Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

EU institutions reach out to Moscow

  • Putin: Juncker 'regrets' closer EU-Russia ties 'have not been able to develop' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU Commission has proposed closer trade ties with Russia’s new economic bloc, as the EU Parliament invites back Russian MPs.

The Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, in a letter sent to the Kremlin after last week’s G20 summit in Turkey, and seen by the Reuters news agency, said he’s asked officials to draft new proposals on cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.

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

"The decision on the circumstances in which to proceed along this path is in the hands of the member states of the European Union and should in particular be synchronised with the implementing of the Minsk agreements," he wrote, referring to the Minsk ceasfire accord on Ukraine.

He voiced “regret” that closer EU-Russia ties “have not been able to develop over the past year.”

"I can assure you that the European Commission will be a helpful partner in this process," he added.

For its part, the EU Parliament, earlier this week, also broke its taboo on hosting Russian visitors.

The Socialist group invited two senior Russian MPs, Aleksey Pushkov and Konstantin Kosachev, as well as a Kremlin advisor, Mikhail Fedotov, to a hearing on Tuesday.

Parliament president Martin Schulz and EU foreign service chief Federica Mogherini were due to take part.

But they quietly withdrew following a complaint by 17 other MEPs, mostly from eastern European countries.

“We are concerned that this conference serves as a pretext to press for ‘business as usual’ between [the] EU and Russia at a politically sensitive time,” the group-of-17 said in a letter to Schulz.

They noted Schulz had frozen Russia cooperation pending Minsk implementation and following a Russian visa ban on several MEPs.

They also complained the Socialists did not invite any delegates from Ukraine to give their point of view.

The pro-Russia initiatives come as Western leaders, from France, the UK, and the US, hold fresh talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Islamic State (IS) following the Paris attacks.

They also come amid a new flare-up in fghting in east Ukraine.

Russia-controlled forces killed six Ukrainian soldiers the same weekend that IS struck the French capital.

International monitors from the OSCE, on Wednesday, “recorded a significant increase in ceasefire violations,” citing “206 undetermined explosions and over 76 bursts of outgoing small-arms fire.”

EU leaders will, in mid-December, discuss whether to extend economic sanctions on Russia, which expire at the end of January.

EU-Russia relations will also be tested on 1 January, when an EU-Ukraine free trade treaty enters into force, with Russia threatening to impose a food export ban on Ukraine in return.

The Kremlin has, for the time being, rejected Juncker’s overture.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said on Thursday the commission chief’s “correlation with fulfilling the Minsk accords, especially in the current conditions when we see Kiev's unwillingness, once again, to honour these accords” makes his offer “hardly relevant or possible.”

The US, despite the post-Paris climate, also urged the EU to stick to its commitments.

Victoria Nuland, a senior US diplomat, told a security conference in Berlin on Wednesday: “Even as we focus on ISIL [another name for IS] … we must maintain pressure on Russia and its separatist proxies to complete the unfinished commitments of Minsk.”

“Sanctions are an essential tool for holding Russia accountable: They must be rolled over until Minsk is fully implemented.”

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. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

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. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

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