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Gorbachev: EU needs Russia

The European Union will only achieve the global influence when it finds the way to improve relations with Russia, Soviet first President Mikhail Gorbachev said Tuesday.

Gorbachev said that while it was impossible for Russia to become an EU member in the foreseeable future, the two sides needed to draw up a document setting the rules for "advanced cooperation"

If the EU and Russia do not improve relations, "we will fail to make Europe a center of power in the world," Gorbachev said at start of a session of the World Political Forum, which he founded in 2003.

"For Europe to become a power center ... is important for the world balance and if this doesn't happen, global processes will be even more unpredictable," Gorbachev said.

"The EU needs to get a clear and independent voice in global affairs, which has not happened since the end of the Cold War," said the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner, whose policies of glasnost and perestroika - openness and restructuring - helped end communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites.

"This is one of the reasons why we have seen major problems and mistakes in international politics - the involvement of Europe should be clear and visible," Gorbachev said, mentioning the wars in the Balkans and Iraq as scenarios where Europe "did not quite measure up to its potential" and allowed the United States to achieve a "monopoly leadership."

He also expressed concern that more and more Russians wanted to "choose a non-European path," desiring instead to redirect Russia's economic and political links toward Asia, while Europe doubted Russia's ability to build a true democracy.

"Alienation between Russia and the EU is a very dangerous tendency and we must not allow it to happen," Gorbachev said, adding that the EU remained Russia's most important partner in economic issues, as well as in modernizing the country.

"Russia will continue to move along its democratic path, but we are at best only halfway in this process. We still have a long way to go," Gorbachev concluded.

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