming from Russia.  And then we have all the others that are receiving between 50 to 80 percent of gas from Russia.

And that’s why I’ve been working a lot on the issues of energy security.  And myself and the commission we have, by already several years, promoting the idea of energy security.  Unfortunately, the decisions were not taken by the member states as quickly as they should.  Now there’s, of course, a greater awareness of that – (inaudible) – concrete measures.  For instance, just on Monday I was in Bratislava, in Slovakia, as a witness to an agreement made by the company in Slovakia and the company in Ukraine to have reverse flows – a concrete example.

And we have been now promoting, for instance, LNG terminals.  I believe, by the way, our agreement with United States – President Obama made very important remarks when he was recently in Brussels regarding the energy, the fact that we have been working also with our American partners and friends on these issues.  So Europe is now developing a very important program of energy security through namely diversification.  I personally was involved in opening this – (inaudible) – corridor from Azerbaijan to Europe.  It will be the first time ever that we have gas coming from the eastern part of – from the eastern side to Europe that does not come from Russia, OK?

Now, this is the way, is to – precisely to avoid the different pain is to increase a real autonomy in terms of energy to provide for energy supply and to have a fully integrated internal market for energy.  But that’s why also in the package that European Union will define, if appropriate, now it’s a decision of the member states.  I think it’s – the burden has to be shared.  But once again, I want to be clear, mainly for those of you that do not know enough how the European Union works because it’s very complex.  I think it was Madeline Albright who said once that it’s – only a genius or probably the French can understand the European Union.  (Laughter.)

OK.  It’s quite difficult to understand.  The commission makes the proposals, but we don’t decide.  So in terms of – in competition matters, the commission decides.  And in other matters, we have, let’s say, the last say.  But in these matters, what we can do and we are doing, requested by the member states, is to present options.  And at the end, we have countries – I mean, and from German to Britain, from France to Greece, from Sweden to Cyprus, I mean, from Estonia to Spain – deciding on this issue.  So – and you can imagine, it’s a challenge.

Having said this, let me tell you also very openly and frankly that I think – in the last summit, of course, the president of commission is member of the European Council.  In the last summit, I saw a great degree of convergence among our member states.  Our member states even – in different positions, they understand that a robust response has to be made because that’s in our strategic interest.  Of course, from a short-term point of view, it’s true that some of these matters can have difficulties.  If you give a punch, sometimes you get hurt in your wrist.  But something has to be done if you want to be credible and convincing.

MR. KEMPE:  I would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, bringing together the two largest economies on Earth, creating a platform that others could join, global standards.  We think of it as a strategic act here, but we’re getting more worried at the Atlantic Council of support for this.  How does the Ukraine crisis influence this?  And how crucial – A, how do you – how crucial do you view TTIP?  And are you a little bit concerned right now seeing some of the politics, both in the United States and Europe, turning in a somewhat negative direction?

MR. BARROSO:  Even before the Ukrainian crisis, I was in fact a great supporter of this movement – of this TTIP.  And in fact, I was proud to announce it to – in the margins of G-8 summit with President Obama because we have been working for several years to launch it.  And one of the reasons, apart from the economic trade benefits that are clear, is precisely the – let’s say, the fact that it will be the biggest – not only the biggest ever trade – bilateral trade and investment agreement, but also made by democracies. 

And I’m – I hope I’m not old fashioned and I’m saying I believe open economies and open systems are the best in the world.  And there is a lot of talk, as you know, today about the other solutions that could appear more attractive.  I don’t believe that.  I believe open societies and open economies are more successful and more stable in the medium-long run than apparent successes done through some kind of regulation – authoritarian mode – regulatory authoritarian mode.  This is why I think it’s important.

Now, of course, this issue of Ukraine has put more pressure and more visibility on this.  If we conclude this between the two biggest – I mean, two of the biggest economies in the world – the European Union economy and the American economy – I mean, it’s a great message, also, in terms of common standards, including, by the way, the rule of law because –

MR. KEMPE:  And if – but if we don’t, it shows even greater weakness, and –

MR. BARROSO:  Oh, of course.  And that’s why I’m concerned because to be honest with you, as always, and open, I think it’s important to note that there is resistance.  There is resistance because there is movement.  So every time you have movement, we have resistance.  But also, in United States from what I see, and also in some European quarters, there is some resistance.  That’s why I really hope that those who are – (inaudible) – as you and myself, we are, that we keep the issue very, very high in the agenda. 

And then the business community there has a great deal to do.  I think it’s very important that we show to our respective public opinions why this Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership can have such a transformative role, not only for us – Europe and the United States – but also for the global – (inaudible) – for the global community, because we could set standards that would be de facto world standards.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you.  Let me take a couple of questions from the audience.  We’re running a little short on time, but please – please.  Identify yourself, please, as well.

Q:  Good morning.  (Inaudible.)  I’m from Georgia.  My question is on potential contingencies of asymmetrical reply from Russian Federation in terms of physical security of the energy infrastructure.  What are the calculations or contingencies European Union is making?

MR. KEMPE:  Physical security of the energy infrastructure in Ukraine – a question regarding that. 

MR. BARROSO:  In Ukraine?  Look –

Q:  Not only –

MR. KEMPE:  Not only?  OK.

Q:  (Off mic) – important for the European Union to – (off mic).

MR. BARROSO:  Of course, no, no.

MR. KEMPE:  Yeah, bypass it.

MR. BARROSO:  We are making – I’m not going now to make it public here all the lists of concerns we have.  What I can tell you is that we have all those assessments made with all the scenarios considered.

At the same time – and I want to make this point clear, not to be misunderstood – we are trying to work with Russia also on energy issues.  You know that President Putin some time ago wrote a letter to different countries in Europe – I think it was 18 – and also some that are not in European Union but to which – with which they have relations in terms of gas – telling those countries that because of the Ukrainian situation, there may be interruption of gas during the next months.  I thought it very interesting because all the member states of the European Union asked the commission to reply on their behalf.

So I wrote a letter to President Putin proposing to him to have trilateral meeting by our energy representatives from the commission, who will be – it is Commissioner Gunter Oettinger, a commissioner for energy, and for the Russian Federation it is the energy minister.  They are going to meet – it’s in the next days – and precisely try to solve those issues.  So – and this is the point we have discussed earlier.

At the same time, we wanted to take measures to show Russia that this has a price.  I think it is both in our interest and in their interest as well to work constructively on energy issues because, let’s put it frankly, I mean it’s true that some of our countries are dependent on gas, but Russia is also very much dependent on Europe because we are by far the biggest client, and a very good client, I can tell you, that pays, in time, very important and big bills. 

So let’s try to work to avoid the escalation also in the field of energy.  And that’s why this meeting is going to take place. 

And of course we are going to look also at the ramifications in other countries because other countries , I think, are – thinking about Georgia, Moldova, other countries – may be also affected.  It’s not just apart from – for instance, there are very serious implications also for Turkey, for Azerbaijan.  So it is an issue that is of extreme complexity, and that we’d like, of course, to keep as much as possible dealt with some, let’s say, constructive spirit.

MR. KEMPE:  Questions.  In the back.  Oh, I’m sorry.  We’ve got one microphone. 

Q:  Thank you very much.  My name is Dmitri Zlodorev.  I’m journalist from ITAR-TASS News Wire Service of Russia.  And my question is, what conditions should be created for the next round of European sanctions?  In what conditions you will make the next decision?  Thank you.

MR. KEMPE:  So what would set off your next round of sanctions?  What would have to happen for the next round of sanctions to be implemented?

MR. BARROSO:  Just now, I mean recently, the foreign affairs ministers have decided on a new, let’s say, group of targets, including also restrictions to some individuals.  And now, as I’ve told you, we are discussing this with member states.  I don’t think it’s useful now, that it would be wise to say when we are going for the next step.  We are already discussing this between ourselves.  Just yesterday I had a – I can tell you I had a meeting with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, and we are discussing also this with our – all our partners in European Union.  And certainly Mrs. Merkel, tomorrow she’s going to meet President Obama here in Washington.  They will, of course, address the issue.

So we are discussing the issue.  We will see when it is appropriate.  Of course, our concern in Europe and my personal concern is that the European Union remains – (inaudible) – in its approach.  I think it’s better to have a common position from all member states of the European Union.  And of course, as I’ve said to you before earlier, it’s only natural that because of different positions, some see as priority some kind of sanctions, others can see other.  And this is what I can tell you at this moment.

MR. KEMPE:  We only have three, four minutes left, so I’m going to hit on two subjects I think we should hit on, but I know they take some lengthy explanation.  But let’s see if we can deal with them. 

The first is really the elections that are coming up, and are you worried about the emergence of anti-European extremists left and right (coming to the forum ?) and the state of European democracy?  The second part is the question at the front end:  When can we expect the next European enlargement?

MR. BARROSO:  Hmm.  First of all, I can start by the last.  When I assumed my current position in 2004, it almost coincided with the biggest enlargement ever.  So 10 more countries.  So that before we had – I don’t remember – 15 countries, and now we have 28 because we added these 10 countries that we are now commemorating their accession, afterwards Bulgaria and Romania, and most recently Croatia.  OK?  And we are now actively negotiating with others; namely, in the Balkans.  So I think the process of enlargement is going on because it has been a great success for Europe, not only for those countries, I mean.

Just besides we were speaking about Ukraine.  Some years before the accession to the European Union, Poland and Ukraine had more or less the same GDP per capita.  Now the GDP per capita of Poland is three times higher.  So the transformative power of the European Union is something extremely important.  Of course, it was important to have NATO, but it’s not by accident all those countries that got rid of Communist totalitarianism wanted to join the European Union.  All of them wanted to join.  And they are asking to become members, those who have not yet become members.

So I believe we should keep the enlargement.  Of course, it is true that today the public opinion in Europe is more prudent in that matter.  We have to be sure that the countries are ready to become part of the European Union and that also the European Union is ready to incorporate them.  But I believe, namely with the Baltic – I’m sorry, with the Balkan countries, that there will be not a big difficulty, because they are relatively small, so we can do that.

Now, the first question was?

MR. KEMPE:  European democracy and the elections.

MR. BARROSO:  European democracy.  Now, of course it’s normal the extremists are going up, mainly from the extreme right but also from the extreme left.  It’s normal in times of crisis because of high levels of unemployment.  But I believe that by and large the so-called mainstream forces, from the center-left and center-right, those that are pro-European ,will remain largely, largely dominant in the next European Parliament.

But of course we have to be attentive to this because today what happens in Europe is the following.  There are different movements.  Some of them are with an anti-European agenda but in fact their motivation is anti-migrant.  There are surveys of public opinion points that show that the anti-European part in Britain – (inaudible) –  the most important motive for the vote is against foreigners. 

And one thing there is in common between all those movements – some traditional  Euro-skeptics, some heterophobes, some anti-migration, some xenophobic, some even racist and extreme right, like we are seeing also in some countries – there is one thing in common – some protectionists – one thing they have in common is the following:  They are all against European Union.  That’s another reason to defend European Union.  (Laughter.)  And that’s why I believe European Union is something very important for us in Europe and, I will dare say, also for you in the United States, as a good and loyal partner to the United States of America.

MR. KEMPE:  Well, thank you very much, President Barroso. 

Let me close by thanking you for taking your time with us this morning, thanking you for letting us honor you this evening.  I hope many of you will be there tonight.  You know by the honor we’re giving this evening how we feel about the future of the European Union and your role in it.  So join me in applauding President Barroso.  (Applause.)