Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Russia suspends official EU parliament visits

  • Chizhov (r) and Schulz at New Year reception in 2012 (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Russia has said MEPs are for the time being not welcome on official visits due, in part, to the European Parliament’s recent resolution on the Ukraine crisis.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, told EUobserver on Thursday (21 January) that a Lithuanian MEP’s request to meet with Russian MPs and officials in Moscow later this month was denied due to the political situation.

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

  • Landsbergis is the grandson of Lithuania's first post-Soviet head of state (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

“Evidently, it wasn’t the best moment for his travel and he should wait for a more appropriate time when the general climate of our relations will allow the European Parliament to avoid creating additional obstacles for our dialogue”, the diplomat said.

Chizhov noted the visit “was considered ill-timely” because the EP cancelled a meeting of the Russia-EU Parliamentary Co-operation Committee in Moscow in February, “to say nothing about the latest resolutions on Russia and Ukraine adopted by the European Parliament”.

“It’s not the Russian side that prevents these contacts but, alas, our friends here in Brussels".

Gabrielius Landsbergis, a Lithuanian centre-right MEP, was to go to Moscow with two aides to draft a report on EU-Russia relations for the foreign affairs committee.

He also planned to meet Russian dissidents and the lawyers of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian airforce pilot in prison in Russia.

He says Chizhov earlier told him that he isn’t on Russia’s “stop list” - a blacklist of EU officials and MEPs imposed in retaliation against EU visa bans on Russian officials - and offered to expedite the visit.

But on 20 January one of Chizhov’s staff phoned the EP to say Landsbergis’ aides would not get visas because the trip no longer had “official” status.

Chizhov’s man also said Landsbergis - who has a diplomatic passport and doesn’t need a visa - might be stopped because border officials decide independently who to let through.

Landsbergis the same day complained in a letter to EP chief Martin Schulz that the Russian decision is “in full contradiction with their pledge for dialogue”.

“Having in mind that this trip is not a private trip, but a visit in my capacity as a rapporteur … I deem this as a sign of disrespect and hostility against the institution as a whole”, he said.

Visa quibbles

Chizhov questioned Landsbergis’ version of events.

He said the MEP was due to phone him on 21 January to iron out the issues but opted to complain to Schulz instead.

He also told this website “there are no problems with issuing visas for the persons accompanying him” despite the non-official status of the visit and despite his own remarks on its “ill-timely” nature.

But he defended Russia’s EU blacklist more generally.

"Yes, indeed, we have a list of EU officials and MEPs subject to visa ban and our partners are well aware about it”, he said.

“This list was adopted in response to the restrictive measures imposed by the EU. Unlike the European Union we do not disclose the names of people on the list because we do not have a legal basis for that. As you could guess, it includes officials who directly contributed or keep contributing to undermining Russia-EU relations".

The list was already invoked when Rebecca Harms, a German green MEP, was stopped at a Moscow airport last year.

Schulz at the time called it a “grave diplomatic incident”.

His office could not be reached for a comment on Thursday.

New low

But Elmar Brok, a German centre-right MEP who chairs the foreign affairs committee, told EUobserver the Landsbergis case represents “a new level of non-co-operation … I think it’s very harmful and I still hope the Russian side rethinks its decision and comes to a new conclusion”.

An EU diplomat said the EU foreign service issued a formal complaint over Harms.

But the contact added “it’s for the EP to first react to this [the Landsbergis problem]” before EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini steps in.

The EU parliament at its meeting in Strasbourg last week adopted two resolutions on Russia.

One called for Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine, urged the EU to maintain sanctions, and advocated military assistance to Ukraine.

The other one criticised Russia’s sentencing of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny and his brother on fraud charges.

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 PM should provide witness statement, court told
  2. Italy's ex-PM Renzi quits ruling Democratic Party
  3. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  4. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  5. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  6. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  7. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  8. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'

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.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

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. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us