20th Jan 2019

EU lawmakers fail to formalise Russia criticism

  • MEPs remain divided on the best approach to Russia (Photo: European Parliament)

Just two days before EU leaders meet Russian president Vladimir Putin in Portugal's city of Mafra, the European Parliament has backed down from its original idea to adopt a resolution calling on the Kremlin to improve its democratic record.

"The authoritarian tendencies are part of a worrying trend, which threatens Russia's democratic development and the legitimacy of the Russian leadership inside and outside the country", the draft resolution - tabled by the liberal and green political groups - stated.

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It continued to list a number of areas such as respect for human rights, democracy, freedom of expression and the rights of civil society – as being all of "serious concern".

However, the two main political groups in the parliament - the conservatives and the socialists - prevented the strongly-worded resolution from being adopted before the EU-Russia summit takes place on Friday (26 October).

Both groups argue there is "nothing new to say", while "repeating the same things for no particular reason would not be productive" at this stage. Instead, they have suggested tabling a fresh resolution, which would reflect the summit's outcome.

The head of the Liberals, Graham Watson, urged his colleagues to be "prepared to put on paper what we say in public and refute all those who say this house is nothing but a glorified talking shop".

In addition, Mr Watson sent a special message to the Russian leader, pointing to "a new autocracy" ahead of the country's upcoming parliamentary elections (2 December 2007), followed by a presidential race in March 2008.

"As things currently stand and if human cloning were better developed, president Putin would probably run for both, president and prime minister, following the Kaczynski's example in Poland", he told the plenary in Strasbourg.

The semi-joke was a clear reference to speculations that Mr Putin will retain power even after his second presidential term expires in 2008 and run for the position of prime minister.

EU external affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, for her part, described the time in the run up to the elections as "a critical period" and "an important test" for Moscow.

"We expect that Russia will make a sensible choice and invite observers to monitor the elections", Ms Ferrero-Waldner told MEPs.

She added that the upcoming summit would be used as an opportunity to voice the union's concerns about the existing limitation of press freedom, attacks on journalists, pressure on NGOs as well as about the situation in the North Caucasus.

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