12 June 2019

European Parliament’s attitude towards Russia is not a gentle one

Sergiu Medar

Image source: Mediafax

On 12th of March 2019, the European Parliament has voted a resolution on the current condition of EU’s political relations with Russia. Reviewing Russia’s breaks of the international, European and democracy’s norms, the document exposes harsh criticism against this country, rarely found across the foreign political messages of the European western states. Although the Resolution is not but an analysis and does not have enforceable characteristics, it can be the foundation of any UE decision against Russia. 

In the past 2-3 years, East-European states population have been highly circumspect about European Union’s relations with Russia. The unfortunate historical experience of the states placed between the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic and the Black Sea in the relations with the Soviet Union/Russia relies on its intentions or in following the promises to ensure peace in its interest areas.

On 12th of March 2019, the European Parliament has voted the resolution no. A8-0073/2019, which refers to the current condition of the European Union-Russia political relations and makes recommendations about how EU could manage these relations in the future. The last analysis made on this regard was adopted on 10th of June 2015. Since then, Russia became more and more aggressive, through a large series of actions, from strategic influence operations to military intimidation air activities, aiming at extending its influence area in the entire Europe.

This resolution is not enforceable, but it could be the base of some European decision to diminish Russia’s aggressiveness.

EU has always acted accordingly with international laws principles, the human’s rights and democracy and tried to solve conflicts peacefully. But Russia did not choose to follow the same principles and that is why EU has cooperated with Mosco only in common interest fields, as identified and defined by the Council’s conclusion for EU Foreign Affairs on 14th of March 2016. The direction lines EU proposed were:

  • Implement the Minsk treaty as key condition of the relations between these two entities;
  • Reinforce the relation with Eastern Europe partners and other Russia neighbors, especially with Central Asia ones;
  • Consolidate EU’s resilience in all fields: energetic security, hybrid threats or strategic communications;
  • Russia’s selective commitment only in fields EU is interested in;
  • Committing through man to man contact and support for the Russian civil society.

EU admits the lack of mutual trust and shows its availability to cooperate with Russia on commonly interest field, if it will accomplish its international legal obligations.

Starting with 2015, tensions between EU and Russia have increased. An extensive list of these tensions’ causes:

  • Russia’s intervention in Syria;
  • The intervention in the internal policy of states like Libya and the Central African Republic;
  • The large-scale military exercise developed close to EU’s space (Zapad 2017);
  • Russia’s support for the anti-EU parties and the extreme-right movements;
  • Limiting the fundamental liberties and the violation of human’s rights;
  • Violent actions against defenders of these democratic liberties;
  • The arrest of some journalists or activists of civil society, including the arrest and arbitrary detainment of Oiub Titiev, the director of the Human Rights Defence Center “Memorial” from Chechnya;
  • The stigmatization of civil society’s activists by calling them “foreign agents”;
  • The violation of human’s rights in North Caucasus, especially Chechnya;
  • The discrimination of Tatar minority from Crimea;
  • Committing crimes to throw away the political opponents, like Boris Nemtsov or Sergei Magnitsky;
  • Cyber and hybrid attacks over some European states;
  • Crimes made by Russian intelligence officers on European states’ territories;
  • The organization of illegal and illegitimate elections in Donbass;
  • Large disinformation campaigns;
  • The illegal construction of the bridge above the Kerch Bay;
  • Crimea’s militarization as well as of other areas of Black and Azov Sea;
  • Limiting the navigation through the Kerch Bay, including for ships under European States’ flag;
  • The attack, seizure and arrest of the Ukrainian ships team in the Kerch Bay;
  • Journalists’ and independent media oppression and intimidation climate or even the detainment of some journalists and bloggers, hereof the Global Index of Press Liberty for 2018 places Russia on 148 of 180 states;

Russia is being accused for breaking Minsk’s treaty’s provisions, for Crimea’s illegal annexation and the hybrid war that it is developing against Ukraine.

A different chapter of European Parliament’s resolution is dedicated to EU’s states dependency on Russia’s energy delivery, mainly the natural gas. This dependency was permanently increasing from 2015 until now. It is directly and firmly underlined that “Russia uses the energy as protection and promotion method of the foreign political interests. EU’s resilience to foreign pressure can be built only through the diversification of energy sources and the decrease of Russia’s dependency”.

Almost one month after the vote related to Nord Stream 2 pipeline, when Germany, through chancellor Angela Merkel, was ensuring the Europeans, contrary to reality, that with the creation of this project Europe will not be dependent on the Russian gas, although other states were against the project, the current European document is underlining that EU should has one voice only and show organization’s solidarity when it comes to its space security energy. The dependency on Russia’s fossil fuels is undermining European Union’s capacity to have a firm political approach on Moscow. Eastern Partnership’s member states resilience against Russia’s hybrid activities will not grow until these states, alike EU’s member states, will build their own energy transport strategic infrastructure. This is exactly the reason why Three Seas Initiative’s first objective is to build this infrastructure.

A series of European governments have launched their partners a series of early warnings according to which Russia’s espionage activity has increased, surpassing even the level it had during the Cold War.

Russia’s polycentric vision on world’s economic and political power distribution is at odds with European Union’s one, which sees the relations between world’s states on multilateral principles, in a world based on unanimously agreed rules. The relations between both entities will improve when Russia will share the same values as the ones of EU’s states.

Given these circumstances, Russia can no longer be an EU strategic partner since it does not accomplish the Art.2 principles from the Cooperation and Partnership Agreement. Any cooperation framework between these two entities must start from respecting the international legislation, Helsinki’s Agreement principles and the democratic principles of human’s rights.

Among Russia’s security challenges against EU, the resolution also underlines the lack of transparency for the developed military activities, through the violation of EU’s air space; the aggressive air actions against the military and commercial aircrafts belonging to EU states; the violation of Baltic Sea’s region states territorial waters that have military or civil ships.

EU’s stability and security are threatened by the financial organized crime activities developed on Union’s member states territory, coordinated and conducted from Russia. The money laundering activities developed by the Russian companies are allowing the development of criminal actions, terrorism and corruption, being a major challenge for European Union’s Foreign Security Policy.

European Parliament’s Resolution recommends the European Commission to elaborate some programs and develop processes for creating a pro-European climate in Russia, one to reject corruption, totalitarianism and the autocratic tendencies of the leading political class. To that end, it is asking the European Commission to ensure the political and financial support of the Russian civil society, human right defenders, bloggers, independent media, investigation journalism, independent university environments studying the current world and ONGs.

Also, it recommends to make pressures through public diplomacy methods to correct the implementation of anti-corruption standards made at the UN Convention against Corruption and the OECD anti-corruption Convention.

Russia’s actions to interfere over the internet systems through controlling or blocking them are a serious concerns for the European Parliament.

In order to ensure a permanent dialogue framework, the European Council, that Russia is part of, is the best platform to present and explain the various issues that many times are differently interpreted. In these situations, the lack of communication is the most dangerous thing.

European Parliament’s Resolution about Russia is, probably, the toughest European document which accuses this country’s diversions from the democratic principles and the international relations based on following the territorial integrality and state’s sovereignty. This document made publicly can be the foundation of any European diplomatic action against Russia. If the conclusions of this documents will be applied by European Union’s states will be almost impossible to raise the economic and circulation sanctions made against Russia as a continuation of the Nord Stream 2 process. Unfortunately, the document is not but an analysis of the current EU-Russia relation, hence it will be, or not, considered by the West European states, accordingly with the national grounds. This is the reason why it does not include sanctions against the states that will develop relations with Russia, without considering the ones mentioned by the above presented Resolution.

Translated by Andreea Soare