Monday

11th Nov 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.

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Bosnia requested an interview with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, after Emmanuel Macron described the country as a "ticking time bomb" and one of the greatest concerns for Europe due to the "problem of returning jihadists".

Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria

Between 700 and 750 children from different EU member states are trapped in camps in north-east Syria with parents who are suspected Islamic State fighters. Many are under the age of six, victims of war and conflict.

News in Brief

  1. EU's climate contribution exceeds €20bn annually
  2. EU-Singapore trade deal enters into force this month
  3. Commission will not probe Borrell over Catalan tweet
  4. Frontex gets its European border police force
  5. EU Parliament loses funding case against Farage-led party
  6. US will not impose car tariffs, says Juncker
  7. Merkel disagrees with Macron on Nato
  8. Migrants in Malta transferred after EU deal

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.

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?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  2. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  3. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay
  4. Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more
  5. Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans
  6. Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?
  7. Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria
  8. EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us