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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EBRD's Lemierre Says Europe Needs to Fully Engage Russia

LONDON -- Full engagement with Russia is crucial for Europe and key to the ability of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to bring market economics to former Soviet republics, bank president Jean Lemierre said.

"The relationship is unavoidable, but it is not easy," Lemierre said in an interview Tuesday.

Common borders and neighbors make the relationship unavoidable, while differing perspectives on shared policy goals, such as energy security and economic growth, provide the challenges, he said.

The EBRD is trying to make Russia and the wider region understand that using energy wealth as efficiently as possible could have a global payoff.

"If the whole region were operating at the energy efficiency standards of the western part of Europe, the world consumption of energy would be reduced by 7 percent. We speak about macroeconomic figures -- well this is huge," Lemierre said.

The bank is pushing east and south, taking it into resource-rich states that Lemierre said wanted to harness mineral wealth to diversify their economies.

In less than two weeks, the bank will hold its annual meeting in Kazan. It is typical of the places Lemierre has on his investment agenda.

"Many people speak about Moscow or St. Petersburg, and of course this is good, but we're moving to a new frontier in Russia -- we are moving to the regions," he said.

About 75 percent of the 1.9 billion euros ($2.6 billion) of commitments made to Russia by the EBRD in 2006 were outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

To ensure this investment is targeted closely to the needs of real people, the EBRD commissioned two surveys in 2006 that gathered the opinions of 29,000 people. One survey was specific to Russia, the other to the wider region.

Initial findings have been sent to regional officials and full details will be published in Kazan.