Firm and consistent policy needed towards Russia

EP Press Service

Report with a proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on EU-Russia relations
Parliament adopted an own-initiative report on EU-Russia relations. The report levels a critical gaze upon relations between the EU and Russia, calling on the Council to review its strategy and ensure that the partnership with Russia is based to a greater degree on respect for shared values. No exceptions should be allowed to this rule, says the House. The debate of this report coincides with the assessments being drawn up by the Council and Commission in preparation for the review of the EU's common strategy towards Russia, which will be discussed at the European Council in March.
Far from seeking any break with the strategic goals of the EU's current Russia policy, the report calls for greater consistency in the positions and measures taken by leaders of the Member States, the Council and the Commission. MEPs criticise the fact that "uncoordinated statements by leaders of Member States rendered negotiations with Russia on Kaliningrad transit excessively difficult" and that after the last EU-Russia summit "spectacular statements on Chechnya" were made "which went straight against" well-established EU positions.
The report recommends that the European Council bases its revised policy on the following objectives: ensuring good neighbourly relations by appropriate border management and better cross-border cooperation in the fight against crime and illegal migration; promoting human rights, democracy, independent media, the development of civil society, the rule of law and transparency; cooperating in resolving the conflicts in the south Caucasus and encouraging disarmament and non-proliferation; exploiting the potential for increased trade, including in energy products; and supporting efforts to improve public health and other aspects of social development in Russia.
MEPs also question the EU's role in the Chechen conflict, which has resulted in 200,000 deaths in the last 10 years out of an initial Chechen population of a million inhabitants, as well as tens of thousands of dead amongst the Russian troops. They believe the lack of dialogue on Chechnya is "morally and politically indefensible" as well as incompatible with the wish to deepen cooperation on internal and external security. They express deep concern and urge the Russian authorities to investigate the disappearances, reports of torture and other crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice. They also call on Moscow to authorise visits by the UN and to allow humanitarian agencies to work in Chechnya. The Council is asked to encourage a resumption of dialogue between the Moscow authorities and all representatives of Chechen society.
The importance of Russia, as an immediate neighbour of the EU, will increase further following enlargement. Parliament calls on the Council not to accept Russia's refusal to extend the application of the partnership and cooperation agreement to include Estonia and Latvia. It also demands that Russia ratify without delay the border agreements negotiated with these two countries.
MEPs believe that the deportation of the entire Chechen people to Central Asia on 23 February 1944 on the orders of Stalin constitutes an act of genocide. The House asks the Council to instruct the Commission and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy to study the Peace Plan presented by Iiyas Akhmadov, and to present their conclusions to the Council and the Parliament to prepare detailed proposals for alternative approaches to the conflict, fully taking into account important aspects of the conflict such as its deep historic roots, the lack of interest in ending it on the part of actors who under the current semi-anarchic conditions in the republic can conduct lucrative unofficial and criminal economic activities there, the sociological characteristics of Chechen people, the need for massive reconstruction efforts and the possibility of the EU contributing thereto if requirements for the aid to be effective can be met, the terrorism aspect and, indeed, legitimate Russian security concerns.
Finally, MEPs recommend that the Council pay special attention to the Kaliningrad region and welcome the commitment shown by Russia to rapid implementation of the agreement on transit of persons. MEPs express the hope that more effective EU-Russia co-operation on social, environmental and economic development projects in the region can be achieved.