Monday

29th Aug 2016

EU to complain to Russia on Ukraine

  • Russia torpedoed the main event at the Vilnius summit: the EU-Ukraine association pact (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has said he will urge Russian leader Vladimir Putin to stop bullying former Soviet countries at the next EU-Russia summit.

Van Rompuy spoke on Friday (29 November) in Vilnius at an event in which Putin torpedoed two EU initiatives - the signature of an association pact with Ukraine and the initialling of one with Armenia.

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He urged leaders of former Soviet states "not to give in to external pressure, not least from Russia."

He said Russia's attempts to "influence the sovereign choice" of its neighbours are "in breach" of its commitments at the OSCE, a Vienna-based pro-democracy club.

"We will have a summit with Russia at the end of January and, of course, on that occasion we will discuss those issues," he added.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, who has sparred with Putin at EU meetings in the past, echoed Van Rompuy.

"The times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe," Barroso told media.

Referring to an idea for the EU to hold future trade talks with Russia and Ukraine at the same time, he added: "What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have a kind of a possible veto of a third country."

Russia had threatened to block trade with Ukraine if it signed the EU pact.

It had also threatened to make trouble for Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan if it initialled an EU treaty.

Yanukovych himself told EU leaders in a speech earlier the same morning they should give him more money.

But for her part, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite voiced doubt he ever intended to take the pro-EU step.

"We see external pressure being used as an excuse for stopping the integration process with the EU by the leadership of Ukraine," she said.

"The EU isn't going into any deals with Ukraine. All the benchmarks are known," she added.

With thousands of pro-EU protesters still on the streets in Kiev, she voiced support for the "Ukrainian people."

She said she hoped Ukraine will sign before the next EU summit with former Soviet leaders, due in the first half of 2015 in Riga.

The signs are not good, however.

With the freeing of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko being one of the EU benchmarks, her ally, Oleg Turchynov, on Friday said she will shortly be moved from hospital, where she is being treated for a severe back problem, back to prison.

He called on sanctions against Ukrainian officials by "the civilised world."

Meanwhile, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said he has heard "rumours" Yanukovych is planning to quit the European Energy Community, a club of EU and south-east European countries.

"Would kill association agreement," he tweeted.

Georgia and Moldova defied Russian threats by initialling association treaties on Friday in Vilnius, however.

Grybauskaite said if all goes well they will be signed in "autumn" next year.

Van Rompuy said Moldova can sign it even if there is no progress on Transniestria, its breakaway eastern region, which hosts Russian troops.

The EU on Friday also signed a deal on Georgia's participation in EU crisis missions and a visa facilitation deal with Azerbaijan.

The Georgian government noted that it will shortly send people to three EU operations: a maritime surveillance project in the Indian Ocean, a military training mission in Mali and a border control scheme in Libya.

Slovakia's Fico goes to Russia

The Slovak prime minister, whose country currently chairs the EU council, will meet the Russian leader ahead of upcoming EU talks on Russia policy.

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