Friday

20th Sep 2019

MEPs: protests show Putin has lost respect

  • Putin - the protests are the biggest so far in his 12-year-long rule (Photo: premier.gov.ru)

Prominent MEPs from Russia's big neighbours have said the mass anti-Putin protests in Moscow are a wake-up call for EU foreign policy.

Looking ahead to the EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Thursday (15 December), Elmar Brok, a senior member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party, said EU officials should urge the Kremlin to hold proper presidential elections in March.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"It should be made clear they have to look for real elections - to give a fair chance to opposition politicians, to let them run and to make sure they have the means to run, and to let the international community monitor the campaign."

"[EU foreign affairs chief] Ashton should concentrate on rule of law and should hold Russia to account on the Magnitsky case," he added, referring to Sergei Magnitsky - a lawyer who died in mysterious circumstances in jail in 2009 after exposing high-level corruption.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, from the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party in Poland, said it is time the EU stopped giving Russia preferential treatment.

"It is time to rethink the EU strategy on Russia ... We are guilty of double standards. The EU is tough on Belarus and Ukraine but it is tolerant of Russia. If we want to impose conditions for signing the Association Agreement with Ukraine on freedom for Yulia Tymoshenko, we should make freedom for Khodorkovsky a condition for signing a new pact with Russia."

Former Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko was jailed in October in what the EU sees as a political witch hunt. Russian oligarch-turned-reformer Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been in jail since 2003.

The MEPs' remarks come as up to 50,000 people went out on the streets of Moscow on Saturday in an unprecedented protest against rigged parliamentary elections.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin's United Russia party officially won with 50 percent of votes. The result is a blow to Putin's authority (his party 'won' with 64 percent last time). International observers say the real result this time was closer to 30 percent.

The events in Moscow are being watched in neighbouring capitals. "I hope this is a lesson to the authorities in Kiev," an EU diplomat posted in the region told this website.

Looking at the Moscow protests, Brok said it shows "Putin went too far" in his attempt to hold on to power: "People do not have any respect left for the current system ... He's been in power for 12 years already and enough is enough. Like in the UK with [former leaders] Blair and Brown, people want to see a different face."

Brok criticised a Putin statement blaming the protest on outside interference from the US, calling it "an old Soviet trick."

Saryusz-Wolski said the scale of the protests shows there is "a tectonic shift in the Russian political scene ... his political weight has gone down and he will have to have some kind of dialogue with the opposition."

Putin's return poses questions for EU strategy

Germany and Poland have said the EU should co-operate more closely with Russia despite calls by liberal MEPs and the Russian opposition for a confrontational approach.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

News in Brief

  1. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  2. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  3. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  4. Germany takes carbon border tax onboard
  5. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  6. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  7. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  8. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  2. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  3. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  4. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  5. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  6. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  7. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  8. A new Commission for the one percent

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us