Putin says 'One could die' listening to 27-member EU's talks


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The Independent Online

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is pushing for the integration of former Soviet states modeled on the European Union, said Thursday "one could simply die" listening to "27 countries and 27 languages" in EU debates.

European leaders know what they have to do and are inclined to take systemic measures to resolve their crisis, Putin said at a meeting of the Valdai discussion group outside Moscow. It is "not realistic" for Russia to join the EU, he added.

Russia is pushing for greater unity among ex-Soviet nations through free-trade agreements and the creation of an economic bloc as a means to fight the global crisis. The Eurasian Union, which won't be formed before 2015, has an advantage for consolidation as many neighboring countries speak Russian and share infrastructure, Putin said.

"Here we have the Russian language as a natural one for international communication," Putin said. "That's a massive advantage. As soon as they sit down to debate something there, in the EU — 27 countries, 27 languages — there's such a bureaucracy that one could simply die before listening to the end what this colleague of yours is saying in the speech."

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with a combined population of 170 million and a $2 trillion economy, this year formed a single economic space that will allow businesses to register in any of the three countries and citizens to live and work where they want.

"As far as Russia's possible entry to the EU, that's not realistic," Putin said. "We aren't a good fit in territorial or economic terms. But as far as seeking ways to move closer to each other, that's something we should undoubtedly pursue."

The Eurasian Union will coordinate economic and currency policy and adopt unified visa and migration rules. Ukraine has resisted offers to join the bloc, saying that would harm its efforts to bolster links with the EU.

Ukraine should abandon "political phobias" in favor of joining a customs union, within which trade has risen 30 percent since its creation, Putin said on Oct. 19.

Ukraine, which will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, may reconsider and apply to join the Russo-Belarus-Kazakh customs union if the country is rebuffed by the EU, Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tigipko said on Oct. 18.