During the Valdai-Forum, that took place October 24th - 27th in Sochi, the director of the Center for Eurasian Studies Jurij Kofner met with former President of Austria (2004 - 2016) Heinz Fischer, who gave him an interview where he stated, that he remains optimistic about the future of EU-Russia relations and hopes to see deescalation of the Syrian conflict, which is one of the most problematic issues in bilateral ties.
"We have several sources for tensions, that is true, but we must accept one challenge after another and try to improve the situation…. I am optimistic about our relations," said Fischer, who left presidential post in July 2016. He pointed out, that if the peace settlement process in Ukraine and Syria makes advances, "the situation between the European Union and Russia will also improve," as he told Mr. Kofner.
Anti-Russian sanctions inflict damage on both EU member states' and Russian economies, corresponding political solutions should be found in order to phase them out, Mr. Fischer said and added: "Without doubt, sanctions [against Russia] harm not only the Austrian economy, but the economy of several European countries, and they harm the economy of Russia. It's our duty to find political solutions that will make it possible to reduce and finally lift the sanctions".
He expressed hope that the situation in Syria would not warrant new sanctions form the European Union. "I hope very much that developments in Syria are not such that in the European Union the conviction is growing that it needs more pressure to improve the situation in Syria…. Sanctions are not the goal and reason for themselves, they are an instrument of policy, and if the situation exists where one or another side believes sanctions are necessary, then something went wrong," Fischer added.
He called to elaborate a policy on Syria that would not involve such measures and to find political solutions for the Ukraine conflict settlement in order to facilitate lifting of those restrictions that have already been imposed on Russia. "So we have to try to make a policy where sanctions are not necessary…. It's our duty to find political solutions that will make it possible to reduce and finally lift the sanctions," Fischer told the director of the continental think tank.